A Shinkai masterpiece and a work that truly perfects his craft. 5 Centimetres Per Second is a touching romance that doubles as a slice of life filled with unrequited love, growing up and regret. 5 Centimetres takes the best elements of Shinaki’s past films and combines them beautifully in an episodic film
A Shinkai masterpiece and a work that truly perfects his craft. 5 Centimetres Per Second is a touching romance that doubles as a slice of life filled with unrequited love, growing up and regret.
5 Centimetres takes the best elements of Shinaki’s past films and combines them beautifully in an episodic film that warms the heart. Centred around the theme of cherry blossoms, this masterpiece gives you plenty of eye candy. The narrative is poetic and I genuinely cling to the lives of our three characters: Takaki Touno, Akari Shinohara and Kanae Sumida
Episode 1: Cherry Blossoms
It is the 1990’s when our story starts and it is a time before facebook, twitter, whatsapp, Line and Kakao; mobile phones weren’t prevalent, Skype didn’t exist and the internet wasn’t what it is today. So you could imagine the easiest way to communicate with others would be to meet them face to face, write letters or use your home telephone. Takaki and Akari are in their final year of elementary school and they are walking back home in the streets of their neighbourhood during spring. The cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. Akari presents a fact to Takaki
Hey ….. They say it’s 5 cm per second.
A puzzled Takaki inquires further and a young Akari lets him know it is the speed of falling cherry blossom petals. This sets up the rest of the episode as we revisit Takaki, a year later in middle school. Akari has moved to the north of Japan and Takaki has continued his education in Tokyo.
They write letters to one another and after a full year, they finally plan to meet again. Takaki provides some backstory on how himself and Akari originally became friends. Both were used to their parents moving a lot and both were victim to a poor immune system, so they spent much of their time together in the library. They pretty much thought they’d be together forever but it wasn’t long till Akari would provide Takaki with the unfortunate news, that her and her family would be moving again. This time up north… way up north.
During Takaki’s journey to meet Akari he becomes reflective over the things he wish he had told her.
Agreeing to meet Akari at 7, their meeting is delayed due to delays on the train he has his journey on. He doesn’t reach his destination until 10. Akari and Takaki are surprised to see one another, both had thought one had given up on the other.
When Akari looks up to see Takaki, this is really the most poignant moment in the entire film and is also my favourite scene. The tears that trickle down her face as she clenches his coat and the quietness that fills the space between the two has purpose and you are caught up in their emotions as best friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile and as potential lovers who are just on the tip of starting a relationship. When they begin to eat together; the setting is isolated to a boiler and their seats with everything else fading into the darkness, this really draws focus on this precious moment and this scene is much better portrayed than the train scene we got in The Place Promised In Our Early Days.
Silence is difficult to master in film especially in animation. If the silence comes at the wrong time or the duration of it is too short or too long, a touching or even a relatable moment can become awkward. However, the silence between Takaki and Akari worked out so well, and even for the kiss scene, you felt their nervousness and anticipated this moment. The framing and silence produced the right amount of tension that communicates the feelings of the characters clearly. It is the spring of love for these two but the representation of winter was a great juxtaposition in letting the viewer know that unfortunately this will be a love cut short. As Akari said in her letter she had hoped originally “Spring would come with Takaki” however spring was late.
Akari holds back on giving Takaki her letter and Takaki had his blown away by the wind. Both are left never really saying what they feel. Takaki leaves with a heaviness of wanting to protect Akari.
Episode 2: Cosmonaut
Takaki has moved south of Japanand is now in high school, he is quite popular and part of the archery club. Kanae Sumida, a classmate to Takaki has had a crush on him since she can remember and, we learn of her habit of waiting for Takaki by their parked mopeds.
Through the eyes of Kanae, we see how Takaki has held on all this time to his unrequited love for Akari. Through several misunderstandings, we are led to believe he has continued to keep in contact with Akari, but it is soon revealed that all this time he sends text messages to no one; only ever using his phone as a means to jot down his thoughts.
Takaki has these dreams of a faceless woman he feels at peace with, and his regrets manifest into his habit of sending text messages to no one; He is unable to move on from his feelings for Akari and desperately clings to his past.
Kanae, notices his longing for something or someone else and comes to the realisation that she can’t offer Takaki what he is yearning for.
I felt like cosmonaut was the saddest episode out of the three, because it is riddled with disappointment and the theme of being unable to reach “the other”.
While the imagery of the rocket being sent into space should have been a moment to encourage either one of the two, instead it emphasises the feeling of separation and the lonely trajectory that their lives are going in. Harping on the fact, what we sometimes hope for won’t always have a chance to be.
But despite this message what frustrates me the most about the episode is just how similar Takaki and Kanae were in regards to their needs.Yet I admire Kanae at the same time for realising soon enough that Takaki wasn’t about to look at her the way she wanted him to and as a result avoided even more heartache; Despite the great set up Kanae had to confess her feelings for Takaki
Cosmonaut upon viewing can seem like the most boring episode out of the three, but I would like to argue, it is the episode that requires the most attention. It speaks the loudest about unrequited love and longing, and it plays around with perspective; Whilst introducing some beautiful settings and visuals, and like that summer is over and we get into autumn.
Episode 3: 5 Cm Per Second
Episode 3 is the shortest out of the three episodes and really wraps up our story in a nice little bow.
Takaki, now an adult notices the falling sakura petals, and the story goes back a few months to that winter. Takaki has just been dumped from a relationship of 3 years and he has become a smoking zombie who quit his job and lives his everyday just getting by. His regrets have taken a toll on his life, hindering his ambitions, relationships, habits and work. This episode really gives us a moral of the story on the fate of those who hold onto their “Should have, Could have, Would Haves”.
We get a glimpse into an adult Akari’s life. She has completely moved on and is engaged but as the audience, we still get the satisfaction of her take on events. She had held back on giving Takaki her letter and sincerely hoped he was living his life well. On her way to Tokyo she is reminiscent of the time she met up with Takaki. The two have moved back to Tokyo. Alari moving back due to her fiancé being from Tokyo and Takaki moving back in hopes to meet Akari again.
Via montage we learn that Akari, stopped sending him letters out of awkwardness from thinking that maybe he had completely moved on, but he was always waiting for her letters. She too kept a look out for him.
One spring afternoon, crossing a familiar railway crossing, both walk past someone familiar. They turn back to catch a second glimpse but a passing train cuts their view. Takaki stays to see if that person is still there, only to see that she has already left. With this Takaki lets go of his regrets and feelings and finally finds the strength to move on himself.
Animation and Design
The animation was so well done, it brought tears to my eyes. No awkward movements, no unnecessary actions and it was all paired with a design that continues to be the highlight of any Shinkai production.
There are an array of colours that spark the screen, and there is a natural feel to all the seasons and their qualities, from the bitter cold of winter, to the washes of pink that appear for spring. The choice of palette is amazing and well thought out.
The character designs while simple, fit in well with their surroundings. It reminds me of a nugget of wisdom from a comic artist who said if you have detailed backgrounds keep the characters simple and if you have simple backgrounds you can add more detail to your characters. You never want to have everything detailed, but you need to have contrast in order to draw the right attention to a composition or in this case a shot. Shinkai proves that this does indeed work.
Once more Tenma collaborates with Shinkai on this production and the music finally felt like it had a home, the score feels purposeful and we have just the right amount of it at the right times. But I have to say the star of the show was the credit song “One More Time, One more Chance” by Masatoshi Yamazaki. Never has there been a song that wasn’t written for a film that still fitted and addressed the storyline so well, as this ballad.
It is a song that really packs a punch and paired with the montage at the end, you as the viewer are in that moment filled with the sadness that Takaki has been feeling all this time. All your emotions are drummed up for this moment to then come to a natural release at the final guitar strum. If a film was written around a song, then truly 5 Cm fits the bill.
The characters are relatable, I want to care about them and Thank God, this time around I am allowed to care about them. Their stories are very real and incredibly touching. In an hour it addresses familiar and important themes that are so often overlooked or mishandled, yet an animated production pulls it off to a great success, by even giving us a very down to earth ending that is a reality for many. 5 Cm is really a testament to the genius mind and courage of Makoto Shinkai.
I could completely relate to the themes addressed in the film, mostly of longing and disappointment. I remember the feeling of being unable to say goodbye to my best friend back in primary school and that feeling bothered me well into my teenage years until I finally reconnected to them via Facebook (of course). You don’t have to be an anime fan to get this film, you don’t even have to be super into animation to be touched by it. It tells a story and it tells it really well with visuals that make it hard to ignore. 5cm per second shows the power of regret and the effects of a wish come true. It started with a simple desire to see the cherry blossoms sometime together again, but in regards to their relationship they were stuck in a winter that never seemed to end. Takaki and Akari were star crossed lovers, destined to meet in passing and their reality like many of us viewing, will be the eventual drifting away from those we thought would never leave our sides.
If there is one thing I hope you get from this review reader, would be what can be achieved if you don’t give up and continue to improve your work. 5 Centimetres Per Second for me stands as the best of Shinkai’s work, and hits all the right notes: in its music, animation, characters and storytelling. It has been 9 years since its release and this film simply has not aged. I can not recommend 5 Centimetres Per Second enough. It is a MUST watch whether you are an animation fan or not!
Known in Japanese as 雲のむこう、約束の場所 (Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho) transliterated in english “beyond the clouds, the promised place". The Place Promised in Our Early Days is Shinkai’s first feature length. Watching it what were my thoughts? Story and Characters The dramatic sci-fi with a blend of romance takes place in an
Known in Japanese as 雲のむこう、約束の場所 (Kumo no Muko, Yakusoku no Basho) transliterated in english “beyond the clouds, the promised place”. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is Shinkai’s first feature length. Watching it what were my thoughts?
Story and Characters
The dramatic sci-fi with a blend of romance takes place in an alternate timeline and revolves around the lives of 3 friends Hiroki, Takuya and Sayuri and a promise they make to one another to one day fly their self built plane called the bella ciela to the Hokkaido Tower, a prominent monument built by the soviet union that separates the Soviet Union owned North of Japan from the US occupied South of Japan.
Three years pass and along with it the disappearance of Sayuri. Hiromi and Takuya go their separate ways and discontinue building their plane the Bella Ciela. Takuya lands a job as a physicist at a scientific facility supported by the United States, and on a daily basis he is exposed to researching about parallel universes and the Hokkaido’s towers involvement to them. Hiroki attends high school like normal but overwhelmingly depressed ever since the disappearance of Sayuri. But it isn’t long that the two friends discover a secret about their friend Sayuri that connects her to the Hokkaido Tower.
When I look back over the ending of The Place Promised in our Early Days, I can’t help but feel like it had so much untapped potential. I felt like the film wasn’t too sure on what it wanted to be. While a sci-fi military romance isn’t something that has never been done before, The Place Promised in our Early Days in my eyes didn’t do it well. When I think of The Last of Us -a hit third person shooter set in a zombie apocalypse, it is a game that didn’t do anything new but did what has already been done really good, and I mean ridiculously good. Unfortunately, lens flares, and shallow depths of field just didn’t cut it for The Place Promised in Our Early Days, and it couldn’t get away from its many many holes.
40 minutes in I clocked out of the story completely, and the story seemed to almost remove itself from our 3 protagonists for a good 10-15 minutes, with a lot of filler that stretches out the UN’s intentions for the giant pillar that separates the north and south of Japan. As soon as the story went back to our 3 protagonists so did my attention, and believe it out not i still understood the story without having to pay attention to the filler.
Far too many stills and text saying giving details on location and time skips. Why is a 4 months later even necessary? Just skip
All the character interactions felt dry and limp, with no real conflict or personality that shines. I just couldn’t really care for Hiroki, he was the dullest stick out of the bunch and I found Takuya and Sayuri much more interesting characters than him and the story probably would have had some justice if he was scrapped completely. The only time the characters feel fun to watch would be as kids.
I was really frustrated with watching this because characters in a film are the key ingredient to a film/story. Everything is there to highlight their personalities and lives and when you pay more attention to the setting than your characters, you have a rushed scene no matter how pretty it is and it is a massive let down especially when you have a minute of silence for no reason and for some reason it doesn’t feel as beautifully executed as Miyazaki where the scene with Chihiro on the train felt like it came at the right time and even served the plot of the story, but for the place promised in our early days, the scene felt frustrating and felt like a scene added just to fill time rather than a provoking or intentional moment.
It is common knowledge amongst fans that the ending to the place promised in our early days is very ambiguous especially when you have a prologue that seems to serve no connection to the film outside of being an opportunity for the main character to mourn his youth and middle school crush as though this was a sequel to voices of a distant star. While it plays an interesting set up it completely falls away, at first I forgot all about it and it wasn’t until I read another review they brought the fact that there was even a prologue.
I understood the ending and I don’t think it was hard to understand either, especially when you ignore the good-for-nothing prologue. Sayuri loses her memories and her feelings for Hiroki but it was an opportunity for them to start over now that they are adults. I can understand that if you were one of the few who remembered the prologue it would be baffling to try and tie the two together, maybe it was an alternate reality, maybe Sayuri goes her own separate way, there were just too much maybe’s that loosen the plot.
I wish this next section would be in praise of the animation, but unfortunately this won’t be the place for it. Something, that I found absolutely unacceptable was in a scene with Sayuri and Hiroki talking on the train and they were both motionless figures with dots for eyes and the only thing that moved were their mouths. It was a really frustrating scene where they spoke for 10 minutes and only their surroundings were highly detailed but stuck in an animated loop.
The animation and character designs were significantly better in this compared to his previous short Voices of a Distant Star and I have to say the cinematography really wasn’t something to be ignored, the choice of shots and close ups were really lovely to look at and really if you are none the wiser to film studies and animation you’d probably pass it off as amazing, but really trust me when I tell you, Shinkai offered us a lot of eye candy, there was no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
The ending song was composed by Tenma and if I am honest it did go unnoticed for most of the time, scenes that could have used a bit of background music were left bare and made the scenes boring, and this film really was a testament that music makes a wealth of difference to how a scene may be received. However in the end nothing was really memorable for me musically especially when the violin holds a bit of significance to the story or did it?
Our early days did well to look at topics such as loneliness and depression, and the challenges faced advancing into adulthood. However at times the flow of the film felt scattered and wasn’t much of a interesting viewing. While the attention to detail on the settings, objects and cinematography was better than anything hand drawn Disney can produce, it was let down by flat characters and a half baked plot that saw its characters as touts for the authors thoughts rather than just as characters with well formed lives and personalities.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days for me has to be my least favourite and with it being Shinkai’s first feature length, the thematic structure that he heavily relies on just didn’t translate all too well in this animated feature.
My disappointments with this film isn’t so much that I am disappointed with the storyline but in its characters, even a dull story can be brightened by a lively and dynamic cast of characters. I had remembered at some point actually watching the film but somehow someway I erased it from my memory completely and I now know why.
This week’s review is on Shinkai’s second short film, 星の声 Hoshi No Koe known in english as Voices of a Distant Star. This 25 minute short was actually one of the first films I had watched by Shinkai before I knew about Shinkai. Released in 2002, I don't think it is an exaggeration that
This week’s review is on Shinkai’s second short film, 星の声 Hoshi No Koe known in english as Voices of a Distant Star.
This 25 minute short was actually one of the first films I had watched by Shinkai before I knew about Shinkai. Released in 2002, I don’t think it is an exaggeration that it is one of the most recognised films of Shinkai by anime fans in the west.
Voices of a Distant Star is a short story about two middle school friends who are separated by time and space. Mikako the female protagonist of this tale is selected by the United Nations army to fight intergalactic threats to Earth and to go on an expedition across their solar system. Noboru, our male protagonist is left back on earth to live a normal life but has difficulty in moving on.
Voices of a Distant Star had quite solid themes such as loneliness, distance, longing and time. It all played out well especially in Noboru becoming an adult longing for his childhood with his middle school crush. When things were much more simple. Becoming an adult myself I could easily connect to the growing delay of messages he was receiving from Mikako. One minute you are constantly around someone, the next you are simply messaging them everyday, everyday turns into every other day and before you know it 5 years down the line you are messaging them “Long time no speak”. So much has changed about them and in their lives while for you it feels like you haven’t and nothing has changed.
The idea of being able to communicate by the heart through a common item was a great tool in this story and using the mobile phone as a method for communication has greater importance in 2016 than over a decade ago, because at least 90% of our communication is done through our mobile phones, even though we have advanced in other ways such as video messaging, social media etc. Noboru hangs delay onto his old cellphone in order to receive messages from Mikako and Mikako hangs onto hers because it is the only things that connects her to earth.
While the story has its sweet moments there are plenty and I mean plenty of nonsensical parts to it. Such as why would Noboru be stubborn and choose to not love someone else because of a crush he had on a 15 year old girl whose relationship he had with her lasted as long as his time in middle school? This is probably the most infuriating part of the storyline as it is human nature to change your mind and/or display impatience. Also, I am glad that the film could poke a bit of fun at itself at the ridiculousness of a 15 year old girl being chosen by the UN to go on a planetary expedition all of a sudden because she got good grades and was good at sports. Noboru’s comment, “ It seems, somehow, kind of like a stupid story.” hit the nail on the head and it was nice enough for Shinkai to acknowledge this through one of his characters.
I can’t get rid of the feeling that maybe the story would have been more believable if it had taken place just as they were finishing high school or college. Then you would have had this history between the Noboru and Mikako that would have lasted years and in turn would have been more meaningful. But at the age of 15, you’ve barely started your life. But lets ignore the story long enough to appreciate the design.
I wasn’t too crazy about the character designs, at times it looked awkward and unrefined, something that didn’t happen with She and Her Cat. Because of this you can very easily notice that this film has AGED. However, the strengths lied within the set design and the wondrous settings the movie took place in. While the locations on earth were limited and that 30%-40% of the film took place within the vacuum of space; When the film did venture to new terrain, it really was a sight for the eyes.
This time Shinkai didn’t perform a one man juggle but he did work on it as director, writer and co-producer. Shinkai’s landscapes are wonderfully fantasy like and it only becomes more stunning as you go through his body of work. Trust me it only gets more amazing from this point onwards.
The animation was a mixture of 2D and 3D. With the mecha and planets being made via 3D software called lightwave and everything else using after effects and photoshop on a power Mac G4- A POWER MAC G4. Unfortunately this is one throwback I would have been too young to remember. The character animation can feel stunted and awkward at times so it does make the 3D feel even more out of place despite how cool it is, but it is forgivable as an earlier work.
I complained about it in the review for She and Her Cat and I will complain about it again… can the text messages disappear anymore faster?! These huge long winding pieces of text hardly get a couple of seconds of screen time and so much of the story is in their messages . There is nothing spectacular about the character animation that I can talk in depth about and there’s nothing too bad about it that distracted me from the story being told, so it makes a pass.
The score is touching and was composed by Tenma, who is a well known collaborator of Shinkai’s and composes gorgeous pieces of music for other works and anime I am familiar with. The aforementioned composer has composed music that really bring out the feelings of longing and it really suits Shinkai’s stories really well.
To conclude I actually much prefer She and Her Cat as a gateway to Shinkai, just because it really is impressive that he worked on that all on his own and proved that independent animation can make those all important breakthroughs. But saying that I still need to give credit where credit is due, as Voices of a Distant Star is the perfect set up to familiarise yourself with the themes and style of Shinkai that has trademarked him as the next Miyazaki. It will be here that his work only becomes more and more captivating as he plays around more with fantasy and space in his beautifully rendered films that not only captivate the eyes but also the heart and truly inspire just not a generation of animators but filmmakers as well.
She and Her Cat is an award winning independent production by the man dubbed as the next Miyazaki. She and Her Cat is a story told by the viewpoint of a young woman's cat and its relationship with her.Produced in 1999 over a 5 month period, this short has beautiful
She and Her Cat is an award winning independent production by the man dubbed as the next Miyazaki. She and Her Cat is a story told by the viewpoint of a young woman’s cat and its relationship with her.Produced in 1999 over a 5 month period, this short has beautiful animation that slips straight into your heart.
The grainy black and white are an artistic choice that works well with the almost poetic/narrative nature of the shots paired with the narration of the cat. Stills are complimented by artistic pans and it is very easy to see how much the work of Makoto inspired the lot over at Wong Fu Productions, a good example of this would be their film When Five Fell.
Though the animation is limited it is timed suitably and the artwork is heavily detailed to make up for it. The simplicity of the design of the cat is still pleasing to look at despite at first feeling like it was probably in the wrong type of film at first. But from the effects, to the layout of shots to the landscape design everything comes with such precision and attention to detail, It is really remarkable and Shinkai only continues to shine and amaze his viewers from this point onwards.
If you are wondering how does he make his hyper realistic backgrounds, Shinkai has noted that he takes real pictures of places and edits them with computer graphics, but when it came to the characters they are drawn to contrast their environment in design.
My only criticism would be the fast bursts between text. At times I felt it was much to fast to get a good read off and required pausing, which really messes with the flow of the whole viewing experience.
It is nice to hear that an animated series of the film is scheduled to start for March, however it won’t be in the hands of Shinkai.
The film really reminded me of a French art film and very easily fit the tropes of one, while never leaving its Japanese roots and the haiku nature of the short. The music was very simple and I didn’t notice it so much, but from what I have read it was the only thing that Shinkai didn’t do. It is from this point on that Shinkai establishes his unique style as an animator and might I add to that as a film maker.