Animation Break: Makoto Shinkai’s 5 cm Per Second (Spoilers!)

Welcome to the very first “Animation Break”! Well, technically, the first “Animation Breaks” started with me reviewing Mamoru Hosoda’s films, namely “Summer Wars”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, and “The Boy and the Beast”. I still have his “Wolf Children” to review, but I decided to go ahead first with taking a look at the works of another name that I have heard being mentioned over and over again in recent years- Makoto Shinkai, and starting with his film, “5 cm per second”.

I did get a chance to see “Kimi No Na Wa/Your Name”, but wasn’t really able to review it, and will do so sometime in the future. That was the very first time I heard Makoto Shinkai’s name, and I have heard Shinkai being touted as the next Hayao Miyazaki. However, I think it is too soon to call him that, because I believe that Shinkai , Hosoda and Miyazaki are quite different from each other.

I have talked before about how much of a Hosoda fan I am. I love the fact that he manages to pull off heartwarming, family themed movies or that feature a strong sense of family in his films, whether it be in the science fiction genre or in fantasy. In contrast, it seems, based on the few of his that I have seen, that Shinkai is more of the type that really exemplifies the kind that can really focus on a particular mood for the entire film; and is capable of drawing emotions from it, and more often than not, it seems that he focuses more on more melancholy themes such as loneliness, and the emotions that come from romance, whether it be requited or unrequited love.

After watching “5 cm Per Second”, I honestly wasn’t as impressed as I was with “Kimi No Na Wa/Your Name”, but after thinking about it more, I discovered that what makes the film beautiful is the fact that it makes you think, and that almost anyone can relate to its central theme of drifting apart, letting go of the past and moving on, regardless of whether that experience centers around a romantic relationship or not.

The film is told in three episodes and centers around Takaki Tonoo (Kenji Mizuhashi), Akari Shinohara (Yoshimi Kondo/Ayaka Onouei), and in the second episode, Kanae Sumida (Satomi Hanamura). The three episodes represent different periods of time in Takaki’s and Akari’s life, and it follows their relationship and their friendship, and how they somehow drifted apart.

The visuals were stunningly beautiful, the script was great, and the music was beautiful, which made up for the fact that the character designs were pretty basic, and not that memorable.

One thing that I also liked about it was the fact that there was no sci-fi or fantasy or dramatic plot device that caused these three people to be connected to each other and to drift apart from each other –  it happened because that is just how life is.

The only gripe I had with the film is that in the third episode, I felt jarred and got confused a bit

However, based on this, I’m really looking forward to watching to “Children Who Chase Lost Voices”, “Garden of Words”, and “The Place Promised In Our Early Days”.

Now, you know the drill, spoilers will abound from here on out!

warning-spoilers-final

The story of the film is told in three episodes representing different points in time for both Takaki and Akari, and I rather liked that they did this and strung it out a series of vignettes instead of showing us the whole passage of time sequence that they usually do in films.

I have very little complaints about the music and the visuals, as they were stunning. Some scenes that really stood out here include the shared dream that Takaki and Akari have looking out into the open cosmos, the rocket being launched into orbit, that moment in which Kanae just stands in the grassy field, allowing the wind to wash over her, and that stunning moment in which she finally rides her first ever wave after months and months of trying and failing.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, the only gripe I had with the film is that musical montage nearing the end of the third episode. It was jarring, and it brought me out of the entire film, also because the music wasn’t really soft or melancholy, but the song did have great lyrics that matched the mood of the moment.

Now, let’s talk about the characters.

Takaki is the main focus of the film, as he is the one who is heavily featured in all three stories. He is a pretty stand up and nice guy, but it is his indecisiveness at times that cause others around him to get hurt. His drifting apart from Akari stemmed, I think, from two particular things- Akari not giving him her letter at the end of the first episode, and Takaki not sending those emails to her while they were in secondary school. However, because there was no closure, he was the one who had a harder time getting over his feelings for her, and because of that, it hurt not only himself, but his ex-girlfriend and Kanae, a girl who liked him in secondary school.

At the end of the third episode, Takaki sees someone who looks like Akari at the train track that both of them used to go to. However, a train passes by, and when he turns around to look, she is gone. Now, I know that Shinkai has said that she was just a vision of his, but I honestly would like to believe that Akari was really there, and that her being gone at the moment he looked was a sign to him that he should stop being depressed and should move on.

Now, let’s go on to Kanae. Normally, nobody likes the female character who has a crush on the male protagonist, as that character is the one that might separate the male protagonist from his love interest. However, here, I couldn’t help but feel bad for Kanae here.

Kanae did fall in love with Takaki, but I really loved the journey that she went through. She started out as someone who wasn’t really that self-confident to one who decided to take advantage of the moment, thanks to Takaki’s advice. Because of that, she wasn’t indecisive when buying milk, and she managed to finally ride a surf after months of trying and failing. I also love the fact that she had the maturity to recognize that Takaki never really saw her, as he was always looking outward, and searching for something that wasn’t there, and that she couldn’t probably give him. So, despite everything, she decided, wisely, to not tell Takaki how she felt, because she knew that he is the type of guy who might actually go out with her if she said so, because he was just a nice person by nature. Of course, she cried herself to sleep that night, but I truly hope that Kanae managed to have a good future.

Finally, let’s talk about Akari, who, interestingly enough, was the character that we saw of the least during the three episodes. The first episode did have her narrating her letters to Takaki, but aside from that, it just gave us the sense that she was just as in love with Takaki as he was with her, which makes her indecision to give Takaki her letter a little bit puzzling, but then again, as the film did want to portray real life as much as they could, it does make sense that Akari would be scared, especially with Takaki moving farther away from her, which caused her to be scared of giving him the letter.

While they were in secondary school, however, I am pretty sure that their relationship would have endured, or at least they would have kept in touch with each other if Takaki had emailed her at all, or at least, had sent one message to her.

However, it is pretty realistic that because they didn’t communicate anymore during secondary school, that Akari would have moved on with her life, and I liked the fact that her reaction to her dream when she was older, and her reaction to seeing that letter she didn’t give after all this time didn’t make her wonder and regret the things that she wasn’t able to do.

This is why I would like to believe that Akari was at the train tracks that day, and that she had recognized him for a  fleeting instant, but still decided to move on just in case it wasn’t him. She was the one who moved on, and by her leaving before he looked around, she also allowed him to move on as well.

The film was truly able to examine how people sometimes naturally drift apart, and the contrast between people who are stuck in the past, and those who decide to move on from the past without regretting a single moment.

I also really love that all of this were presented to us in vignettes as the intimate feel to it allowed us to have glimpses into particular instances into these characters’ lives.

All in all it was a good film, and although it didn’t tug at my heartstrings as much as “Kimi No Na Wa/Your Name” did, it is a film that gets better the more you think about it.

Did you like “5 cm Per Second”? What did you like about it? Are you a Makoto Shinkai fan? What do you like about his work? How would you compare Shinkai to Miyazaki or Hosoda? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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