5 Centimeters Per Second – Review

5 Centimeters Per Second

Title: 5 Centimeters Per Second (Byousoku 5 Centimeter)
Episodes: 3 (OVA)
Company: Comix Wave
Genre(s): Romance
Air Dates: 3 March 2007

Synopsis: Takaki Tono and Akari Shinohara had always been really good friends since childhood. This friendship would eventually blossom into love, but as they got older, circumstances forced them to move further and further apart. The increasing distance between the two tests the strength of their love as well as their ability to deal with their daily life despite being so far apart.

Pros:

  • Absolutely gorgeous artwork and stunningly detailed animation
  • Characters are easy to identify with in an excellent plot
  • Music is absolutely beautiful and gives the scenes strong impact

Cons:

  • Ending might not be everyone’s cup of tea; somewhat underwhelming

Review: If there is anything that Makoto Shinkai’s works are known for, it is the amazing quality of the artwork as well as a plot revolving around distance and how it creates barriers to romantic relationships. 5 Centimeters Per Second follows this formula, while adding in a few shifts in the point of view to make it differ a bit from his previous works. Although this change in perspective fills up one episode, the focus is still on the protagonist Takaki Tono. By framing the story around Takaki, Shinkai has succeeded in creating a brilliant work that shows not only Takaki’s hopes, dreams, and aspirations in full detail, but also how those hopes prevent him from looking beyond the past.

Takaki’s inability to let go of the past is what makes him an identifiable and sympathetic character. As the story goes on his character flaws become all that much more apparent and the viewer can begin to identify the point at which his longing for Akari becomes an obsession that will not allow him to go on with his life. The way this change is presented to the viewer is definitely well done, especially by having the viewer look at this situation through Kanae’s, Takaki’s classmate, lens. Her narration and interaction with Takaki provides the viewer with an outsider’s view of how others perceived Takaki and allows for a well-rounded view of his character. It helps that Kanae is a deep character with her own set of motivations and goals and by watching her attempts to bond with Takaki, we gain some small degree of sympathy for her and see how she serves as an excellent contrast to Takaki.

The excellently done characters and plot have succeeded at tugging at our emotions, but the impact would not have been as strong if it weren’t for the stellar animation and the wondrous soundtrack. Shinkai’s animation had always been top-notch, and 5 Centimeters just keeps on pushing the bar higher. Every frame is just rich in detail, ranging from the lighting at the train station to the stunning beauty of watching cherry blossoms drifting along with the wind. The music also packs quite a punch with Tenmon at the helm. His melodies complement the scenes by strengthening the emotional impact and delivering an excellent soundtrack.

Finally, the ending lacks definitiveness. While it shows that Takaki’s life is in a rut, the OVA never really suggests that he breaks out of it. The last segment of the third episode consists of a series of flashbacks, while stunningly beautiful, does not really go anywhere. In light of how well done everything else was, the ending was just a tad bit underwhelming.

In spite of the ending, 5 Centimeters Per Second is solid all the way through. Every component works well to deliver a wonderfully romantic story that slowly becomes frayed by distance, from the breathtaking animation all the way to the soundtrack which complements each scene nicely. For people looking for a serious romance, you can’t go wrong with 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Score: Very Good

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Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

5 thoughts on “5 Centimeters Per Second – Review

  • March 15, 2010 at 12:48 am
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    The biggest problem people tend to have with this film is the lack of definitiveness in the ending, but I’ve never really had a problem with “open” endings. I mean, fundamentally, what is wrong with that? It leaves something to the imagination; you can sort of interpret his smile at the end as a sign that he’s realized that Akari has moved on and that he should do the same, or you can interpret it as nothing and say that he’ll live a miserable life.

    The first episode establishes their unique relationship and how it is torn apart. The second episode shows that he’s unable to let go, and the third episode shows how this is detrimental to his adult relationships with others. I honestly think an extra episode would’ve been superfluous; whether or not he does let go or not, the point was already made after three episodes, and a fourth wouldn’t have contributed to that. It would’ve only served to appease fans. I felt like there wasn’t much more to say.

    Further, the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but I also don’t think this is that big of an issue either, especially given the format of the film (three short stories). A lot of short stories, especially in modern literature, don’t really have climaxes and resolutions. The idea is that it’s trying to describe something, and if that something happens to be sort of mundane, then there’s really no hope for a climax. Maybe mundane isn’t quite the right word, because I don’t mean it in a negative sense; what I mean is it’s describing something that is in no way extraordinary.

    Anyway, I think this was a pretty good movie; I had some small random (irrelevant) beefs, but mostly I agree with what you’ve said (in particular about the artwork and soundtrack). If I do have a complaint about Shinkai so far, it’s that his works seem to revolve around some common themes (separation) and exploit similar symbols (trains). Since he’s only done two films so far though, I think it’s a bit premature to pass judgment. I really hope he’s able to diversify his work, because so far I’m a big fan of what he’s done.

    Reply
  • March 16, 2010 at 1:50 am
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    @Josh
    Shinkai hasn’t really done much to set himself apart if you look at everything but his art since the commonality of the themes that link each of his past works means you’re watching different variations of it. I guess the reason why he’s so successful is because a lot of people are able to identify with those feelings really strongly.

    Excellent observations all around and I too hope to see him expand beyond his comfort zone and dabble/experiment around with other plots.

    Reply
  • March 19, 2010 at 4:16 am
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    Yeah, I was a bit disappointed to hear that his next movie would just be taking the same theme a little bit further, but to be optimistic, it’s supposed to be a “resolution” to the problem, so maybe he’ll move on after that. I think what makes his work stand out is really how he puts things together. I understand that this is unreasonably vague, and I’m really bad a pinpointing things like this, so I’ll just leave it at that. Hopefully someday I’ll know what I mean. The art is definitely a good part of it though.

    Reply
  • March 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm
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    @Josh
    Definitely. Maybe people should gather together and hire a scriptwriter so that he’s not stuck in this same general rut. It’d be nice to see him put his artistic talent to putting together… I don’t know… an action sequence or two? That’d make for a nice change if nothing else.

    Reply
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