Saturday, March 3, 2012

5 Centimeters Per Second

Byosoku Go Senchimetoru: a chein obu shoto sutorizu abauto zea disutansu; animated romantic drama, Japan, 2007; D: Makoto Shinkai, S: Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondo, Satomi Hanamura

Teenagers Takaki and Akari develop a close bond in high school. However, their parents often move due to their jobs, which inevitably separates them. After finding out he will be moving too far away to even occasionally visit her, Takaki goes to meet her in the middle of winter one last time. In his new high school, a girl, Kanae, falls in love with him, but eventually figures out he is interested in someone else. A decade later, Akari is about to get married. She and Takaki accidentally stumble upon each other on a train crossing, but just walk away.

Similarly like his excellent short anime film "Voices of a Distant Star", but without science-fiction elements, in a story where a romance has been interrupted not by distance in outer space, but by common moving out to a different town, anime "5 Centimetres Per Second" is another (rightfully) critically acclaimed achievement by sensitive artist Makoto Shinkai, a beautiful love story. A top-notch animation, where you can sense weeks of drawings in just one second of animation, with an eye for details (a bird flying with the night sky being so clear that the Milky Way can be seen in the background; Akari still having her love letter, even a decade after she did not give it to Takaki), a compact story and "just the right" amount of emotions, without turning too sappy, make this a real treat.

Shinkai demonstrated his talent the most in a sequence almost everyone can identify with: when Takaki travels in a train to see the far away Akari, observing how "less and less houses can be seen" as he travels further into an unknown region, until the train stops for two hours due to heavy snow. He really captured the feeling of travel and melancholy in one. However, two minor complaints: firstly, the story is slightly too episodic, i.e. with chopped up and scattered scenes "all over the place", instead of connecting them together to form one continuity in showing the relationship between a guy and a girl. Secondly, the ending is excellent, but an alternative (?) ending in the music video "One More Time, One More Chance" is even better, and thus it is a pity it was not featured in the sole film itself. If they had placed the ending from that music video into the film, it would have been one of the best animes in the past 20 years, on pair with "Only Yesterday", yet as it is, it is still a very, very good and impressive achievement.


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