Although today Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari live far apart due to a family move shortly after elementary school, they were once two shy young students brought together by their shared differences from their peers. It is because of this that the two built a bond of closeness between them that still survives through their continued correspondence, even over such a distance. Secretly they both fear the loss of this bond over time, and for this reason they arrange a meeting between just the two of them. The journeys both of them take in their minds and in their lives create an atmosphere of intense emotional upheaval, but also a sense of peace. It is a twist of fate and a series of decisions that put the two in place to carry what they choose of their pasts into the future they will create for themselves.
StoryWith 5 Centimeters per Second, Shinkai Makoto has polished the elements that made his previous anime so heartbreakingly poignant and produced a wonderful work. If the film did not have a disappointing third arc, this would be his best work thus far and probably the best of the year. 5 cm’s story will feel warmly familiar to those who have already had the pleasure of watching the director’s work. Makoto is still very much obsessed with capturing the sheer, unrivaled beauty of an impossible love. No matter how cruelly fate intervenes, his protagonists cling desperately and determinedly to their love, as if it were a lone piece of driftwood amidst an angry and roiling ocean. These themes are no less powerful here than they were when Makoto first explored them, and should strike a chord in all but the most hyperactive viewers. While 5 cm foregoes the science-fiction elements that Makoto is usually known for, the down-to-earth, slice-of-life story is never boring. If Makoto’s first two major stories had anything wrong with them at all, it was that Voices of a Distant Star was too simplistic and The Place Promised in Our Early Days had too much excess baggage. In 5 cm, however, Makoto finds the perfect mix; the film manages to be wonderfully rich without having a trace of unnecessary plotting. For the first two parts of the film, 5 cm meets and even exceeds Makoto’s former material. Only the third and decidedly imperfect act prevents me from scoring 5 cm as highly as Makoto’s first two works. Sadly, I can’t help but believe that Makoto ran out of either time or funding, because the final arc is rushed and sloppy. For one, the episode makes a key mistake of introducing a new character and then doing almost nothing with her. Even more disastrously, the haphazard pacing actually serves to undermine the message that I think Makoto is going for. As a result, the final product feels positively amputated. As a whole, however, 5 cm is still a heartrendingly powerful work. As Makoto continues to release these somber masterpieces, the fact that they must be partially autobiographical becomes increasingly clear. Makoto’s raw and heartbreaking material feels so personal and intimate that he could only be drawing from his own bittersweet memory.AnimationWhen I reviewed The Place Promised in Our Early Days several years ago, I said that the movie had the best animation that I had ever seen up to that point, and that the visuals would not likely be surpassed for some time. Well, I seem to have been mistaken; Makoto’s new visual masterpiece surpasses even his own monumental work. Many will recognize the numerous similarities in style between 5 cm and Makoto's other works. In particular, 5 cm’s power lines, gorgeous portraits of cloudy skies, and ubiquitous use of lighting to set the mood will feel extremely familiar. However, while the two film’s visuals are similar, everything that made The Place Promised in Our Early Days so impressive has been improved to the point of near perfection. There is an added level of detail here in 5 cm that will raise the bar on every anime released after it. I've been been suspecting this for some time, but 5 cm utterly proves that Makoto is the best in the world at animating light. No one else even comes close. This uncanny ability allows Makoto to draw beauty from even the most mundane scenes. Most anime directors need to use fantastic, action-filled scenes to excite the audience. Makoto, on the other hand, can amaze us with nothing more than a boy sitting alone in an ordinary Japanese train. He’s just that good.SoundFor the most part, the soundtrack is excellent. For one, the quiet, understated instrumental music fits the somber and contemplative mood of the story well. There’s also a fairly good and completely unexpected JPop song near the end. The extremely emotional tune is completely different from the rest of the soundtrack, and jerks the audience out of wistful reverie and into active grief (a similar tactic was used in Pale Cocoon). The song somewhat eases the lack of a satisfying ending, although it's still certainly no substitute. Additionally, the film’s urban sound effects are so universally excellent that I actually noticed them as I was watching the show. The sounds of the train system that the protagonist rides in the first part are particularly immersive.CharactersLike in Makoto’s other works, the characters are essentially blank slates. They have no defining characteristics, and have only a minimal amount of development. Thus, many might criticize 5 cm’s characters as shallow and unmemorable. However, the lack of development gives the events an undeniably universal feel. Since the characters are so undefined, empathizing with what happens to them becomes extremely easy. As a result the film feels much more personal than if the characters had been more unique. I will complain, however, about the character introduced in the final arc. The story does almost nothing with her, and as a result she feels unnecessary and superfluous.OverallWhile not perfect, 5 cm is still a fantastic film. The animation is easily the best of the year (the only other anime that even comes close is Paprika), and the timeless themes of love and regret are achingly universal. While action junkies should probably look elsewhere, I'd recommend the film to almost everyone else.
5 Centimetres per Second AKA Byousoku 5 Centimetre is a short 1 hour movie about... well. It’s easy to say drama and romance, but neither are depicted like traditional anime of those genres. This is a very laid back, unique and potentially emotional story. One for those with mature tastes, not everyone will like the ambiguity, the scenes can be difficult to interpret. This movie is like a flower, some folks would look at it and realise how lovely it is, while others will remain uninterested and won’t see it’s appeal. I’d definitely recommend this movie, a must watch to anybody, whether you watch anime or not. Though if you like action-packed shounen full of plot progression and/or comedy, this won’t be your cup of tea. I will say that I enjoy the chilled-out unique realistic anime and these anime I would label as a sub-genre I made up myself I call ‘realistic.’ Though it doesn’t necessarily mean exactly that. Animation Oh my god. The quality is astonishing. If you don’t watch this in full HD, you are doing this movie a disservice. The scenes are so picturesque and beautiful, some seem like ridiculously detailed paintings. The intro/outro for the mid-section of the movie, the scene where they look up into the sky is just oozing gorgeous. This looks like it has very high production values, the animations was fluid and flawless. Not much to say about animation style, while a tad on the unoriginal side in terms of character design, this style was very suitable for an anime of this calibre. Even if people don’t like the overall narrative, they can’t complain about the visuals on offer here. The thoughts and feelings behind the characters can easily be conveyed by the animation alone, I wouldn’t have complained if this movie was completely silent, speaking of which… Sound With flawless animation comes similarly impeccable sound. It’s so beautiful! I will admit right now, there isn’t much variety to the music, but here that’s actually a good thing. They chose the right background music for this anime, the sound design is on point. And my, what beautiful music it is. While my favourite genre is rock and metal, I could really appreciate the instrumentals and strings. There were many points in the anime where the background was appropriately silent. And of course there was music playing in the shops, one of which turned out to play full on at the end. I did end up downloading the soundtrack. This is the sort of music I’d listen to while reading a book or before going to sleep. The music alone can invoke emotion and feeling just like the animation. This anime is available in both English and Japanese. Once again, I must declare that I am not expert on voicing and dubbing, a lot of folks are lot less tolerant of English dubs than I am. I watched this one in English of course and folks who are too arrogant and claim you should only watch this in Japanese should bugger off. Either is fine here, as far as English voices go, the dub here is very good and didn’t blemish the beauty of this movie. They got some big voices too. I instantly recognised David Matranga voicing Takaki, the guy also has voiced characters including Hinata from Angel Beats and Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad. Hilary Haag was another familiar voice as Akari, who’s also voiced Yui from Angel Beats, Fuuko Ibuki from Clannad, Princess Sherwood from Princess Resurrection and Merry from Yumekui Merry. The final character Kanae is voiced by Serena Varghese, voice of Yusa and Irie from Angel Beats, Mei Sunohara from Clannad and Minato Kisaragi. Julie-Ann Taylor also voices Mizuno’s sister. The voice actors certainly seem to have experience in voicing characters from such pleasant types of anime and it can really be heard in their performance here. Characters Before I talk about each individual, I must mention that each character was depicted rather well. I could easily empathise with them, even though I’ve not been in the same situations as them and they just seemed so real. I could easily imagine these folks as real people and they behaved just like it. The main character is a boy/man by the name of Takaki Tono. As a young boy his family moves around a lot due to his father’s job hence he’s always transferring schools. Throughout the entire movie, his mind seems to be occupied and he worries about his relationship with his childhood friend Akari from whom he is separated. He writes letters to her while he is younger and as time goes on the communication dies off. His personality is a quiet and pleasant one, he is sporty since he plays football (soccer for Americans) and does archery later in life. Later on in life as things start weigh down, he develops bad habits like drinking and smoking. As an adult, he seems to have a job as a programmer with some big company. Akari Shinohara is the next most important character. Early on she sends letters to Takaki and values their relationship. She’d put in a lot of effort and really go the extra mile for him. A funny metaphor to use since this anime is about the increasing distance between people. Would she still go the distance when they are further apart? She is similarly a gentle and kind person and seems to be a patient person. But people change with time and she seems to get herself together very easily with time. Probably the most normal of the bunch, even though all 3 characters are realistic and ‘normal’ to an extent. The final main character and really the only other character of note at all is Kanae Sumida. This girl fell in love with Takaki Tono during middle school and followed him to high school. They spend plenty of time together and other folks think there is something going on between them, one guy even remarks that she is Takaki’s girlfriend, which he truthfully denies. Her sister is a teacher at the school and she owns a dog. She has spent 6 years trying to learn to surf and hasn’t yet managed to successfully ride a wave. She seems lost and doesn’t know what to do with her life. Most of all she is too shy to confess her feelings to Takaki. At first I disliked this character for butting in and creating a love triangle, but you soon realise it isn’t exactly like that (there is no love triangle). I was honestly rooting for her towards the end. Story The story of this one hour movie is not easy to grasp. It’s mainly about the distance between people and how they both literally and metaphorically drift apart. Speed is referred to often, the title comes at the start when Akari mentions it’s the speed at which cherry blossoms fall. Other speeds are mentioned for other thing, I think a rocket in the second part. It’s split up into 3 sections, which could be called episodes. The first episode seems to be set while the main characters are 13 years old, while they’re in Junior High. Takaki and Akari feature in every episode and here in this first one, these two friends are living away from each other and sending each other letters. The main event around which there are flashbacks and delivery of background is a very long journey via train during heavy snow Takaki is taking to go and see Akari. The second episode is set in their final years at high school, the characters are 18 and Kanae is introduced, with Akari featuring much less. Both characters ride mopeds/scooters to school. Here the story revolves around the end of high school and the characters having choose where to go next and it mainly concerns Kanae and her feelings for Takaki. The final episode, the shortest seems to write the difficult conclusion to this anime. The characters are all adults and Kanae doesn’t seem to actually appear. Instead it shows where Takaki and Akari are as adults and how they are doing. It also seems to show an extra character Mizuno, the girl with glasses and pigtails who seems to care for Takaki. And here lies the issue with which there is contention and accusations of this being overrated. Some people may be dissatisfied at how the plot isn’t completely fluid from one part to the next or the ending. Dare I say it’s a realistic plot, certain things do not develop on purpose and then folks would ask, what’s the point about writing fiction about a real thing where nothing interesting or amazing happens? The key topic depicted here is romance, or something like it. Due to its realism I’d argue there is no romance depicted here, events occur as they would in real life (I only believe romance is a fictional concept, such love doesn’t actually exist). The first episode shows the ‘love’ formed on a whim, something temporary like it often is in real life. A desire for something that is lost or far away, I’ve definitely felt that before. With many things, you only realise what you had, when you no longer have it and then you want it more than you ever did when you had it in the first place. Taking things for granted it seems. And then the rest of the movie shows that people forget, whether on purpose or not and give up caring. They eventually get to grips with it and move on, maybe they should or maybe they shouldn’t. The second part shows that this so called ‘love’ is usually a one sided thing, actually an infatuation. And only by spending time with the person who invokes such feelings do people realise that it isn’t exactly what they hoped it would be. The final part wraps the bow around the whole package. Especially in that part, but also in the previous bit, it shows that in real life things don’t go the way you want. ‘Happily ever after’ is just a fairy tale and people seem to be oblivious to how others around them feel. Not completely, but for the important things. People may ask, what’s the point if it’s just going to occur realistically, where’s the fictional fantasy that compels folks to this media form? I guess I’m also a bit disappointed at the ending. But that's how it was meant to be and it had a point to make, which it did. All three parts could be said to be emotional. I think I actually shed towards the end, but I realise it was probably my allergies, it’s summer and my nose/sinuses/throat and eyes were acting up all day. I definitely did feel a lump in my throat. I’m not trying to spoil things, but I would expect the plot to happen the way it did in such a realistic story. It could be depressing to translate this stuff to real life, but thankfully I’m a person who, inside, is at peace with both myself and the world around me. This is just a story, it could be based on real life events, but remember it’s just a piece of fiction. No need to get so worked up about it. Conclusion This anime is difficult to interpret at times, that could be down to it being very real and the fact that not everything is obvious. But it’s a beautiful movie, something realistic and something people could relate to. I’ve also felt the difficulty of drifting apart from people, even though it’s not in the same way (as I said, love isn’t real). A must-watch, I’d recommend this anime to everyone, especially folks who don’t like most anime. Give this a try and see if this anime is something that appeals to you, plus it’s only an hour long. Each individual part about the anime, is done very well. The one thing that may let this movie down in some folk’s eyes is the ending. I’d say it’s realistic, but it’s also a tad disappointing. I think it was meant to be that way. It had a point to make and it successfully made it. I enjoyed this anime a lot. I’m glad I watched it and it makes me thankful that I discovered anime, that there are gems like this one. Family-friendliness Rating: 1/5 Could be difficult to understand (lower is better) Overall Rating: 9.5/10 (higher is better)
If you're looking for some feels, hop aboard this train. Story: This story is split into several parts. The first is a story of two school children who become friends and then find out that they will be moving apart. Later, they decide to meet up. If the story had stopped there, it would have been the perfect anime. But, no, the story shifts to another story... and then another... and granted, it all follows the same characters, but it's too much to really fit into one movie. The story drags on, and doesn't really resolve itself in a satisfactory way. Animation: CoMix is known for scene porn anime. Look at the background, isn't it pretty? The animation is pretty fluid, but I felt this particular anime was dull compared to other anime by the same company. Sound: I don't really have much to say about the sound. It fits well with the anime, and there werent' any parts where I felt the sound was too far removed from the plotline. (Like snazzy jazz in a sad scene or something like that) Characters: Again, had the story stopped after the first section, I would have thought this anime was perfect. But it introduced characters that I really couldn't connect with in the second and third parts. Overall: It was ok. Not great, but ok.
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