The Japanese animated film ‘5 Centimeters per Second’ came way back in 2007 and is directed by Makoto Shinkai. The story tracks the relationships of Takaki Tono from his school years to when he is a working adult.
It has a very slow start, with a good chunk of the first few minutes spent in second-hand dialogue through wistful letters between the school going Takaki Tono and his friend Akari Shinohara. Both kids become exceptionally close due to their mutual frail health and social isolation at school. But Akari has to move away to a different school and the two keep in touch through letters, since it’s the early 90s.
The movie is divided into three parts, the second bit focuses on Takaki’s high-school life and a girl’s unrequited crush on him. While the third half was just fucking random, where we have an adult Takaki slogging away at work to keep his mind off a recent break-up.
As far as the animation is concerned, while it’s not as top-notch as some of its other Japanese counterparts, it’s pretty good. The colours and weather changes, especially the snow is animated beautifully. I like how the beginning of a harsh winter is used to signify the slow demise Takaki’s first love.
The movie is meant to be a serious film exploring relationships, but there wasn’t any emotional high-point in the story. The first part felt a little too intense for a friendship between two kids who are not even in high-school. Which is fine, I know how as children we are capable of feeling like Romeo and Juliet when were think we are in love. But it’s hard to take it too seriously.
It was the second part which was very relatable, it focuses on Kanae Sumida, a girl who is seriously infatuated with the reclusive Takaki but cannot get herself to confess her feelings. Haven’t we all been there before? Makoto Shinkai artfully brings about the teenage despair of having a fierce one-sided crush. I loved this segment of the film.
Things however fall apart in the third half. We are not told much about Makoto’s break-up or girlfriend. After making us invested in his character, the viewers are short-changed with a half-assed climax. It’s rushed, contrived and makes you wondering “what the fuck?!”.
The overall mood of “5 Centimeters per Second” is somber, it doesn’t have any fun moments at all. I think that kind of sucks the life out of this tale, because it’s not like the young protagonists are suffering from depression or any life-threatening disease, so why make the plot so serious without any reason? Most of the action takes place late in the evening, so there are a lot of dark tints that add to the oppressive tone.
The ending was extremely disappointing for me as a viewer, after so much build-up, we get nothing. Absolutely nothing. Also, you need a lot of patience and optimism to sit through this. I don’t think I would give it more than a 6/10.