5 Centimeters Per Second Review

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AKA: Byosoku Go Centimeter, 5 Centimeters Per Second: A Chain of Short Stories About Their Distance

Genre: Drama/Romance
Year Released: 2007
Distributor: Discotek/Eastern Star/Crunchyroll

Origin: Japan
Running Time: 63 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: The Garden of Words, Your Name, Sentimental Journey (anime series), Ocean Waves, From Up on Poppy Hill, Human Crossing, Koizora
Notes:
-This review reflects the Discotek rerelease although I’ve seen the original ADV release years ago.
-The Japanese language track was used. There are two English dubs available with one done by ADV while the Discotek one uses a different cast courtesy of Bang Zoom.
Fun Facts:
-This is the 2nd full-length film from Makoto Shinkai and the 1st one in his filmography not to use sci-fi or fantasy elements in the plot.

-5 Centimeters Per Second won the Best Animated Feature Film Award at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

-Sanae’s seiyuu Satomi Hanamura has played Yuka in Battle Royale. That’s the character who dies by eating the poisoned soup in the movie for those who don’t remember.

-Easter Eggs: Some eagle-eyed Shinkai fans who know about his earlier works will catch some references in this film. There’s Chobi the cat from She and Her Cat in a brief cameo. One poster talks about saving earth which looks similar to some propaganda piece straight out of Voices of a Distant Star including the famous “planet dream” sequence almost filmed in Agartha itself. There are even two stealth references to The Place Promised In our Early Days: One, Takaki does archery just like Hiroki and one piece of dialogue mentions there being a “place beyond the clouds” which is a direct reference to Place Promsed’s original Japanese title “Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho” (literally Beyond the Clouds, The Promised Place).


I enjoy most of what I’ve seen from anime auteur Makoto Shinkai, but I need to be re-immersed in his works. 

Granted, I wasn’t so kind to The Garden of Words which I found to be criminally overrated and the questionable plot. That was my first movie I’ve seen of his since getting back into anime. I remember watching his earlier filmography over a decade ago when I was knee-deep in anime fandom. If you would have told me ten to twelve years ago that Makoto Shinkai would have the highest grossing Japanese animated film of all time (that’s Your Name), then I would have called you insane. I mean, this is coming from the same guy who animated two short films with just his Mac computer alone way back when. 

As I’m reintroduced to Shinkai, I thought I would go back to re-watch this film of his.

5 Centimeters Per Second deals with the main character Takaki Tono’s life from middle school to adulthood. The story starts out in the 90s where he was in junior high and he meets this girl named Akari Shinohara. Both of them become infatuated with each other, but both of their families have jobs where they moved a lot. Takaki’s family is about to move from Tokyo to Kagoshima (literally the other side of the country for him) while Akari has already moved to Tochigi. Both of them frequently write letters to each other and Takaki vows to take a train to see her despite the distance and heavy snowfall. Later on in his life, his family moves to another city in Tanegashima where he’s surviving high school. Another girl named Kanae Sumida is infatuated with him, but she’s way too indecisive and shy to confess her feelings for him.

Since this is a Shinkai film, let’s start by saying the obvious: This movie looks gorgeous. This movie came out a decade ago, and it still looks impressive. The scenery could stand alone as art and the coloration is just spot-on. The various effects like the weather, reflections, and even the moving train walkways are all animated wonderfully. Yes, the character designs are simplistic, but they aren’t bad or offensive. There were some shortcuts taken like the characters’ faces not being seen in some shots of dialogue, but they are few and far between. The most impressive scenes are the planet dream sequence and the correlating night sky in the middle of the film. I want to get the planet dream sequence framed since it’s great to look at.

The music is fantastic. Most of the score involves light, yet emotional piano pieces by Shinkai’s then-composer partner Tenmon. While it’s not as memorable or impacting as his works in Voices of a Distant Star or The Place Promised In Our Early Days, it’s still better than most scores I can think of. The minimalist piano works heighten the emotions so much. There are some subtle symphonic pieces where the tension gets heightened. The ending theme “One More Time, One More Chance” by Masayoshi Yamazaki really captures the feelings of the movie at large. I didn’t even know that this song was written and recorded a whole decade before 5 Centimeters Per Second until I did research for this review, but I didn’t care. The lyrics invoke a sense of longing and trying to find love despite hopeless situations.

When I first saw 5 Centimeters Per Second, I didn’t pay that much attention at first years ago, but watching it now gave me some different feelings. There are so many feelings of regret like wishing you could’ve said something or couldn’t have said something years ago and wishing you could change your past. The final act where Takaki is an adult was way more relatable to me than it was almost a decade since I first watched this. Without getting into major spoilers, he becomes so cynical and jaded with his life as he works (and eventually quits his job) as a computer programmer. You don’t just see his frustration with life, you feel it in short bursts. He develops a smoking and drinking habit where he perpetually frowns whether he’s at home or at the office. I don’t even drink, smoke, or do drugs, and even I can understand where he’s coming from as life becomes cruel. Trust me, being an adult really sucks with bills, jobs, independence, money management, etc.

I wished this movie was longer though. At just barely over an hour, 5 Centimeters Per Second really flies fast. I did think it was interesting how they separated parts of the movie in three sections in dealing with Takaki’s middle school years, his high school years, and his adult life in 2008 where the movie ends. The first two segments are well-paces, but the final segment should’ve been much longer. While you see the effects of Takaki and Akari in their adult life, there are some plot holes like the other girl that was in Takaki’s life briefly who gets no development. Most of the third segment becomes a montage of old and new footage while the ending theme plays. I also think it would be great to see what happened with Akari during that time of the second and third segments (where she was absent in the former). It also would be nice to see how Kanae was doing in her adult life. Sure, it was implied that she finds purpose in her existence later on in the second act, but I wanted to see her achieve more things. One can argue that this is an indirect love triangle between Takaki, Akari, and Kanae despite the girls not ever meeting or knowing each other, but this relationship has absolutely NOTHING on the Hiroki/Takuya/Sayuri love triangle in The Place Promised In Our Early Days which was Shinkai’s prior movie to this one.

5 Centimeters per Second isn’t Shinkai’s greatest movie, but it is an underrated one. Takaki does get some good character development even though he’s not the best protagonist compared to the other films from this anime creator. The animation and music are certainly high points which is to be expected from CoMix Wave. The plotting starts out really strong, but it accelerates way too quickly during the adult years of Takaki and Akari. I also liked the metaphor in regards to the title. It refers to the speed at which cherry blossoms fall as mentioned in the first minute of the film. The meaning also refers to the distance at which relationships can happen whether they are literal or metaphorical in the case of Takaki, Akari, and Kanae. Then again, I’ve noticed that relational distance is a recurring motif with his early works like how the distance can be galaxies apart in Voices of a Distant Star or parallel universes apart in The Place Promised In Our Early Days. If you want some quality romance drama flicks that don’t resort to chick flick bait or hardcore melodrama, then 5 Centimeters Per Second certainly delivers.


Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a Makoto Shinkai fan
Add 2 points if you care a ton about animation quality
Subtract 3 points if you hate romance movies

Pros:
-Phenomenal animation and visuals
-High-quality soundtrack courtesy of Tenmon
-Realistic character development and consequences



Cons:
-Plot holes abound in the final act
-Lack of character development with some secondary characters
-Very short running time (an extra 20 minutes could REALLY help)

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: 5 Centimeters Per Second really doesn’t have that many objectionable things. There’s no swearing (in the Japanese version, at least), sex, violence, or anything like that. The most offensive things involve Takaki smoking and drinking, but there are G-rated movies that show it, too. However, young viewers won’t get some of the subtleties in the storytelling. The final act makes a lot more sense watching it as an adult knowing about all the consequences that people in their twenties and up go through or will go through.

-Curtis Monroe

Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve had this on my list to watch for a few years. Does it sound weird that I held off because it might hit a bit too close to home for me? Sometimes being an adult it is too easy to look back and see things you could have done differently. I need to watch this and stop putting it off ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t feel bad about feeling that way. This movie made more sense as an adult compared to when I saw it in my late teens. Granted, this isn’t the best work of Shinkai’s, but I certainly liked it more than The Garden of Words. Watching things as an adult gave me a new perspective on plot elements and characterization. Feel free to check out 5 Centimeters, but I would also recommend Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days if you want to check out old-school Makoto Shinkai.

      Liked by 1 person

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