Review: 5 Centimeters Per Second

I watched Kamigami no Asobi while it was airing. I didn’t enjoy it. (That’d be a thing to review at some point.) Anyway, Crunchyroll likes to give you suggestions of shows it thinks fits into the same genre as the show you’re currently watching. So, in that “Other Romance Shows You May Like” section for Kamigami no Asobi, they put this movie there (although Kamigami no Asobi was about as romantic as diarrhea).

See, before then, I heard about this movie every now and then. I knew it was something I had to get around to watching at some point. So on that night, I decided “what the heck”, and went and watched it. But my goodness, I wasn’t expecting the feels train (heh heh, get it? Train?) that I ended up getting. And how glorious it was.

An Introduction

Not meaning to repeat the actual promotional summary, this story gives you three rather small windows into the life of one Takaki Touno. Takaki moved into Tokyo when he was still in elementary school, but moved back out into the country while he was in middle school. (His constant moving is thanks to his parents’ work.)

The first part of the story takes place when Takaki is in middle school, and traveling on the train to visit, finally, after all this time, his elementary school friend Akari. She’s someone that he hasn’t seen for nearly an entire year, and despite how many letters they send back and forth, he still misses her an incredible amount. All he needs to do now is ride the train over to the station that Akari and him agreed to meet at.

The second part takes place while Takaki is a senior in high school. In this part, another girl from his high school, named Kanae, is the narrator, as she struggles with trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and with her feelings for Takaki.

Finally, the third part takes place a good few years later, when Takaki is a grown man, back in Tokyo, with a programming job. He’s been having a hard time, though, with his years-old feelings for Akari still present within him. Everywhere he goes, he lives on that small chance of hopefully, somewhere, some day, seeing her again.

The Plot and Characters

You won’t be watching this for its fast pace or thrilling action. There’s none of that here. Instead, what you get is a nicely-paced story where the scene unfolds around you as you continue further and further into the movie. I find this movie kind of entrancing. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue or the way the story is laid out or what, but once I start watching, I just get sucked right in and you lose me until those 63 minutes are up.

The story of each of the three parts are mostly self-contained, but they do piece together to form more of a larger image. Takaki is present in all three parts, as he is indeed the protagonist, and as he grows, we get to learn quite a bit about him. All in all, he becomes a very fleshed out character. Kanae, as the narrator of the second part, gets her own time to shine too, and she gets developed quite a bit. This is a movie about romance, but it’s not quite as much about two people getting together as it is simply about romance itself being a thing that exists in human life. Probably a bit more specifically, this movie shows a lot more of the wanting, the longing to be with a person, and the dealing with the inability to do so.

The part that got to me the most, honestly, was the first one, with Takaki on that train ride. I found the entire part very moving, with the story switching between his ongoing ride to the station where he planned to meet Akari again, and between his times in elementary school and middle school where he was with Akari, and also when she wrote him letters after she moved away. Everything that happened in this first part just really left this huge impression on me, and as we got closer and closer to the ending, I got drawn in more and more, taken by the tension as to when he’d finally reach that station. I would say this first part was strongest one out of the three.

The second part was also quite the story though, with Kanae as the protagonist. Seeing Kanae follow him around and her trying to get closer to him, was really quite heartwarming to see, only to lead up to the climactic (but a bit underwhelming) ending. I really like Kanae here; of all the characters we see, she is my favorite. As much as I like this second part though, it has the unfortunate luck of being after the strong first part, and doesn’t seem as good in comparison.

The final part again switches back to Takaki, but rather than there being a consistently-paced start-to-finish storyline here, it shows bits and pieces of Takaki’s life (and that of Akari) after he graduated high school, and what kinds of things he’s done and not done. It didn’t capture my heart in the same way the previous two stories were able to. It felt like it jumped around a lot more than the first two parts, and it made it hard to really get myself into. I’d also say this part has the least dialogue. The final minutes of it, there’s no characters talking and a song plays, while Takaki does his thing, more or less. I frankly wish this final part was more dramatic and had a more emotion-grabbing ending.

Overall, the story starts off a really high note, with a really captivating and strong first part, but the movie ends with a whimper more than a bang.

The Atmosphere

Probably one of the best things about this entire movie is its artwork. Especially during the first part involving the train ride, so many things look and act so realistically, I feel you could almost nearly mistake these objects for the real thing. While the artwork and animation is pretty amazing throughout the entire movie (the scene with the rocket blasting off in the 2nd part comes to mind), nothing really speaks out to me as much as the things we see during that train ride. Either way you look at it though, the art for this was definitely very carefully crafted and formed, and the hard work definitely pays off.

In stark comparison though, the character designs seemed a bit simple. Part of me wished there was a bit more to these characters’ faces or bodies, especially when the camera zoomed in on them more. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the character designs here seem out of place, but I’d say that other designs may have been a bit better suited, given the amount of detail used everywhere else.

This is one of the few shows I’ve seen both in Japanese and English. When it comes to recommending one over the other, I would say either is pretty good. However, I’ll add this: there is the aforementioned song in the 3rd part (and on-screen text in the 1st), and if you watch it dubbed on Crunchyroll’s website, the dub version doesn’t have any of that subtitled. The dubbed version on the DVD does. If you’re watching the show on Crunchyroll, I would almost recommend watching it subbed simply because we see a translation of the song and on-screen text. If you’re watching it on the DVD, either will do (just be sure to turn on the “Signs/Song Subtitles” option if you’re watching it dubbed).

Music-wise, there’s that song that I actually really, really like on its own. Of course, this is me and my own personal life talking here, so it may not resonate as much with everyone else. Other than that, the soundtrack is pretty good, if not a bit too subtle, relying on piano and soft sounds to back the impressive visuals on screen. It’s fitting for the series, which is about as much as you can ask for. Beyond that one song though, I don’t see this movie’s soundtrack as something I want to listen to on its own.

Final Remarks / TL;DR

Like I said, despite it being called a romance show, we don’t see two characters end up together and start having a relationship; instead, we see more about other concepts of romance, like the longing. I feel this isn’t something we see that much in anime nowadays, and while I know this movie is a tad old, I still think it stands very well today. The visuals are drop-dead gorgeous, and that alone would make up for just nearly any shortcoming in my mind.

This movie is for those who like romance shows, most obviously, even without the solid relationship. I feel this isn’t exclusively for lovers of that genre though, and I would say that anyone who doesn’t require a show to contain action, give this movie a shot. I think that, even if you didn’t get as emotionally tied into everything going on as I did, you’ll still find yourself enjoying or appreciating this. Worst come to worst, you’ve only wasted an hour of your time.

Rating: Great
Recommendation: Watch It
+++ great romance-related story, artwork is simply amazing, song at end is great
— first part is the best, third part is rather confusing and jumbled, character designs were a bit odd

7 thoughts on “Review: 5 Centimeters Per Second

      1. The only other ones I’ve seen were Garden of Words and Your Name. Both were great (Your Name is better than Garden of Words imho), but they also both suffered from the issue where we didn’t get enough time/development with the male protagonist. I do want to see more of his other films, though, such as Children Who Chase Lost Voices and She and Her Cat.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Gotcha. I did like Your Name better even though I wasn’t a fan of all the hype surrounding that particular film. She and Her Cat was a cute short film and Children Who Chase Lost Voices was good, but fantasy isn’t Shinkai’s forte. Apologies for sounding self-promotional, but I’ve reviewed all of Shinkai’s films on one of my blogs called Iridium Eye.


      3. I can understand lol. Your Name is the only one I’ve seen thus far that really had fantasy elements, and although it made a fascinating twist, I think the “human connection” type thing in Shinkai’s films are stronger. I’ll be curious to see the other films for myself! Generally, I like going into anime mostly blind, but I’ll definitely be looking to see your thoughts about each movie as I get around to watching them.

        Liked by 1 person

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