Makoto Shinkai is a fairly big name in the industry of anime films. The mind responsible for Voices Of A Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days among others, he has made his name for creating absolutely stunning landscapes, coupled with beautiful animation, set to simple stories of romance. And amongst his movies, 5 Cm Per Second is often hyped up to be the best.
Now, let me get this out of the way now: The visuals in 5 Cm Per Second are nothing short of amazing. Shinkai creates some of the most brilliant landscapes I have ever seen. He emphasises the seasons with absolute perfection, bringing out all the most beautiful aspects of Spring, Summer and Winter (Fall is not pictured in this movie), making an incredibly immersive experience. Coupled with some of the highest-end animation I've ever witnessed, the visuals are probably the single biggest draw of the film, and I seriously recommend that you watch this in the highest quality that you possibly can.
The story is separated into 3 acts, the first being about two childhood friends, Takaki and Akari, who were separated by distance. They keep in contact, but as one of them is about to move elsewhere, the other makes a journey to see them one last time. The second shows Takaki in high school, and is told from the perspective of another girl who is desperately in love with him. The final act shows Takaki and Akari as adults, showing the epilogue to their love separated by distance.
The story, in all honesty, is very lacking. The actual plot of them is pretty much summed up in the above paragraph, with the rest of it simply being character interaction and focus on the scenery. This could actually have been the formula for a brilliant movie, but the problem is that the characters all fall completely flat. Not a single one gets any development, and we barely get any feel whatsoever for their personalities. Rather than putting any focus on the characters, the movie only really cares to use landscapes to convey emotion rather than giving us anything remotely human.
Now, this may make it sound like this movie is bad, but to tell the truth I can't really bring myself to say it is. The story and characters may be completely 2-dimensional, but the story overcompensates with enormous production values, and it actually works. Hell, if you're the kind of person who generally likes love stories then you'll probably really enjoy that side of it as well. In essence, it's good if you're into that sort of thing. Even if you aren't, I'd still recommend watching this just for the amazing depth of the environment Shinkai builds.
However, one thing that should not go unmentioned is the song at the end of the movie, "One More Time, One More Chance" by Masayoshi Yamazaki, which is quite possibly the largest concentration of pure, unbridled tearjerker ever compressed into a single song since Johnny Cash performed Hurt. The soulful voice, combined with the beautiful imagery and shots of the couple in their young adulthood bring home the entire plot perfectly in a way that will have you crying your eyes out in no time.
Overall, 5 Cm Per Second is overrated, but generally entertaining and far from the worst way to kill an hour or so, and if you're a fan of romantic stories then you'll absolutely love it.
Final Words: A must-see for fans of romance, and a great example of scenery porn for everyone else.