Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai on His New Work “The Garden of Words” (Vol. 1)

“It’s as if he can see something like the very secrets of the world” - The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second, Children Who Chase Lost Voices... Director Makoto Shinkai has captured the hearts of many fans with his breathtakingly subtle movies that convey moving, chest-tightening stories. His newest work titled The Garden of Words will be released in Japan on May 31.

The story is set in Shinjuku, Tokyo. High school student Takao, who aims to become a shoemaker, often ditches school when it rains to go to a Japanese garden in the park to sketch shoes. One day, Takao meets a mysterious, older girl named Yukino in the garden. The two began running into each other regularly on days when it rains, and their hearts begin to connect. When Yukino loses her way in life, Takao decides to make shoes for her because he wants her to get back on her feet.

When speaking of the greatest charm in director Shinkai’s work, it is undoubtedly the beauty of his movies. The theme of rain in The Garden of Words seems to be increasing this charm even more.

TOM: We feel that the camera angles, effectiveness of the sounds, and effectiveness of the lighting in this movie are largely characteristic. What kind of fixation and aim did you have for these?
Shinkai: First, that’s certainly the case when it comes to camera angle. As we were making this anime, in order to keep it close to reality, we actually filmed scenes on location similar to a live-action movie. Using that as a base, we constructed everyday scenes. After that, it’s possible to get images from points of view that aren’t attainable on location that are characteristic to the anime. When creating these pictures, we were conscious of always having a camera set up in our minds, even down to imagining what lens we were using. This was done because it is according to this that a unity for the entire work comes forth. We devised mixing in drawings taken from unusual angles like above a line or below one’s feet or above a tower in order to surprise everyone. Of course, using too many of these angles would be distracting, so we essentially use orthodox angles.

Next, regarding the effectiveness of the sound... Normally when making a movie, we begin this on the storyboard after the script is written. But, with this movie, I created a video storyboard prior. After the script, it quickly developed as digital images. Keeping them that way, we were able to finely create the rough drafts of the pictures. Then, we added sound, and the images I had in my head clearly fell into place. At that point, we made the sound effects larger and we muted the dialogue... We tested how to use the sound by trial and error using steps like these. Afterward, we amended the pictures in which the image of the sound didn’t match up, because it’s good to replace such things. In the end, I think completing such a video storyboard had a big influence on completing the work. Up until now, people haven’t really used such a complex video storyboard. It would have been difficult for the movie to be around two hours long, but it’s enjoyable at its current length [46 minutes].

Lastly, about the lighting. This film’s key color is green and its theme is rain. When I conveyed that to people, they were concerned, saying, “Isn’t rain subdued? The images would all become gray.” But, that isn’t the case. The greenery of the rainy season increases in vividness with every shower, doesn’t it? The same is true with car headlights and street lamps. Therefore, I devised it this way to effectively show in the work that rain indeed does make green more vivid. For example, the color of the characters’ skin. Normally, two colors are used to show the bright areas and the shaded areas. However, I expressed a third color to show all the more the reflection of green on the skin. I also included this color on their contours. The reflected green, the white of the sun’s rays, and so on. In this way, this film as a whole uses color differently than other anime.

TOM: The scenes are extremely detailed, aren’t they? There is movement even in the backgrounds.
Shinkai: The density of today’s animations are extremely deep, aren’t they? However, seeing a background that doesn’t move leaves one with a sense that something is amiss. Moreover, especially for this film, I wanted it to be finely depicted, and I felt compelled to include that. For example, in a scene with overgrown trees, we drew them one by one and repeated in putting CG framework into the branches and making them move. It was work done from the standpoint of wringing out the value of movement.

TOM: The scene in which Takao touches Yukino’s feet is reflexively startling, isn’t it?
Shinkai: That scene is the moment when the two main characters are the closest to one another, so it is very important. They don’t grasp each other’s hands, they don’t know each other’s names. Not to mention, to a 15-year-old boy, touching the feet of the girl he likes is amazing. I wanted to convey that this is an extremely precious and priceless moment for him. For that reason, at the time when the pictures were drawn, it was done as though it was a sex scene that I wanted to be conveyed in a visually rich way. When it came to the production of the sound, we largely included the sounds of clothes rustling, we made the sound of the rainfall light, and so on. I piled on elements that would startle those who see it.

Just as director Shinkai predicted, we sat gazing unconsciously at each and every scene of the film at a private viewing. In a world that blooms with Takao and Yukino at the center, the rain is constantly falling. Even still, this too is vivid and will bring a richness to the eyes of those who see it. You will feel every dense second of this 46-minute film, and you will wish only for it to continue forever. This is the kind of subtle beauty this film has. Next time, we will hear from director Shinkai regarding his thoughts on the film’s setting.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai on His New Work “The Garden of Words” (Vol. 1) 1
Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai on His New Work “The Garden of Words” (Vol. 1) 2
Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai on His New Work “The Garden of Words” (Vol. 1) 3
Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai on His New Work “The Garden of Words” (Vol. 1) 4

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