Do you love stories that affect you so much that even the slightest reminders of them trigger the most unexpected emotions in you?.
I do or maybe I don’t due to the very reason that I love them; they move you somewhere deep within.
I’m sure you have heard of Makoto Shinkai and his beautiful animation movies.
Surely you have heard of Your Name and Weathering with you. (…check them out if you haven’t and please don’t be judgy….just feel them….)
Today I’ll talk about one of his well-known works; 5 Centimetres per Second.
Let me tell you what is up with 5 Centimetres per Second; Life happened…
The movie 5 Centimetres per Second was released in 2007, a romance drama by Makoto Shinkai.
It was awarded Best animated feature film by the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
It is his most well-known work after Your Name.
Plot of 5 Centimetres per Second:
The story is shown in three segments, the first one is,
The movie opens with our main characters in Tokyo; Takaki and Akari. Two young hearts enjoying watching the lush cherry blossoms in spring.
Akari sets the tone for the story here when she says that 5 Centimetres per Second is the speed at which the blossoms fall from the tree.
Shinkai also showed us why their union seemed fated to them ; they have similar natures.
Both of them stay in at the library instead of playing at school and seem to just understand eachother in a way others don’t.
But the cheer dims as Akari moves due to her parent’s job while they try to keep things alive through letters. It’s largely seen through Takaki’s perspective or narration.
Akari informs him about moving further away and Takaki decides to meet her.
All the odds seem to be against him as a severe snowstorm keeps delaying him from reaching her. (…this was so freaking anxiety inducing….).
You’ll feel yourself getting restless with every passing second just like Takaki.
The storm also blows away the letter of his confession to Akari. Facing all odds he reaches her feeling defeated and having zero hopes of seeing her.
But Akari was still waiting at the station in the increasing cold. They meet, cry, talk, laugh and most importantly share their first kiss.
This kiss signified a lot. To me it symbolised a farewell from Akari to Takaki because she somehow already felt the future.
For Takaki, it was a beginning of a long and aching journey to catharsis. They bid eachother goodbye in the morning and we listen to him speak about how much he cherishes her and wants to protect her.
This is the second segment of the movie.
We meet a teenage Takaki here who also has moved away from Tokyo. Does well in school and is even liked by his peers. His heart however is lost somewhere with Akari. We are introduced to Kanae, one of his classmates who has developed feelings for him.
Kanae is the one narrating this part of 5 Centimetres per Second.
She is a cheerful and tomboyish child who is trying to learn how to surf from her sister. She goes to school early and waits till late only to get a chance at spending some time with Takaki. (…it is getting only more painful from here….subtle but the ache is there….you’ll see….).
She travels back home with him and they stop almost everyday at a departmental store to buy milk.
Throughout all of this he still remains aloof, unreachable and oblivious to Kanae’s growing feelings. On the day when everything felt right, she decides to finally confess to him.
As she’s about to, a rocket is launched from the town’s space organisation and the two of them watch it take off. (…this is a symbolic scene people…).
Kanae does not confess. She compares Takaki to that rocket; leaving earth for the quest of the universe like he is oblivious to her sincere love, waiting for something he cannot have.
She knows the signs, Kanae has observed Takaki enough to know she can’t have his heart.
So she releases the hope of having her love reciprocated. She acknowledges that she’ll forever be helplessly in love with him but chooses to let it be unrequited. (…* Wails internally*…).
Takaki is busy mulling over whether to let go of Akari or not.
They don’t write to eachother anymore. He writes her emails but deletes them instead of sending. He feels as them slowly drift apart. (…this is something I’m sure atleast 40% of us have done….I know have….have you??…).
He meets her in his own world of dreams under a sky not masked by our atmosphere, where the stars are much closer to us than reality.
Where you can clearly see the galaxies moving about time and space.
His heart still can’t let her go, not completely yet.
5 Centimetres per Second;
This is the third and last segment of the story.
We see an adult Takaki Tohno. He is lost in the hustle bustle of Tokyo city life. Working at an office and has a girlfriend.
However, his love for Akari still remains relentless. It seems as if he has chosen this life only to push away his pain.
Numbing himself to not face his own feelings. Still in the process of letting go of what could have been. His heart still separating himself from her 5 centimetres per second. Depressed, he quits his job and breaks up with a girlfriend he never really loved. He says to her that even if they were to exchange a 1000 messages, their hearts wouldn’t grow 1 centimetre closer.
It seems like he understands the philosophy of the reality of love in this world; the one Akari had so easily taught him.
It’s just that Akari was aware of it and accepted it, he took a lot longer to get it. He still looks for her everywhere unknowingly, his heart still does.
On the other hand, we see an adult Akari, leaving for Tokyo to meet the man she’s engaged to. (…this is where all my hopes of a happily ever after completely died because I realised the message….). She’s moved on probably long ago.
Maybe when they last met, maybe before that but she did.
She looks content but does she think of her first love? Could it have lasted had she put enormous efforts?
Does her heart still look for him?. Well, that isn’t clearly explained in the story but like said before, she’s mature, she probably still does love Takaki but she accepted the reality and let go.
They meet one last time. Yes they do. The same railway crossing where they were enjoying the cherry blossoms, the one where it all started. As they cross the eachother, they do sense the familiar presence. They both turn. But a train prevents them from seeing eachother’s faces and by the time it’s gone, Akari is too. (…* wailing intensifies *…)
This is the ending of the story; Takaki did realise it was her and that she turned but as the train passed away, he smiled. It seems that he accepts the pain and rejoices in gratitude for the joy his first love brought him. He lets go of what could have been. Probably.
I would forever remember 5 Centimetres per Second.
The inevitability of life happening in the way of our expectations.
I see the three segments as; the time their hearts loved (cherry blossom), life and the Universe intervening or us requiring to engage with the Universe (cosmonaut) and the final acceptance of being separated in the process, just like cherry blossoms fall away from the trees (5 Centimetres per Second). It’s like how my senior year teacher said: true love cannot always exist with life.
What truer depiction than Shinkai’s poetic ode to love and life?.
Kind of painful isn’t it? .
Know what’s funny?
It’s not a pain you can express with tears, it’s just there in your chest, full and empty but making it hard to breathe; you can’t help but truly sigh at this miserable fate.
We’ll find ourselves in these situations and maybe that’s why the story isn’t very concrete with the thoughts of all the characters.
You get to interpret it as you see fit and that only highlights that while you don’t control life, you do have choices and options. It is up to you. Isn’t the story so relatable?.
Doesn’t it feel like something your mum or dad or grandparents once told you about their long lost first love?.
That’s why it is so loved. Often hated too for how sad it can be but, you cannot deny its beauty.
Be it in the gorgeous visuals (…I loved the variations of the sky, the colours and the lights…it all seemed so real…yet like something out of a dream…), the philosophy or the story; it’s all aesthetic. Shinkai isn’t the next Miyazaki (…no offense, I absolutely love Ghibli too….).
He deserves to have seperate appraisal for his artwork. Do me a favour; watch it if you haven’t.
No one would be happier to know your thoughts on it than me, I promise.