>The story begins with a 5-year-old girl named Akari talking to her best friend, a boy named Takaki. “Hey, did you know that cherry blossoms fall to the ground at a rate of five centimeters per second?” Akari says to Takaki. Then, unexpectedly, Akari runs off on the other side of the railroad tracks ahead. Takaki tries to follow, but the gates close down and Akari teases him, saying, “Goodbye, Takaki!”
Even though this is a joke at the beginning of the movie “5 Centimeters Per Second,” that is exactly how suddenly Akari leaves Takaki, when her parents move away to Tochigi prefecture in northern Japan.
As director Makoto Shinkai says in an interview on the DVD, “5 Centimeters Per Second” is all about the pacing of relationships. The emotions, and the imagery reflecting the emotions, are priceless.
The film is set in three parts. The first one, “Cherry Blossoms” shows off Shinkai’s storytelling at his best. When Takaki’s parents move to the island of Kyushu, Takaki and Akari decide to meet for one last time in Iwafune in the winter, far up north. Although the blizzard was very inconvenient for Takaki’s train trip, Akari still waits for him. Probably the most tender moment is Akari and Takaki’s kiss underneath a cherry blossom tree.
The second part, “Cosmonaut,” deals with Takaki’s relationship with Kanae Sumita in a high school in Tageshima, Kyuushu. Kanae is clearly in love with Takaki, but Takaki’s head is still in the stars. He wants to go to Tokyo University, which is the most prestigious school in Japan, but Kanae wants to confess her feelings to him. They strike up a great relationship, but no matter when opportunities arise, Kanae cannot pop the question.
As for the final part, “5 Centimeters Per Second,” it actually feels more like a dizzying montage of events. Takaki is receiving messages on his cell phone. Could they be messages from Akari. He has no idea, and work is just draining the energy out of him. And as Takaki passes by a girl at the same railroad crossing, he is pretty sure that it could be Akari. Or is she just a mirage of the past?
Although the ending feels less conclusive, and more like an artsy, abstract montage that moves too fast for me to follow, I think it worked perfectly for this movie. Japanese directors are never sticklers for happy endings, but realistic ones. And although Takaki might not find Akari ever again, the memories still remain with him. And these memories are the most priceless memories for him to keep.
I’m disappointed with Anime News Network’s review of this masterpiece. Although the ending could disappoint some people who would rather watch a final kiss at the end, this story isn’t about winning the girl. This story is about a young man who learns to stop pining away long hours at the office and find a girl he truly loves.
Based on an interview included on the DVD, at the time when director Makoto Shinkai named this movie “5 Centimeters Per Second,” he stated that everything in this movie has to do with speed, even the imagery. And the lighting effects and the imagery in this film is incredible. His meeting with Akari is in a blue, snow-covered village to reflect how Takaki gets frozen in the rest of his life daydreaming about Akari. In Kanae’s romance with Takaki, Kanae always notices how Takaki is always looking ahead to the future, speeding through the sky like the nearby rocket launching in the distance.
I’m sure this movie is one of the best anime films of all time. This is a gem of a movie. Watch it immediately, because no one will regret a second of the romance, the drama and the beauty of “5 Centimeters Per Second.” Hopefully, after watching this film, your own relationships will not move at five centimeters per second.
Photos courtesy of animewriter.wordpress.com and sookinouta.blogspot.com