Today I want to tell you about something I watched the other day. It was a “Romantic/Dramatic” anime movie. To tell you the truth, I rarely watch anime movies, and even less those kind of genres. Maybe because I’m really picky when it comes to watching something on the Romantic/Dramatic genre, or maybe because I feel too comfortable in the anime-series section that I don’t dare to look somewhere else for something new, or I just simply don’t know much about anime movies, so I wouldn’t know where to start.
But that day, that day was different. That day I stumbled by coincidence with a peculiar name. A name that caught my attention. A name that had something magical about it. It was just a name, a title, nothing more than that.
First, I intended to make a review. But, instead of analyzing the content of this particular movie on a “technical” way, I feel more comfortable just portraying what I felt while and after experiencing this movie. I’ll just let you decide whether or not it’s something you would rather like to watch also.
Please note, there will be spoilers, and they will be a lot. I’ll basically tell you the entire story here, so I recommend you go look for this awesome piece of art right away. I’m sure you’ll like this romantic-drama as much as I did. (If you’re into romance and drama, of course. If that’s not the case, I would recommend you to watch it anyways, just for the sake of its GORGEOUS visual artwork.)
Also, I’m “reviewing” this movie on it’s own. I actually don’t know the other works of Makoto Shinkai (yup, this movie is his work) so I don’t know if he has been re-doing something to the point it has lost its structure and its originality. I’m just going to talk about this particular movie, without taking in count anything else.
That title was: “5 centimeters per second.”
I was skeptical at first… Yeah, the title had me curious, but I never expected too much out of it. Nevertheless, curiosity had won the battle over me, and I went to check out what the hell was that title about.
I found myself with a peculiar yet pleasant surprise. It was an anime movie labeled as “Romantic drama”. I’m into drama and romance myself but, as I said, I’m very picky about it. It has to be a “special” type of drama and a “special” type of romance for me to get hooked into.
After reading the synopsis of the movie, my hopes didn’t got any higher. “3 different and yet the same stories about distance.” It really sounded a little cliché, but I didn’t wanted to read any reviews because it may spoil for me what the movie was all about.
Still, that title was still ringing in my head: “5 centimeters per second.”
Finally, I made the decision to watch it.
It was late at night, about 10 pm. I needed to go to bed early because I had to be in college early in the morning the other day. The movie was 1 hour long, so I thought “Well… if I start now, I’ll be done around 11 pm. Let’s give it a shot.”
I poured myself some hot coffee, went to my couch with my notebook and covered myself with a blanket. It was a cold and rainy night, so it fitted the mood quite perfectly for a “romance/drama” thingy…
I pressed play, and just sat there and started watching.
Chapter 1: Cherry Blossoms.
- “Hey… They say it’s five centimeters per second… You know, the speed at which cherry blossoms fall…”
- “Oh, you surely know a lot about this stuff, Akari.”
- “Say… Don’t you think it kinda looks like snow?”
- “I guess so…”
- “Takaki-kun, it would be great if we could watch the cherry blossoms fall again together next year…”
Those words came out of two little boy’s soft voices, who were gazing at the cherry blossoms falling before them while they ran pass a railroad crossing.
That scene, along with that dialogue, had a scent of melancholy around it. It was sad, but at the same time made me feel warm inside. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
That scene, that first scene, was all the movie needed to grasp my attention. The astonishing visuals, the soft and heartacheing melody and the sweet and tender voice of that girl, was all it needed.
But I was still skeptical. I also had seen astonishing visuals and sweet voices, and had been disappointed. So, I didn’t rush my expectations, and simply kept watching.
The scene moved on, onto another beautifully animated scene, and then another. The amazing visuals never ceased.
This was Takaki-kun and Akari-san‘s story. It was a story about distance, a story about loss, a story about nostalgia, a story about a past you can’t let go. A story about life.
There I was, with my eyes glued to the screen, not being able to unglue them. I was fascinated with what was revealed before my eyes. I couldn’t believe such a beautiful thing could exist, and I wasn’t even aware of it! I kept watching, amazing myself with every fragment of that story.
The story in 5 centimeters per second is divided in Three Chapters, or Three Acts. Each act is a story in itself, but it chains with the others.
My coffee got cold, because I didn’t realize I was having it. I just let my mind drift into that beautiful looking world that was unwrapping before my eyes. My blanket fell off my body, and I didn’t even noticed it.
The first chapter tells us how they met each other while they were little kids, and how they started to feel more and more closer to each other with the course of time. How they felt safe with each other, safe from the harmness of the “outer world”. A world that didn’t understood them, and didn’t wanted to. But it didn’t matter, because they had each other.
But nothing lasts forever, even cold november rain… They got separated. After they graduated from elementary school, Akari had to go to other school on Tochigi, and Takaki-kun had to stay in Tokyo, so they wouldn’t be together anymore. She called to tell him this from a public phone on the street. You could feel the coldness on her words on your bare skin. You could feel the anger and sadness in little Takaki-kun‘s words when he said to her that it “didn’t matter”, and that she could “forget about everything.” You could feel every inch of pain on their words.
Nevertheless, they kept in contact with each other by letters. Letters they wrote with their own words. Letters where they put their feelings in. Letters.
“The last time we were together was at our elementary school graduation. It’s already been half a year since… So, Takaki-kun, you still remember me?” That is just one of Akari‘s countless letters. You can feel the pain behind those words.
During a long period of time, their love, tenderness and warm gets only expressed by their words on those letters. That suddenly changes when Takaki-kun learns that his family is moving to Kagoshima, a place too far away from where Akari is. He then decides to go and see her, because he may never be able to see her again. Ever.
He embarks himself on a journey, a journey about simply taking the train. A simple trip on a train.
They arrange to meet at 7 pm.
The snow was falling heavy and all the trains he had to take got delayed, so he ends up being really really late. It was already 10 pm, and he was still far away from the station where they arranged to meet. Nevertheless, he kept on going, hoping she would not have returned home by now.
For his, and my surprise (by this time I was completely blown away by this master-piece gorgeous-ness and my coffee was almost as cold as an iceberg) she was there. She was sitting in the station, in the cold and dark station, waiting for him.
They met and suddenly, she grabbed his coat and started to cry. They were again face to face and so many emotions were set loose. They spent a little time together there, eating and drinking hot tea. They just enjoyed the warmth and tenderness of each other.
After a while, they departed into the snow, and walked towards the same direction. They arrived at the same cherry blossom tree who was a witness of their promise. That promise they made such a long time ago.
It was cold, really cold, but also warm, tender. They didn’t expect it, or perhaps it was something they desired to do for such a long time now, but their lips suddenly met, and every sorrow, every doubt, every piece of sadness in their hearts vanished in a blink of an eye.
They then spent the night together in a cabin near the place, and embraced each other through the night.
The morning came, and Takaki-kun had to take the train and leave. He promised to keep writing to her, and to meet her again. He promised…
Chapter Two: Cosmonaut.
Sometime has passed, and now Takaki-kun is in third year of senior high in Tanegashima, place where a Space Center is located. He has become a somehow shallow young man, not to the world outside him, but to the world inside him.
We are then introduced to a cute little girl (they’re always cute and little, aren’t they?), called Kanae Sumita, who has a crush on Takaki-kun. But not a usual crush… This girl has in a certain way built her life around him. She admires him, she is puzzled about his nature, she knows he is somehow different and she, little by little, unconsciously, falls in love for him. She gets to a point where she just can’t take him out of her mind.
She tries to be by his side every time she can. She just wants to spend time with him and, for a while, it just stays that way. But that can’t last forever, can it? She has to do something. She has to tell him the truth.
She builds up courage and, on a certain day, she decides she will declare to him. After struggling with herself, at the moment of truth, she breaks down in tears. She finally understands why he always looked different. She finally understands why he is always gazing at the sky, looking further than his own eyes could see, always with a nostalgic look on his face. He always seemed to have a huge pain deep in his soul, because he was desperately looking for that thing he lost such a long time ago, and he just knows he will never have it again.
She understands she can’t give him what he desires, what he needs, and finally decides to ignore her feelings, although she knows she is hopelessly in love with him and she’ll never stop feeling that way.
Chapter Three: 5 centimeters per second.
It’s now 2008 and Takaki-kun has become a programmer for a company in Tokyo, while Akari is now about to marry another man. Their lives have completely went separated ways, and had diverged far, never to converge again.
Takaki-kun still feels that pain deep within his soul, and he knows it will be that way for the rest of his life. Puzzled and lost in that stormy sea of emotions he had inside him, he quits his job trying to find a place in this world for him.
This final chapter is narrated in both Takaki-kun and Akari’s points of view, depicting how they are living their lives now that years have passed since they last saw each other. They both had a strange dream about the other, but they couldn’t tell exactly what it was about. Their lives took different paths, and that, simply, was all.
One day, Takaki-kun sees a familiar looking face while walking down a street. The same street he walked with Akari when they were just kids. He turns back, and at that same moment a train passes by, cutting his field of view. When the train finally passes, he sees there is no one on the other side. He gives himself an wryly smile, and keeps walking forward.
5 centimeters per second hasn’t got a strong plot, nor a strong character development (although Kanae deserved some more developing, at least for me) because it doesn’t needs it. It’s just a simple story, about two simple lovers and their simple lives, and it’s just amazing how something so simple can be so touching.
This story is not about love, it’s not about happy endings, nor sad endings. It’s not about endings at all.
On the contrary, it’s about moving on while smiling. It’s about trying to look further beyond what our eyes can see.
You’re probably not going to cry, and you’re not probably going to feel the urge to cry either, but I’m sure you’ll feel some shivers down your spine. You’ll feel Takaki-kun and Akari-san’s feelings as your own, and after 60 minutes of astonishingly beautiful visuals and heartbreaking melodies that unwraps around the loneliness and the sorrow-ness amazingly well portrayed in this short yet powerful film, you’ll feel the need to sigh deeply, and maybe rub your (probably still wide open) eyes a little bit.
Shinkai doesn’t need people dying or suffering strong traumas to manifest sadness on us, the viewers. He has a much simpler weapon: He has the overwhelming feeling of loneliness we all know so well, and that’s all he needs.
I can state for sure that Shinkai is the second Miyazaki. And, in some aspects, he is even better than him.
Hopefully this beautiful movie can make you wonder about life itself, about all those souls that got together at one given point in time, but vanished in the vast hugeness of this universe, condemned to look for each other while knowing that they’re never gonna be reunited again.
The film is kind of sorrowful, melancholic and even gloomy. It never stops being true to what it started being. It never intends to change the arrangement of the pieces of the puzzle to make them fit perfectly together. The pieces never fit, and that’s perfect. It’s supposed to be that way. The loneliness portrayed in this film is what makes it so special. It’s perfect in what it shows, unwraps and transmits.
He was always gazing further beyond what his eyes could see.
And, as always, thanks for reading.