The Infinite Zenith

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

Finding Takaki’s Answers in Five Centimeters per Second: One More Side, or, Insights From a New Perspective

“Reality is brimming over with beautiful things, brilliant feelings. How many of them have I been missing?” –Takaki Tohno

Until now, the final act of Makoto Shinkai’s Five Centimeters per Second remained a bit of an enigma, leaving viewers with questions about Takaki Tohno and his ultimate fate. The animated film, which premièred in 2007, had three acts that detail a different stage of Takaki’s life, from the moment that he met Akari Shinohara and their falling in love, to when he moves back to Tokyo as an adult. The existing misconception is that since meeting Akari, Takaki had never been able to truly let go of her when they separated, and this in turn negatively impacted his ability to connect with those around him in the present, whether it be the athletic and cheerful Kanae Sumida, or Risa Mizuno, a lady he meets through work. The claim that “Takaki still longs for Akari to the detriment of his lifestyle” and that he is “unable to cope with his feelings for Akari” persist even after a decade has passed since its premièred. Five Centimeters per Second‘s third act does indeed show Takaki as being downcast and depressed, but one spring day, when he decides to take a walk under the morning sun to clear his mind from his tasks, he has a seemingly chance encounter with Akari. As he turns around to look back, a train passes through; once the train passes, Akari has gone, but Takaki merely smiles and continues with his walk. This dramatic contrast appears to contradict the gloom and misery that Takaki had experienced earlier, leaving viewers to wonder why a glimpse of Akari would be enough to undo the loneliness Takaki was suffering. While the film left many aspects ambiguous, creating a highly poignant message amongst viewers who incorrectly counted the film where “that actually resolving things was never the point”, supplementary materials, taking the form of two novels and one manga, provided an answer to these otherwise forgotten questions, where analysts and reviewers had originally been forced to conclude that the story’s outcome was “ambiguous”.

In particular, the novel One More Side is of great worth in helping to determine what Five Centimeters per Second sought to accomplish with its story. Originally published in 2011, and receiving an English language publication only in 2019, One More Side presents the Five Centimeters per Second story from different perspectives. The first act is told from Akari’s point of view, painting her as being quite shy and finding solace in Takaki’s kind and reliable company. The second act shows that Takaki was actually quite directionless during his time as a high school student and, while the film may not have shown it, he found himself wishing to be closer to Kanae. The third act shows how his past regrets only occasionally haunt him, and his inability to connect with others stems more from his personality of wanting to push forwards no matter the cost. At work, Takaki thus suffered through difficult deadlines and unyielding product managers who were unsympathetic to what his suggestions were. This placed a great deal of stress on Takaki, and ultimately led him to break up with Risa. Reading through these new perspectives, it becomes clear that Takaki is not pining for Akari per se, but rather, the melancholy he has stems from being unable to properly find his footing at work. These are subtle details that the film conveys through its use of colour: by the time Takaki becomes a freelance developer, the blues and grays dominating the palette are replaced with the brighter hues of spring, indicating his improved well-being. This comes with him finding the freedom to work at his own pacing and take control of life; Takaki hints throughout One More Side that he dislikes losing control of his situation, stemming from the fact that he’d moved numerous times as a child. His dissatisfaction with his old job thus came from lacking the control to make decisions for the better, and by becoming a freelance developer, being able to set his own hours, pacing and clients afford him with the control that he sought from life.

Additional Remarks

  • I vaguely remember one reader asking me if I had read One More Side a ways back, but at the time, I did not have access to this. So, when I’d learnt that One More Side was actually available at a local bookstore, I hastened to pick my copy up. The book, classified as a light novel, offers insight into Five Centimeters per Second that even the novel adaptation of the movie and manga do not possess: it is an essential read for anyone who wishes to get more out of their experience with Five Centimeters per Second. Spanning 240 pages, I bought One More Side a few days before midsummer’s eve along with the first two volumes of Harukana Receive‘s manga, and read through it over the past few months.

  • The biggest takeaway from One More Side‘s first act is that Akari was very much drawn to Takaki for his kindness and fondness for books. As a transfer student, Akari found herself unable to fit in with other students, and found solace with Takaki, who similarly found it tricky to relate to others. Their common interest in the sciences brought them together, and both had envisioned spending their time as middle school students together, although this was cut short, and Akari felt as badly as Takaki did about their helplessness in the situation. With the newfound information, I hope that folks looking for something like “5 Centimeters Per Second ending explained” or similar will find this post useful.

  • Besides the myths that Anime News Network perpetuates about Five Centimeters per Second that have made their way to Wikipedia and other tertiary sources, speculation at places like Tango-victor-tango can leave folks with conflicting, contradictory information. For instance, some fans at tango-victor-tango speculate that Akari’s parents were completely disapproving of Takaki. One More Side gives no indicator to suggest that this is true whatsoever, and instead, the reason for their lack of contact once Takaki moved to Tanegashima was simply because their lives were becoming busier to the point where sending mail no longer was practical.

  • In One More Side‘s second act, Takaki’s perspective is given in great detail; while the film presented him as seemingly in control of his life, which impresses Kanae, it turns out he’s about as lost as she is, but has a different way of showing it. The novel also confirms that the girl in his dreams is not Akari, but rather, an abstraction of someone he wants to be with; Takaki entertains thoughts that it would be nice if this were Kanae. With this, a long-standing question is addressed, and there’s one fewer ambiguity for folks to deal with. Takaki’s thoughts on Kanae are also provided in greater detail, and it suggests that he was actually hoping to get to know her better.

  • With everything said and done, One More Side is an indispensable read for anyone who enjoyed Five Centimeters per Second but felt shafted by the ending. The fact that there’s an official English translation now means that the story is more accessible overall. It’s taken twelve years for all of the pieces to fit into place, and One More Side provides the insights that fans deserve. This short post is now in the books, and I expect the next time I will be writing about Makoto Shinkai will be for Tenki no Ko, which released in July and for which the home release still remains unknown.

While Five Centimeters per Second is largely counted as a love story, it is more appropriate to approach it as a drama about life in general, and specifically, about control (or lack thereof) of one’s situation. The speed at which cherry blossoms fall, then, becomes not merely a metaphor about falling in love and falling out of love, but about how people’s fates are as transient and fragile as the cherry blossom, whose downward trajectories are stochastic and dependent on things like wind, which the cherry blossom petal itself is powerless to influence, much less control. Makoto Shinkai mentions this in other materials, adding credence to the idea that Five Centimeters per Second‘s theme is more broad than that of a love story. The ending scene where Takaki reaches reaches the train crossing on that spring day and encounters Akari, has a simple and profound explanation: Takaki smiles because he feels contentment at being able to fulfil his original promise to Akari. Their original promise, to see the cherry blossoms together again, is to be taken in a literal sense; viewers analysing the scene have over-scrutinised everything in Five Centimeters per Second and somehow ended up with the conclusion that seeing the cherry blossoms together was a poetic metaphor for getting married and spending their futures together. However, One More Side shows that Takaki’s memory is quite keen, and his smile comes from having satisfied their original promise, whereupon Takaki realises that he’d always had the initiative to take charge of his situation. The additional insights offered by One More Side allows audiences of Five Centimeters per Second to gain closure regarding Takaki, who unambiguously leaves the novel feeling happier, more content and ready to take on the future. In other words, after more than twelve years since Five Centimeters per Second premièred in Japanese cinema, the answer to whether or not Takaki got a happy ending is a resounding, decisive and well-deserved yes.

20 responses to “Finding Takaki’s Answers in Five Centimeters per Second: One More Side, or, Insights From a New Perspective

  1. jsyschan November 16, 2019 at 19:17

    I have the novel myself, and I haven’t had much of a chance to read it, though I try to keep it in good condition. I’m glad to read about your thoughts on it. I was very curious about how other fans interpreted the ending.

    I think you might have mentioned it in a previous post, but have you looked at the manga of the film? It was a nice complement to the film, and the bonus chapter at the end doesn’t feel out of place.

    Like

    • infinitezenith November 16, 2019 at 19:38

      Likewise, it’s good to see your feedback, too. I hope you’ll have a chance to read One More Side, it’s very genuine and heartfelt.

      I have read the manga in full, it is indeed an excellent addition that adds to the story’s overall message 🙂

      Like

  2. Aumi November 30, 2019 at 19:37

    The novel helped answered a lot of questions I had, especially about Akari’s POV. Have you read/watch Voices of a Distant Star? I have yet to get my hands on that book. Once you mentioned falling cherry blossoms I immediately thought of the randomness and the natural world in Thomas Hardy’s novels. And good for Takaki.

    Like

    • infinitezenith November 30, 2019 at 21:47

      I’ve watched Voices of a Distant Star, and I think the novel’s English translation is a relatively recent release, only available since July 2019. I’ve not read the novel for myself yet, but if I had to guess, the novel will similarly offer insights that augment one’s enjoyment of the film.

      Like

  3. Pingback: Jons Creator Showcase: December 2019 Edition – Mechanical Anime Reviews

  4. ospreyshire February 2, 2020 at 08:57

    I didn’t even know such a thing like this existed for 5cm. Good job on this post!

    Like

  5. Alexandre Berthelot March 26, 2020 at 10:18

    I just finished reading your review and it filled the void in me (caused by 5 cm per second), I never thought such a good review could exist, your work is amazing !!!

    I searched for so long, a review who take into account the novel, the film and the manga, especially five centimeters per second : one more side. I didn’t find much review about it, but with your review, you answered all my questions, I’m feeling better now. I was feeling bad for Takaki and Kanae, they were the only persons who weren’t happy, and Akari was the only one who succesfully moved on. It feel nice to see someone sharing his point of view, with an amazing amount of arguments, it feel like you’re adding something else to the story, and this is exactly what I was looking for, more content about the story. I also want to ask you something, do you think Takaki and Kanae are together after the story ? If I recall correctly, you said something like Kanae was shocked in the end of the manga because she saw a person, but she know (normally) just Takaki in Tokyo, I am eager to know if you can confirm that. I want to confort myself with the idea that both of them are happy after the end of the anime/movie/novel.

    In conclusion, I just wanted to compliment you for your amazing work !!

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith March 26, 2020 at 10:25

      Thank you for taking the time to come by, and I’m very happy to know I was helpful 🙂

      In the manga, I believe Kanae does end up visiting Tokyo to find Takaki. While things are left ambiguous there (their meeting is not shown), the Takaki at the end of the novel is content, happy and looking at the future with an open mind. At the very least, he will have a honest and long-awaited conversation with Kanae. I think that here, Makoto Shinkai intends for us, the readers, to fill the gaps in: no one really knows where life will take us, but it is what we make of it, and I’m inclined to say that both Kanae and Takaki will find their happiness, whatever form that may take.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alexandre Berthelot April 9, 2020 at 13:28

        I thought I would receive an email after your response but I have not been notified, so sorry for the late answer ! (I didn’t think you could answer in 10 minutes lol you do awesome content and you answer quickly, you are truly amazing)

        It was exactly the answer I was searching for, I can sleep well now that I know that Takaki isn’t depressed at all in the end, I didn’t read the novel so I couldn’t really tell. I’m so glad that they will surely find happiness even with all the problems they went through, they deserved nothing but joyfulness.

        Thanks for your reply and all your work, have a good day and good luck !

        Liked by 1 person

        • infinitezenith April 9, 2020 at 13:30

          I’m very glad to have your feedback and are happy to hear you found your answer 🙂 On WordPress, I’ve never made use of the “email me on reply” feature before, but in experience, email servers can be a bit slower. I can reply almost instantaneously to comments since I’ve set up the mobile notifications, and at any rate, I like to ensure everyone is replied to as quickly as possible. All the best!

          Like

  6. Jay October 1, 2020 at 10:14

    Hello bro.. will really appreciate if you can share a PDF
    🙂

    Like

  7. Stephanie October 10, 2020 at 04:28

    Wow. All I can say is thank you for this amazing review. I watched the movie a few days ago and was left broken. I thought it was obviously an amazing film with a deep meaning which was exactly the type of film I was looking for and although I loved it, there was a small part of me that wished I never watched it because of how sad it left me. Especially after reading reviews that had explained that the visions in his dreams were Akari and that he had never really moved on. The thought of Akari moving on and finding happiness while Takaki was left depressed and longing for her even after 10+ years of not speaking or seeing her played on my mind. I often found myself randomly thinking about the movie while going on walks or doing the dishes and as soon as I did an instant wave of sadness would overcome me. From what I had seen in other reviews, the last scene at the train was him finally realising he needed to move on and although that was his “happy ending” I couldn’t stop thinking about him wasting over 10 years of his life longing for Akari. But thanks to your review, I realise this was not really true and there is a lot more to it, especially that he wasn’t just depressed, thinking about her for over 10 years.

    After this review, the hole in my chest has been filled. I finally understand a lot more and misconceptions have been solved. I am so glad I came across this because if not, I think I would have spent the next 3 weeks thinking about the film. I will DEFINITELY be purchasing the novel so I can finally be at peace and thanks to your review I am so excited to start reading because after finishing the movie I was looking for something more that would give all 3 main characters a somewhat happy ending (when I say happy ending I don’t mean them ending up together because that would be unrealistic, but I mean for them to be content in their life and in control, excited for the future).

    Although I am just a 15 year old girl who hasn’t experienced much in life yet, I often find myself thinking if I will ever experience the type of love you find in anime and sometimes I get sad thinking that such things do not exist, and that if I ever were to find something like that, I would never let it go. This is mainly because of anime I watch where they find love at a young age and end up together/get married. After watching the film it made me realise that it is unrealistic to think/want to find love at a young age and be together forever (which is honestly great because I think it is unhealthy of me to have such high expectations, especially since I have so many other things I should experience as a teen). I realise people are there to teach lessons and leave happy memories and that I shouldn’t ponder on the future and live in every moment I can, because I never know when I will have to move on and continue with my life. Knowing that all three characters DO get a happy ending and find meaning in their life, makes me really happy and excited for my future because I now know that I can experience amazing things and not have to hold onto them forever. Honestly this film and novel (which I will soon read) has been a life lesson for me and I am so happy to come across it, especially this review.

    Once again, thank you and sorry for the life story! I don’t really know where else to express my feelings so I kind of just blurted things out. Although I am so young, I too find myself longing for something more and finding out meaning in life, so this kind of (sorta) hit home and I just had to leave my thoughts on it. I am so excited to purchase the novel! Have a good weekend and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • infinitezenith October 11, 2020 at 22:45

      Thank you for taking the time to write such an insightful comment! I’m immensely happy to learn that this post was useful for you, and I do hope you’ll enjoy One More Side. If I may, I’ll share a small anecdote of my own. Like you experienced, Five Centimetres per Second left a considerable impact on me when I finished watching it for the first time some nine years ago, making me aware of a hole in my life that led me down the path of falling in love with someone, who became very dear to me, and whom I confessed my feelings for. However, things have a knack of going south at the worst times: right after I did so, they departed for a homestay in Japan and ended up meeting someone abroad.

      Romance is one of those things that are desperately tricky to get right, and can disintegrate in the blink of an eye if it is not well-cultivated and lovingly maintained. My experience in this department has been met with heartbreak and forgotten promises. I see a shadow of myself in Takaki: while romance has not been either of our strengths, what matters most is being able to take the initiative and affect positive in our lives, whether or not there’s a special someone around. This is the message that made One More side so compelling; the book shows that Takaki is so much more than his promise to Akari, and this is an encouraging thought.

      You’re still young, and there will be plenty of time to learn and explore. The world is also vast: keep an open mind, and you will find that special person to share your future with! In the meantime, One More side is something that is well worth the purchase, answering lingering questions that might’ve arisen from watching Five Centimeters per Second. I certainly wish I had been able to read this novel after finishing the movie. Finally, I similarly wish you the best 🙂

      Like

  8. Vitor February 28, 2021 at 15:57

    but why didn’t akari wait for tataki in the final scene?

    Like

    • infinitezenith March 2, 2021 at 22:20

      I believe that it was because she had moved on: while Akari hopes that Takaki is doing alright for himself, I don’t think she would’ve recognised Takaki.The spark when the two had been thirteen, was no longer there, and while Takaki had been her first love, it eventually became a memory.

      Like

      • Hendri Kurnia March 10, 2021 at 10:12

        Untill now,i bit curious about her sorrow expression on the train or the station after she found out her letter that she couldnt give it to takaki,i read it in the novel that she would be unfaithfull if thinking of another man while she already had fiance.

        perhaps,it just my imagination…after she found out that letter and going to tokyo to meet her fiance,she wished to see takaki once again in her way to tokyo, just like she catch a glimpse of takaki after she run down to the escalator.

        it just my imagination dont take it seriously,i guess i’ll read fanfic of this series later to satisfy my curiousity

        Like

    • hendri kurnia March 29, 2021 at 06:59

      Im done already read all of this work,and why akari didnt wait for him is,that because she is already married with yuichi (her cowoker in the departement store)

      What give me bad taste is,in the 1st page of one more side novel,she had lingering feeling for not giving the letter to takaki,even she imaginating herself could go back to her chilhood time to tell the young herself to give the letter to takaki,regret and cant forgive the young herself give me bad taste,but she cant do anything,she is already married

      Like

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