5 Centimetres Per Second (Cert U)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 60 minutes
Takaki Tōno is a popular lad having caught the hearts of two girls at different times in his adolescent life. But is a happy ending on the cards in either situation?
This is the third outing from the master of melancholy Makoto Shinkai which once again explores the themes of how time and distance affect relationships between two people but here, the story is rooted firmly in reality, with the fantasy/sci-fi elements prevalent in the previous films, Voices Of A Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, noticeably absent.
5 Centimetres… is split into three parts: first is Cherry Blossoms, which introduces us to our male protagonist Takaki Tōno in early 1990’s Tokyo, before the advent of mobile phones and E-mail. Takaki shares a close bond with fellow classmate Akari Shinohara since both were recent transfers to elementary school. Due to her parents’ jobs Akari is forced to move away but the pair keep in touch via letter until their relationship receives a second blow when Takaki is forced to move even further away. Takaki makes the decision to visit Akari one last time; unfortunately a drastic change in the weather threatens to jeopardise his plans.
In the second part entitled Cosmonaut we fast forward to Takaki’s senior high school years in Tanegashima where watching closely in the wings is smitten classmate Kanae Sumida, a surfing enthusiast with no direction in life. She has been in love with Takaki since day one but has never managed to share her feelings with him. Despite spending plenty of time alone with Takaki, Kanae holds her silence while Takaki is unable to sense her feelings towards him, his mind fully preoccupied elsewhere.
The eponymous final part brings us to 2008 where Takaki is a lonely and depressed computer programmer, Kanae is still surfing while Akari is about to get married. Will their paths cross one more time?
The title of this opus refers to the speed in which the cherry blossom petals fall from the tree, an action which serves as a metaphor for the fragility of human relationships, starting off together then gradually drifting away from one another. Here Shinkai is reflecting upon the movement of time in the life of Takaki while he himself has remained resolutely in the past.
Relationships often come and go, we know this, but Takaki doesn’t appear to have got the memo and he silently pines for Akari despite Kanae ready and willing to be his girl in the second arc, while his life hits a wall in the final arc. Takaki is an interesting character in that he’s somewhat sympathetic in that the ideal happy ending would be for him and Akari to reunite and pick up where they left off, yet there is a sense of frustration surrounding his emotional residence in the past.
Unlike Akari and Kanae, Takaki is the hardest character to read since his emotions are never explicitly shared with the viewer, although this is not to paint him as the bad guy here. His role is therefore essentially a pivot around which the world continues to turn. Plenty to think about here then.
The first film Shinkai has made with a team of animators, the “new Miyazaki” tag he has been labelled with (which he is quick to humbly dismiss) is seemingly justified from the onset with the meticulous details of the artwork and lush backgrounds, the bold and warm colours, the reflective atmosphere and gorgeous emotive soundtrack.
Much like the Ghibli master’s works the incessant breeze blowing against the grass and flora is eerily palpable, ensuring the viewer shares the blustery onslaught of our animated protagonists. The animation itself harks back to the days of cell drawn animation (as favoured by Miyazaki) which simply adds to the charm and realism of the action. And if it isn’t cell drawn it’s a phenomenally good replication.
Don’t be put off by the one hour running time – Shinkai packs a lot into those sixty minutes embodying the old ethos of “quality over quantity”. Granted one is left wanting more when the final credits roll and some may balk at the abrupt ending but Shinkai is not a director who spoon feeds his audience.
The reality based setting as opposed to the more abstract “sci-fi” approach taken with his earlier films makes this arguably the most accessible of Shinkai works and thus any ambiguities or apparent unresolved issues need less explanation. In fact, this reviewer would argue that everything presented here speaks very effectively for itself.
Shinkai’s latest project entitled Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below is rumoured for a UK release later this year, sparing us the four year wait we had with 5 Centimetres Per Second. Established fans of Shinkai should find it worth the wait, while the Miyazaki aura surrounding this film has the potential to ensure it appeals and resonates with a wider audience. A stunning and evocative slice of Anime that reminds us why we love the genre in the first place.
Interview with Director Makoto Shinkai
Interview with Voice Cast
“Making Of” Montage
Rating – **** ½
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