Movie: Kotonoha no Niwa
Genre: Romance, Drama
Summary: Takao, who is training to be a shoemaker, skipped school and sketches shoes in a Japanese-style garden. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days. They deepen their relationship and open up to each other. But the end of the rainy season soon approaches...
There was a lot of uproar in the anime community focusing around Kotohana no Niwa. Countless gif's of the movies beautiful animation were floating around all over the internet. Additionally, the movie was directed by Makoto Shinkai, the same man who directed 5 Centimeters per Second. All this information intrigued me greatly about the movie, so when it came out I gave it a try, high expectations in hand. However, I was disappointed and let down by this work.
**SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT**
The main plot of the story was somewhat unique: a 15 year old boy has encounters with an unknown 27 year old woman and the two fall in love. A romance story with such an age gap holds A LOT of potential. Unfortunately, KnN does not live up to it. The two meet, days pass, they talk, open up, fall in love. Of course the age gap provides some sort of forbidden-ness for them, but the context put in it was not enough to keep me hooked. The movie failed to show how exactly they fell in love and instead centered around them talking. I felt like I was watching the same 10 minutes over and over again, which isn't much to say considering that the movie's only 46 minutes long. Shinkai failed to brew enough context between Takao and Yukino to really show strong chemistry. Nonetheless, there were high points within the plot towards the end, but not much. Emotional moments and heart warming feelings encircled me, but for a faint moment. Kotonoha no Niwa held so much potential, but unfortunately, not enough effort was put in it to really make it a hit.
There are only two main characters that we have here: Takao Akizuki and Yukari Yukino. Takao, a 15 year old freshman in high school, struggles internally as his family is slowly abandoning him and his future seems bleak. His only passion is for hand-making shoes and studying the craft. Takao has a mature feel about him, but at the same time he is unconfident and naive. Yukino, a 27 year old literature teacher at Takao's high school, acts like a 14 year old trapped inside a woman's body. She skips work to drink beer and eat chocolate. Her skills as a teacher are weak. This and rumors of a scandal cause her job to be put at risk. The two are both struggling through difficult times in their lives and find peace within each other. I find it precious how the two can express themselves, despite the anonymous identities and the age gap. But the development within them was very little. Sure, they had their really big moments and breakdowns, but that was towards the climax. Throughout the movie it was hard to tell any change.
A beautifully orchestrated OST played throughout the film and contributed more than enough to the emotion attempting to be drawn out. Many piano-played songs were used to make the scenes more dramatic, but I think that it was played in the wrong places. Nonetheless, the music touched me and reminded me of Ghibli soundtracks, although it's not on the same level as them. The voice actors did a pretty good job. The transition in the tone of voice from monotone and indifferent to full of life matched the movie well.
Now this is where Kotonoha no Niwa really shines. If the plot didn't pull you in, then this did. Every scene, object, person was beautifully done. The quality even on a streaming 640 resolution player was gorgeous.
The grpahics were so beautiful that at some points I couldn't believe that it was animation! My breath was taken away throughout the whole movie and was a big chunk of the reason why I watched Kotonoha no Niwa. Still, the movie's graphics has definitely set a milestone in animation history.
Kotonoha no Niwa did not live up to the expectations that I had. Aside from the beautiful soundtrack and the gorgeous, breathtaking animation, the movie didn't leave as much as an impact on me than I hoped it would. It did draw out emotions, but not enough to leave me impressed. So much more could have been done with the plot and characters, but the production crew must have been too lazy to make it longer than 46 minutes. Makoto Shinkai had better up his game if he wants his reputation to stay shining.