Five Centimeters per Second is a tale about two people, Tohno Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who were close friends but gradually grow farther and farther apart as time moves on. They become separated because of their families yet continue to exchange contact in the form of letters. Yet as time continues to trudge on, their contact with one another begins to cease. Years pass and the rift between them grows ever larger. However, Takaki remembers the times they have shared together, but as life continues to unfold for him, he wonders if he would be given the chance to meet Akari again as the tale embarks on Takaki's realization of the world and people around him.
This is one of the most extensive, inclusive talks on the internet that analyse and discuss Five Centimeters per Second in any detail. However, while the messages and themes are timeless, this website is no longer actively maintained. Consequently, comments left here will not be responded to in the future. If you, the reader, have any feedback or remarks you'd like to make about the anime, I welcome you to do so at The Infinite Mirai. There, I've also got updated, revamped versions of this discussion that feature more images and a more meaningful analysis. They can be accessed:
It has been a long time since I've seen anything worthwhile in terms of anime; everything eventually feels recycled and boring. However, in the same way Ah! My Goddess brought me into anime, Five Centimeters per Second showed me that there is always something worthwhile to watch. Incidentally, having watched it, all of the older anime I have now feel a little shoddy in terms of art and story. The only series I have that hasn't felt downgraded is Gundam Unicorn, but I suppose it's a consequence of having a library I watched back in high school.
Five Centimeters per Second has a plot that differs radically from Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. While the idea of love is carried over, it is set in the real world and dispenses with the sci-fi elements that were present in Makoto Shinkai's earlier works. The plot itself is cleanly split into three acts. The first focuses on Tohno and his relationship with Akari, the second switches to Kanae, and the final act returns the spotlight to Thhno. The end result is a very clean plot that doesn't follow any pre-defined formula for love. Each story is wrapped up with an open ending, and while some may find this to be a detractor (for one, people enjoy seeing a definitive ending), I personally find that the execution of an open ending is most similar to real life in that we are not always completely certain of what tomorrow will bring.
The first act is the most moving I've ever seen in an anime; despite being a little tough to follow at first between all the flashbacks, it nonetheless conveys Tohno's thoughts and feelings extremely well. This is essentially the high point of the movie with respect to relationships; all the events in the following acts feel a little melancholic. Things pick up by the end of the movie, when Tohno realises that he can move on and live life out (fans usually don't pick this up!). On the whole, the plot is structured well enough to be understood and enjoyed, although the inclusion of the montage at the end may be a little confusing. This detracts from the impact of the ending, making things less enjoyable than it could be, and necessitates that one pick up the novel to gain a little more background.
I'll end up saying this many, many times throughout my comments, but the art in this anime surpasses anything I've ever seen out there. It vies with Crysis for the title of "Best Graphics of all Time" in my books, and truly makes the experience come to life. Whether it is watching the lens flare of a light in the camera or the ripples across a still body of water, attention is paid to each individual detail. The colours are fabulous; in its most mundane form, it looks photo-realistic, while at other times, it gives real-world graphics a run for its money. To genuinely enjoy this movie, I recommend that one watches it in at least 720p. At day's end, this movie is highly recommended for all audiences. The plot is solid, there's a great soundtrack and the art is spectacular.
Takaki Tōno quickly befriends Akari Shinohara when she transfers to his elementary school. They grow closer to each other due to similar interests and attitudes; for instance, they both prefer to stay inside during recess due to their seasonal allergies. As a result, they form a strong bond; they speak to each other using their given names without any form of honorifics, which is very unusual in Japan, even among people who are romantically involved. This fact is lost in the movie's translation to English and other languages, which reduces the implied closeness of their relationship.
Upon graduating from elementary school, Akari moves to Tochigi, due to her parents' jobs. The two keep in contact by writing letters, but despite the feelings that exist between them, they inevitably begin to drift apart. When Takaki becomes aware that his family will be moving to Kagoshima, he decides to go see Akari since they will be too far apart to visit each other at all after he moves. He also prepares a letter for Akari, revealing his true feelings. However, during the journey, he loses the letter, and a severe snowstorm continuously delays Takaki's trip by several more hours. The two finally meet, and as they share their first kiss, Takaki realizes they will never be together again. Stranded in a shed due to the snowstorm, they fall asleep after talking late into the night. Takaki departs the next morning, and they promise to continue writing to each other. As the train rolls away, Takaki regrets the loss of his letter, while Akari silently looks at a letter she had intended to give to him.
For those interested, the letter reads as follows:
How are you?
When we made that date, we never foresaw how snowy it would be today, did we? It looks like the train is late. That’s why I’ve decided to write this while I’m waiting for you.
There is a stove in front of me so it’s warm here. As always, I keep some writing paper in my bag so that I can write my letters at any time. I’m thinking of handing this to you later. So don’t arrive too early or I will be very much troubled. Please don’t hurry, take your time coming here.
It’s been a long time since we last met. It’s been eleven months. That’s why I’m actually feeling a little nervous just now. What will we do if we don’t recognise each other when we meet? But this place is so small compared to Tokyo so I don’t think that could possibly happen. But no matter how much I try to imagine what you look like in school uniform or soccer clothes, you seem like a stranger to me.
Hmmm, what else should I write? Oh, I know. I will start by giving my thanks. I will write down the feelings I had for you that I couldn’t convey properly. When I transferred to Tokyo in primary four I was really glad you were there. I was happy we became friends. If you weren’t there, school would have been much harder for me.
That’s why I really didn’t want to transfer to another school and part with you. I wanted to attend the same junior high school with you and grow up together. It was always what I had wished for. I’ve gotten used to my school now (so please don’t worry too much about me) but everyday, I would think to myself many times, “How much better would it be if Takaki-kun was here?”
I’m very sad that you will soon be moving to a much distant place. Even though we’re separated in between Tokyo and Tochigi, I have always thought to myself that, “Takaki-kun is within my reach.” I could always have taken the train right away to go see you. But this time, going to the other side of Kyushu is a bit too far for me.
From now on, I will have to learn how to live on well by myself, even though I’m not confident that I can. But I have to. Both you and I have to.
There’s another thing that I must tell you. I’m writing this down in this letter just in case I can’t say it out to you.
I love you. I can’t remember when I fell in love with you but very naturally, I had fallen in love with you before I knew it. The first time I met you, you were a strong and kind boy. You always protected me.
Takaki-kun, I’m sure you will be all right. No matter what happens, I know you will grow up to be a fine kind adult. No matter how far you go, I will always love you.
Please, please remember that.
Takaki is now in the third year of senior high in Tanegashima, where the Tanegashima Space Center is located. Kanae Sumida, a classmate of Takaki, had fallen in love with Takaki ever since she met him in middle school, but does not have the courage to openly confess her feelings. She spends all the time she can with him, even waiting long after school for the chance to go home together. It is obvious Kanae has strong feelings for Takaki, but he appears to be blind to them; he simply regards Kanae as a good friend. Over time Kanae observes that Takaki is always writing emails to someone, or staring off into the distance as if searching for something far, far away. It is revealed later in this segment, that the emails Takaki is constantly writing are merely to himself, and he has had recurring dreams in which Akari is featured. Despite her feelings for Takaki, Kanae believes he is searching for things far greater than anything she can offer and eventually decides against telling him how she feels.
It is 2008, and all three characters have gone their separate ways. Takaki is now a computer programmer in Tokyo, Akari is preparing to get married, and Kanae appears to have continued her passion for surfing. Kanae is last seen in the ending montage clearly distraught as she watches Takaki's plane take off, knowing she had to let him go since her love was unrequited. Meanwhile, Takaki is still longing for Akari to the detriment of his lifestyle and other relationships. His mundane life coupled with his deep desire for Akari puts him in a deep depression which eventually forces him to quit his job. Sometime after, Akari finds an old letter she meant to give Takaki but never did. It sparks a dream similar to the last night they spent together. A dual dialog ensues where Takaki reveals he had the same dream. In this dream, they both come to the conclusion that someday they will watch the cherry blossoms fall again.
In the final scene, Takaki and Akari pass each other as they cross a set of train tracks (while the cherry blossoms are falling). They both realize it and turn, but at the last second a pair of trains cut off their view after just a glimpse. Takaki is seen waiting for the trains to pass, but when they do, Akari is gone. After a brief pause Takaki smiles. He realizes that since Akari did not wait she must have moved on, and because of that he can too. Takaki, still smiling, does not chase her as he undoubtedly could. He instead turns around and keeps heading in the direction he was, finally content and able to let her go.
I love you even now. I think I will always love you the way I do now. To me, you’re a kind wonderful person that I look up to even though you seem a little distant.
When I started to go out with you, for the first time I found out how easily the human heart can be taken over by another. I felt as if I was falling in love with you everyday. Every word you wrote in your e-mails made me happy or sad. I know you got jealous and troubled over many trivial matters. I’m sorry to say this but I think we’ve both gotten tired from it all.
About half a year ago, I wanted to tell you all this using various methods but no matter how, it never went well. I know you love me as much as you say you do. However, I think our ways of loving people maybe different. I could feel myself starting to suffer a little because of that difference.
The One More Time, One More Chance montage begins here. For me, it made less sense until I read the novel myself. The song itself is a single by Japanese singer Masayoshi Yamazaki that was released on January 22, 1997.
The soundtrack to Five Centimeters per Second is composed by Tenmon, who also composed the scores to Makoto Shinkai's previous works. The soundtrack evokes a sense of beauty, wistfulness and melancholy simultaneously, but beyond that, I can't really find the words to describe it, so below is the tracklist and a link to the soundtrack itself.