The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Takaki Tohno

An open letter for April on Five Centimeters per Second: a short reflection on unrequited love

“Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.” —Washington Irving

I just realised that the post’s title is quite lengthy, but it conveys exactly what this post is going to be about. It’s almost been eight months since I received this comment at my old website; back in August 2014, I discovered in my inbox what was the most moving comment I’ve received about some of the anime I’d written about. At the time, I was not sure I would be able to respond properly; Webs.com isn’t exactly the world’s best platform for starting a conversation, and my heart was still feeling the burn from something that’d happened a mere four months earlier. However, the passage of time has allowed me sleep on things, go back, and provide a proper response for this comment, which I found to be very sincere and optimistic.

Hi! (^_^)

I just want to thank you.. Thanks much from the bottom of my heart. Your article about 5 cm per seconds really moved me especially now that I am feeling this way again. You are such a great writer and I bet, a very nice and sentimental guy as well just like Takaki. I can see it from the way you write. Just like you, I really love the movie.. It’s may favorite anime movie, perhaps for the reason that I can relate so much to the characters especially to Takaki and Kanae. Just to share, for the past six years, I’ve been trying to forget and let go of my first love just like Takaki but I never really had the chance to clearly express my feelings for him just like Kanae… Again, thank you and I really hope that you’ll meet the woman who is meant for you very soon (cause you’ve said that people are wondering why you´re still single up to the point of pressuring you … hehe! I understand the feeling.)

Truly, God bless and take care always!

APRIL (^_^)

  • Why an open letter? I feel that this is something that merits sharing; it gives my blog a more human side, that there’s a person writing out these reviews and articles, and that this person most definitely is not a machine.

April, I would like to first thank you for taking the time to comment on the Five Centimeters per Second article and for sharing your story. I also apologise for taking as long as I did to provide a suitable reply.

In perhaps a rather unfriendly twist of irony, after I rewrote the Five Centimeters per Second post for my blog, I experienced for myself the sort of feelings and emotions that Takaki had experienced. In this open letter, I will also share my story, which begins nearly three years ago, and while most of the details are lost to time, I recall that there had been someone who’d I grown closer to. At the time, I was preparing for an MCAT, and the exam’s daunting nature had in part been tempered because of this friendship; she’d been taking summer courses at the time, and through our conversations with one another, the pressure of our endeavours seemed to be alleviated. That summer came and went, and I entered the final year of my undergraduate program: I never considered expressing my feelings to her at the time because I had an honours thesis to defend and I so, I resolved to do so during the summer. Fate is curious, though; she was set to go on an exchange program, and asked me to ask again when she’d returned. That moment never came, and presently, a year has passed since the day when I understood the reality. Dealing with unrequited love is remarkably unpleasant, and although the literature maintains that it’s a noble thing, there is no escaping the fact that it is painful.

Now that a year has passed, I like to think that I’ve moved forward, and learnt a few things from this experience. It’s more than okay to allow the recovery process to take as long as one needs, whether it’s a week, month or year. With this being said, these feelings of melancholy or despair should not be allowed to overcome everything else; for this reason, the best remedy for that is simply to continue learning and doing new things so that we can continue to matter to people even when it looks like we might not matter to a person. Thus, even though losing someone I never really had is difficult, the attendant despair is not something that’s impossible to overcome. For the present, I’ve merely resolved to continue doing all of the things that I typically do, and allow fate to work its magic; granted, it’s possible to tip the odds, but with my friends and colleagues entering relationships or even marrying, I find that there’s still quite a bit I’d like to do as a single person before committing to a relationship. Tying in with your story, I can say that it’s important to understand why we feel the way we do about the people around us, but, love is one of those things that chance and luck seem to play a great part in, being something that just happens. Consequently, I’m quite certain that you’ll be able to meet the person just for you, as well.

Truth be told, while my Five Centimeters per Second articles are dated, the timeless, ethereal nature of love means that its contents still hold, and the film still moves me deeply because it’s something I can relate to. There’s the additional bonus that whenever I watch Five Centimeters per Second now, I am looking into a mirror: my path looks to be leading me to the same discipline that Takaki is working in. As such, Five Centimeters per Second becomes very personal a movie, but unlike Takaki, who the novels describe as allowing himself to be swept up by the currents, I (or at least, I like to) think that I play a more active role in determining my own future for the most part. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond to my Five Centimeters per Second article, and I wish you the best on your endeavours.

Cheers,

The Infinite Zenith

  • There will come a day when I will focus my efforts into creating a meaningful relationship with someone, but for now, I’ll take things one step at a time and focus inwards first, capitalising on the degree of freedom I’ve presently got. The way I see it, one could lament being single, and then be miserable, or they could look for new avenues to explore, and then, even if they’re still single afterwards, at least they’ve explored said new avenues and have another meaningful experience for the books.

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: Cherry Blossom

Takaki Tohno quickly befriends Akari Shinohara when she transfers to his elementary school. They grow closer to each other due to similar interests and outlooks; for instance, they both prefer to stay inside during recess due to their seasonal allergies. As a result, they form a strong bond; they speak to each other using their given names without any form of honorifics, which is a sign of deep friendship and familiarity in Japan. (This fact is lost in the movie’s translation to English and other languages, which reduces the implied closeness of their relationship). Upon graduating from elementary school, Akari moves to Tochigi, due to her parents’ jobs. The two keep in contact by writing letters but eventually begin to drift apart. When Takaki learns that his family will be moving to Kagoshima, he decides to go see Akari one final time, since they will be too far apart to visit each other at all after moving. He also prepares a letter for Akari containing his feelings. However, Takaki loses his letter during the journey and a severe snowstorm delays his train for several hours. As the two finally meet and share their first kiss, Takaki realizes they will never be together again. Stranded in a shed due to the snowstorm, they fall asleep after talking late into the night. Takaki departs the next morning, and the two promise to continue writing to each other. As the train rolls away, Takaki decides that the loss of his letter is not important anymore after the kiss, while Akari silently looks at her own letter addressed to Takaki.

  • I first heard about Five Centimeters per Second through another developer at the lab, who recommended it to me upon hearing about my interests in anime. He would also later inform me that The Garden of Words was released.  Upon finishing   Five Centimeters per Second, I was left with the same feeling as I had after finishing the Ah! My Goddess movie. Both movies eventually set the benchmark for the quality of anime (and media in general) that I’ve come to consider as worthwhile.

  • Cherry blossoms are a major part of the Japanese culture and symbolise life. In the context of the movie, the rate at which they fall is supposed to act as a metaphor for falling in love, implying it’s a slow, gradual process.

  • This is the opening scene from the movie: in the first act, Takaki and Akari are only 11. While Akari enjoys evoking imagery in comparing the falling cherry blossoms to snow, Takaki has a much more literal pragmatic approach and as such, sees snow as snow, and cherry blossoms as cherry blossoms.

  • Takaki describes listening to Akari’s  telling him about her impressions of the world as being presented in such a manner as to make it sound as though her perspectives could be true.

  • Takaki and Akari corresponded via letters; the story occurs before the prevalence of communication platforms like Facebook and Skype. However, even with our shiny new communication implements, long distance relationships can still dissolve if the parties are not sufficiently mature. On the flip side, mature individuals can make things work.

  • If memory serves, Five Centimeters per Second was the first drama I’d seen. Contrasting most anime, it dispenses with all the “happily ever after” formula and chooses to play things more realistically.

  • The art in Five Centimeters per Second is absolutely gorgeous; this is something I probably will continue to refer to throughout my discussions. Makoto Shinkai is accomplished as an artist, but his art in Five Centimeters per Second improves upon his previous works further because this time around, he had other staff dedicated towards creating the artwork.

  • Great attention is paid to every little detail in the movie, whether it be the grains in the paper Akari used for her letters or the sweeping panoramas that are present in every scene of the movie. This is the first letter Takaki recieves from Akari. He reads it repeatedly and even hides it with his textbooks so that he could peruse it during class.

  • I regard Five Centimeters per Second as the anime equivalent of Crysis; both are made in 2007,  Five Centimeters per Second and Crysis stood out as the very top of their line at time of release, and even in present day, only a few of their contemporaries come close in terms of graphics and art. Besides Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below and The Garden of Words (both of which bear Makoto Shinkai’s involvement), the only series I’ve seen that can really compete with the graphics in  Five Centimeters per Second is Gundam Unicorn.

  • The first act depicts just how close Takaki and Akari are. The two correspond on a monthly basis during junior high after Akari leaves. Through their letters, the two genuinely believe that they are the only ones in the world that understand one other.

  • Takaki receives a question from one of his senior classmates, asking him whether or not that is a love letter or not. He responds that it is not. I remember receiving a letter from a friend who lived quite far from where I am: we had met as a result of having another friend in common and was in regular correspondence during high school, but time and space has led that to be a distant memory. I still have the letter somewhere, but I can’t quite remember where it is.

  • One of the major contrasts between Japan (by extension, Hong Kong) and Canada is the placement of services and shops. I’m a little envious of people on that side of the world, because they can go places and buy stuff without the need to take a bus or drive. When I first watched  Five Centimeters per Second, I didn’t have a driver’s license yet.

  • Yet another evening falls over Tokyo. One unusual aspect of the movie’s first chapter was the flow of time, which flits back and fourth between the past and present while Takaki recounts his story via flashbacks. It takes a little getting used to, but it is indicative of our memories of childhood and how those are often fleeting and difficult to recall.

  • You could practically feel the brisk Tokyo morning in this image. For me, winter days like these are very common where I am, and with sunny mornings, I really don’t mind the cold that much, nor do I mind digging out after a snowstorm. I do mind mornings where the windshield ices over, and days where the temperatures hover close to freezing, causing water to thaw and re-freeze, making the roads downright treacherous.

  • Cool LEDs mark crosswalks: I remarked wishing that my current city had them, but on second thought, those would interfere with the snow removal crews.

  • Takaki constantly dreams of being a bird, flying through the sky above the city by night. In these dreams, he finds Akari sitting by a cherry blossom tree reading a book, and it takes her a while to notice him.

  • In Takaki’s imagination, when Akari is writing her letters, she is always alone, signifying how Takaki singularly believes that the two of them are tied together by fate.

  • The first act focuses on Takaki’s final meeting with Akari before he moves to an island in the south.

  • On the morning Takaki is scheduled to meet up with Akari, it is raining and the skies are blanketed by a single grey lid. With anticipation mounting, Takaki finds himself unable to concentrate on his classes. In living memory, I’m positive this hasn’t happened to me.

  • At the current time of writing, the exchange rate is such that it would cost around 36.40 CAD for Takaki to complete his trip. Iwafune is some eighty-eight klicks from the Shinjuku station, and it takes an estimated eighty-nine minutes to arrive assuming normal conditions. We consider that this rate for the train tickets would not be unreasonable: travelling a comparable distance by Greyhound bus would cost roughly thirty dollars.

  • I can’t place my finger on why reading exchanges such as these is so comforting: even though most of my exchanges happen via a shiny 1080p screen, the effect remains unaltered. I could probably turn this into a proposed project, but that definitely lies outside the domain of my primary research interests.

  • Takaki makes certain that none of his classmates were around before leaving for the station after school. By this point, the temperatures have dropped and it’s begun to snow.

  • Every stop that one has make to travel from Shinjuku (新宿区) to Iwafune (岩舟) is documented well, raising yet another instance of the amount of attention and detail that were paid to this movie. This route can be replicated in real life, of course, although I leave it to only the most hardcore of enthusiasts to undertake. I don’t think there’s anything of historical or cultural significance in Iwafune: it’s a small town in the Togichi district with some 18000 people.

  • Takaki will end up arriving in Iwafune four hours after his stated time: extreme conditions can delay transportation greatly, and as such, I make it a point to leave early on days where weather is unfavourable. Of course, in some cases, returning home is challenging owing to erratic bus schedules thrown off by poor conditions, but safety comes first. I’m much less forgiving about transit operators who disregard schedules and leaves earlier than anticipated.

  • The black G-Shock watch Takaki wears was a gift he received to celebrate his successful entry into junior high. I used to have an Ironman Triathalon watch that dated back to when I was done elementary, but it stopped working three summers ago, and I now have an analogue Roots watch in its place.

  • The decreasing distance between Takaki and Akari evokes his memories of his move from Nagano to Tokyo with his father, when he was entering his third year of primary school. This act is set five years since then: he is now 13. Takaki attributes his capacity to endure the difficult move as a consequence of Akari’s support and hopes that he supported her in equal measure.

  • Takaki and Akari have known each other since grade four, hence the strength of their friendship. The cat Akari is petting is named Mimi, a callback to the name another cat in Shinkai’s earlier work, She and Her Cat. Despite being only six minutes long, it is rather poignant and melancholic in atmosphere.

  • Takaki and Akari discuss the Cambrian age with each other at a McDonald’s restaurant. When I was in third grade, I discovered my interests with the natural sciences, although I did not become more social until my final year of primary school, where I was known among my peers as “The Oracle” for lending assistance to individuals with questions about the course contents.

  • The anxious look Akari  wears on her first day reminds Takaki of his own position shortly after arriving to his new school a year ago. Feeling that they were peas in a pod, Takaki approaches her and found that he got along exceptionally well with Akari.

  • Takaki and Akari’s interests were more mature than other children and so, they did not interact much with the others. They believed that following graduation, they would a new life as junior high students and gain an improved perspective on the world, as well as being more capable of coming to terms with their emotions. Indeed, life is a continuous journey, and even now, there are always new concepts to learn and master. Compared to three years ago, I am significantly more reserved and more willing to consider issues from multiple perspectives.

  • Takaki demonstrates an iron resolve when he runs, hand-in-hand, with Akari after removing ridicule from their classmates and making a hasty retreat. In its first act, Five Centimeters per Second depicts  how love can blossom at any age, even if it is not immediately recognised. The novel presents Akari and Takaki as being highly romantic and idealistic about love, believing that they could overcome any challenge in the world so as long as they had each other. To this end, they studied together to get into the same junior high school after their three years together.

  • I am somewhat resentful of that idealism, of course, because I’ve seen and done enough (more than Behind The Nihon Review’s contributors, anyways) to understand that while skill is necessary for success, it is not sufficient, and that luck sometimes plays a significant factor in determining the outcome of an event.

  • It is Takaki’s first time traveling via train to this part of the prefecture, so he consults a map to find his way. A new leg of the C-Train opened just last year, and I haven’t visited it yet. I’ll probably do so in due course, although the C-Train routes aren’t so complex as to necessitate a map to navigate.

  • A flashback depicts Takaki’s conversation with Akari: after graduation, Akari was set to move to Iwafune, putting distance between the two. After a pained conversation, he had hoped Akari had forgotten about him and regretted telling her to hold her words after she informed him that she was moving.

  • They had these electronic schedules in Tokyo since the 90s to tell travelers when the next train would arrive. The city council gotten around to installing these now, and they are incredibly useful in telling me where the next train is. They’re accurate to around two minutes. Buses rely on preset schedules. Three years back, these were just being installed at train stations around the city.

  • Every time I’m at a C-train station, my mind drifts towards Five Centimeters per Second. Trains are featured frequently in Makoto Shinkai’s films and probably symbolise a dependable means of connecting people together.

  • As Takaki travels further, the delays accumulate. There is an incredible amount of attention paid to the details, whether it be the textures on the ground or lighting effects. Thus, the first act distinctly feels very cold and immerses the viewer in the story.

  • Akari and Takaki part ways after graduating from primary school. She lives around three hours from Takaki at present, but with Takaki set for a move to the southern island of On the third semester, Takaki was soon going to be moving to Kagoshima on Kyūshū island, setting him around two hours from Akari by plane. Unable to bear the thought of this separation, Tohno desired nothing more than to see her once more before leaving.

  • We see an inordinate number of train stations and transfers during the course of Takaki’s journey to Iwafune. In fact, the atmospherics and colours gives  this episode a feeling not dissimilar to that from  The Polar Express. My screenshots remain faithful to the original coloration in Five Centimeters per Second: other sources provided screenshots with a yellow tinge.

  • Takaki’s reaction after dropping his letter is one of the most emotional moments of the film. Upon watching this for the first time, I thought that it was his schedule that he dropped, but the voice-over removes any ambiguity. At this point, Takaki feels that the lost letter would be inconsequential in the long run, and that despite their efforts and beliefs, circumstances beyond their control would probably increase the distance between them.

  • Akari is seen here writing a letter back to Tohno early in the morning. Any imagined scenes are either very obvious or a little hazy.

  • My future is most uncertain at the present, and a year from now, I could find myself studying in a different city. When I close my eyes, a voice tells me it’s going to be fine, so with some effort, I pull my train of thought back towards discussing Five Centimeters per Second, where we have reached the point in the act where Takaki’s train comes to a full stop for two hours. The pain of being unable to see Akari mounts with every passing second, to the point where he wishes that Akari would have gone home rather than waiting for him.

  • The train finally does arrive in Iwafune at 23:00, four hours after Takaki’s planned time of arrival. He enters the station, expecting it to be deserted.

  • For those who don’t mind spoilers, I find this to be probably the happiest moment in Five Centimeters per Second: Akari has been waiting for Takaki at the train station the entire time, and fell asleep prior to his arrival.

  • Sometimes, being able to see someone is in itself a blessing. For an instant, the winter night’s cold and bluster are forgotten as the two reunite after three years.

  • Takaki expresses that the home cooked food and Houji tea was the best he tasted in his entire life. Akari tells Takaki that she made the Obento (Japanese lunchbox) right after she got home from school with a little help from her mother. The novel provides a little more insight onto this matter: when Akari asks her mother for help in making this bento, the latter looked quite happy when she asked Akari who it was for, and Akari merely smiled, thinking her mother understood what was going on.

  • The conversation that Akari and Takaki share belie how much they missed one another, despite never enunciating their feelings. Their conversation brings them to midnight: the station operator gently reminds the two that the station is closing and the two thank him, not knowing that the operator had refrained from disturbing them.

  • Iwafune is completely buried in snow as Akari and Takaki make their way along path lit by lamps in the snow. Takaki is glad that he had grown a few centimeters taller than Akari and watches as she happily runs ahead of him.

  • The snow gently blankets the countryside. Snow is an unusual symbol in that it can represent concepts ranging from love all the way to death. In Key’s CLANNAD and Kanon, snow is simultaneously beautiful and deadly. In both visual novels, the protagonist has a dislike for snow for its melancholy and attendant despair, coming down only on the grayest of days.

  • Takaki and Akari gaze at the Sakura tree that the latter mentioned in her letters to him. This scene is rather bittersweet; Takaki realizes they will never be together again, reflecting on how some relationships in the real world can come and go at the drop of a hat owing to circumstances outside one’s control. I have an addendum to that, of course, now that I’ve got three years more of wisdom since I first wrote this. I add that relationships between mature individuals are far more stable and meaningful, although my opposition towards the idea that high school romance is ‘bulletproof’ still holds.

  • There is a song on the soundtrack, appropriately titled “Kiss”, that this scene is set to. By now, no words can do this scene justice, and I would simply recommend just watching it. On an unrelated note, all of the Five Centimeters per Second posts I have here are standardised to have sixty images each, compared to the variable number of images I had on my old website.

  • This is Takaki’s first kiss, and despite being a source of happiness, this is dampened by the feeling that they will in fact be separated.

  • Akari and Takaki spend the night in a small storage shed, huddled up together in an old single blanket they found on a shelf. This evening will prove to be magical, as the two converse under moonlight until they fall asleep. Someone from TV Tropes has suggested that the reason that Takaki is so depressed later on is that her parents forbade him from contacting her after this by phone or mail. This is wrong: they dropped out of contact simply because of time and space. By high school, Takaki’s focus was purely on his coursework and extracurricular activities so he could forget the despair.

  • Makoto Shinkai beautifully captures a winter sunrise in his art: One can feel both the cold and warmth in this image simultaneously. That reddish belt seen just above the mountains is known as the Belt of Venus, atmospheric phenomenon seen at sunrise and sunset arising from the backscattering of reddened light from the rising or setting Sun. I personally call it the Halo effect, for it reminds me of the lighting in the classic Halo: Combat Evolved mission Halo.

  • Despite only a short sleep, Akari and Takaki awaken the next morning. By now, the snow has stopped, and the two retrun to the station after finishing the remains of their tea. Both Akari and Takaki realise they will be separated from here on out. This departure comes across as sudden for both, and the sense of distance feels amplified.

  • Takaki decides against telling her about his letter, so Akari takes the initiative and says that he’ll be alright. These words will serve as encouragement to him in the future, and Takaki promises to write to her as often as possible once he leaves.

  • Akari assures Takaki that no matter what the future is, that he will be alright. I’ve heard that being said to me countless times, and now, I realise that these people are right. As long as there is effort and motivation, there is hope.

  • For those interested, the letter reads as follows:

To Takaki-kun.

How are you?

When we made that date, we never foresaw how snowy it would be today, did we? It looks like the train is late. That’s why I’ve decided to write this while I’m waiting for you.

There is a stove in front of me so it’s warm here. As always, I keep some writing paper in my bag so that I can write my letters at any time. I’m thinking of handing this to you later. So don’t arrive too early or I will be very much troubled. Please don’t hurry, take your time coming here.

It’s been a long time since we last met. It’s been eleven months. That’s why I’m actually feeling a little nervous just now. What will we do if we don’t recognise each other when we meet? But this place is so small compared to Tokyo so I don’t think that could possibly happen. But no matter how much I try to imagine what you look like in school uniform or soccer clothes, you seem like a stranger to me.

Hmmm, what else should I write? Oh, I know. I will start by giving my thanks. I will write down the feelings I had for you that I couldn’t convey properly. When I transferred to Tokyo in primary four I was really glad you were there. I was happy we became friends. If you weren’t there, school would have been much harder for me.

That’s why I really didn’t want to transfer to another school and part with you. I wanted to attend the same junior high school with you and grow up together. It was always what I had wished for. I’ve gotten used to my school now (so please don’t worry too much about me) but everyday, I would think to myself many times, “How much better would it be if Takaki-kun was here?”

I’m very sad that you will soon be moving to a much distant place. Even though we’re separated in between Tokyo and Tochigi, I have always thought to myself that, “Takaki-kun is within my reach.” I could always have taken the train right away to go see you. But this time, going to the other side of Kyushu is a bit too far for me.

From now on, I will have to learn how to live on well by myself, even though I’m not confident that I can. But I have to. Both you and I have to.

There’s another thing that I must tell you. I’m writing this down in this letter just in case I can’t say it out to you.

I love you. I can’t remember when I fell in love with you but very naturally, I had fallen in love with you before I knew it. The first time I met you, you were a strong and kind boy. You always protected me.

Takaki-kun, I’m sure you will be all right. No matter what happens, I know you will grow up to be a fine kind adult. No matter how far you go, I will always love you.

Please, please remember that.

  • Akari feels that circumstances now preclude her giving him the letter that she wrote, following the first kiss. Readers at least know what the contents of the letter are, thanks to the novel.

  • Takaki heads back home, ending this act and the first section to my reflection.

The Five Centimeters Per Second series of posts will constitute the largest posts I’ve made to date, constituting sixty images per post. They are a direct port of the sections I had on my older website and have been trimmed slightly. I’ve retained most of the images, cutting away those where I had not provided sufficient discussion the first time around. It’s been three years to the day I first saw Five Centimeters Per Second, and the first act, Cherry Blossom Extract was quite emotional in execution. Five Centimeters Per Second can be thought of as being composed of three distinct themes that corresponds with the setting, one for each act. Cherry Blossom Extract is filled with cold imagery, whether it be snowfall or gloomy skies, reflecting on Takaki’s sense of isolation in Akari’s absence. Through perseverance and patience, he reaches Togichi and meets up with Akari one final time, before they part ways forever: the end of act one is the last time the two meet, and the subsequent acts depict just how deep the wounds run for Takaki, who hasn’t moved on even though years have passed. With two years of distance between now and when I first wrote this post for my old website, a great deal has changed in my own life. For one, three years ago, I wasn’t certain of what I would do after I obtained my degree, but I have a better idea now. For the most part, I’ve retained most of the interpretations about the scenes from the website because those haven’t changed. However, there are some personal statements that differ because my Weltanschauung has changed substantially since I was a second year student. This trend will carry over to the remainder of the two acts that I will be discussing, although try to preserve the original text as much as possible, making revisions only as necessary.

Five Centimeters Per Second: A foreword on my revisitation

“I had a bit of a hard time understanding the ending, but thanks to what you wrote, I understand it now.”

“Great blog on 5 Centimeters per Second! It was very interesting and clarified a lot for me.”

—Comments from readers about my Five Centimeters per Second content

It was on a grey autumn day back in 2010 when I decided to pick up Five Centimeters per Second. I believe it was a Tuesday in late November, but my memory does not serve me. That said, I do remember that it was very cold, overcast and snowy when I picked up Five Centimeters per Second. I had just finished an organic chemistry lab report. I was home unusually early that day because the heating on the medical campus failed and classes were cancelled, giving me time to make some progress with the lab report. I presently still have those files archived: I was either doing a discussion on caffeine extraction or nucleophilic substitution on alkenes by halogenation, but that probably is of a lesser interest. Having completed the first draft of the lab report, I began watching Five Centimeters per Second. An hour later, I ended up twice as cold as I was before, and I realised that this anime probably had been the best I had seen at that point. I subsequently acquired a copy of the soundtrack, and wrote one of the largest reviews on my old site. This review featured roughly 184 screenshots from the film and content adapted from the novel accompanying the film. Released on November 16, 2007, the novel provided additional insight into the story where the film had left something ambiguous, and as such, I used it to assist my own discussions.  The Five Centimeters per Second novel is available here, as a PDF typeset in LaTeX, for all interested readers.

  • I’ve been waiting for the longest time to do a proper talk on Five Centimeters per Second, ever since I mentioned wishing to drop support for the old website.

  • The old website at Webs.com was not indexed by Google well, and as such, the different pages were not particularly visible to interested readers. Having heard feedback from some readers, I decided that this site could probably provided interested readers with what they were looking for.

  • This revisitation was further motivated by the fact that L.H. Yeung’s Five Centimeters per Second blog was decomissioned after he decided to use his web-hosting space for other purposes. I’m sure that many readers out there are still interested in being able to read the novel, so I’ve stepped up to the plate and offer a more compact, more well-formatted document for readers.

  • What will follow are my thoughts on the different acts and the movie as a whole: it’s time to make good on the promise I made back on my Two Year Anniversary post, which should be a good sign for the Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer and Gundam Unicorn posts to be done in the future.

After watching Five Centimeters per Second, my interest in anime was revitalised: I spent Summer 2010 watching Real Drive and Rideback, but didn’t express much interest until Five Centimeters per Second restarted it. I spent Summer 2011 watching Sora no Woto, Break Blade and Ika Musume, as part of a journey to rediscover myself after the difficulties I had encountered in the second year of my undergraduate program. While I was unaware of it at the time, it is quite possible that Five Centimeters per Second induced a sense of melancholy and lovesickness in me at that time; since I did not quite understand it, I merely thought I was facing an unnaturally difficult year, With this flow of time, Five Centimeters per Second fell to the back of my mind until around a year ago, when messages from individuals expressing thanks for helping them understand the plot points in Five Centimeters per Second began appearing on my website’s guestbook and Facebook pages. I realised that my discussion was perhaps one of the few English sites that provided a satisfactory account of what happened in Five Centimeters per Second, and thus, decided to port these articles over here.  I will be giving each act a re-writing to be more clear and more consistent with my current writing style, which has changed slightly since I first wrote the original review.