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5 Centimeters per Second

An anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai.

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At what speed must I live...to be able to see you again?

  • Dec 23, 2009
  • by

Pros: Animation, musical score, David Matranga as Takaki Tono, re-appearance of the train motif.

Cons: One-sided view of a recycled story, characters are developed and then abandoned, character designs fall a bit flat.

Plot Summary: The film’s plot is summarized in the Wiki article. Please see the Wiki at the right for more details.

Review Body:

*This review reveals details about the film’s plot.

Makoto Shinkai garnered quite a reputation for himself with the release of his works The Voices Of A Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days. After being hailed "the next Miyazaki", people everywhere were excited to see what he would come up with next, and if his newest work would astonish viewers, as did his previous works. I must say that I was personally disappointed.

The first segment of the film, "Cherry Blossom", does a fairly decent job of setting up the story. Two childhood friends (Akari and Takaki) struggle to meet each other at a train station after being separated due to the female friend’s father’s job. About halfway through, I was watching anxiously, hoping that Akari would still be waiting at the train station by the time Takaki's delayed train arrived. This first segment is probably the best of the three, and I expected the next two to take us further into the lives of Akari and Takaki, and to allow us to glimpse into their past together, so we could see why they even loved each other so much in the first place. I was sadly mistaken.

The second segment, "Cosmonaut", takes place after Akari had transferred to another school, away from Takaki, of course. This segment really frustrated me. It centers on Kanae, a girl who is apparently very deeply in love with Takaki. She is constantly "accidentally" bumping into him so that they can go home together. At first, after watching it, I just couldn't understand the point of this piece, and why Shinkai-san had included it at all. But after thinking about it, it occurred to me that Shinkai-san was possibly trying to demonstrate to viewers just how much Takaki still cared for Akari, and only Akari; near the end, Kanae comes to the realization that Takaki is always "looking past her", as if he doesn't even see her, obviously because he is only thinking of Akari. Even after giving this second segment a self-appointed purpose, I still feel the time spent on it was wasted; Shinkai-san's time would have been much more well spent had he used this portion of the film to perhaps give viewers some remnants of Akari and Takaki's moments together as children, because at this point, no one really knows why they care so much about each other, other than the fact that they both enjoyed the library as children.

The third segment, "5 Centimeters Per Second" focuses mostly on Akari and Takaki moving on with their lives, or at least trying, in Takaki's case. An older Akari has become engaged, and Takaki has been dating a girl for three years.

Overall, this film was a major disappointment compared to Shinkai’s previous works. We are shown hardly any memories that Akari and Takaki have of each other, which keeps viewers from being able to connect with and genuinely care about their dying relationship, and a third of the film is dedicated to the thoughts and feelings of a girl who disappears in the final segment. The film does have its fair share of sweet moments between Akari and Takaki, such as them running through the school halls, hand-in-hand. However, for the nostalgia and melancholy that the film aims for, I don’t think that there were enough memories to carry that weight. The film also attempts to tie all of its loose ends within a three-minute AMV toward the end; I found myself having to constantly rewind because many of the clips did not stay on the screen long enough for me to do anything more than glance at them.

I believe that the film's main problem is the fact that we hear the majority of the narration/story from Takaki's point of view. In Shinkai's previous works, we hear the thoughts and feelings of both the male and female characters, and so are more able to connect with all of these characters. It just didn't seem reasonable for the viewers to be expected to care for Akari just because Takaki did; I would have much rather heard her side of the story in her own words, instead of in Takaki's. Another problem that I had with the film was the fact that the premise was very similar to that of Shinkai's previous works; a young girl and boy are in love, yet become separated due to circumstances in their lives. However, in this film, there are no supernatural or imaginative elements. The characters are just people living their lives. This would not be a problem, except that after watching Shinkai tackle the issues of long-distance relationships due to space-travel, or of characters having to make the choice between saving the one they love and saving the world, watching two characters drift apart without any sort of major event coming between them came off as a bit bland. It was like taking the space-travel out of The Voices Of A Distant Star. When you think about it, after having Shinkai show us two people who were so desperate to stay in touch with each other that they were willing to endure nine-year waits for text messages, having him show us two people who could not keep in touch just because their ordinary lives got in the way did not make as much of an emotional impact, at least in my case.

5 Centimeters Per Second’s musical score was composed courtesy of Tenmon, who also composed the beautiful soundtracks for Shinkai’s previous works. There are several lovely, memorable instrumental pieces, as well as an incredibly fitting ending theme song titled “One More Time, One More Chance“ by Masayoshi Yamazaki. While the music in 5 Centimeters Per Second isn’t as powerful as the music in The Place Promised In Our Early Days and The Voices Of A Distant Star, it was still…nice. It is very pretty and calming to listen to on its own.

The English dub is a mixed bag. On the one hand, David Matranga is wonderful as Takaki; he is able to instill a quiet melancholy throughout the film, which is very important in setting the mood, while Hilary Haag, who provides the voice for Akari, seems to struggle with sounding like an adolescent girl. I have personally only viewed this film with the original dub by ADV, and have not
heard the Bang Zoom! dub or the Japanese dub, and so cannot comment on those.

The animation is, as typical of a Shinkai film, breathtaking. The images of the night sky in “Cosmonaut” are a perfect example of the wonderful capabilities of modern technology (please see the images I included in this review for reference). I was also glad to see that trains played a part in this film; they seem to be a recurring symbol in Shinkai’s works. Although the animation in Shinkai’s films seems to improve every time, and although it is among the best that I have ever seen, I cannot deem each of his works a masterpiece based on this factor alone.

Overall, I did not enjoy this film as much as I had hoped I would, mainly because I felt that Shinkai’s previous works were much better. However, the film itself isn’t bad, as it does do a magnificent job of achieving the atmosphere that it strives for, mainly due to the animation and musical score. I would suggest watching it to form an opinion of your own.

At what speed must I live...to be able to see you again? At what speed must I live...to be able to see you again?

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December 23, 2009
I really don't mind anime w/out the usual supernatural, sci-fi stuff as long as the narrative is compelling enough; people living their lives can sometimes be one involving experience. Thanks for the great review! You, JRider and Frank have me spinning for anime LOL!
March 18, 2010
You can watch the trailer that I just included to see if it's something you think you may enjoy :)
March 18, 2010
stunning trailer! I like it!
March 18, 2010
It is a great trailer. The trailer is what made me so anxious to watch this one.
More 5 Centimeters Per Second reviews
review by . February 23, 2010
posted in ASIANatomy
A major letdown from the supposed 'Next Miyazaki'
I was skeptical about the assertion that Makoto Shinkai was the next Miyazaki, and although I really liked he two previous works, Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, I could not bring myself to lavish him with such high praise until he made a movie that blew me away and that would become an instant favorite. It would seem that I made a wise decision. Miyazaki is undoubtedly one of the greatest anime directors to ever live, and his films (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke) …
review by . May 28, 2009
5 Centimeters per Second DVD Cover
5 Centimeters Per Second introduces us to Tono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, two gradeschool friends who are separated when one is transferred to another school that is far away. Letters and phone calls are the only way to bridge the gap; but eventually as they grow older and meet new people, there isn't much left between them but some lingering memories.    Part of Director Makoto Shinkai's genius is that he echoes frames and compositions from each vignette; possibly an allusion …
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My user-name was derived from the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. I came to Lunch with the hopes of publishing reviews that would be appreciated by others and reading the reviews of others that hope … more
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About this movie


A tale of two people, Tono 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.
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Genre: Animation, Drama, Romance
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: March 4, 2008
Runtime: 65 minutes
Studio: ADV Films
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