Makoto Shinkai garden of words portrays the painful feeling of loneliness in a very authentic unique story. The film is about Yukari Yukino, a 27-year-old high school teacher, and Takao Akizuki, a 15-year-old high school student, as they both try to cope with the loneliness and mental stress of their situation.
Adjusting is a big part of Japanese society. While this is a normal desire for people around the world, in Japan it is a leading cause of suicide. The feeling of being really seen, accepted, heard and understood. garden of words portrays the struggles of loneliness and the difference that genuine connection with someone can make the difference perfectly.
Rain is nature’s empathy for the lonely
A big topic of garden of words is the rain. After all, Yukari and Takao only meet up in the garden on rainy days. Rain is something that people suffering from social isolation, anxiety or depression may prefer more than the sun.
That’s because the sun can make people feel even more lonely because they don’t have friends to interact with while everyone else is enjoying the sun with others. Rain is nature’s empathy for the boisterous.
Bullying often makes people lonely
Yukari ends up being bullied by her students because one of her student’s friends falls in love with her. The students spread rumors about the teacher having an affair with her students. As a result, her husband files for divorce and her reputation at school is tarnished.
She is unable to cope with the psychological exhaustion caused by the bullying and has a hard time getting out of bed or going back to work. This leads them into the miserable spiral of loneliness and shame.
Takao cannot identify with people around him
Not being able to relate to people is a very common cause of many people becoming lonely. Takao is unable to identify with his classmates due to what he perceives as immaturity. He is focused on his career as a shoemaker and works hard at his part-time job to achieve his career goals.
Meanwhile, those around him focus on school relationships and fun. No one understands Takao, and he cannot understand his peers. This is the feeling of being completely alone, even with others.
Misery loves company
Outsiders feel more comfortable when they are together thanks to the closeness. Yukari and Takao, both struggling with loneliness, are instantly attuned to each other when they meet. This is because people in similar situations often get along better because they share the same struggles and situations. The feeling of being understood is something that many lonely people crave.
Being there for each other makes Takao and Yukari’s life better. During this relationship they share, Yukari’s depression symptoms improve, she can taste things again, and begins to challenge and reflect on herself by asking, “Is it too late for me?”
Takao’s feelings for Yukari also help with his motivation to continue his career. He starts thinking about wanting to help Yukari get up and move forward on her own.
Lonely people deal with additional sugar consumption and binge drinking
Research shows that lonely people consume more sugar than others. Sugar consumption is also linked to people struggling with anxiety. Yukari is often seen with her bag full of candy bars and beer.
Consuming sugar releases dopamine, which is most likely the reason for Yukari’s stack of candy bars. Dopamine stimulation is something that many people who are lonely don’t get much of because of the lack of positive interaction between them.
Binge drinking alone is also something that lonely people incorporate into their daily lives. This is shown in garden of words several times, with Yukari starting the day with a beer in the morning. Yukari engages in it to pass the time, to ease her misery, and/or as a coping mechanism for loneliness and feelings of failure.
Yukino doesn’t express her true feelings
Later in the film, Takao tells Yukari that she never expresses how she really feels and thinks and has therefore lived her whole life alone. People who always wear a mask can be among the loneliest and most depressed people.
Yukari, not being herself and not expressing how she really feels, isn’t being fair to either herself or Takao because he can’t see who she really is. Because of this, the two struggled with loneliness until the end of the film, when Yukari breaks up emotionally and she finally shows Takao how she really feels about him.
Only after Yukari reveals her true feelings and thoughts can she move on with her life and work. Instead of getting stuck in the cycle of shame, depression and loneliness.
Makoto Shinkai’s recurring theme of loneliness and finding genuine connections
Loneliness and a longing for real human connection are recurring themes in Makoto Shinkai’s films. One of his older works 5 centimeters per second is about a childhood couple who were deeply in love and had to split up because of work, but the longing for being together remains.
someone’s gaze is a short film about a daughter who has moved away from her father and struggles with missing him dearly. Meanwhile, the father is fighting just as much as the daughter, although he tries to hide it.
Makoto Shinkai garden of words can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Prime.