ANIME & MANGA - Article
10:00 - 25th January 2014, by NEO Staff

The Garden of Words

In October last year, Scotland Loves Anime played host to the premiere of Makoto Shinkai's latest 40-minute film, The Garden of Words, with the director himself in attendance, dropping in on a whistle-stop tour of foreign territories that had previously taken him to Shanghai, and would whisk him off to Paris two days later. Following relatively disappointing sales for his epic fantasy Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, Garden of Words has surprised its producers by becoming the best-selling Shinkai work in his career.

"This is sure to steer future productions," observed Shinkai. "I'm bound to be asked to replicate this kind of storytelling, rather than sci-fi." Although there are sure to be few complaints, as Garden of Words is a beautifully observed montage of several months in the lives of two broken people, who meet by chance during rainy days in the park where they are both bunking off. Shinkai treats his subjects with great delicacy, as a boy from a broken home with an alcoholic mother seems to seek the kindness and attention of an elegant, troubled lady who spends her mornings drinking beer on a park bench.

Appearing at both an Edinburgh College of Art lecture and a Q&A session after his film, Shinkai was unfailingly polite and engaging with his fans, and paid them the compliment of answering every question, no matter how odd, with a considered response. So while he happily spouted program specifications and animator jargon when describing his intricate tree-modelling and water effects, he was just as personable when fielding questions about whether or not he had a crush on the Uruse Yatsura artist Fumi Hirano, and the almost haiku-like: "Why trains?"

"The thing is," Shinkai conceded, "if you want to present a realistic impression of everyday Tokyo, you are going to be showing trains, and my staff are real trainspotters - very keen to get the precise models for the different lines, and to depict the experience of being onboard." The trains, like the trees in Shinkai's exquisite short, help the animator by depicting the things that an artist can't show - the buffeting of passing carriages or the gusts of wind that add real solidity to the whole piece.

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