Byousoku 5 Centimeters, Shinkai’s Latest Work – A Sad Love Story with Beautiful Artwork

Shinkai Makoto’s latest work “5 Centimeters per Second” just came out on DVD this Thursday, both the regular version and limited edition package. I didn’t really know anything about it until I saw many versions of the RAW floating around on several Anime sites so I decided to look it up.

I’ve actually watched some of his previous work before such as “The Voices of a Distant Star” but none of them really caught my attention. This one’s artwork did so I decided to give it a whirl and it was one well directed movie. The story build up was great and the artwork was simply breathe taking. There’s no action in the show so it’s all about having the patience to pay attention to lots of dialogue.

The three part story is set in the early 19th century and centres around the relationship between a boy named Takaki Touno and a girl named Akari Shinohara. After their elementary school graduation, the pair are separated from each and the story tells of how their feelings for one another remains through the years as they grow up and how it ends.

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Young Akari and Takaki.

The English DVD is due out December 2007 so, don’t read the following summary if you don’t want any spoilers! It’s a great movie for romance and drama fans. Just expect a very bitter story with only small dashes of happy scenes.

Episode 1 – Oukashou (Cherry Blossoms)

The story starts off by introducing the little couple, Akari and Takaki running along home innocently under the falling cherry blossoms. Akari tells Takaki that the cherry blossoms fall at “5 centimetres per second” and reminds her very much of snow. Akari runs on ahead and they are cut off by a passing train.

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A train passes by and cuts the pair off.

It’s now been half a year since they last met at their elementary school graduation and they have been keeping in touch via letters. She wonders if Takaki still remembers her. Soon it’s winter and they’ve finally decided to meet up again before it’s time for Takaki to move to another place again to Tanegashima. Some place that was going to put Takaki and Akari at a much greater distance from each other. Takaki draws up the stations he must go through to get to Akari’s new home at Iwafune and rushes off to catch the train after school.

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Akari’s letter telling Takaki to take care and that she’ll be waiting for him in the waiting room at 7 o’clock.

On the train, Takaki remembers how he and Akari first met and the happy times they had together. They had both transferred to a new school around the same time due to their parent’s work. Being the small children they were and how easily they fell ill, they liked to hang out at the library most of the time. Naturally they became friends but because of that, their classmates started to tease them. However, neither of them were worried about it at all as long as they were together.

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Akari being teased in class because of time she spends together with Takaki.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Akari soon phones Takaki sadly telling him that she will be moving and going to a different junior high school. She had tried to ask her parents to let her stay but they wouldn’t let her because she wasn’t old enough to take care of herself yet. Akari cries and Takaki doesn’t know how to comfort her.

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Akari rings up Takaki telling him she won’t be going to the same junior high school.

Back to the present, the bad weather is picking up and snow is causing train delays. Takaki is left standing out in the cold station waiting for his next train. Watching two men crowd into a warm soba stall, he decides to get himself something to drink. But while rummaging for change, he drops the letter he spent 2 weeks writing for Akari…

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Takaki loses the letter he spent 2 weeks writing with everything he wanted to tell Akari.

The train soon arrives but is stopped along the way due to the blizzard. Takaki was very late now and there was nothing he could do while sitting on the train for 2 hours. He remembers how sad Akari was when she phoned him a year ago about how they had to part. She also sounded very lonely in her letters. She must be very sad right now too waiting for him and he hopes she’s gone home.

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Takaki can only wait as the train he is on stops for 2 hours.

Arriving 4 hours late, Takaki is surprised Akari is still there. There is a short happy reunion as they share some food together that Akari made. It’s time for the station to close so the couple leaves into the snow. Akari takes Takaki to the bare cherry blossom tree she told him about in her letter. For a moment they stand in silence then slowly, they lean in and kiss. That night, they spent their time chatting together in an abandoned shed nearby and before they knew it, they fell asleep.

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The pair finally meets and spends their time eating the food Akari prepared.

The next morning, Takaki takes the first train back to Tokyo. They are sad to part again but Takaki promises to keep in touch via the phone and letters. After watching the train leave, Akari also takes out a letter that she has been writing to give to Takaki personally. Perhaps it was not needed.

Meanwhile back on the train, Takaki wishes that he had the power to protect Akari from sadness and stares out at the passing scenery.

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Maybe the letters they had prepared weren’t needed after all.

Episode 2 – Cosmonaut

Takaki has a strange dream of walking up a hill with a girl, surrounded by a surreal outer space sky to watch sunrise. The scene quickly switches to Takaki practising archery early in the morning at school in his new home on Tanegashima. A girl named Kanae Sumita is driving her way to school too on her scooter and seems to be going early on purpose to meet Takaki.

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Takaki has a secret admirer, Kanae Sumita

It turns out Kanae has a secret crush on Takaki and she just can’t stop thinking about him. Her friends tease her that the transfer student may have a girlfriend in Tokyo. After school, Kanae pretends to be just going home at the same time as Takaki again. They ride home side by side on their scooter. Kanae is evidently very happy that she could be with Takaki alone and thinks to herself, “If I was a puppy I would be wagging my tail non-stop now. I’m glad I’m not one. Even so, I can’t stop smiling like an idiot.”

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Kanae’s friends tease her saying Takaki probably has a girlfriend already.

Kanae thinks back to the time when she fell for him in junior high year two. Takaki had just transferred over but she felt there was something different about him from other boys. As time went on, she studied hard just to get into the same junior high school as Takaki. Now the more she sees him, the more she’s in love with him.

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Kanae worked hard to get into the same senior high school as Takaki.

Back to the present, the friends arrive at their usual convenience store to buy something to drink. Takaki picks up his usual drink while Kanae spends sometime picking. When she finally pays and leaves the store, she finds Takaki writing an e-mail to someone as usual. It wasn’t the first time she saw him doing this and it always made her feel uncomfortable. If only the person he was e-mailing was her.

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Kanae and Takaki picking drinks at the usual convenience store.

The next day, Kanae gets called into the school office for being the only one not filling out a future plans form. A classmate of Takaki wonders why his girlfriend was being called into the office. Takaki denies Kanae is his girlfriend. Inside the office, Kanae doesn’t know how to answer the teacher. She hadn’t thought about her future yet.

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Kanae still doesn’t know what her future plans are.

Later that evening, Kanae goes to practise surfing again. She thinks about how she wasn’t making any progress in any of the things she’s being doing so far. She hasn’t been able to surf after being taught by her older sister and hasn’t managed to become Takaki’s girlfriend. She finishes up and rides home but finds Takaki’s scooter parked at the side of the road along the way. She finds him sitting on a hill smiling and writing another e-mail on his phone again.

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Takaki sitting out in the night typing up an e-mail to someone.

Sitting next to each other, they speak for a moment about their future and Takaki tells her he plans to go to university in Tokyo. On the other hand, Kanae still didn’t know what she was going to do. She folds up her questionaire into a paper airplane and throws it away. They head on home only to be stopped by a roadblock. JAXA’s latest space exploration satellite was being transported and was going to be launched to travel beyond the solar system. It was going to take a few years.

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The ELISH satellite being transported.

Back home, Takaki appears to be writing an e-mail to someone about having that same dream again. Perhaps to Akari? In the usual dream, he was walking with a girl and couldn’t see her face as usual. But there was something nostalgic about it. Just as he is about to enter an address, he cancels. He wonders how long it’s been since he had this habit of writing e-mails with no addressee filled in.

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It seems Takaki broke off contact with Akari for some time now.

After the day they had a chat on the hill, the typhoon rainy period was over and the weather was much better and a little cooler. Kanae sets out to practise surfing again. Kanae’s sister asks if she has plans for her future yet but she didn’t. However, she thinks it’s fine that way and just wants to do whatever she can one thing at a time. She runs out to surf and unlike earlier, she could ride the waves this time. It’s been half a year before she managed it. Just in time before summer ended in mid-October.

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Kanae manages to surf.

Back at school, her friends are talking about how someone had confessed their love. Kanae was in a good mood and had decided the thing to do was to confess her love too to Takaki. If she couldn’t do it now, she’ll never be able to do it. After school, Kanae waits for Takaki again and drops by the usual convenience store. While picking their drinks, Kanae looks up hoping to see Takaki looking at her but is disappointed. When they try leaving on their scooters, Kanae’s one can’t move. Takaki decides to walk her home.

Screen 16
Takaki isn’t looking at her.

Along the path in the afternoon sun, neither of the two friends speak. Kanae looks over at Takaki but again, he isn’t looking at her. The wind blows by. Kanae can’t stand it any longer and begins to cry as she realises something. As she struggles to hold back the tears, she begs Takaki not to be so nice to her.

Screen 17
Again, on there walk back Takaki isn’t looking at her.

The brief moment of confusion is broken as the satellite is launched. As Kanae and Takaki stands staring into the sky, she notices how he has always gazed into the distance as if searching for something. She now understands why she saw Takaki differently from the other boys. At the same time, she also realises that he had never really set eyes on her. She couldn’t confess her love to him now.

To Kanae, Takaki was a very nice guy but he was always looking for someone else far far away. Far away from Kanae. Even so, she will always love Takaki.

Screen 18
Takaki’s dream with a “mysterious” girl.

Episode 3 – “5 Centimetres per Second”

Grown up, Takaki has moved to Tokyo and appears to be working as a programmer now. As a cherry blossom petal falls onto his desk, he goes out for a walk at the very same place he spent his childhood days with Akari. As he walks past the train crossing, he has that strong feeling he would see Akari again.

Screen 19
A cherry blossom stops Takaki from working.

Later that night, on his way home from work, Takaki gets a phone call from a girl. He doesn’t answer.

The next morning, grown up Akari is together with her parents at the train station. She’s leaving to make preparations for her wedding. She hops onto the train and after finishing her book, she gazes out the window. Akari had a dream last night of when she and Takaki were still two young children. It must have been because she found that letter she wrote long ago.

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The grown up Akari had a dream. It must have been the old love letter she found again.

Back at Takaki’s messy apartment, he receives another message from his new girlfriend. They haven’t got in touch for sometime and there’s something she has to tell him. We learn her name is “Risa Mizuno” It’s clear Takaki isn’t going to see her. Just living his life was tiring him out and filling him with sadness right now.

He soon receives another message from the Mizuno saying that she loves him even now. Apparently they had been together for 3 years. But even with the 1000 e-mails they’ve exchanged, they still couldn’t get any closer together than 1cm apart. As the days continued, Takaki continues to drown himself in work but don’t know what he’s really after. Soon realising how tired he was, he quit his job.

Screen 21
For 3 years Takaki had a new girlfriend but it seems it didn’t workout.

At night, Takaki walks into a convenient store nearby his home and picks up a magazine showing how the satellite “ELISH” he saw 9 years ago with Kanae had now flown beyond the solar system. He and Akari has also been having the same dream. The dream when they were still 13 years old and walking in the snow fields knowing one day, they will be able to see the cherry blossoms falling together again.

Screen 22
The ELISH satellite that Takaki saw launching into space finally reaches outside the solar system.

The song “One More Time, One More Chance” by Masayoshi Yamazaki breaks out and there is a flash of past and present scenes. We see Takaki wandering around alone in Tokyo while Akari meets up happily with her future husband. Their relationship had long dwindled away but life goes on for the two and the memories will remain with them.

Screen 22
Takaki continues to dwell in the past and drinks alone…

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…While Akari meets up happily with her future husband.

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Takaki’s picked up an unhealthy lifestyle.

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Akari has moved on but remembers those cherry blossom childhood days.

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Takaki also smiles remembering how cherry blossoms fall at
“5 centimetres per second”.

Thoughts

The build up in the first story “Cherry Blossoms” was done really well as Takaki made his way to meet Akari a year later. Watching the clock tick away, dropping the letter he spent 2 weeks writing, train services stopping through the snow, sitting 2 hours on the train… You could feel how painful the wait was. Then that happy little reunion!

Second part, “Cosmonaut”. It was cute watching Kanae going out of her way to see more of Takaki. Especially when she said that line about being a puppy. I do feel sorry for her in the end after all her effort to get closer to him and realising that Takaki never really had eyes for her. Takaki only had his heart towards Akari and was always staring into the distance thinking about her. At this point, the movie kind of gives you false hope making you kind of think they were going to get back together again… Until you find out they’ve dropped out of contact.

Third part, “3 Centimetres per Second”. You can see the year’s 2008 from one of the e-mails so I think this takes place at least 9 years after the second part since Takaki witnessed the satellite’s launch and the magazine they show gives a date of how it’s finally reached beyond the solar system.

Both of the main characters are all grown up and working now but we can see Takaki and Akari hasn’t gotten together again. Takaki has a messy lifestyle going on and has tried moving on with another relationship for 3 years but fails, while Akari’s happily engaged with another man and preparing for her wedding.

I was hoping they would get back together but, it didn’t happen hence the sadness. It seemed Takaki continued to dwell on his feelings towards Akari but she on the other hand, had moved on. Well, I guess Takaki did stop e-mailing her and I get the impression he stopped writing to her first.

Finally the end song “One More Time, One More Chance” with all the past, filler and present scenes was a great finish although sad. Fitting lyrics and a quick flash of what they had been through in their lives.

Here’s some shots of the exception backdrops. I would go as far as saying they’re better than Ghibli’s but music and animation wise, Ghibli’s still better. If you like the backgrounds, you can always drop by the official site to find some wallpapers.

I’m tempted to order the Japanese Limited Edition DVD box since I know the overseas versions won’t have something similar. It comes with an OST of 11 tracks, a 20 page booklet, film strip, a bonus DVD featuring interviews, the ending song PV and storyboard art. But I’ve been spending too much these few months so I can’t.

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5 Responses

  1. All other things considered, it was a pretty realistic, if the word even applies here, outcome. Not sure if it’s something one would want to re-watch anytime soon, but it’s certainly a great work and I probably won’t regret the experience itself.

    More than the two getting together again as a couple, I probably would have expected them to have at least one final “goodbye” scene, but I get the impression that the director didn’t want that to get in the way of the overall “distance” theme…and maybe it would, but oh well…

  2. Thanks for the summary. I only watched the first episode and I didn’t quite like it, but I kept watching it for the art. Now that I know what is going to happen, I don’t think it is another typical childhood love story. It is quite sad and I agree with the comment above; it is pretty realistic.

  3. It’s a great summary of what the whole 3-episode short story film was about.. Just wanted to know where is it possible to find a wallpaper-ish size of the still image of takaki and his unknown dream girl staring at the vast emptiness of space (you have it as screen 18, and it’s right before episode 3? :) haha… anyway, don’t mind if i do keep a bookmark of this blog :)

  4. @Alex

    The closest you can get will probably be from the official site’s wallpaper section:

    http://5cm.yahoo.co.jp/download/index.html

    Or maybe either of these full size screenshots will help?


  5. nice summary thanks!

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