“It must be a lonely journey that I can’t imagine. Intently going forward only through darkness. ”
– Takaki Tohno
A film full of subtlety, of unspoken words and of concealed emotions- this is how I would describe 5 Centimeters Per Second. A Japanese feature film by Makoto Shinkai, which is only about 62 minutes long, it is composed of three interconnected segments revolving on the life story of Takaki Tohno. It is set in Japan in 1990 until 2007 (the year the film was created), from the time where the only means of communication for people living far apart is snail mail until the time cellular phones became a big hit.
The first part is entitled Cherry Blossoms, the second Cosmonaut and the last, 5 Centimeters Per Second. Yet again, I am amazed at how the creators of this animated film perfectly captured human actions, even the tiniest movement, e.g. when you’re talking with someone special, how you react and how you move your hands and feet were present. Also the background presentation is very detailed. It’s just amazing.
Tohno and Akari were the main stars in the 1st part of the film entitled Cherry Blossoms. It started when they were in elementary school. Takaki-kun (as Akari would like to call him), quickly became friends with Akari. Since both were not that into ground activities, they spend most of their times in the library (and with that, I fell in love with their characters right away. Book lovers unite!), reading and exchanging thoughts about the stories they’ve read. I specifically like the part where they were shown eating and having a fun time chatting at McDonalds. It’s very relatable to a lot of people I’m sure.
So they grew closer each day, until Akari had to move due to her parents’ work. She transferred to another school leaving Takaki behind. However, Takaki learned one day that his family will also have to move to a farther town which is Kagoshima. So he decided to meet Akari in person, who’s living in Tochigi, before their move. The travel time to Akari’s station was agonizing. The train was delayed for hours due to the heavy snow. They were supposed to meet at seven in the evening in Iwafune station but Takaki arrived past 11 that night. He wished Akari would just go home then but he was surprised to see her waiting at the station for him.
Akari cried upon seeing him. It was such a precious moment for the two – being able to meet again despite the distance and all the obstacles. I was happy when I saw them together again. True enough; the sadness didn’t last long because they were finally able to spend quality time with each other. Akari made snacks for him and since it was very late, Takaki couldn’t go home that night anymore. They were 13 years old then. That very night, they also shared their first kiss under a withered Cherry Blossom Tree.
In the second chapter, Cosmonaut, we see the addition of a new girl character that goes by the name Kanae Sumita. She’s a girl who’s been loving Takaki Tohno from a distance. Even though she gets to be with him almost every day in school and after school, it seems as if Tohno-kun (as how Kanae would call him) is not really with her to begin with. Tohno has his thoughts set on something so distant. This line from Kanae perfectly captured how she feels towards Tohno.
“Tohno-kun is very kind. But he’s always looking at something far away that I can see. My wish won’t be granted. Even so, I…I like Tohno-kun even after today, the day after tomorrow, forever. Only Tohno-kun is on my mind as I fall asleep.” – Kanae Sumita
I love the fact that Kanae didn’t push Tohno to like her. She didn’t look desperate at all to me but at the same time I can feel how she treasures Tohno so much to the point that she felt afraid of the latter being so kind to her. I mean when someone you like treats you well, it’s scary, right? We’re afraid to fall for that person because we knew that our love wouldn’t be reciprocated and we’ll just end crying and being hurt. It’s human nature to feel that way and I’m sure a lot of people were able to relate to her character as well.
The last part, 5 Centimeters Per Second is definitely my favorite part. Akari is back. She’s back and is now preparing to get married…to someone else. Takaki is shown living in Tokyo, working as a computer programmer. It appears that he was able to get a very stable job (after graduating from University of Tokyo) but still, he felt empty. These lines from him perfectly describe what he went through in college and after it.
“During the past few years, I just kept moving forward, wanting something. This feeling that I get almost feels life threatening. I just keep working without knowing where this feeling is coming from. It was painful for me when I realized that my heart loses motivation as the days pass by. One day, when I realized that the feeling I took seriously vanished…and when I reached my limits, I resigned from my job.” – Takaki Tohno
It’s very evident that Takaki is still attached to Akari. Somehow he is. He also seems lost. He just goes to work on a daily basis, even render overtime, without a clear goal in mind and without realizing that he’s just exhausting all his youthful energy…for what? It was all in vain.
I’m very happy that towards the end of the film though, I saw Takaki Tohno smile again. Even though he didn’t really get to see Akari (which was so close if only Akari stayed a bit longer and waited for the train to pass), he still managed to smile and I can say that that is a sign of someone who’s now ready to move on. I think that was the best scene that I’ve seen Takaki in.
Watching this movie made me feel sad, depressed and happy to some extent. It brought back a lot of memories – good and bad memories. I didn’t really have someone like Takaki Tohno when I was in elementary or high school. In college though, I did have someone I considered special. He made my four years in the university bittersweet (and even the two to three years after that). I experienced a lot of ups and downs in terms of academics and in terms of my relationships – with friends and with him. I developed affection for him, I grew loving him for about six years, only to find out one night…that he’s already in a relationship…with a friend of mine. (Sorry for sounding bitter. I guess I’ve already accepted the fact that he’s with somebody else now, but the pain hasn’t really left yet. This is so long overdue!)
Going back to the film, the good thing with Akari and Takaki is that at one point, they felt the same way. They both knew that they love each other. It’s just that they can’t be together for reasons people may find hard to understand. I guess I’m one of those people. Days have passed after watching this film and I still find myself asking why. Why didn’t they exert more effort to keep their love alive?
It must be a lonely journey that I can’t imagine. Intently going forward only through darkness. Even one hydrogen atom is difficult to find. Only believing that there must be something at the edge of the world. With that thought, how far can we go? How far…can we go? – Takaki Tohno
They love each other and they wanted to be together but they can’t. I thought to myself, why didn’t they just get in touch through SMS or whatever social networking sites available that time and just find a way to still see each other, because if you really want it, if you really want something that bad, you’ll do everything in your power to get it, right? But why?
The story itself and the presentation were beyond brilliant, this I’m certain. It’s just that the feels is overwhelming now (and I’ve watched this film for about three times). Not to forget the main characters in the story – all three of them Takaki, Akari and Sumita fit this film very well and how they were brought into life by the creators is something that I am very grateful for.
In the end, that’s just the way it is. This film showed us that some people are destined to fall in love and be together, some are destined to fall in love and separate eventually. Some move on after months, some after years and some, never really move on.
Love is the sweetest thing that can ever happen to us. How can such thing be the cause of our pain? Of our misery? Even of our death? Well just because.
Before ending this blog, I’d like to share the ending theme of this movie. Definitely one of the best OST I’ve heard by far! Read through the lyrics. 🙂
(Photos not mine, credits to their rightful owners)