The Infinite Zenith

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

Category Archives: Five Centimeters per Second

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.

A Sky Longing For Memories: Reflections on Five Centimeters Per Second At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Maybe we tried to leave as much memories of ourselves with each other because we knew one day we wouldn’t be together any more.” —Five Centimeters per Second

Perhaps the most enduring of Makoto Shinkai’s movies, Five Centimeters Per Second remains a powerhouse performance even ten years after its original theatrical premiere in Japan back in 2007. Capturing audiences for its surprisingly blunt and unforgiving depiction of love and distance, as well as its unprecedented attention to detail in the artwork, Five Centimeters Per Second continues to endure as a film that moves its viewers with both thematic elements and visuals. In its first act, Five Centimeters Per Second depicts Takaki Tohno’s youth and fateful meeting with Akari Shinohari, with whom he develops a strong connection to as a result of their perceived similarities and interests. However, when Takaki is slated to move to the southern islands, he longs to see her one final time. Making an ardous trek by train, he meets her, and the two spend an evening together before parting ways. The second act depicts Takaki in his final year of high school on Tanegashima. He had befriended Kanae Sumida shortly after arrival, and she is head over heels for him but never finds the courage to make her feelings known to him. Realising that Takaki is eternally chasing something that she does not feel she can offer, Kanae decides to keep these feelings unspoken. In the final act, Takaki is shown to be longing for something that has become abstract by now. His former girlfriend realises this and breaks up with him, and he quits his job shortly after, feeling that even software development cannot distance him from his feelings. While taking a stroll on a pleasant spring day, he encounters someone who resembles Akari at a train crossing. Passing trains separate the two, and the woman has left, leaving Takaki to continue on his walk. As the different acts progress, the detail in which individual moments are portrayed gradually shorten: from the long stills and details of the first act to the fleeting scenery in the final act, Five Centimeters Per Second depicts the increased pacing of time that accompanies age. As events begin moving more quickly, Five Centimeters Per Second suggests that life itself is unforgiving; if one does not adapt their thinking to deal with this perceived change of pace, opportunity will disappear. Consequently, it is up to one to seize the initiative to make things happen rather than solely reminisce. While it takes Takaki some time to realise this, at Five Centimeters Per Second‘s end, the impact of having understood this leads Takaki to smile. Seemingly at peace, he continues walking on.

While nearly universally-acclaimed for its messages and execution, Five Centimeters Per Second has also left amongst some viewers a sense of vagueness concerning the movie’s final act. With its open ending, audiences were left wondering whether or not Takaki was truly happy as he turns away from the train station and continues his morning stroll. However, the acquisition of the artbook A Sky Longing For Memories has yielded the answers to this long-standing enigma. Inspection of the attendant text descriptions offer unparalleled insight into what is going on in each scene, and it turns out that very subtle colour differences in various scenes are meant to provide an additional clue as to what the characters are feeling. In the first act, greys and steel-blues dominate the scenes as Takaki’s despair grows while his train to Togichi is delayed in a snow storm. However, by the time he reaches Akari, the blues take on a gentler hue as the characters share a tender moment together. It is equally important that all of his flashbacks about the time he’s spent with Akari have a rose-gold hue, giving quite literally a rose-coloured view of his recollections to remind audiences that he cherishes these memories, almost to the point of over-emphasising their importance in his life. The second act is more audacious, boldly juxtaposing the dark evening colours Takaki is usually seen under with the bright daylight colours that Kanae surfs under to show that Kanae and Takaki are as different as night and day — she enjoys an active lifestyle that stands in contrast with Takaki’s brooding manner, and the rocket launch reinforces her own feelings that Takaki is seeking for something she cannot offer, by presenting a scene where the brightness of a rocket launch is overcome with shadow as the night settles in. Consequently, the colouration of the final act do much to answer the questions that the dialogue and montages alone do not offer: it opens up brightly, with the gentle colours of a spring day before returning to Takaki’s flashback. These flashbacks are dominated by darkness to mirror Takaki’s growing depression and melancholy. While his dialogue suggests he’s still yearning for Akari, there is no credit for partial answers; it is actually the combined pressure of work and trouble in opening up to Risa, his girlfriend, that impacts his well-being. By the time Takaki is shown on his walk, the colours of a spring day create a much more serene atmosphere. He’s recovering from his melancholy, and the hues in the scenes reflect this — rather than any symbolism in Takaki smiling lightly and proceeding with his stroll, the calm, gentle lighting speaks volumes about how he feels.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Even armed with A Sky Longing For Memories, finding the thirty images for this post proved much trickier than one might imagine: it was a herculean effort to ensure that no two images in this post were duplicated with any of the images from my older Five Centimeters per Second talk from November 2013. Unlike the older review, whose images are hosted at the now-archived Picasa, all of the images in this post are full 1080p, and I will be exploring some of the things that A Sky Longing For Memories: this book offers insight into the film beyond even my own comprehensive discussions. With this in mind, I am not going back and doing a 180-image post covering the whole of the movie again in this post: that would take more effort and time than I’ve got.

  • A Sky Longing For Memories turned out to be an asset whose value is immeasurable, providing insights into Makoto Shinkai’s movies and revealing details that escape ordinary discussion. Here, in the Tōnō residence, a whiteboard can be seen in the background, with Takaki’s mother leaving messages for him. Already accustomed to solitude and distance, Takaki is unlikely to be fully aware of how lonely he is at an early age, and recently, I read an article about how upwards of sixty-five percent of students count themselves as lonely.

  • Aside from more subtle details, A Sky Longing For Memories primarily focused on the development and colouration of different scenes in Five Centimeters per Second. In my original reviews, I was predominantly focused on dialogue and the characters’ actions; I imagine that other viewers were doing the same, since a large majority of the discussions came to similar conclusions about the movie.

  • Thus, even though I’ve offered numerous, thorough discussions on my blog and old website far surpassing any discussions of the film, A Sky Longing For Memories provides a completely different perspective on Five Centimeters per Second. Libraries and bookstores stand as perhaps my favourite places to visit: when I go out, I gravitate towards whatever bookstore or library and can stay there for hours on end. Despite my enjoyment of anime and games, my true love lies in the tomes and volumes where entire worlds and adventures await.

  • The English-language version of A Sky Longing For Memories is printed in Canada and became available in 2015. The original text was released in 2008, a year after Five Centimeters per Second. At the time, it was the complete compendium of all of his works until that point, describing the painstaking effort required to create each of the scenes in the quality that they appeared in. Even though it’s been ten years since Five Centimeters per Second, Shinkai’s artwork continue to retain a similar style to that present in this movie, although the advances of software like the Adobe Creative Suite has allowed Shinkai and his team to take the artwork of his latest movies further than previously possible.

  • Makoto Shinkai’s use of trains permeates each of his works, and while he has no particular interest for a commonplace means of transport in Japan, he feels that their application, in bringing people to faraway destinations, is a romantic one. I can certainly understand this, even though my home city is not on the CN line —  this decision was reached back in the city’s early days, and at present, logistics and cost preclude the possibility of a high-speed rail line between my city and the provincial capital, which is on the CN line.

  • Whereas the scenes featuring an anxious Takaki were of a cold, unforgiving hue of blue as he awaits his train’s arrival in Iwafune, the lighting takes on a gentler, brighter colour once he arrives. This was intended to signify the change in mood amongst the characters, and that with the difficult trek behind him, audiences can relax and appreciate the tender moments between Akari and Takaki.

  • While Akari is depicted as the sort of person whose sense of curiosity matched that of Takaki’s, not much else is known about her personality; Makoto Shinkai’s female characters of old project a sense of beauty and coldness not unlike J.R.R. Tolkien’s elves. Thus, beyond what little is shown of Akari’s character, audiences are given the sense that Takaki had fallen in love with something abstract. This stands sharp contrast with his female leads in and post Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, where characters are flawed and distinct, to give them a more human sense.

  • In the ten years since Five Centimeters per Second released, and with six years having passed since I first watched the film, loneliness and mental health has become a more widely-discussed topic owing to its increased reported prevalence. Ironically, while technologies such as instant-messaging, conversations and social media allow people to stay in touch, they also serve to isolate people from those closest to them. For this reason, I make it a point to hang out with my friends where possible, and also learn to accept my solitude.

  • Their departure here is the last time Takaki and Akari see one another face-to-face in Five Centimeters per Second, and it brings to mind my first great love. The irony of it is that it parallels one of Takaki’s later experiences; like he, I delayed too long in making my feelings known, and a great physical distance separated us, giving someone else the chance to ask them out. Three orbital cycles around the sun later, the wounds have closed. Some measure of physical pain occurs whenever I hear about folks entering relationships or getting married, I remind myself that I can find happiness in different ways.

  • The skyscape depicting a fantastical sunrise on an alien world are, in Makoto Shinkai’s own words, is a sky that he’s sure to exist somewhere in the vast universe. Long assumed to be the tower from The Place Promised in Our Early DaysA Sky Longing For Memories clarifies that this is an planetary ring, composed of small rocky and icy bodies similar to the ones that comprise Saturn’s rings. Shinkai notes that it’s meant to show Takaki’s love for the vast unknown, and with this knowledge, it is possible to shoot down any ill-conceived notions that the scenes signify “astronomical distance”.

  • The island of Tanegashima offers an opportunity for Shinkai to depict verdant landscapes and endless blue skies that likely inspired the artwork in Everlasting Summer. I’ve played through the game once through on my iPad Air 2, although I’ve heard that this is the base version. There’s a complete edition available that seems to be worth playing, and on that note, I might just drop by the discuss Everlasting Summer at some point in the future.

  • One of the curious bits of information in A Sky Longing For Memories is that, despite her monologues indicating her crush on Takaki, Kanae’s love of the outdoors is a healthy one that gives her motivation and drive. Mostly seen outdoors under the beautiful skies of Tanegashima, Kanae might not be fully aware of what her future entails, but she knows how to take care of herself and keep healthy even amidst the internal struggles she faces.

  • By comparison, Takaki turns inward on this island, taking to composing long stories featuring himself and an unknown girl resembling Akari. This is what those scenes set on the alien worlds deal with, being a visualisation of the sort of message he writes while on his phone. To illustrate the dramatic differences between Takaki and Kanae, he is often seen in the shadows of the evening or night sky, while she is seen in full daylight.

  • The Tanegashima Coffee and milk that Takaki and Kanae respectively purchase are based on real brands: they’re actually both under the same brand, “Daily Coffee”. I love the smell of coffee, as a good roast reminds me of the books at a bookstore, and the taste of coffee has always been appealing: I’m big on coffee-flavoured confectioneries and beverages (such as iced milk-coffee), but otherwise, I don’t drink coffee itself owing to the fact that it is a diuretic agent, as well as elevating my heart rate unnecessarily. Although I can work twice as fast under the effects of coffee, I become twice as agitated, twice as jittery and twice as likely to waste time in the bathroom.

  • The differences in lifestyles means that, even when Kanae cannot properly express her feelings to Takaki, and her monologue reveals just how broken up she is about the knowledge that Takaki was seeking someone else, her love for the outdoors and surfing gives her something to focus on. In the manga, she becomes a nurse and even has her own suitor in the years hence. With time, Kanae becomes more confident, and she decides to visit Tokyo to find closure with her old feelings.

  • While an uncommon sight, it is possible for rain to fall simultaneously with the moon visible, and the lighting of the sky in earlier scenes subtly hint at a rainfall later in the evening. By evening, Kanae contemplates what her future might entail, while Takaki reads through a magazine article describing the launch of a satellite probe travelling through space and wonders about the loneliness if the vacuum of space, if the probe does not even encounter hydrogen atoms on its journeys. While it is correct that in deep space, hydrogen does not exist as in the diatomic state, the vacuum of deep space has a density of around 0.1–1000 atoms/cm³, so Takaki’s remarks are probably meant to be taken in a figurative sense.

  • Makoto Shinkai’s characters speak very eloquently in their monologues, almost in a poetic fashion that allow them to precisely articulate their feelings and circumstances. However, these thoughts tend to be more literal than metaphoric in nature and consequently, allow his characters to plainly express how they feel. Instead of dialogue, Shinkai tends to use his visuals and environments to express metaphoric elements, fully utilising the notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words” to present in detail his symbols and motifs.

  • For Kanae, one of the pivotal moments in her act is finally being able to stand on her surfboard: under a vast blue sky, she feels that the conditions are ideal for her to take a shot at surfing. Cloud shadows and movements create the sense of motion, that for Kanae, her time has begun to flow in earnest; she manages to conquer the waves and knows that the time has come for her to make her feelings known to Takaki.

  • Rather than the dreamscapes of Takaki’s imagination, A Sky Longing For Memories clarifies that the rocket launch is intended to represent the nature of Kanae’s unrequited love, punching through the atmosphere on its journey towards the stars. This unusual event on an otherwise ordinary day, depicting a body leaving the earth forever, mirrors the unreachable elements Kanae sees in Takaki.

  • The largest misconception about Five Centimeters per Second arises as a consequence of the structuring in the final act. The opening scenes are of a light colour showcasing Tokyo on a pleasant spring day. Long associated with rebirth, Spring is a season where the world awakens from winter hibernation and brims with activity. Hope springs eternal most strongly in spring, and so, the different scenes here are meant to show a Takaki who is changing, recovering.

  • As such, the conclusion that should be reached at the end of Five Centimeters per Second is that Takaki, while still bearing his memories and losses in his past, is turning things around. He is slowly moving onwards away from the intangible, and as the novel makes clear, Takaki is content with the present, no longer troubled by his lost relationships to the same extent as he is in the act’s intermediate sections.

  • The NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building is visible in the left side of the image here. With a height of 272 meters including its antennae, it is the fourth tallest building in Tokyo, was finished in 2000 and is the world’s second tallest false clocktower. While my home city of just over a million is only a thirteenth of the size of Tokyo proper, the newest building under construction downtown is very nearly as tall as the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building; dubbed Brookfield Place, this complex consists of two towers, with the taller of the two being 247 meters in height.

  • The movie did not show this scene: Takaki dissolves into tears while walking home under the dark skyscrapers of Tokyo in the novel after receiving a message from Risa Mizuno, his girlfriend who is depicted in the third act and remains unnamed in the movie. The novel gives her as someone that Takaki met during work, and the two spend more time together. However, in a message from Risa, it turns out that she finds Takaki to be a bit distant and wonders if he really returns her feelings. This is a recurring theme in Five Centimeters per Second, and owing to the complexities of human nature, it is unfair to assume that Takaki is still longing for Akari after all this time.

  • Instead, it seems that being less expressive of his feelings and a general trend towards being someone with few words is simply a part of Takaki’s personality. He finds it difficult to perceive how those around him feel, and his dedication to is work ends up being a detriment. The Takaki we see is determined, responsible and reserved, blaming himself for losing the people around him while simultaneously expressing a degree of insensitivity: he fits the traits of an ISTJ-type.

  • Akari, through her cheerful letters and warm words to Takaki, unsurprisingly exhibits the characteristics of an INFP personality type. In an earlier simulation, I contended that ISTJ and INFPs can get along well enough in a relationship if some compromises are made (this is something necessary in all relationships). Of course, the Meyer-Briggs personality types are not the end-all for determining the outcome of a relationship: any two individuals in love with one another will find happiness together independently of their personality types if both partners are willing to compromise and walk the future together.

  • In the “One More Time, One More Chance” montage, numerous scenes are shown, with some only appearing for a fifth of a second, to depict the passage of time. Despite this short duration (each scene only has around five to six frames), all of the stills are given the same attention to detail as do the longer scenes throughout the movie. Again, A Sky Longing For Memories is able to provide insight where even the most eagle-eyed reviewers failed to notice: for instance, the mailboxes that Akari and Takaki pass are shown to be on the opposite sides of the screen to reinforce the idea that their lives are quite separated.

  • A Sky Longing For Memories emphasises that the different colours throughout Five Centimeters per Second mirror how Takaki feels. Whether it be the moody dark blues of his train journey to Iwafune, the dark skies he broods under in the second Act, the grays and deep blues following Takaki’s departure from his previous job or the refreshing, warmer colours in the film’s conclusion, each of these scenes are indicative of how Takaki himself is feeling.

  • This forms the basis for my revised conclusion for the theme that Five Centimeters per Second ends up conveying: granted, love and distance are two extremities that can have a non-trival impact on one’s life, and it is certainly true that it is ultimately up to the individual to make the most of things. However, while there might be no conclusive “happy” ending, the ending is by no means tragic or pessimistic owing to the presentation of colour and through Takaki’s actions. Knowing the colours certainly changes the way I view Five Centimeters per Second and also dispels some of the criticisms I previously had about its ending. Thus, in response to this remark made by one “TinyRedLeaf”, who claimed that Five Centimeters per Second was Shinkai’s best film on virtue of its tragedy and costs:

I dislike happy endings in my choice of fiction, in general. I think happy endings are a lie that people actively seek because they can’t accept the shitty mess that is real life. I think good endings are the ones which realistically portray the cost of all their characters’ actions and why, in the end, the choices were worth it, despite what they gave up in exchange.

  • This is not only a narrow world-view demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be human, but it also pre-supposes that our actions have no intrinsic value. In short, it is the basis for Nihilistic beliefs. People like happy endings not because they cannot accept reality, but because it offers a different way of looking at things, one that encourages compassion and empathy for other people. Not all actions necessarily have detrimental costs, and it is fortunate that folks like these are in the minority. There is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for.

  • I’m wondering if Your Name‘s home release will be announced today in response to the fact that it’s the ten year anniversary of Five Centimeters per Second‘s original theatrical première back in 2007. It seems that 2017 is the ten year anniversary for many things (my first anime movie, the release of Gundam 00 and CLANNAD, as well as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare), and with this in mind, there will be several relevant posts pertaining to these milestones in the near future. The next milestone will be for the Ah! My Goddess: The Movie; it marks the first anime movie I’ve ever watched in full, that got me into anime, and in a few weeks, it will have been exactly ten years since I saw this movie in my old high school’s anime club. Regular programming will precede this post: besides a talk for Sora no Woto‘s tenth episode, I’ve also got a second talk about Wildlands open beta, contrasting gameplay elements between it and its predecessor, last year’s The Division.

Ten years is a lot of time, and it does come as somewhat of a surprise that it’s been a decade since Five Centimeters Per Second was first screened in Japanese theatres. However, and perhaps with a degree of irony, themes of distance and time in Five Centimeters Per Second do not quite apply to the film itself, as it still holds a very strong impact on those who’ve seen it. This attests to the exceptional quality of Five Centimeters Per Second — I myself watched the film back in November 2010, on a day when malfunctioning HVAC at the university’s medical campus forced classes to end early, allowing me to go home early and work on an organic chemistry lab on caffeine extraction. I subsequently watched the movie, began wondering about my own prospects on the matters of the heart, and that possibly contributed to a difficult Winter 2011 semester that brought me to the brink of probation on account of a poor GPA. To have had such a substantial impact on me is a non-trivial matter, even if it was a hugely negative one — a film able to impact my world view to this extent is an impressive one, and as such, I count Five Centimeters Per Second as one of the best films I’ve had the opportunity to ever watch. Even a decade after its original release, there remain some individuals who have inquiries about what Five Centimeters Per Second is about — in the six years since I’ve seen the film for myself, I’ve also read the novel and manga. On top of this, I’ve got the artbook; the sum of these resources means that there are few enigmas in Five Centimeters Per Second left to pursue, and as such, I remain most willing to address any queries that other viewers may have about the film.

Five Centimeters Per Second: Final Impressions

Looking back, I can decisively consider Five Centimeters per Second  to be the show that revitalised my interests in anime. By late 2010, besides Gundam Unicorn, I had stopped watching anime and was simultaneously experiencing an immensely difficult academic term. It’s been some three years since that day in late November, and through some of my experiences, some of my impressions regarding Five Centimeters per Second have changed. For one, I no longer see Five Centimeters per Second as a cynical, bitter perspective on reality as I once did, and as such, approach each of the three acts with a far more optimistic mindset.

  • There’s an ethereal quality about this image that words cannot describe: it is one of the scenes in Takaki’s recurring dreams of him and Akari.

Five Centimeters per Second differed from much of the anime I’d seen up to that point, and from the anime I would subsequently pick up afterwards, in that it depicted one outcome of unrequited love as sapping away a young man’s spirit, being a force for which there was no magic-bullet solution. Compared to his previous films, Five Centimeters per Second is set in the real world. There are no science fiction elements as with Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days. Divided into three distinct acts, Five Centimeters per Second tells a self-contained story illustrating Takaki Tohno’s life. Through the vivid imagery and concise use of dialogue, the atmosphere and situations paint a picture of the idyllic days Takaki spent with Akari, the desolation he feels when they are separated, and his subsequent inability to mind his present surroundings. Five Centimeters per Second comes to a close with an open-ended final act: after illustrating various points in Takaki and Akari’s life, whether or not Takaki is able to overcome his previous feelings for Akari is left ambiguous. I myself was left with mixed feelings after finishing the anime, but had the fortune to read the novel. This substantially cleared up the vagueness, and as such, I personally find that the execution of an open ending is most similar to real life in that we are not always completely certain of what tomorrow will bring.

  • Train imagery is featured prominently in the first and final act. They typically symbolise places of meetings, and places of farewell, setting the stages for beginnings and endings. While some Victorian-era works paint trains as the human tendency to destroy nature. In Makoto Shinkai’s case, he uses them to represent places of meetings and a means of connecting hearts together.

  • Three years to the day I wrote my original Five Centimeters per Second, I can proudly say my toes aren’t freezing.

Before I explore the execution of what was one of the most unique I had seen up until that point, I will take discussion towards the graphics. In general, settings in anime are reasonably clean and well-drawn, but Five Centimeters per Second takes things in a different direction. Even compared to his previous films, Makoto Shinkai makes extensive use of detail, especially in his interior shots. There is clutter and personal effects fill living spaces. No other anime even comes close in level of detail (even some six years after its release), save Makoto Shinkai’s own works. The attention paid to detail confers a sense of immersion and makes the experience come to life. Whether it is watching the lens flare of a light in the camera or the ripples across a still body of water, attention is paid to each individual detail. The colours and lighting are fabulous; in its most mundane form, it looks photo-realistic, while at other times, even rivals the most spectacular of real-world phenomenon. Watching Five Centimeters per Second at anything less than 720p wouldn’t do its artwork justice any more than playing a game at low settings.

  • The three distinct acts to Five Centimeters per Second all have different atmospheres and colourations, but are unified by a single thematic element.

  • It’s been a very long time since I last stood in a high school classroom: for me, high school represented a stepping stone towards the future. I have fond memories of doing coursework with my friends, sharing lunch hours together and in fact, was introduced to anime by my high school’s anime club.

If there is a single take-away message from Five Centimeters per Second, it is that this film successfully makes use of a realistic (if somewhat pessimistic) approach in its love story. Things don’t work out, distances grow and melancholy reigns. The first act is among one most moving I’ve ever seen in an anime. While flashbacks make the flow of events a little difficult to follow, the first act does succeed in portraying Takaki’s thoughts and feelings, carefully combining dialogue and imagery. This is essentially the high point of the movie with respect to relationships; events in the following acts are more melancholic in nature. By the end of the movie, while this aspect seems to be missed, Takaki does realise that he can move on and make the most of his current circumstances. On the whole, the plot is sufficiently well-structured to be understood and enjoyed, although the inclusion of the montage at the end may be a little confusing. This detracts from the impact of the ending, making things less enjoyable than it could be, and necessitates that one pick up the novel to gain a little more background.

  • When I was younger, the subdivisions in my city were not so expansive, and I could see magnitude six stars without binoculars. Today, at least four kilometers of subdivision separate me and the city’s edge, and the sky is eternally blotted out by the bright lights in the city.

  • Thus ends my series of posts on Five Centimeters per Second. I hope that being posted here means that these posts will be easier to find, and therefore, more accessible to readers who sought to get a little more from the anime. As a thank-you for having read all of these posts, I have supplied a link to the soundtrack below.

Five Centimeters per Second‘s main plot element was the depiction of Takaki’s life as he matures: many viewers will strongly relate to Tohno’s increasing control over his life as he matures, and also come to reflect on their own goals and objectives in life. The final point of the story is a simple and profound one: that opportunities should always be seized when the time is right, and that regardless of success or failure, one should always be willing to let go and move on. Five Centimeters per Second has a rather more mature feel to it relative to most of the other anime I have seen or are likely to see; for me, this is what stands out about the movie. Unlike most stories, there is no defined happy ending, which leaves the viewers to pick up the pieces long after they’ve turned off their Blu-ray player. I say Blu-ray because this is how the movie should be watched to fully enjoy it: when it was released, it represented Makoto Shinkai’s most beautifully animated work to date (Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below and Garden of Words were released in 2011 and 2013, respectively, and match it in visual quality). Attention and care is given to every minute detail, ranging from the lens flare of a sunset to the LCD crystals on a cell phone. It is subtleties like these that make the movie worth watching, although the movie could stand on its own virtues independent of the art. The story is a simple, yet heart-moving one, speaking of love, separation and time. Takaki narrates the events of the first and third chapters. in a brutally honest manner and explains things exactly as they are, giving the viewers a sense of connection to his character and experiences. Through his eyes, viewers see him mature and come to the eventual understanding that life is about making the most of opportunity and while memories should be cherished, there also exist the possibility of making new ones: it is up to the individual to take that initiative and make this happen.

The Five Centimeters per Second Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Five Centimeters per Second is composed by Tenmon, who also composed the scores to Makoto Shinkai’s previous works. The soundtrack evokes a sense of beauty, wistfulness and melancholy simultaneously, but beyond that, I can’t really find the words to describe it: it must be heard to be enjoyed to its fullest extent.

Track list

  1. Cherry Blossom Extract
  2. Distant Everyday Memories
  3. Irritation
  4. Snow’s Station
  5. Kiss
  6. Feeling of Power
  7. Dream
  8. Poem of Sky and Sea
  9. The Feeling that Doesn’t Reach
  10. End Theme
  11. One More Time, One More Chance (Piano version)

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.

Five Centimeters Per Second: Cosmonaut

Takaki is now in the third year of senior high in Tanegashima, where the Tanegashima Space Center is located. Kanae Sumida, a classmate of Takaki, had fallen in love with him ever since meeting him in middle school but has never had the courage to confess her feelings. She tries to spend time with him, waiting long after school for the chance to travel home together. However, Takaki appears ignorant to Kanae’s feelings and only treats her as a good friend. Kanae observes that Takaki is always writing emails to someone or staring off into the distance as if searching for something far away. It is later shown that Takaki’s emails are not being sent to anyone, and that he has had recurring dreams which feature Akari. After a failed attempt to tell Takaki she loves him, Kanae eventually realizes that he is looking for something far beyond what she can offer and decides not to, though she acknowledges that she will always love him.

  • Tanegashima is a small island south of Kyūshū. With a population of around 33900, the island is where Portuguese muskets were first introduce to Japan. Takaki moves after the events of the first act, and the island itself is incredibly beautiful, with rolling hills and a vast blue sky.

  • Kanae Sumida is the central character in act two. She has been in love with Takaki since he began attending her junior high, but cannot express her feelings to him. Kanae loves to surf and her older sister is a teacher at her high school.

  • I’ve included an exterior shot of the high school for the sole purpose of illustrating how beautiful the artwork is. All of these images are in 720p, scaled down to a width of 640 so it fits on the page.

  • Mopeds are common on Tanegashima: cars and buses are infrequent here, so most students sign up for a license to operate mopeds at around sixteen or so to get around quickly. This is equivalent to a Class VII Learner’s Permit, which is a prerequisite for obtaining the standard Class V Operator’s license. A Class VII is sufficient to operate a moped, although the individual must be accompanied by someone with a full Class V when operating a car.

  • Kanae exhibits unrequited love for Takaki: having fallen for him since the day they met, the novel shows that Kane finds his serious, composed demeanor and kindness appealing. Despite having known each other for five years, Kanae has yet to make her feelings for him

  • Kanae is essentially the opposite of Akari in terms of interests; whereas the former is more athletic and assertive, the latter is more intelligent and graceful. The two never meet during the course of the story.

  • Kanae feels that Takaki is really the centre of all her troubles and she doesn’t want to stay this way forever. She decides she’ll confess her love when she successfully manages to stand on her board again.

  • Kanae finds great difficulty in deciding on her post-secondary plans because of her feelings for Takaki. She feels that it’d be easiest if Takaki were to remain on the island. I remember filling these guys out at the end of high school: I had decided that I would pursue a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. Having attained said degree now, I’m about to embark on the next step and see where that will take me: my training and skills confer familiarity with both software development and medicine.

  • As the world pushes closer together as a result of technology and globalisation, being multi-disciplinary becomes ever more important. Of course, this is the last thing on Kanae’s mind: here, she’s blushing because her friends hit the nail on the head about her feelings for Takaki. Once interactions between Kanae and Takaki are explored further, it becomes apparent that the two are as close as any couple.

  • Kanae typically surfs following classes. She picked up the hobby after being inspired by her sister, but despite having practised for half a year , she hasn’t managed to balance herself on the board once yet. Kanae envies how carefree her older sister is when the two discuss the former’s inability to surf.

  • Takaki was stated to have participated in many activities and was a studious student because he wished to forget about the pain of being separated from Akari.

  • Kanae adjusts her hair hastily before rushing to meet up with Takaki.

  • Sunsets represent the end of a day. Most are content to simply enjoy one, although physics provides an explaination for why sunsets appear the way they do: the change of sky colour at sunset (red nearest the sun, blue furthest away) is caused by Rayleigh scattering by atmospheric gas particles which are much smaller than the wavelengths of visible light. The grey/white colour of the clouds is caused by Mie scattering by water droplets which are of a comparable size to the wavelengths of visible light.

  • I’ve casually noticed that much of the first two acts happen in the rural areas of Japan; the Japanese country side is similar to the great prairies in some places, with the exception that the latter don’t have the ocean view.  On any given week, Kanae finds a handful of opportunities to travel with Takaki back home, although sometimes, their schedules didn’t overlap and they would only meet after class once every two weeks.

  • Upon meeting Takaki for the first time, Kanae finds herself falling in love. The notion of love at first sight is a common storytelling element, and some studies have found that this romantic attraction can be induced in as little as 0.13 seconds. I’m personally inclined to take a look at their figures more closely.

  • Kanae’s desire to be with Takaki is especially evident when she puts in her full effort to satisfy the entrance requirements for the high school Takaki is going to. On the other hand, being bound by no real obligations, I will travel wherever my applications are accepted. I would prefer to stay in my current city, though, for practical reasons.

  • After arriving on Tanegashina, Takaki did not frequent the local convenience store. This soon changes when he meets Kanae, and he opts to dairy coffee every time. I would like to direct the reader’s attention to the sheer amount of detail in this scene. While other anime make their environments clean and sterile, Five Centimeters per Second possesses such detail that it feels like reality does.

  • Kanae takes her time in choosing something, aiming to pick something that would make her look cuter for Takaki, but the latter is quite decisive and usually ends up waiting for Kanae after making his purchase, and because she wishes to remain with him, she typically grabs a yogurt so that she can hurry out.

  • While waiting for Kanae, Takaki is typing out a message to someone. She finds herself wishing that she was the recipient, also resolving to pay full attention to whoever she’s with such that he doesn’t worry about who she’s contacting. In the present day, I notice a great many of my colleagues and friends being distracted by their mobile devices. I make it a point to minimise use of my phone as much as possible while engaged in conversation, with exceptions made under certain circumstances.

  • I believe this is a real convenience store on the island of Tanegashima. When Makoto Shinkai said he wanted to go for realism, he was not kidding: every little detail is attended to, and I’ve heard that some inquisitive folks have indeed illustrated this store is real.

  • When I was filling out my future plans forms, it was a part of my TA component, which as assessed to ensure I had some idea of the future. Kanae is called to the advisory room after submitting an incomplete form: she was looking to stay on the island or move to Kantō (a district in Tokyo), but was uncertain which one because she wasn’t sure of Takaki’s plans.

  • Kanae wonders if  she could obtain happiness just by floating around in the water on her surfboard after another failed attempt.

  • On the same day, while returning home, Kanae’s moped begins to stutter. After spending some time at school, waiting for Takaki to show up, she heads home but encounters his bike on the grass.

  • Takaki tells Kanae that he’d missed her at the parking lot, and in spite of wondering whether he was being honest or not, her heart rate increases.

  • Kanae finds happiness in simply being with Takaki and listening to him talk about his worries, looking at him as he was staring out at the village lights. During the thick of my second year, I was told that life is worthwhile for all the subtle things, such as a lunch hour with friends or watching a sunset. I can appreciate why that is now: most of my friends have gone on their separate ways to pursue their futures.

  • I wonder if there’s a word that describes two people who are close enough to be considered a couple but aren’t formally dating or anything.

  • In the novel, Kanae’s thoughts show that her reason for making this paper airplane was born from the urge to thank someone for letting Takaki be in this world. The paper airplane is made from her questionnaire, symbolising her decision to play things by the ear and see where the currents take her.

  • The lone paper airplane is carried by the winds into a beautiful night sky: Kanae is always uncertain about her future, and her act of making a paper airplane out of her career survey is a prime example of her character.

  • The National Space Development Agency of Japan, or NASDA, was a Japanese national space agency established on October 1, 1969 under the National Space Development Agency Law only for peaceful purposes. NASDA merged with the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) into one Independent Administrative Institution: the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on October 1, 2003.

  • The two are stopped at a railway crossing close to Kanae’s home by the train carrying the components to the rocket. Kanae mentions that the rocket travels at five kilometers per hour, evoking his memories where Akari told him about the speed at which Sakura blossoms fell.

  • Kanae plays with her puppy here, saying that despite her uncertainty about her future, the future will be a friendly one so as long as Takaki is there for her.

  • Takaki wonders how it must feel to be a space probe and travel untold distances without encountering as much as a single hydrogen molecule. Technically, that is not true, as deep space is not a true vacuum, but the journey is nonetheless very lonely. This analogy holds only partially for reality; while some paths to the future are more lonely than others, the initiative of hanging out with people is one’s own decision.

  • Takaki gets in the habit of sending messages to nobody; the text messages he is seen composing earlier is addressed to no one. Later, we find out that this was his way of expressing himself when things were looking dark. I personally play first person shooters and complain to people when things go south.

  • It’s hard to believe that Voices of a Distant Star was done entirely by Makoto Shinkai; even then, the movie is extremely well done. It is not surprising that when he has access to a full team of producers, artists, animators, and the like, the quality of the movie surpasses that of most of the anime I have in my library.

  • If there is a heaven, this would be what it’d look like: a hilly world of grass fields under an infinite blue sky. While not quite as pristine, there is a hill near my place. It’s about a 15 minute walk, and there’s a lone bench up there overlooking the northern reaches of the city.

  • After a talk with her sister, Kanae makes up her mind to play life ad libitum, one thing at a time, having drawn inspiration from Takaki’s words during the night, where he said he was also just doing what he could for the present and future.

  • Kanae expresses envy for her sister, whom she looks up to as a role model for being more mature and attractive.

  • As this photo realistic picture is located in the middle of my middle post, I will let readers in on a little secret; I contributed substantially to the TV Tropes Five Centimeters per Second page, elevating it from a poorly written passage to something that does Five Centimeters per Second proper justice. That page has remained reasonably untouched since my efforts, and in fact, the fact that most of my overhauls have been retained has allowed me to formally end my time on TV Tropes as an editor.

  • There’s something about being able to overcome adversity that makes everything worthwhile.This is the same feeling I got when I first learnt how to ride a bike, and subsequently, the same feeling I get every time I make a significant breakthrough in my research projects.

  • Kanae’s expression is of pure happiness at being able to surf. From personal experience, I constantly joke that a particular task, no matter how challenging, is always more straightforward than trying to ask someone out or confessing one’s feelings for another individual. I say that because with a challenge, everything rests solely on one person’s shoulders (and a bit of luck), whereas love requires two individuals to be realised.

  • Kanae’s elder sister watches on as the former finally succeeds in doing what she sought since the beginning of the act. When Kanae manages to stand up on the board, she feels as if it was the moment she had been waiting for in her seventeen years of life.

  • The second act is titled Cosmonaut, a Russian term equivalent to the Western Astronaut. This title presumably reflects on how forging into the future is similar to the kind of dedication and courage required by those who partake in space travel or are designing vessels to do thus.

  • After successfully standing up on her surf board, Kanae resolves to confess her feelings to Takaki, despite her uncertianity. Here, her friends clearly can see that she’s happy and asks if something happened between her and Takaki, to which she smiles.

  • Kanae’s emotions throughout the second act are similar to that of a sine curve: She is initially excited waiting in the shadows near the parking lot, but when Takaki spots her, her excitement turns to shame.

  • Kanae’s internal conflict stems from the fact that she is unable to tell Takaki that she loves him; she believes he is searching for things far greater than anything she can offer and eventually decides against telling him how she feels.

  • Kanae gets the impression that Takaki would reject her even if she hasn’t said anything, and decides against confessing for fear of rejection.

  • A long time ago, I showed this to one of my friends, and he wondered why Kanae was so hesitant. At the time, I supplied the counterargument that in some cases, we need to think things through before acting: what applies for choosing a job carries over to choosing someone to share the future with.

  • My old review said that crickets were present throughout most of Cosmonaut, chirp loudly in these scenes. Closer inspection suggests they are cicadas, and as they are present in Japan, their songs can be heard during the summer, especially in rural areas.

  • After her botched confession, Kanae feels that Takaki’s strides were more forceful, as if he was angry, even though his expression remained calm and contemplative. While the two continue to walk in silence, the novel reveals a storm of thoughts within Kanae’s mind.

  • As the thoughts start manifesting in her mind, Kanae’s sadness reaches its limits: she finds herself asking many questions: Why were they walking in silence together? Why is he so kind to me? Why do I love him so much? As this builds, she begins to cry.

  • Even the water looks realistic: yes, I included this screencap for the sole purpose of illustrating just how good the graphics in this anime are. Frostbite 3.0 has nothing on this.

  • As Kanae cries, suddenly, a calm sets over all of nature. In the distance, a rocket is launched from the Taneshigama Space Center. The roar of its engines and the exhaust trail it leaves behind cracks the sky.

  • Kanae had originally hoped to watch a rocket launch with Takaki under happier circumstances.

  • After the rocket launch, Kanae comes to the realisation that Takaki was longing for something in the distance well beyond her capacity to give him and that they couldn’t be together from here on out.

  • Takaki and Kanae wave goodbye after the evening of the latter’s failed confession. Takaki leaves the island not long after.

  • Takaki only chooses to tell Kanae about his return to Tokyo, and the two share one final conversation together. Kanae spends the entire conversation in tears, but manages a smile before Takaki sets off. After graduating, the manga depicts Kanae as having chosen a career in nursing, an excellent and respectable field.

  • I had longed to see Kanae’s fate, and the manga was able to answer that question. After saying goodbye to Kanae, Takaki realises that Kanae had feelings for him, and regretted not understanding that sooner. The manga depicts Kanae as having one other suitor, but she decides to visit Tokyo and meet with Takaki one last time before moving forward.

  • The future is uplifting and filled with possibility, but the night after the confession, Kanae Kanae cries loudly while curled up on her futon as she gazes at the moonlight streaming through the windows. At that point, she felt that she would always always love Takaki.

  • Five Centimeters per Second shows us that not all love is met with a happy ending as in other media, coming across as very pessimistic and cynical at times. Despite its brilliant execution and artwork, fans found themselves feeling a great deal of resentment for how Takaki and Kanae’s love never worked out, leaving both feeling melancholic. However, it is important to note that this is but a part of life: whether it be the novel or manga, depictions show us that they have moved on to some extent, and things can look up if one takes the initiative to make it so.

  • Despite our failures and successes, and everything in-between, the world continues going whether we like it or not. This forms the foundation for the final act of the movie.

Cosmonaut stands in stark contrast to Cherry Blossom Extract: whereas the latter was cold, snowy and desolate, the former is far more vibrant and warm. However, even under this accommodating atmosphere, unrequited love lies close by. The focus of this act is on Kanae’s feelings for Takaki and her inability to express said feelings, as well as Takaki’s own yearning for Akari. Despite the two having never met, Akari and Kanae are involved in an implicit love triangle, setting the stage for Kanae’s eventual realisation that Takaki never really thought of her as anything more than a friend. With its beautiful artwork, Cosmonaut is a superb chapter, illustrating what might happen if one waits too long to disclose their feelings. By this point in the story, communication technologies have slowly inched forward, with LCD cell phones becoming more commonplace. The gradual progress of technology is something that viewers tend to miss: the tools Takaki might have found useful did not exist when he needed them, perhaps subtly suggesting how love and yearning are guided by forces beyond one’s control.