5 Centimeters per Second ReviewOctober 14, 2008
Finally, I finished the film that has been sitting on my list for a few years.
Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru looks just like other Shinkai films: plenty of beautiful backgrounds and crudely drawn characters. Some scenes are poignant and set up very well, yet we also see some gratuitous imagery. It is important to establish a proper atmosphere, but many of the shots are present just to show off his skill in background design. However, he does employ variety of perspectives that accentuate emotions of the characters well.
The music is very subtle and appropriate, but doesn’t augment the animation significantly. The popular song “One more time, one more chance” (Masayoshi Yamazaki, 1997) was very well selected for the finale because it reflected the feelings of the protagonist. Also I liked piano melody played during the credits.
The film involves many themes including unrequited love, the barriers of space, and nature of communication. The story is divided into three episodes, each focusing on a life period of the protagonist and narrated mostly in monologues.
The first episode tells us how Akari and Takaki became friends and developed strong feelings to each other. Unfortunately, Takaki has to relocate and wants to meet with Akari one last time. The trip is delayed by a snow storm and causes much anxiety to Takaki. They do meet eventually, and we see one of the best scenes in the movie under the cherry tree. Even during such a great moment, Takaki realizes that this too shall pass, they will not be together forever. He moves to another city, but promises to write to Akari. Shinkai executed this episode quite well, but it is all downhill from now on.
The second episode brings a new girl, Kanae, in Takaki’s life. She is in love with him, but has difficulty confessing. One day she decides to do it, but does not accomplish her plan because she realizes that Takaki was always looking somewhere else, still preoccupied by the memory of his childhood and his love for Akari. Despite that, Kanae still loves Takaki hopelessly. We don’t see any further development and jump suddenly several years to the future.
The third episode is set in the current day. Takaki has work and girlfriend now, but he still loves Akari, he still lives in the past. He buried himself in work ignoring his feelings, and only recently he realized how much pain it caused him and how stiff his heart has become. He quits his job and reunites with his girlfriend. Takaki sends her a message that demonstrates his newly gained insight: 1000 messages can’t bring two hearts closer together even by one centimeter. Physical proximity is essential for any successful relationship. This episode feels especially rushed compared to the previous ones, and the ending sequence was even worse.
The ending sequence shows how Takaki and Akari were growing up and eventually lost communication with each other. We see Akari trying to write a letter to Takaki, but she can’t do it because the feeling has faded, and we see empty mail boxes on each side. They found new friends, lovers, graduated from school and started work. Takaki left Kanae eventually, but she goes on with her life as we see Kanae taking her path, riding away on the motorcycle. Akari is engaged and will marry soon, while Takaki is with his girlfriend again. The last few shots show us a scene reminiscent of the beginning of the movie. Takaki passes the train tracks by Akari, looks back, but the train separates the two people. He waits till the trains pass and finds that the woman is gone. He is somewhat disappointed, but turns around. smiles, and keeps going, moving on with his life and leaving his past behind.
The conclusion is supposed to show us the resolution of the story or the follow up on the lives of the main characters. The ending sequence accomplishes this goal to some extent, but we see some events that were never shown in the movie, and it feels somewhat cheap as it seems they were put there because he didn’t have time or skill to integrate them properly into the main story. Here is how to make good ending sequences: (Spoiler Warning!) Hayao Miyazaki, Kiki’s Delivery Service; Isao Takahata, Only Yesterday.
Overall, while I have some complaints about the film, it did touch me and made me think because the story reminded me of some of the events in my own life…