Had Terrence Malick created anime, I believe he would make things that look like 5 Centimeters per Second; even if so, his work won’t be anything more sentimental than Makoto Shinkai’s piece of art issued by Comix Wave, Inc. The fusion of visually mesmerizing pictures with beautiful details, ambient exposure of light, shoe-gazed cinematography, Tenmon’s emotional scores, and emotion-driven plot—they’re all crafting 5 Centimeters per Second to be a delighting cinema poetica to express grievous heartbreak.
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Hailed as “a chain of short stories about their distance”, this anime defines love as a feeling with nothing but distance. Though the title refers to how fast a cherry blossom drifts to earth; while the story flows quickly within an hour of intensity, as it divided into 3 interrelated stories following the life of Takaki Toono (voiced by Kenji Mizuhashi) in three different stages of life. The film journeys through his coming-of-age love, the advance of technology during his adolescent, and duties as a grown-up—seeking out the answer of what testifies his feelings.
The separation with his childhood friend, Akari (consecutively voiced by Yoshimi Kondou and Ayaka Onoue) leaves haunting remnants for Takaki. During the first segment “Cherry Blossoms”, Takaki struggles against the vicious winter and blizzard to meet the far-away Akari. Against all odds and angst, this meeting has become something he will always remember by as he learns that their “relationship” leads to a distant separation again. During the second segment “Cosmonaut”, a loner adolescent Takaki now meets Kanae (voiced by Satomi Hanamura), who secretly admires him. This segment leads to an irony—despite their adjacency, Takaki never looks at Kanae, but he rather “sends” short messages to Akari. In the third segment, “5 Centimeters per Second”, we learn that Takaki has already become an employee, while somewhere else, Akari is going to marry someone else. They’re bound together by two interrelated narration narrated by each of them—leading us to a heartbreaking scene along with Yamazaki Masayoshi’s One More Time, One More Chance that achingly relieves us.
In some points, this film devices hyper-realistic pictures, yet, also imposes metaphorical images that can be interpreted as anything (you can see the rocket launching and falling cherry blossoms scenes). For me, those are only some examples of how pictures reflect the escalation of emotion in the story—rocket, with Kanae’s emotion and cherry blossoms with Takaki’s and Akari’s. Mostly, I see this film manipulating distance as the manifestation of love. While being separated, Takaki and Akari are bound by knots of feeling they can’t even understand; in the hand, Kanae, who feels so close to Takaki in some points, never really feels Takaki around her. With random gaps and sentimental ending, I watch 5 Centimeters per Second in hope that I can change the ending… to make it fair.
Hailed as the next “Hayao Miyazaki”, Makoto shows us an entirely different perception. He has his own swagger and he knows how to express heartbreaks better as he aims for grown-ups rather than children. Well, can we change the ending, anyway?
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