5cm Per Second, The Magic Number?
No the magic number is still 3, just like the number of stories in this film, Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru (秒速5センチメートル ) 5 cm per second. Makoto Shinkai is a master in animation and storytelling. Recently I wrote about his film Kimi No na wa (君の名は) Your Name. In that article I also mentioned some of his more notable films, including 5cm... which I must admit I had not seen at the time. And so I rectified that right away, and well, it was great but it was short, sitting at just around one hour. It left me wanting more from the story and more for each character. I want them to succeed and have a happy ending. But as you will see, this isn’t an Atlantic City massage parlor.
I will be sharing SPOILERS from this point forward so this is your warning even though the film is 13 years old at this point.
The movie takes place through 3 short stories even though in our opinion there really was no reason to include the hard visual breaks in each story’s ending and beginning. It's not like we're seeing a great difference in perspectives from different characters. There’s really nothing more than time passing between them. Each segment did hold its own sort of chapter in the main character's life but not more so than any other film without the story breaks. The first story is called: Cherry Blossom, and follows the main character Takaki Tõno. Takaki is a young boy living in Tokyo who meets Akari Shinohara, a girl in the same grade.
The root of this story is Takaki's love for Akari and their eventual drifting apart due to their families moving further and further away over time. Although this happens, we do see them share a night together after a grueling train ride through some treacherous snowfall as well as lots of letters back and forth. This takes place early on in the film while they're young teens. They share a kiss in the snow at night by a sakura tree and it's really heartwarming. These kids are making a long distance relationship work…
In the second story, Cosmonaut, we’re introduced to another girl named Kanae Sumida. We spend a good portion of this story with Kanae as she tries to figure out ways to spend time with Takaki. She has fallen in love with him and finds it difficult to be herself around him. Her actions are adorable and relatable for anyone who has ever had a crush in high school. Her passive energy is hard not to feel. Sadly, we never see her profess her love to Takaki and there's never any reciprocation from him.
It’s apparent he only sees Kanae as a friend and is stuck in the past with his head in the clouds thinking about Akari, never moving on or forward. The scene where the rocket blasts off interrupting Kanae’s cry session, and possibly her one chance to admit her feelings, is incredibly deep. As Takaki stares off towards the distant rocket moving further and further away, it is a clear reflection of Takaki’s feelings for Akari. His thoughts are almost always trained on her yet no longer trying to reach out to her, as we see he continues to type emails but fails to send them.
This is a visually gratifying film to spend your time with for sure, and the writing is like sweet poetry accompanied by beautiful ambient serenades. So if you're looking for any of that, then you're gold; this will fill that check box better than most. As I skim through the film again for screenshots to fill this article I can attest to it’s beauty and the elation I feel from reexperiencing the finer parts of the film. But skimming through to the end reminds me of the heartache. This story is built to set you up for defeat. You root for the hero to get the girl or accomplish his goal / journey through life back to the place he was always meant to be and it just doesn't happen.
The third story, which bares the name of the film, is basically about how Takaki kun never accomplished anything as he grew into adulthood. He grew complacent and seemingly depressed with where he ended up in life, which was alone in his apartment staying up late drinking and having nothing to look forward to. He even states he grew bored with his job and just quits. After a sort of sad poppy song about love and life plays over a montage of missed connections and empty mail boxes, the film ends on Takaki kun passing Akari separated by train tracks. However, a train passes by, keeping them from noticing the other look back… and then, she's gone. He smiles and walks away. Fade to black...
What am I supposed to do with this? I know the hero can't always win. It's not practical. But it sure does hurt when you feel like your team was robbed of the victory they deserved. Like they were set to run through all the other teams and then they lose it in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals. I’m left feeling like Takaki. I’m yearning for the early parts of the film when there was hope and happiness. I just want Takaki and Akari to be able to go back in time and watch the cherry blossoms together.
You can watch 5cm Per Second right now for FREE with ads over at Crunchyroll. As we stated before the film isn’t very long, so if you’re craving more gorgeous Shinkai animations and story when you’re finished, his latest film Weathering with You is now available on Amazon’s Japanese Prime page. Until next time, またね!
Mike Wynne Co-singer/songwriter for I Can’t Even, father of the ConfectioNerds and all around lover of all things Japan and gaming.