5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

This largely-narrated hour-long anime in three parts captures with introspection and quiet solace the bliss and despairing nature of first love, with breathtaking visuals to boot. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,458

Dir. Makoto Shinkai
2007 | Japan | Animation/Drama/Romance | 63 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
PG (passed clean)

Cast: Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondou, Satomi Hanamura
Plot: Told in three interconnected segments, we follow a young man named Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to test the delicate petals of love.

Distributor: CoMix Wave / GKids

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – First Love; Unrequited Love
Narrative Style: Straightforward – Triptych
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Before the stratospheric success of Your Name (2016), Makoto Shinkai was best known for the hour-long anime, 5 Centimeters per Second, which at the time of release was his second feature film after The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004). 

Many of the visual and thematic elements that would be featured in his later movies already appear here—the breathtaking ‘screensaver’-style aesthetics, the delicate treatment of first love, the quick cuts that express internal torment or apprehension, etc. 

Told in three interrelated parts, 5 Centimeters per Second is much like listening to a novella, with the added pleasure of seeing it unfold before your very eyes. 

“For the past few years, I’ve wanted to move on… to grasp onto something beyond my reach… what that is, I don’t even know.”

It is heavily narrated in hush tones that capture the innocence of a blossoming romance between a young man and a girl, as well as the despairing nature of knowing that love will never work out (or not knowing if it can ever come to fruition). 

Feelings of attraction are mostly kept beneath the surface, waiting to burst out.  But they never do as Shinkai knows that melancholy and solace are more powerful than any explosion of emotions. 

The middle segment, titled ‘Cosmonaut’ is my favourite, as the protagonist looks to the sky for inspiration, while a girl infatuated with him knows he will never look at her the same way she looks at him. 

In an extraordinary scene, a rocket is launched into space.  In that quiet moment of awe and Japanese pride, Shinkai gives us something close to transcendence that remains few and far between in his body of work. 

Grade: A-




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