Plot: Takaki and Akari seemed to have no one else in the world but each other when they were children, and the affection that they had quickly developed into romance. However, Akari ends up moving away, and she and Takaki decide to have one more meeting before he too ends up moving so far away that visiting would be near impossible. Love is a strong bond that is hard to sever, and sometimes you can’t ever let go of it.
Breakdown: Five Centimeters Per Second is a movie that chronicles the life of Tohno Takaki throughout about 15 years of his life with focus being mostly on his lost childhood love, Akari.
This movie/three episode OVA has received much critical acclaim over the years, and it’s been touted as being one of the greatest anime movies ever. It certainly is a gorgeous movie, probably the best visual experience I’ve ever had with any animated feature, but let’s explore if it really lives up to its reputation story and character-wise.
Episode 1—The first episode focuses on a 13 year old Takaki. He became friends with a girl named Akari when they were young kids. They spent almost all of their time together and even got picked on for how close they were. The two slowly started falling in love with each other until the day came when Akari had to move away. Takaki and Akari exchanged letters, but it still saddened them both to be so far apart.
When Takaki got the news that he would be moving practically across the country, he decided to meet with Akari while he was still close enough to visit. After being stuck on a train ride for many hours due to weather related delays, he finally sees Akari waiting for him in the train station warming up by the fire. After a lengthy conversation, they kiss underneath a cherry tree. They take shelter in a nearby abandoned shack to sleep until the trains start running again.
Morning comes, and it’s time for them to say goodbye. Neither can bring themselves to say much beyond ‘goodbye’ and ‘take care of yourself.’ With promises to write each other, they finally depart.
This is my favorite of the three episodes. It’s bittersweet, but holds promise for the future.
Episode 2 — The second episode is about five years in the future when Takaki is 17 or 18 years old about to enter college. He has befriended a girl named Kanae who has fallen in love with him since the first time she saw him, but she could never tell him. Takaki always seemed off in his own world and was constantly seen emailing someone on his cellphone. He never noticed Kanae’s feelings in the slightest. It’s later revealed that he is constantly writing out emails to Akari, but never sends them for some reason.
It’s not exactly clear when they broke off contact with each other or why. It’s possible that contacting someone that you know you may never see again may be too painful when you’re in love, but that still seems a little cruel on both ends. You may never get together romantically, but you don’t value the friendship you had enough to be able to send a quick email, text or letter?
Kanae’s an avid surfer, but has lost her spark in surfing. She can’t find the right wave to get back up on her feet, and for some reason she hasn’t surfed for six months.
After she finally rides a wave again, she gives herself an ultimatum – either tell Takaki how she feels now or she’ll never tell him. After riding home from school together, she tries over and over to tell him, but she can’t. As she sees the new rocket launch into space, she decides not to tell him. She realizes that he was never really seeing her the way she saw him and left her love unrequited. He later moves back to Tokyo to go to college.
This is the saddest of the three episodes because, despite not really getting to know her much beyond she surfs and loves Takaki, I was kinda rooting for him to move on and for them to get together. It would’ve been bittersweet under the circumstances, but they could’ve made a nice couple. Plus, it would’ve been more realistic. Which brings us to emo-central, episode three.
Episode 3—The third and final episode of the movie shows Takaki at, guessing from the magazine article he read, age 27-28. He’s basically become a mopey workaholic who is still hungup on his old love of Akari. Speaking as a person who knows the feeling of being hungup on an old love, DUDE, GET OVER IT. Deep, true love is great. But you have wasted 15 years of your life being hungup on a girl you loved when you were 13. Think about her every now and then with nostalgia, but let it go, man. There’s a difference between being lovesick and being sick in the head.
To give him some credit, he does eventually start dating a girl named Lisa (?) from his work, but they break up for some reason, and it’s shown that, despite numerous attempts to contact him and saying she still loves him, Takaki shows that he never much cared for her at all. It seems like he’s not even putting effort into their relationship because of his love of Akari.
He crosses paths with Akari over the train tracks, but neither turn around until the train has blocked their view of each other. By the time the train leaves, Akari is gone. It’s later shown that Akari has gotten engaged and hasn’t much thought of Takaki until she dug up an old letter from him in her stuff as she was moving. It’s almost as if that’s healthy or something.
He comes to the realization that he’s become obsessed with his lost love (wow, took him 15 years to realize that. That’s actually sad.) and that he’s lost all of the passion in his life and personality as a result. He eventually quits his job and decides to move on with hopes that he’ll cross paths with her someday…despite the fact that she’ll be married then.
I appreciate the actual ending being a healthy and realistic development, but the final episode as a whole is just sad in the wrong way. Him still being hung up on Akari in the second episode is understandable. He was still a teenager and she was very important to him. But when you’re nearly 30 and still so distracted by a teenage love that your love life and life as a whole are a complete mess because of it, that’s when my sympathy starts to wear out and my worrying for his mental state begins.
Takaki’s also not very interesting as a main character. His one character trait is that he’s hungup on Akari to the point where it’s both legitimately sad and a bit….sad. Maybe I don’t have the most romantic heart in the world, but I still feel more uncomfortable vibes from the finale than I do any feeling of hope or resolution.
He as a character is very somber and boring. He doesn’t smile much, and when he does it’s in a very melancholy manner, even when he’s with Akari. I will admit that it was cool of him to not really be bothered by the terrible delays he suffered on the train ride and still retained hope that Akari was waiting for him. That was sweet.
Everyone else is perfectly fine as a character, and I really liked Kanae. I hope things ended up well for her.
Art and Animation: The art and animation are breathtaking. I’d watch this movie all the way through again just for the visuals. Especially the scenery. That scene where the rocket takes off is amazing. It’s like it cracks the sky in half.
Voice Acting: English – The voice work here is pretty good. No one really has to emote much except for Kanae and she does pretty good. Everyone else is pretty much just melancholy, but that’s on purpose.
Music: The music is great, and I really enjoyed the ending theme.
Bottom Line: The ending on its own can be simultaneously annoying and warm. However, I can’t emphasize enough that it is a beautiful movie with an artistic and philosophical atmosphere. It’s also extremely relaxing. If the premise of the ending doesn’t bother you, then feel free to bump this one up a point.
Additional Information and Notes: Five Centimeters Per Second was directed, produced and written by Makoto Shinkai, who has also directed Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and the video game Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two.
It was animated by CoMix Wave Films, animators of the same films listed above and many other Shinkai features.
An English dub was licensed by the now defunct (though possibly returning?) ADV films, but is now licensed by Crunchyroll in the US.
It later spawned a novel version and a two-volume manga both of which were written by Makoto Shinkai with the manga being illustrated by Seike Yukiko.
Runtime: 63 Minutes
Recommended Audience: There is no questionable material in this, but I doubt younger kids would enjoy it. It’s fairly philosophical and depressing. It also deals with subject matter I’m pretty sure younger audiences wouldn’t be able to relate to. For that sake, I’d give it a 13+
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