I am always looking for new and interesting anime to watch, that should be really obvious, right? So as such I do many searches for top anime and what not… I don’t go by these lists religiously or in order or anything, I just use them to find things I might find interesting. Normally, let us say I am looting at a “top 25 anime of all time” type list, I may only pick one or two that really pique my interest. 5 Centimeters Per Second usually pop up on such lists when discussing Japanese-animated movies. So after seeing it listed on the 100th or so list I had perusing, I decided to give it a shot!
I went to my nearest television set, turned on my PS3 and opened up my Crunchyroll app as I had remembered seeing the movie not too long ago on it. The search was successful and my animated experience began. I had read or heard much about how visually stunning the movie was, but not much about the content of the actual movie itself. I had no idea what to expect other than what I read on the premise:
Provided by Crunchyroll:
Told in three heartbreaking chapters, we follow the young dreamer Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, silence, and, finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to crush the delicate petals of true love.
The biggest positive to this film is the artist’s attention to detail, this film is absolutely beautiful and I feel like a great deal of time was spent on each and every backdrop for the characters. In particular, I like one scene where one of the love interests is about to confess their love and then a rocket ship takes off behind them–t’was a beautiful scene. And that probably isn’t even the best example of the artwork… I may post some down below…hmmm…. but yeah, every little detail, from the cherry blossom petals, to the snow, to the tears and more have incredible detail attached to them and what you get is a visually stunning movie.
And the real beauty of it all is that the movie lets the scenery to the talking for a lot of the movie. There is a solid amount of dialogue in the film, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the implications and meaning of the movie is found within the subtle nuances of what is not said rather than what is. The story, in large part, is about Takaki and his quest for love and the deep loneliness and struggles that time and distance can place on that love. It is told in 3 distinct chapters.
The first chapter deals with his first love with Akari Shinohara. Both Akari and Takaki grow close due to their similar interests. They develop a close to relationship and Takaki even admits that their closeness is leading to teasing by the other classmates. However, upon graduating elementary school, Akari moves away with her family. The two still keep in touch, mostly by writing letters, but eventually the two drift apart. To make matters worse, Takaki finds out that he will be moving even farther away, so he resolves to visit Akari since they will be too far apart after the move. Additionally, Takaki prepares a letter that contains his true feeling for Akari, which he later loses. In spite of that, the two characters share their first kiss and spend the rest of the night in an abandoned shed talking until they fall asleep. Takaki is sad because he realizes that they will never be together again. As Akari’s train rolls away we see that she is holding her own letter addressed to Takaki.
The second chapter is told from the perspective of a girl named Kanae Sumida, a classmate of Takaki’s in high school. Kanae is in love with Takaki but has never worked up the nerve to tell him how she feels. She does, however, go out of her way to spend time with him, even waiting for him after school so they can ride their sweet mopeds home together. Takaki does appear to be ignorant of Kanae’s feelings as he tends to treat her more like just a friend. Kanae observes that Takaki is always writing emails to someone or staring off into the distance as if searching for something far away. But it is later shown (to the audience) that he e-mails are not actually being sent to anyone. One day, Kanae resolves to tell Takaki how she feels, she makes a deal with herself: If she can successfully surf, then she will confess. After a failed attempt to tell Takaki she loves him, Kanae eventually realizes that he is looking for something far beyond what she can offer and decides not to, though she acknowledges that she will always love him.
This chapter takes place in 2008 and Takaki is now a computer programmer in Tokyo and Akari, his love from chapter one, is preparing to get married to another man. Takaki has never really moved on from his love for Akari and it is beginning to have strongly negative affects of his life, which his ex-girlfriend brings up. Unable to cope with his long-lost love for Akari, Takaki quits his job and spirals into a depression. While rifling through her old possessions, Akari stumbles upon the letter she had addressed to Takaki all those years ago and the both begin a dual narration where they are both recalling a recent dream about the events of their last encounter. Later, Takaki and Akari pass each other over train tracks and recognize one another. They both stop and begin to look back but the train passes between them and both of their views are cut off. Once the train passes, Akari is gone and Takaki just smiled to himself and continues walking.
In a lot of this story, or stories, you have to read between the lines and infer certain things. As such, you need to pay attention! Here is what I like about the movie overall (other than the visuals). The story is a very REAL one, it is way less whimsical than it first might appear. In fact, it’s less about love and more about growing apart, and how distance can often be extremely painful and lonely. Takaki never got over his first like Akari and that essentially crippled his future. This is partly because he is always looking at the great beyond, at a place of beauty and bliss, far ahead. His would-be love interest laments this fact in chapter two, much like the rocket ship passing overhead, Takaki was always far away, headed on a journey of loneliness that she could never accompany him on.
And, for the most part, the characters are very relatable as they go through real-life issues. Kanae, in particular, is the most relatable as I think she represents most teenagers. She is graduating soon but cannot figure out what she wants to do in life, additionally she cannot tell the person that she loves how she feels. It is only until the hype of accomplishing something, that she once had thought impossible, did she work up the nerve to tell Takaki how she felt at all. But when the moment passes and reality kicks in, she chokes and talked herself out of trying.
And that is where I start disliking the movie. Sure I can appreciate the subtleties of the story and what the writer is trying to say, but what I saw on-screen was a bunch of young kids giving up on love before it ever got started. Takaki talks himself out of love with Akari and lives to regret it and Kanae convinces herself that Takaki has never thought of her in a loving way and he never would. They both resign to a life of loneliness just because they chose to give up. As I am a firm believe in the idea that “You don’t know until you try”-mantra this didn’t sit well with me. What worse is that you’re supposed to feel bad for these characters who have lost their love- but I can’t help and be unsympathetic to those who give up before they try. That is just me, so take it for what it is worth… additionally I really don’t see any likable qualities in Takaki… like… at all…
I also, unfortunately, watched it in the dubbed-style… which I regret… I am not sure if it would have been better in Japanese–but the English voices sounded boring. They sound like they are bored with what they are reading so they are passively and un-affectionately just spouting the words. I get it, that is probably what they were going for, but in a movie with very little action you would hope that the voices of dialogue weren’t so uninspiring and dry.
But overall I do recommend seeing this movie at least twice. Once to appreciate all the pretty visuals and another to catch all the subtleties in the story and characters. Is it the best movie ever? Nope… but it is an effective and realistic story that pretty much anyone who has dealt with love can relate to.
Here are some of the photos as promised earlier in better quality: