I watched this film last night, and having heard so much good about it I was excited about it. I was so, incredibly disappointed. The animation quality and "cinematography" itself is simply superb, as is the piano score. However, I, and I'm sure many others, don't watch anime for good animation, but instead either for funny jokes, or in this case, an emotional plot. I wish I could say this had one.
I've seen plenty of people say 5cm/s makes them cry. I am not the faux-macho type that refuses or denies crying to anything. I cried like a baby while watching Clannad: After Story. I cry watching most comedies. I even cried watching K-On!!. But the only thing about 5 cm/s that brought me even close to crying is at the end, when I realised Ihad got myself excited about it only to find it was a waste of an hour of my life.
The first chapter's story, I'll go so far as to say it was average. A boy named Takaki becomes friends with a girl called Akari, but then she has to move away. Then we spend most of the chapter watching Takaki sitting on a train in the snow, staring at his watch, while his internal monologue is belting out pretentious lines about time and fate and stuff. While I of course found this part boring, the ending of the chapter was pretty poignant and heartwarming albeit quite sad as well, and as this was only around 20 minutes in I had been set up to expect the next two chapters to be better and assumed this film only has a slow start.
I set myself up for further disappointment. Chapters 2 and 3 just felt so pointless. The entire story seems to be one of those pretentious, arty stories that are crafted for the sole purpose of an award at one of those pretentious, arty film festivals, and not to actually enjoy. And it seems it succeeded in that respect, as it has won several awards. But it was certainly not enjoyable. I can honestly say I was counting the minutes down, waiting for it to end. I can't really explain what happens in chapters 2 and 3 like I did with number 1, not because of spoilers but because it seems like nothing definite happens at all.
This leaves me to describe the characters. The only one that is prominent in all 3 chapters is the protagonist, Takaki. And oh boy, he's not a good character in any way, shape or form. It is implied that he had trouble fitting in at school and Akari was one of his only, if not the only, friend he had, before she moved away. He comes into contact with her, meets her, then decides that he can't see her ever again, and doesn't. In chapter 2 he seems to stop contacting her. In chapter 3 he's depressed about something, presumably he misses Akari. So why on EARTH did he let himself lose touch with her? Takaki is a miserable, pathetic mess of a character, and I found it impossible to like or support him. This film has no development of any other characters either, be it him or one of the others that get a screentime of about 10 minutes each.
This film is described as a "romantic drama" and I love romantic dramas. People say on forums that this made them feel really sad, and I love watching films that can do that to me. 5 Centimeters Per Second did not deliver on either of those fronts. The film is barely about romance, nothing dramatic happens, and I was left only feeling sad that I had wasted my time.
(Note: In case you wanted to know, I watched subs)