Kotonoha no Niwa tells the romantic tale of a young, aspiring shoe maker and an older woman. Minus the obvious foot fetish–it’s as squeaky clean as you can get, stripped of gravitas, weightless as the tinkling piano music playing in the background.
There’s no doubting Makoto Shinkai’s talent when it comes to creating a stunning film. He sees the world a little differently, even finding the beauty in little puddles of rain and tiny kitchens. It takes perspective to create a such a world, and Makoto Shinkai’s point of view is prevalent in every shot.
And yet, even with the most breathtaking shots of falling rain, Kotonoha no Niwa remains a story that functions like clockwork. Everything is planned out methodologically and its themes are telegraphed from the very beginning. You can almost see the strings being pulled. Even its ending feels like ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake. The result is a film that is bogged down by its infatuation with an idealized romance but never quite delivers the high emotional notes the way it needs to. It’s boxed in with all the other pure love romance stories that have always populated Japanese art and fiction, albeit a lot less sappy. Kotonoha no Niwa doesn’t quite achieve the greatness it should have, but it’s still worth a watch. It’s harmless and forgettable, but easy to watch and rewatch.