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Best of 2013: The Garden of Words

We're celebrating the end of 2013 with our personal favorite anime, manga, and video games of the year! In our Best of 2013 Staff Picks, each of our contributors selects one to three titles and writes a short post for each about why it's awesome. Note that this isn't an exhaustive list, since we've hardly watched/read/played everything.

Thoroughly in love with the prospect of making shoes for a living, Takao takes every rainy day as an opportunity to skip yet another banal homeroom session in order to play hooky (sketch shoe designs, read, daydream) in the park. But one day something unexpected happens. That something is a someone, Yukino, who unintentionally beats Takao to his usual rainy day spot. As this pattern recurs, the interactions and bond between Takao and Yukino grow little by little until…

It’s as simple as you can get and so very far from. The story is boy meets girl. It’s a classic, been being done for ages without getting old (provided the author has any talent). This is a Makoto Shinkai joint. You might recognize him from such movies as 5 Centimeters Per Second and Voices from a Distant Star, but you won’t see a retread of theme here. If anything, The Garden of Words is role reversal. Instead of using time and distance to separate lovers and wring sighs from lungs and tears from ducts over a deteriorating love, Shinkai uses the loneliness that comes from living outside of societal norms to introduce two kindred spirits to each other.

After their initial meeting, Yukino leaves Takao with a riddle in the form of a poem. Ironically, words are the least necessary thing in The Garden of Words. Shinkai’s poetic sense of visual storytelling, through specific settings and detailed backgrounds, shows the audience the entire picture (so to speak). And even though the ending rips my heart out by vomiting so many unnecessary words, it’s become the film I think about whenever it rains and the first Shinkai flick that comes to mind upon hearing his name.

The Garden of Words is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sentai Filmworks, and can be purchased at Amazon, Right Stuf, and elsewhere.

What do you think? Does The Garden of Words deserve its spot as one of the best anime titles of 2013? Let us know in the comments.

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