The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Five Centimeters Per Second: Five Centimeters Per Second

By 2008, Takaki has become a software developer in Tokyo, while Akari is preparing to get married to another man. Feeling as though he’s unable to enter a meaningful relationship, Takaki falls into a depression and eventually leaves his job. Meanwhile, Akari goes through her old possessions and finds the letter addressed to Takaki. Takaki and Akari have a dual narration, both recalling a recent dream depicting the events of their last meeting in the snow and hoping to watch the cherry blossoms together again. One day while walking down a road, Takaki and Akari appear to pass and recognize each other at a train crossing, where they had decided to watch cherry blossoms together thirteen years ago, right before Akari’s sudden moving to Tochigi. At opposite sides of the tracks, they stop and begin to look back, but the passing trains cut off their view. Takaki waits for the trains to pass and sees that Akari is gone. After a moment, he smiles to himself and continues walking.

  • The story has fast-forwarded to afternoon on a spring day in 2008. By now, Takaki has quit his previous job and does free-lance software development. Even from this distance, it is clear that he is using a Mac Pro: machines from the 2008 period probably featured Core 2 Xeon processors and had some 6 GB of RAM, with an ATI HD 2600 video card.

  • How do I know all this? I work in a lab that makes extensive use of the Max OS X, although we have nicer keyboards. Having spent the past four years doing development on the Mac OS platform, I’ve seen all of the newest iterations of the operating system and in fact, feel more comfortable with the Xcode IDE than I did with the Eclipse IDE.

  • Of course, a true programmer only needs a terminal window to do something. At the time of writing, I have experience with Java, Objective C, Python, and rudimentary knowledge of Objective C++, the Bullet API and the Ogre API. I’ll probably need to learn a little more C#, C++ (and the .net Framework), as well as some MySQL and MySQL Lite to be fully competitive in the field, though. I know first hand that being a programmer is a little lonely at times when I’m not brainstorming concepts with the development team, but other than that, software development isn’t that bad.

  • Much as I do on the calm summer mornings while taking breaks, Takaki goes out for a walk around his old neighbourhood. As he wanders the familiar places, he’s reminded of how neatly human and natural constructs come together in the city.

  • I typically take two 30-minute walks around campus on the average summer day. The unusual ordering of this final act means that after finishing, Takaki’s feelings are left somewhat ambiguous. The novel answers this nicely, and indeed, he is able to find the strength to move onwards.

  • The test of that claim simply occurs when Takaki reaches a crosswalk and encounters a woman. As the warning lights for the train come, he turns around, feeling that this woman might just do the same.

  • For the briefest of moments, their eyes meet, evoking his memories right as the train passes by and separates the two.

  • Takaki decides that whether the woman he comes across is Akari or not isn’t particularly relevant and decides to continue along his walk, symbolising that he is able to move on.

  • I feel that these parts should’ve been done sooner in the final act, to reduce the ambiguity of the fact that it is a flashback. Said flashback returns to a point in December 2007, following a two-year project concluded. Takaki opts to walk after seeing the length of the line for the taxis.

  • Contrasting the vibrant colours of the opening scenes in this act, the flashback is a lot darker in composition, reflecting on Takaki’s melancholy. Christmas is supposed to be one of the most festive times of year, but having seen the interpretation of Christmas in Japan, I think that I prefer the Victorian Christmases I’ve seen while growing up.

  • Takaki’s depression doesn’t just stem from his yearning to be with Akari, but rather, the culmination of multiple failed relationships. Whereas the anime leaves this point ambiguous, the novel is able to clear things up substantially.

  • Takaki meets Risa Mizuno at a train station. The two find each other’s company relaxing and enjoyable, and soon go on dates with one another. There is quite a lot that the novel discusses to address loose ends in Five Centimeters per Second. Of all the acts, the novel is the most useful here. I will continue to allude to it, but it can be read here.

  • While recalling his past relationships and isolation, Takaki’s feelings come forth and he finds himself breaking down under the silent office blocks. Prior to Risa, there were at least two other girls that Takaki dated, but one girl was taken by another guy, and the relationship with the other fell through very quickly.

  • At around the same time period, Akari is preparing to move to Tokyo for her engagement with another man. Akari describes her fiancé as a kind-hearted individual who also has a tendency to complain about things frequently.

  • Akari’s smile remains much as it was back in Cherry Blossoms: warm and friendly. It turns out that a few nights ago, while cleaning, she had a dream of her time with Takaki many years ago, and that her dream likely arose from coming across the letter she had intended to give him during their final meeting.

  • The grey skies bring to mind the Ace Combat series. In particular, despite the negative reviews, I’m itching to try out Ace Combat Assault Horizons. For one reason or another, overcast or snowy days give the impression that a dogfight could be happening in the skies above, and now that I’ve got a powerful PC, I figured, maybe I’ll try Assault Horizons.

  • Akari’s thoughts are poetic: on the night she was supposed to meet Takaki, she thought to herself:

Don’t worry. Your lover’s waiting for you. That girl knows you will come see her. You can relax. Think of the joy you will have when you two see each other again. It maybe the last time you meet but please, treasure that miraculous moment deep within your heart.

  • Akari finds herself thinking about Takaki and wonders how he’s doing presently, hoping that things are going well for him. She then wonders if she’s being unfaithful to her future husband by thinking so much about Takaki.

  • I’m certain that the future is what one makes of it. I felt that Takaki’s shortcoming was to be the inability to let go of the past after watching this three years ago, but now, I’m more inclined to say that Five Centimeters Per Second (the act) depicts the low point in Takaki’s life, when all of the other lights go out.

  • It’s quite clear that Takaki isn’t very happy with his life, despite having a decent income at a job he is okay with. A good job and income is only a component of happiness; love is one that is far more difficult to acquire, although as they say, the view is far more breathtaking at the top of the mountain if one persists and climbs to the summit (even if I’m not quite at liberty to say that).

  • While it’s apparent that Takaki is depressed and pessimistic, the act only depicts pieces of Takaki’s life in the imagery that is provided. The consequence of executing the story like this makes it very confusing, and will put off viewers; this is why the novel is a worthwhile (almost a necessity, actually) read.

  • I remember back in high school, a lot of my classmates were equipped with the shiniest phones of their era, and they would constantly text each other in class. Instructors commented that texting under the table was useless, since they realised that the materials in class wasn’t likely to be that amusing.

  • Takaki’s view of life is probably a more depressing one: he is constantly reminded of the sadness accumulating in his life owing to his possessions: the single toothbrush seems to hit him particularly hard.

  • This is the easter egg I was talking about many paragraphs back: if careful observation reveals the individual LCD crystals on Takaki’s phone. Modern phones have pixels, and the top of the line phones have ultra-high resolution displays with a higher pixel density, although at close ranges, the pixels can still be resolved. The message above is addressed to Takaki from Risa, which reads as follows:

I love you even now. I think I will always love you the way I do now. To me, you’re a kind wonderful person that I look up to even though you seem a little distant.

When I started to go out with you, for the first time I found out how easily the human heart can be taken over by another. I felt as if I was falling in love with you everyday. Every word you wrote in your e-mails made me happy or sad. I know you got jealous and troubled over many trivial matters. I’m sorry to say this but I think we’ve both gotten tired from it all.

About half a year ago, I wanted to tell you all this using various methods but no matter how, it never went well. I know you love me as much as you say you do. However, I think our ways of loving people maybe different. I could feel myself starting to suffer a little because of that difference.

  • After graduating from university, Takaki moved to a new apartment in Nakano, Tokyo and began his career as a system engineer at a software company in Mitake, which handled the development of a communications system for mobile phones.

  • Isolation is probably a common characteristic for software developers, but I’m probably a little spoiled from working in a lab where there is open communication, and we have weekly lab meetings. Of course, there are days when no one’s at the lab, especially when everyone is working on grant proposals and conference publications, and only I’m around to work on my simulations.

  • Irony is me having a very similar setup at the lab. I use a Cinema HD 27-inch display as my main monitor and have a tiny little Dell 19-inch monitor hooked up to the side as a secondary display. The two screens help, and as of late, I’ve finally mastered the debugging tools in Xcode, to the point where I’ve been able to find and fix exceptions being thrown by the main application that actually arose as a result of my error.

  • Life feels terrible when it feels like one is merely grinding towards some unknown objective. Takaki works, but he doesn’t really understand what the source of his melancholy is. Since I wrote this review for my website year, I’ve presented at symposiums, gave a thesis defense and attended multiple events (both faculty and get-togethers with my friends). In the process, I think I’ve become more social and more capable as a speaker in general.

  • When Takaki first met Akari, she was very pretty and he was very lonely. Now, he’s pretty lonely.

  • At the time of writing, I’ve seen all of Makoto Shinkai’s films and shorts. The earlier films are definitely more melancholic, while the later ones are more optimistic. Five Centimeters per Second represents the most heart-rending one to watch. I’m wondering if displeased fans wrote him, asking him to write happier stories.

  • Takaki walk takes him to a convenience store: upon entering, he hears “One more time, one more chance” playing on the radio. The lyrics begin evoking memories of his past.

  • Even after arriving in Tokyo, Akari continues the dream where she was walking along that great snow plain together with Takaki. She was prepared the boy she loved would go somewhere far away the day she received Takaki’s letter to meet up. Even so, when she thinks about how the kind Takaki would leave within the dream, she would feel lonely and worried as if peeping into the giant hole of the cherry blossom tree before them. She wishes the snow were cherry blossoms and that they had managed to pass that winter together so that they could have lived on in the same town, gazing at the petals.

  • The space probe that Tohno and Kanae had seen launching has finally arrived at Neptune after nine years. This particular probe looks strangely like the Voyager probes: The real-world equivalent, Voyager 1, became the first man-made object to enter interstellar space on August 25, 2012 and moves with a velocity of 17 km/s.

  • The One More Time, One More Chance montage begins here. The song itself is a single by Japanese singer Masayoshi Yamazaki that was released on January 22, 1997.

  • The lyrics to the song make it easier to enjoy the scenes, but they appear to be a part of the video itself.

  • Takaki walks through the crowds on Christmas Eve alone. In Japan, Christmas Eve is supposed to be time for loved ones to express their love; thus, for single people around my age, Christmas Eve in Japan has got to be a painful experience, hence my preference for Victorian Christmases.

  • So begins another brisk winter morning over Tokyo: careful inspection finds that this is exactly the same place as in the image I have from act one.

  • In my old review, I refer to Takaki by his family name. I’ve gone through and fixed every instance of that here for consistency’s sake.

  • Akari’s first day at her new junior high, away from Takaki. She is eventually able to move on and take advantage of the future, something Takaki doesn’t succeed in doing until the very end of the final act.

  • Back on Tanegashima at around the same time of year, perhaps in a different year, Kanae rushes after Takaki in the hopes that she is able to converse with him.

  • The pink letter at the top is one of the letters from Akari. In the present era, exchanges between individuals, and even love confessions, take place in the cold, impersonal cyberspace. Instead of transferring our feelings onto a page using ink, our feelings are now carried by electronic pulses representing ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

  • Akari looked very much forward to receiving letters from Takaki after she moved to Iwafune, as evidenced by her willingness to grab the mail even in a downpour. In the present day, I can type out my strings, and then let the OS convert those into something broadband can send to my recipient. There’s nothing particularly romantic about that.

  • For those who are wondering why I spelt 遠野 貴樹 as “Tohno” rather than “Tōno”, I know that the latter is technically correct, but the former is easier to type. His family name approximates to “Precious and Free Tree of Eternity”.

  • In general, I believe that love confessions are best executed in person, then via letters, then phone calls, and lastly, internet.

  • As time wears on, Takaki’s correspondence with Akari becomes a distant memory.

  • It can be said that Takaki is oblivious to love from anyone other than Akari. He has a girl who practically follows him around everywhere, and they are as close as any couple. She is obviously head-over-heels in love with him, and he simply sees her as a friend.

  • Here, Kanae floats in the water after falling off her surfboard yet again. She becomes a nurse following her graduation from high school. To find out what happens to her in greater detail following high school, beyond Takaki’s return to Tokyo, the manga is required.

  • A scene depicting Akari’s graduation from junior high is shown. A sharp ear (or good speakers) allows viewers to pick out Aogeba Toutoshi in the background when Akari and Tohno graduate from elementary. This song is traditionally sung at graduation by students to thank their teachers. Those curious to hear an excellent English variant can do so in the English dub of Azumanga Daioh.

  • Takaki heads to the airport and prepares to move back to Tokyo to pursue further studies. I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking. I’ve noted in my talk about Someone’s Gaze that airports are a place of separation and reunion. In Kanae’s case, it’s the former.

  • Takaki’s life as a post-secondary student seems to be slightly less fulfilling than mine. Despite never having dated anyone, I was able to get two funding grants for research over the course of four years, presented my research at four different symposiums and submitted a publication to a journal, which was then accepted.

  • Every morning, en route to campus, I get a view of the city center as my bus drives onto the apex of a hill. Despite being a smaller city, we have a lot of high rises because the city is home to many head offices for oil companies.

  • Takaki’s previous experiences in dating leave him somewhat cautious with Risa: he feels that things are happening too quickly and holds back, but Risa feels that he’s not opening up to him as a result.

  • Despite spending much time and building a substantial relationship with Risa, Takaki eventually breaks up with her, around the same time as when he quits his job.

  • From the movie alone, I had the impression that Akari was the very reason why Takaki was so depressed and ended up the way he was but the novel shows us that this not entirely true. Takaki picked up smoking and alcohol from building up contacts and just hanging out with friends. Then the pressure at work just got to him and he got burnt out. However, at the bottom of his despair, we do still find him thinking back to Akari and her words of encouragement.

  • At the day’s end, Takaki simply wanted someone who could say the words he wanted to hear and basically understand him: so his relationship with Akari may have simply set some high standards with him. In my case, though this may bother some, my words of inspiration come from my old science instructor and mirrored by at least two others, telling me that “trying your best is all you need to do” before particularly daunting task.

  • At the end of the day, they’re right. My old review challenged that, but having faced down a thesis defense and spoken at four research symposiums, I understand that stepping forward and putting forth my best fight is sometimes all that is necessary. The quotes above have been fielded elsewhere on the internet: readers found the original post to have provided a reasonable explanation of this final act, and I am most happy to hear that my content has helped at least some people.

  • Kanae heads home from the airport after Takaki’s departure. Kanae’s final actions suggest that that she was able (slowly) to move on, and the manga confirms this to be the case (albeit, she is seeking some closure in the manga but is nonetheless doing alright). Takaki sincerely regretted what he done to Kanae, he knew exactly what was going on and did not try to cut off early, although that is probably a consequence of being kind to those around him.

  • I remember at least one contributor TV Tropes felt that Akari was unhappy with her marriage. There’s actually nothing to back that assertion; she is genuinely happy with her husband (as indicated in the novel), and here, she is just feeling a little nostalgic and chooses to go for a walk. I’ve since made the necessary corrections to the page to ensure other viewers are not confused by the discussion presented there.

  • Life moves on for everyone, whether we like it or not. The montage does a GOTO command (something I’ve never used too heavily in my coding) right back to the scene at the railway crossing, except this time it shows us how Akari gets there. When the train passes, Tohno is content to keep walking. The ending varies depending on the person, and as I am an optimist, I am inclined to believe that Tohno will find his happiness in life. Almost anyone can find happiness if they genuinely want it; rather than waiting for it to come, one may be more successful once they take up the initiative to actively seek it.

The last act is titled Five Centimeters per Second, taking place in the modern age (technically five years ago at the time of writing). This act was quite difficult to follow and was all over the place, with the final montage depicting some events that could not be readily accounted for without reading the novel. Perhaps as a result,  the ending is ambiguous with respect to how the different characters feel about their current circumstance, and offers no explanation of how they got there. Conversely, once the novel is read, everything makes sense: Tohno has gone through a few other relationships, but isn’t really able to realise their worth because his heart is still yearning for Akari. However, he is able to move on after a few years. Similarly, Kanae becomes a nurse and takes on a more decisive personality: while this isn’t given in the final act, the manga addresses this sufficiently. The acts in Five Centimeters per Second remain strong right up until the end, after things get turbulent, but armed with the novel and manga, the ending suddenly makes sense; being set to Masayoshi Yamazaki’s “One More Time, One More Chance”, the montage is fleeting and reminds viewers of how time will fly as we age, reminding us to balance stopping to smell the roses and appreciate what is in front of us, while at once, taking up the initiative to constantly better one’s situation and make the best of the hand we are dealt.

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