5 centimeters per second is the time it takes for a cherry blossom petal to fall from a tree and touch the ground. It can be said that life is measured in such ways and the film 5 Centimeters Per Second takes this to heart. A story of love, growing up and letting go. Beautiful, much like a cherry blossom itself.
The story is split in three shorts, each centering on a different part of protagonist Takaki. In the first portion we see his childhood crush, the second part the story follows the perspective of a girl Kanae and the third switches between Takaki and the girl from the first story. Each tale is about love, each story is about not getting what you want. It makes a rather striking cut through the sky telling a story about things not working out the way you want them to.And all told with some of the most beautiful art I’ve seen in a film. Sometimes almost photo real, other times dreamy and wistful, always achingly gorgeous. Many a time in the film I’d just swallow a deep breath as the scene focuses on the changing light and shadows or a man walking in the cold night, his breath clear for all to see.
It isn’t all pretty looks and sweet sounds however, the story itself is wonderfully told thanks to the art, animation and sound working together with the plot. The first story is a tale of a train journey to meet the girl Takaki sends letters to. It goes through the letters between each other as he travels and we see the intense anxiety kicking in. The situation feels all too real, I’ve been there and maybe you have too. It doesn’t run on coincidences or possibilities, instead throwing us the crushing truth. Takaki is in love, or what a thirteen year old would consider love and the though when they get together is a painful one. ‘I knew at that moment, we’d never be together.’
The second story is told from the perspective of a young girl called Kanae. Time has moved on and Takaki is now here, older. Kanae has a crush but has her frustrations of a confused future and how to express her feelings. At first it may appear Takaki is about to run into some crazy harem, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Not going through Takaki’s head we see him as a distant unknown, we want to get closer see how he has changed, but we can only watch from a distance. Instead we fall in Kanae’s troubles and come out supporting her just as much as Takaki. The second story is the strongest I feel, thanks to minimalistic dialogue and some hard-hitting revelations regarding Takaki and how he has matured. Again, it remains true to life, in a rather melancholy but sweet way.
It finishes with a shorter story of Takaki’s adult life. We see how he has changed, how university and time has changed him, but he still clings onto relics of the past. Minus a rather unnecessary montage of clips, it manages to wrap everything up with expertise and not copping out for a typical ending. Despite being a U and in the world of animation, 5 Centimeters Per Second is very much an adult story. Like a Pinkerton of anime.