The Garden of Words by Makoto Shinkai, illustrated by Midori Motohashi, translated by Maya Rosewood
Rainy mornings give first-year high school student Takao permission to skip class and head to a park pavilion to work on his shoe sketches. Someday, he wants to be a shoe designer. Two months into the new school year, he sees a young woman is already seated in the peaceful shelter. Takao wonders aloud if they have met before, but her answer is ambivalent. A tenuous connection begins, creating a garden of words à deux – said, unsaid, written – that promises much more to come.
Their rainy mornings that follow seem to be the only bright moments for the lonely pair. Yukino drinks beer and eats chocolate: “Everyone has their own little quirks,” she explains. He draws and dreams, telling her about his alcoholic mother, his difficulties in achieving his goals. And he cooks her delicious snacks that nourish far beyond her abused appetite. He talks, she listens more, until she reveals the cause of her isolated silence and he unleashes his trapped emotions … words are not quite enough for what lies ahead.
Inspired by an award-winning 2013 animated film of the same name, and directed by Makoto Shinkai who also helmed the gorgeous 5 Centimeters Per Second, this manga adaptation by Midori Motohashi veers substantially from celluloid to panels in the final minutes/pages. [Be sure to watch beyond the credits in the film for the full ending!] Without creating too much of a spoiler, perhaps Motohashi’s decision to alter the ending becomes clear in her closing illustration of Yukino and Takao which appears with her many acknowledgements of gratitude. The mismatched pair is shown holding hands, walking together, and yet an 8-year-old Takao seems embarrassed and upset, his eyes averted angrily away, while an indulgent, 20-year-old Yukino gazes down at him with warmth and adoration. Enough said – you’ll need to read for yourself.
Eighth-century tanka (including an adorable lesson on appreciating poetry at story’s end), cleansing rain, the power of language to destroy and heal, the innocence of youth, special shoes for both encouraging and learning to walk again – that’s just some of what grows in this haunting, transforming garden of words. Ready for a visit? Come in from the rain and watch what happens …
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2014 (United States)