Monday, December 27, 2010

#5 - 5 Centimeters per Second Review

My 5th Favorite movie

(sorry, this review is kind of long)

Your average american movie watcher has probably never heard of this film. But among those who love Japanese anime, this movie is extremely well known. Some even go so far as to say that the director, Makoto Shinkai, rivals Miyazaki in brilliance.

5 Centimeters per Second Trailer 1
5 Centimeters per Second Trailer 2
(Don't bother trying to understand the trailer's subtitles.
Don't worry, the in-movie subtitles make sense)

Now, i don't generally watch anime anymore because i realized that a lot of anime suffers from giant robot/alien syndrome, generally have a very formulaic cast of characters, and generally don't explain or expand on plot points. ( I understand that i am over generalizing, and people can make similar arguments about "Hollywood films and endings". But like how some people like to watch different genres. Some people have the same feelings towards anime. )

But "5 Centimeters per Second" differs a lot from the typical anime formula. With no sci-fi element, no headstrong, leap before looking main protagonist, and no mystical theme in it. It takes a look at two childhood lovers that slowly drift apart because of their inability to act. This tragic love story is beautifully told with minimal dialog and very vivid imagery. When a character is in pain you see it, and in those moments the entire color scheme changes, and external imagery is used to convey what happens.

If you haven't seen this movie yet i would highly Highly recommend it.... it is a sad movie, so be warned. But I love this film because of how well it conveys emotions. In truth this movie is actually three mini episodes strung together in an hour long experience. I love emotional pieces, and this is among the very best in my opinion. So If you haven't seen it...... too late now here we go. ^__^

To put it simply, this movie is about "love". But its about more than just the simple word we tend to throw around sometimes. This movie looks at love and desire throughout the different stages of life. From a simple love that two kids might share. To the feelings of infatuation in High school. Lastly being consumed with the past, with what if's.

This movie portrays how love can appear sometimes. Often muddled, confused, full of hope yet plagued with doubt. Sometimes we just want to go for it, yet we are held behind by differences in goals and values, our own insecurities, and life in general.
Episode 1: Cherry Blossom
We are introduced to two kids Akari and Takaki. Two kids who have grown attached to each other based on their love for the library, together survived constant teasing from other class mates. Takaki took the lead in protecting Akari.

Akari said that cherry blossoms fall at about 5cm per second, that is looks like snow fall. So they promised to watch the cherry blossom petals fall together.

Upon graduating elementary school, Takaki is broken when he hears that Akari has to move away. He hears her crying on the phone, and can't bear not having any words to console her. But they keep in contact through letters. Takaki soon finds out that he is about to move as well. So before he moves, He plans to travel the long distance to see Akari. To give her personally a letter that would confess his feelings for her.

Here is where the movie's use of imagery really start to take effect. Takaki's two hour tour takes a turn for the worst as a blizzard comes in and delays the train. We see his struggle in the silence. We see the environment turn from what was originally a city setting to empty fields. The blizzard even claims his confession letter. Leading to the lowest point of the episode, Takaki is on a train stranded in the middle of an ocean of snow.  By now he is late by nearly like 4 hours, and his only prayer is that Akari is not still waiting for him in the cold.

As he finally gets off the train, it is several hours past his expected arrival time. As thanks the station attendant as he walks off without any expectations. Then he sees her, sleeping next to the stations heater, alone. When Akari notices him, she clings to his hand. Knowing that the her patience and faith has just come through.

It was this scene that solidified the movie for me. It's simple, you could see past the drawings and see into the hearts of the characters.

After that beautiful scene however, this episode takes a nose dive. (Understand that these are like twelve year olds. But it does lead to plot points that contribute to later in the movie.) Anyways, They eat alittle and enjoy their time together. Then they wander out and watch the snow together. Share their first kiss. Then sleep together in a cabin. What ever.... that doesn't happen in elementary school...i think... and its creepier that they are like 12, anyways...

The episode ends with them saying goodbye. Both saying that they would write to each other. Both with high hopes that this was the start of something special. We also see that Akari also had a letter, but like Takaki's letter, didn't get passed on.

This was the longest episode, and has a lot to offer in terms of understanding this movie. This episode shows how love usually manifests when we are small. The way we might show our love to our parents, aunts, uncles, and friends when we are still in elementary school. It's not complicated, we like them because of who they are and what they mean to us. It is as simple as we want to see them, so we want to be with them.

Takaki and Akari's relationship reflects this really well as we see them hanging out together just because of their identical situations. So when they separate, Takaki takes his chance to go and see her. He doesn't think about what she might say or think, he just wants to see her regardless of the effort.

Episode 2: Cosmonaut
Takaki is now in High school, so here is where we see how simple child like affection evolves into something much more complicated. We are also introduced to a new character Kanae who has a crush on Takaki. The bulk of this episode is told from her perspective. Kanae is simple girl who is trying to juggle school, learning to surf, deciding on what to do after graduation, and her crush on Takaki  all at once. She regularly waits to "bump into" Takaki so they can go home together. Yet hesitates to reveal her true feelings. On the way home, Takaki is regularly seen texting to someone on his phone, and Kanae wishes that it was her on the receiving end.

A side-story in the episode is that the island they are on is planning on launching a probe to explore space (Saturn i believe). Takaki says that how ever long and fast it travels it will eventually make it to its destination. Takaki and Kanae see the probe being transported to the launch location on their way home. Kanae comments that the train moves 5km an hour.

Kanae admires Takaki for his demeanor and relative calmness in the face of graduation. But Takaki tells her one day that even he is insecure about what the future brings. This revelation that Takaki is just like her gives her the confidence to reveal her true feelings.

But as they are walking home, she hesitates. Takaki has always been kind to her, always willing to accompany her and help. Yet always feels like he looks straight past her. As they walk, she turns and cries unable to hold her feelings in. It's at that moment that the space probe launches into the sky.

There are probably a lot of interpretations on the meaning of the rocket ship. But I always saw it as a reminder to the characters that the world keeps moving. As hard as the struggles we face are, life is always moving. Like what Takaki said earlier, always moving towards its final destination.

The entire tone changes in this scene. A bright flash of light, then as the rocket rises it seems to divide light and dark, as if its the transition between past and future. All emotions and thoughts are suddenly stripped away because of the sound of the burning rockets. It truly is a beautiful scene.

Kanae settles in the fact that Takaki is looking towards something else, someone or something beyond her. Developing the confidence in herself to move on, and accomplish her goals in life (like her side-story with learning to surf)

At the end of this episode we get a final narration by Takaki, that reveals that he has been texting to no one.  That though he still dreams and thinks about Akakri, he has not been in contact with her.
This Episode has a change in how love or affection is understood. There is a much greater concentration on the self. In Kanae feelings for Takaki, much of it is based on her own confidence. As is Takaki's relationship with Akari (or lack thereof) and his confidence being the wall between them.

Attraction has also changed. In how Kanae doesn't just simply like Takaki (like how love was shown in the first episode). We know that she likes him because he has a different demeanor. He appears strong and confident even in the face of inevitable change with graduation, something that she has been struggling with.

Episode 3: 5 centimeters per second
The shortest and final episode shows us the ending complication in relationships and love. We see that Akari has grown up and is holding a letter for Takaki. Saying that she remembers back to the time when they kissed in the snow.

We then jump to see Takaki who has been living alone. He is smoking, drinking, and fallen into a state of deep depression. To the point that he has quit his job. His desire for what Kanae saw in the last episode has led him down a path of deep sorrow and regret.

The movie then jumps into a music video, showing beautifully what has led to Takaki's depression and how Akari has moved on.
Akari although regretful of the past, is now engaged. Takaki on the other hand is trapped. Despite having been in a three year long relationship, his desires have led him away.

After their kiss back in the first episode, they never went through on sending each other letters. Both of them expect the other to act first. But ultimately, their relationship drifted off slowly. (at 5cm per second)

We then see Takaki walking through a train intersection and notices a woman walking the other way. When they both reach the other side, the both pause. Takaki knows that it's Akari. But Trains start to pass by blocking their views.

When the trains pass, Takaki sees that the girl has gone. Akari has moved on, which gives him the courage to move on as well. The movie ends with Takaki smiling contently for the first time in the movie.


I wont go this in-depth into the other movies on my list, but i really wanted to analyze this one because, i guess personally i can identify with the struggles these characters face.

But this movie is all about the evolution of love and how we, as humans, have to find the confidence and strength to carry on through times of love and loss.

From the very beginning we see two kids who generally love each other but are separated. Put into a position where they slowly drift apart form each other. Takaki is left to deal with this separation, as we see someone else who is interested in him. leading to the end where we see that this separation had poisoned him. Where Akari and Kanae have both found the strength to move on, Takaki has been slowly falling, lol, at 5cm per second until he hits the ground (rock bottom).

This movie is an absolutely beautiful experience. My terrible descriptions don't do justice to the visuals and sounds that accompany each scene and emotion this movie conveys.

Writing this in-depth appreciation of the movie has really allowed me to enjoy this movie that much more. Standing as my 5th favorite movie.

If anyone actually reads this all the way through, Thanks so much for your time ^__^


  1. You have interesting taste, Collins. I thought this movie was good, but frustrating.

  2. What did you find frustrating Dave? The fact that Akari and Takaki's relationship doesn't progress? I'm curious to get people's opinion on Time of EVE. :)

  3. Was it frustrating because Takaki didn't do anything about their relationship ???

    As stupid as he is, it was that conflict that i thought the movie was trying to address. While everyone else was either moving on, or doing something he was just wallowing in his own grief.

  4. I like Time of Eve ^__^
    (i probably have to re-watch it though....are they coming out with more episodes ????)

  5. Did you watch the individual episodes or the movie compilation. I've only seen the movie, which apparently flows a little better from what I've read after the fact. I originally got it because that's what thoranime had. The movie credits add more details about Nagi and Shiotsuki there's a scene after the credits too. :) (I sure hope there are more episodes coming!)

  6. Exactly. Fundamentally, it's frustrating watching people trapped by their own inaction. I keep wanting to reach through the screen and smack them around. To a certain extent I find this movie a parallel for certain aspects of Japan as a whole, a willingness to go quiet into the night that's pretty, but violates the fundamental principle of suck. The plethora of anime featuring the brash and bold hero (Gurren Laggan, for example) Collins refers to in his blog are a defiance of that attitude, in a way Japan exhorting its youth to the dynamism necessary for it to survive and prosper.

    Don't get me wrong, still a beautiful movie. But frustrating.

    I prefer the attitude of Tennyson's Ulysses...

  7. Hmmm
    Thats a really good explanation for the "brash and bold Japanese protagonist"

    I do find this movie a very good example of what happens when you continue don't embrace the principle of suck. Takaki seems pretty content in making his 'suck' greater through out the movie. >__<