The Garden of Words
I would like to first say that 46 minutes was the perfect length for this film, it was neither too long nor too short and I'm very happy that Shinkai was able to realize this as well. But yet the film feels a bit uneven none the less, while I could empathize with Takako's struggle to an extent (working out what you want to do in life, falling in love, etc) the female lead, Yukino, felt much more flat and like the kind of woman who only exists in literary fiction. Her problems also had the potential to be handled thoughtfully and skillfully, especially since they were a bit more severe than Takako's, and watching her recover from them by itself would have been a heart-wrenching, familiar experience for many viewers but instead she feels simplified and dull. She never seems to become truly motivated to either accept or move past her problems and feels overly passive, a character who exists in some ways just to help Takako move forward in life. She has more agency and character than that, she's not completely flat, but I feel that she was built around a more idealized vision of women, of depression, of love than by how the world really works.
In truth the plot is always secondary in a Shinkai film, the visuals are the real draw with his flair for composition and color and this is in some ways the most beautiful anime film I've ever seen. Many of the backgrounds and scene setting shots are photorealistic to a ridiculous degree, I'd never heard of Shinjuku Gyoen before this film but now I, and I suspect many others, will make a point to see it in person after this film. Sadly the characters didn't quite match the beauty of the scenery, they felt too simple, too "anime" when compared to the stunning photorealism of the backgrounds, and Shinkai's trademark of shading characters and objects not with blacks or grays but with colors around them (such as making the shade on a characters face look more green than anything else) also seemed jarring.
Regardless of it's failings, since it's so short a film I do encourage people to see it and if like me you don't find the story to your liking, well, you could always simply skip ahead to the next landscape shot...