“5 Centimeters Per Second” – Chris Luedtke

I like being able to catch directors at early phases in their careers. It makes their progressions or regressions very entertaining to watch. Films like 5 Centimeters Per Second, for example, are great gateways into what the director has in store for us in the future. The question for us always remains, “Will their style remain true, or will they change? 5 Centimeters Per Second answers a part of this for us and shows why Makoto Shinkai is one of the most promising directors in modern animation.

5 Centimeters Per Second is a series of three short stories about separation and distance. All stories revolve around Takaki Toono (Kenji Mizuhashi) and his ever-changing life as he switches schools and tries to make the most out of life. In his younger days (the “Cherry Blossoms” segment) he meets Akari Shinohara (Yoshimi Kondou), whom he becomes more than just friends with. Quickly, they are distanced, but their feelings remain true. As Takaki gets older (the “Cosmonaut” segment), he ends up going more north, where he meets Kanae Sumita (Satomi Hanamura). For the finale, we are treated to a sort of wrap-up and final thoughts portion concerning mostly just Takaki.

Makoto Shinkai is a very elaborate writer, and 5 Centimeters Per Second proves his worthiness as a filmmaker. While he also did The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters is more in the vein of Voices of a Distant Star. In fact, it builds heavily off of that premise. 5 Centimeters has a lot of internal thought and a heavy amount of metaphors to describe these characters. What is most obvious about the future of these characters has a lot to do with the opening statement, which claims that cherry blossoms fall at five centimeters per second. Building off of this idea, we can also relate this to the characters’ youthful lives and the strong emotions that tie them together so well.

The characters are some of the most three-dimensional beings I’ve ever seen come to life on screen. We don’t just listen to these characters speak, we feel their words touch us. Anyone who watches this can relate to anything and everything, from those small crushes to life’s bigger, lonelier problems. Like Voices, there’s a lot of disconnection in the connection. Like in real life, characters don’t immediately understand each other. They try to, but so often they are lost in their own worlds.

The set design is beautiful, as always. Shinkai knows how to paint a scene that’s flat-out beautiful and still add a horrible mood to it. In fact, I would call that one of the strongest points throughout his works, especially in 5 Centimeters. Characters often feel melancholy or lost, but even as they are, there’s still a vast ocean in front of them or a clear night sky that just whisks you away to another place of hope. It’s not hard to get swept up in these places.

5 Centimeters is a great film and further proof that Makoto Shinkai is one of the best writers and animators of our time. If you haven’t seen his other works, I recommend you check them out immediately. As far as I’m concerned, Shinkai is the next Hayao Miyazaki. See it now.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

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