After hearing about and seeing images from 5 Centimeters per Second, I decided to sit down and watch it a few nights ago. And I’m glad I did take an hour out of my time for it because it is absolutely gorgeous…
First of all, I’m sure just about anyone who’s seen 5Cm/Sec will agree that the art and animation are some of the best (if not, the best) to come out in any hand-drawn animated movie. The vibrant colors and fine details stand out beautifully in just about every scene. Everything from the shades of color in the sky, the shine of the stars, the snow, the rain, etc., was all carefully placed with amazing depth and precision. There’s also very little music in the movie, which I think helps make the stunning artwork stand out even more. This is a movie whose aesthetics and animation quality can be appreciated by not just anime fans but anyone interested in art or cinematography.
The movie is divided into three 22-minute “episodes” giving it a relatively short run-time of 62 minutes. This is a bit unusual for a theatrical movie but 5Cm/Sec manages to pull it off without the three parts seeming too disjointed. The first episode does a great job establishing the relationship between Takaki and Akari; the words in the letters that they write to each other together with the emotion of their voice actors really gives a sense of the strong longing they have. The pacing of the episode is also well done and the viewer can almost feel the anxiety and disappointment that Takaki feels as his meeting with Akari is delayed for hours on end. After watching the first episode, one gets the idea that the two of them are truly in love and will probably live “happily ever after” in the end. But as we see later on, 5Cm/Sec does not follow this stereotypical formula and instead gives us a more bitter-sweet ending.
The second episode shifts perspectives to that of a third character, Kanae. In this episode we’re only exposed to Kanae’s thoughts and actions as she observes Takaki. As with the first episode, this one still gives the impression that Takaki is in love and in contact with Akari, again making the ending of the movie even more surprising. This episode could almost be skipped, since very little is focused on Takaki and Akari, but it’s a necessary “break” in between the beginning and end of Takaki and Akari’s relationship. Jumping from one extreme (them being desperately in love) to another (them moving on without each other) would make the movie seem too rushed so watching them from an outsider’s point of view really helps the flow of the movie.
The third and conclusive part of the movie takes a totally different tone as we now see that distance and time have indeed brought Takaki and Akari apart, resulting in Takaki becoming a depressed and bewildered computer programmer. Akari on the other hand seems to have let go of the past and is happily moving on with her life with the man she has chosen to marry. All that’s left is for Takaki to also let go of the past and move on, which he finally realizes at the very end of the movie. The railroad crossing scene at the movie’s closing is the perfect symbol of 5Cm/Sec’s message and Takaki’s realization that he must forget the unchangeable past and move on with his life.
The only thing that bothered me a bit in 5Cm/Sec is that I think it would have been better if more focus was put on exactly how Takaki and Akari drifted apart to the point that they did in the third episode. In the first two episodes we get the impression that they’re so madly in love, so even if they couldn’t see each other in person, if they really did love each other couldn’t they call or e-mail each other all the time or something? What exactly happened for them to reach the point where they would start going out with someone else? Their relationship seems to give the impression that two people have to constantly be together physically or else they drift apart. This is a pretty strong message (though I’m not saying its totally false because it definitely isn’t) so I think it would have really helped if perhaps one more episode was added to show the steps leading up to them eventually not having any contact with each other at all (maybe from Akari’s perspective since Takaki gets most of the focus in the movie).
Besides the outcome of Takaki and Akari’s relationship being a little unclear, the overall message of the movie is very memorable. Instead of the romance between the two protagonists being unfaltering, 5Cm/Sec gives the much more realistic view that love does not always stand the test of time and distance, and people’s hearts change over time. Takaki comes to realize this in the end and he also learns that one must not dwell on a past that cannot be returned but must instead move forward and make an effort to find other and perhaps better things in life. Thus, when the trains pass and the girl is no longer there, he realizes that he is wasting his life simply waiting for the past to return to him; just as she has moved on, so must he. But if true love is supposed to conquer all, even time and distance, then were Takaki and Akari not really in love with each other? If they had been able to see each other regularly, would they still have ended up drifting apart? These are some questions that the movie gives us to ponder.
In conclusion, I think 5Cm/Sec is a must-see for any anime fan, especially those who love beautiful artwork in their anime. Since it’s only about an hour long, it couldn’t expand too much on any one subject, such as each character’s development, but that’s its only flaw really. With its high-quality animation and unique, universal message, I think 5Cm/Sec can be enjoyed by just about anyone who enjoys thought-provoking and aesthetically pleasing movies.