Anime review: 5 Centimeters per Second

5 Centimeters per Second is the story of a young man and his relationship with a childhood friend/classmate and how it changes over the years. The film is divided into three segments, with the total runtime being just over an hour. The first segment focuses on protagonist Takaki Tono’s first meeting and befriending Akari Shinohara in elementary school, and the two eventually coming to develop romantic feelings for one another. As Akari has moved to another town out in rural Japan, the story juggles the letters the two exchanged during their time apart following elementary school with Takaki’s journey by train through a grueling snowstorm to visit her. This first segment is heavy on the backstory, but does well to shape the two lead characters and ends on a simple, if not heartwarming note.

The second segment focuses on Kanae Sumida, a classmate of Takaki’s who has long admired him from a distance but never worked up the courage to confess her feelings to him. She spends many of her afternoons surfing and confiding in her sister – little illustrations of what makes her tick as a character. Unfortunately, we don’t learn much more about Takaki or see any real further development for his character – all we learn in the second chapter is that he’s taken up an interest in space shuttles and that he’s still holding out for Akari. While Kanae is an interesting enough character whose dynamic with Takaki is notably different from the one he shared with Akari, it’s strange that the majority of this segment would be devoted to Kanae’s observations of Takaki instead of providing a personal account of what’s going on in Takaki’s life delivered directly by him.

The second portion is especially odd as it bears little real significance to the third segment, in which Takaki and Akari are now both adults, living separate lives, though Takaki clearly still keeps her in his thoughts. Here we see a sample of (what is seemingly implied to be one of many) Takaki’s most recent relationship, which apparently lacked real substance and eventually fell apart. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that, even after all these years, he still holds on to the glimmer of hope that he and Akari will wind up together, despite living in different parts of the country and now having significantly different personal priorities.

5 Centimeters per Second’s animation is phenomenal. The way the snow pummels down slowing the train conveys a real sense of nature’s power, while the falling cherry blossom petals are gentle and brightly colored. The film does take to the ups and downs of romantic relationships and the (often innacurate) perceptions of them in a real, believable manner. It doesn’t forcibly end any of the segments on a happy note or a sad note, per se, though portions of its overall execution are questionable and leave something to be desired.

My rating: 7.25 (out of 10)

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