The Infinite Zenith

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

Cross Road- Reflection on a Makoto Shinkai short film

Miho (Ayane Sakura) and Shouta (Kensho Ono) are high-school students preparing for their  entrance exams for university in Tokyo. Miho comes from an island without even one cram school, while Shouta lives in Tokyo and works a part-time job. Both are striving to pass the exams so they can enter university. The pair enroll in Z-Kai’s correspondence education courses, and their lives cross before they realise it.

  • I originally had some thirty-six screenshots captured for Cross Road, and from that collection, picked ten to showcase for this talk: as beautiful as it looks, this is a two-minute commercial, and I don’t think I can justify allocating twenty images to talk about something that’s only two minutes long. Then again, I would probably have difficulty coming up with figure captions for many images, given Cross Road‘s short length.

  • While commercials in North America typically disenchant me from buying something, there are occasions where a commercial does impress. I find that the best commercials are focused entirely on the product and its functions, rather than implying that having a product will have associated benefits.

  • As is typical of something bearing Makoto Shinkai’s involvement, the interior designs of the different rooms and houses are nothing short of spectacular. What we have here is a commercial with better graphics than most anime.

  • I have no experience with the Japanese education system whatsoever, having received all my education in North America. However, I imagine that of all the exams and academic experiences I have, the MCAT would come the closest to rivaling the Japanese post-secondary entrance exams in terms of difficulty. I’ve alluded to taking it in the passing numerous times in earlier posts; some readers are probably still uncertain as to what my current occupation or specialisation really is, given that I’ve also mentioned that I do software development for related coursework and research. I will do a talk on that at some point in the future to clarify this, but right now is not the time to do so.

  • It’s been almost two years since I studied for the MCAT…I recall spending long days hitting the books and teaching myself the content, while applying what I learned from my preparation class to reason out the best answers given what I had studied. The toughest part of the exam for me was the mathematics: I typically depend on a calculator to do most of my work, although for the MCAT, I learnt to perform calculations quickly in my mind. I’ve since forgotten most of what I’ve learnt, having spent all my skill points in thesis-writing.

  • Miho and Shouta experience the sort of joy in understanding the materials they learn. Anyone considering writing the MCAT should take into account this piece of advice that I had received from my friends and presently can endorse: do as many practise exams as possible between registration and exam day. A lot of people fear doing the practise exams for their length and potential outcome, but doing full-length exams under exam conditions really help. On my first practise exam, I ended up with a 22, and on my last practise exam three months later, I got a 33. I ended up doing six practise full length exams altogether, and near the end, my confidence improved as I began consistently scoring 31.

  • Besides practise exams, studying well to learn the patterns in the Verbal Reasoning section is vital. Most medical schools take into consideration the consistency between the different sections of the MCAT (when I wrote it, the sections were physical sciences, written, biological sciences and verbal reasoning): a score of 12-11-12 is more favourable than a score of 14-9-12.

  • As exam day drew nearer and nearer, I developed a cold sweat one evening, and some words of encouragement from my friends helped me get back on track. I still remember every detail of the exam day: our exam was delayed by 45 minutes because of a server outage, and the room was blazing hot as a result of the fans being off. Nonetheless, I trundled on in my exam, and when I walked out, I felt that I had done the best I could. After the exam ended five hours later, the sun was setting, and I left the exam center for an evening out with my family.

  • With the MCAT finished, I spent the remainder of Summer 2012 working on a review article that was submitted for publication a year ago and was accepted in July 2013. How did I do on the MCAT, one asks? While I’m not at liberty to disclose the exact numbers, I think my results were okay.

  • The commercial’s ending is practically begging for a feature-length film, but I doubt this will be the case. The setup in this commercial reminds me of one of the suspended projects one of my friends had: we were working on a short story about two characters who would meet from different backgrounds in university. The project never took off beyond the first chapter, and while it would be a fun project, I would very much like to see how Makoto Shinkai might go about writing such a story in full.

Clocking in at just under two minutes, Cross Road is, strictly speaking, not a short film: it was developed as a commercial to advertise Z-Kai’s courses, but featuring Makoto Shinkai’s artwork, I very much wish that this would be made into a full-on series. The title, Cross Road, originates from the fact that Miho and Shouta come from two radically different parts of Japan, but their pursuit of education has brought them together (to illustrate that Z-Kai does so). If a full-length feature were made, illustrating Miho and Shouta’s journey into higher education and adulthood, I would probably watch it in a heartbeat. Truth be told, I have no idea what Shinkai’s next project is, but I will definitely be checking it out once more news is known.

2 responses to “Cross Road- Reflection on a Makoto Shinkai short film

  1. Jason Chan September 11, 2016 at 22:08

    The best scene in the advertisement, for me at least, was when the brief lull in the music (1 or 2 seconds at most) coincided with the en-masse flipping of pages as every student began his/her exam: it was such a realistic portrayal!


    • infinitezenith September 11, 2016 at 22:10

      It’s a classic exam-taking technique, to look through the examination and see where the easiest questions are. I did that during my MCAT, and in an exam known for its brutality, knowing I could start somewhere was a huge confidence booster 🙂


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