5 centimeters per second: a lesson in living

Shinkai Makoto has never failed to amaze me with the animation he produces. His first major work, Voices of a Distant Star left me with a sense of wonder at what he managed to create from the image of “a girl in a cockpit grasping a cell phone”. And I’ll never forgot one particular message from Beyond the Clouds/The Place Promised in Our Early Days: that memories can always be created anew, as long as you’re alive. It was especially powerful since I encountered it soon after I saw the RahXephon movie, where Haruka finds contentment in her “memories”. That’s another series that I long to find time to write about!


Backing off that tangent, there was no reason for me not to watch Shinkai-sensei’s newest piece, even if I was stupid enough to put it off for so long that I inadvertently found out that the ending was, at best, bittersweet. It was puzzling at first, but some comments by Theron Martin (of ANN fame) sum it up incredibly well:

Whereas Voices was about trying to maintain a connection and Place Promised was about reestablishing one, Five Centimeters is ultimately about moving on from past connections instead of just living in the past, about finding a way to become happy in the present rather than just pining for what has been lost over time. In that sense Five Centimeters is Shinkai’s most mature and complicated work yet.


Personally, I found 5 centimeters per second rather depressing when I watched it. Even though I now understand, at least to some extent, what Shinkai Makoto-sensei wanted to show, it’s difficult to dwell on this film without feeling melancholic yourself. About the friends you’ve drifted away from, about the things that could have been if you hadn’t just missed each other, about how different life might be now if you’d managed to say or do what you wanted.

“Life moves on. You can move on too, just as Sasaki did.”

I know that. And I am…or rather, I was, before this film took me back to it. Which is why I won’t be watching it again, at least not anytime soon.


However, despite the melancholic atmosphere permeating so much of Sasaki’s story, I was taken aback by the fantastic animation. As I was living in Japan at the time, I particularly enjoyed being able to appreciate the amazingly detailed backgrounds, of train stations, open fields, streets in drifting pink, dark and dreary city winters, the golden glow of the countryside. Already a visionary, what Shinkai-sensei was able to accomplish with the additional force of a full team of staff and animators is simply amazing (source).

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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