It’s Monday, meaning that it’s time to talk about another one of Makoto Shinkai’s films. This time we take a look at just how fast cherry blossoms fall to the ground…also there’s some relationship drama. Here’s my review of 5 Centimeters Per Second.
5 Centimeters Per Second is an anime film written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and produced by CoMix Wave Inc.
The film follows Takaki Tono (Kenji Mizuhashi/David Matranga) as he falls in love with a childhood friend Akari Shinohara (Yoshimi Kondo/Ayaka Onouei/Hilary Haag) and deals with the harsh realities of not being able to be with her.
Unlike other films, this title is split into three episodes, each taking place at different times in Takaki’s life.
The first picks up with our main character at the age of 13, planning on visiting Akari at her new home across the country. While the two were close, Akari had to move away and go to a different school. At the time both started writing letters to one another and the distance forced the two to make decisions about their relationship.
The second episode takes place a few years later with Takaki in high school. The story is narrated by Kanae Sumida (Satomi Hanamura/Serena Varghese) who’s dealing with her own feelings for Takaki. While the two are friendly, Takaki doesn’t see her the same way causing her even more heart break due to her seeing him everyday.
The final part picks up ten years later with Takaki working in a job he hates and in a relationship with a woman he has no connection with. Despite the years since he last saw Akari he hasn’t moved on. Akari on the other hand seemingly has as she’s planning to get married around the time of the story. The majority of this part revolves around Takaki realizing the he’s allowed a hole to form in his life by not getting over his former love.
On the technical side, 5 Centimeters is another impressive title. Much like in his pervious films, the characters designs are a bit bland but the backgrounds and smaller trappings are impressive.
The world seems to be filled with amazing detail, whether it’s the swaying motion of a train car or the defrosting windshield, the backgrounds make up for any poor character designs.
Additionally there are a number of scenes that feature some solid lighting and impressive animation. While these scenes aren’t the main focus of the film, they allow the production staff show off just how good they are.
5 Centimeters ends up improving from his previously released Place Promised in a number of ways, the biggest being in it’s narrative.
While both films feature some Sci Fi elements, 5 Centimeters ends up using it as a way to connect the three stories together, instead of creating a conflict that doesn’t fit the story. Takika grows up as Japan starts production of a rocket, launches it towards Mars and finishes it’s mission. This allows the viewer understand just who much the world is changing yet our main character stays the same.
More over the story is also a great deal smaller with there really only being three characters of note. While there are others who appear the story and motivations are easy to follow due to its simplicity. The three act structure ends up being a good choice for the film as each part feels like a puzzle piece that creates the full picture of a life ruined by bad luck and missed opportunities.
One thing that should be noted is that this isn’t a happy story. While this is a spoiler free review the film does end up leaving the viewer on a bit of a downer. This feeling is continued in the films soundtrack.
Returning for the score is Tenmon who with the simple use of a piano, some chimes and a synthesizer can make your heart break in an instant. Tracks like Cherry Blossom Extract and Distant Everyday Memories add to the films sadder and bitter sweet moments.
The films insert song One More Time, One More Chance by Masayoshi Yamazaki ends up hitting the final moments of the film hard, as the visuals that back it show off some of the more dramatic moments of the film. To be frank, the final moments of the film end up being a music video filled with sadness, just a heads up.
Even the song titles ends up speaking to the overall character who just wants that one more chance to reconnect with his love only to have most of his life pass in front of him.
Ultimately this is where I’d place some of the criticisms that I have for the film, however this time I’m at a bit of a loss. While I did mention that this film is a bit of a downer, it’s charming in the way it presents it.
Shinkai seems to have the ability to cut through the unneeded plot points normally presented in other titles like this and boil it down into something that can hit even jaded anime fans.
However, the film is short clocking in around 65 minutes with each story taking up 20 minutes of the plot. The final episode also seems to be mostly filled with the 6 minute song that ends the film. Despite this the story still used it’s time well and told a solid story.
While its depressing, it hits many of the sweet spots that this type of story needs. We see a character fall in love, and ultimately not be able to move past it when his love did long ago.
Like a long lost Studio Ghibili film Shinkai continues to earn the honour of being called the new Hayao Miyazaki.
5 Centmeters Per Second is licensed by Madman Entertainment (Australasia), Manga Entertainment (United Kingdom) and Crunchyroll (United States). Note: Crunchyroll doesn’t stream the title in Canada or Mexico.