5 Centimeters Per Second
July 24, 2010
5 Centimeters Per Second is a fairly short film made by Makoto Shinkai. Like most of his other work it examines the way humans deal with loss or separation. In fact the subtitle is “a chain of short stories about their distance.” Since the subject of this review is a movie, I’ll be saying even less than usual about the plot to avoid spoilers.
I said I wouldn’t provide plot spoilers, but I do feel the need to warn potential viewers that this film is very emotional, and not in a feel-good way. This is a very Japanese romance story, full of sentimentality and yearning. A recurring image is the falling cherry blossom, which is emblematic of the Buddhist notion of the transience of beauty, and the Japanese reversal of that notion: the beauty of transience.
Even before 5 Centimeters Per Second, there were those who spoke of Makoto Shinkai as the “new Miyazaki”. Mr. Shinkai has laughed off such comments as exaggeration, but they raise an interesting point. As much as I am enjoying Occult Academy this season, the claim that anything that has been offered by the Anime no Chikara (“Power of Anime”) time slot truly represents the power of anime’s potential is easily disproved. There is far more intensity and beauty and wisdom in this short film than the entirety of the Anime no Chikara production to date. Perhaps it is unfair to hold a commercial, mass-market TV slot up for comparison to an art-house film that was obviously a labor of love, but their cheap marketing gimmick invites the comparison; meanwhile Mr. Shinkai quietly downplays his own accomplishments.
When you are considering which anime to pick up next, you have many choices. The anime production industry is happily churning out clones of past hits. And sometimes all you want is mindless entertainment, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with another show about over-powered poseurs that scream at each other righteously, or buxom, cat-eared maid dolls. If, however, you haven’t seen 5 Centimeters Per Second, and you can spare 60 minutes for something unlike the formula recreations, give it a try.