5 Centimeters Per Second
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” —Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying
During one spring in elementary school, Shinohara Akari had told her friend Toono Takaki that sakura petals fall at a speed of five centimeters per second. At the time, she had commented on how it looked like snow and had hoped that they could see it together the next year. However, the two had been separated after graduating elementary school and keep in touch only through letters. Akari starts writing to Takaki half a year after graduation, though soon it seems that the distance between them would grow even more because Takaki has to move from Tokyo all the way to Kagoshima. As fall and winter pass by, Takaki thinks about going to see Akari in Tochigi before he has to move away. They eventually decide on a date, March 4th, and Akari mentions in her letter that there’s a sakura tree near her home.
- Genre: Animation, Anime, Film, Drama, Romance
- Runtime: 63 minutes
- Tags: cherry blossoms, depression, ennui, existential crisis, first love, growing up, holding on, last meeting, letting go, longing, melancholy, moving on
Warning! The following summary contains spoilers.
When the day arrives, Takaki has the train ride out to Tochigi all planned out. Akari had said in her letter that she’d be waiting at the train station at 7PM, but Takaki notices that it has started to snow that afternoon when he boards the first train. As he begins his journey, Takaki remembers how he and Akari had spent so much time together when they were together because of how similar they were—they both transferred into their elementary school and both preferred the library. They had been teased by their classmates for being a couple, but they weren’t afraid as long as they had each other. The two of them had thought that they’d end up going to the same junior high school, but that didn’t happen. Takaki then remembers then night when Akari had called him up to tell him that she was transferring schools. She had apologized, but he was helpless to do or say anything.
Takaki’s uneasiness suddenly starts to grow when he finds out that the heavy snow is delaying the trains. As he continues his trip towards Iwafune in Tochigi, the delays mount and it’s soon 7PM. He thinks that Akari must be getting anxious, but soon his thoughts go back to the day she called him to tell him that she was transferring schools. He feels ashamed that he wasn’t able to use gentle words towards her who was so much more insecure at the time. Although he’s going to see her now, he spent two weeks also writing her a letter that he’s brought with him. When Takaki loses this letter to the wind after he reaches into his pocket to get his wallet to buy a drink at a station, he still continues on. Things get worse when the train he’s riding stops completely because of the snow—he’s now almost two hours late.
It takes two more hours for the train to get moving again, and Takaki spends the time trying not to cry. He eventually arrives at Iwafune at 11:15PM and expects Akari not to be waiting anymore. Thus, Takaki is surprised to find her still there, asleep in the waiting room of the station. She cries when he wakes her and the two share the bento that she prepared. When he declares that it’s the most delicious thing he’s ever eaten, she thinks that he just feels that way because he’s hungry. The station manager soon indicates that he’s closing up, so the two have to leave. Akari leads Takaki to a solitary tree out in a field of snow—it’s the sakura tree she mentioned in her letter. The two then experience the sensation of spring as Akari catches a snowflake in her hand and thinks of it as a sakura petal. She even compares it to snow, just like she had done when they were young. It is under this tree that Akari and Takaki gravitate towards each other and kiss.
At that moment, Takaki feels that he could understand where his heart and soul are and can share his experiences, but in the next moment, he becomes unbearably sad. He realizes that they can’t stay together and that there’s an overpowering life and endless time ahead of them. However, the uneasiness that has a hold on him melts away until only Akari’s soft lips remain. Akari hugs him after the kiss, and the two end up spending the night together in a shed after talking for a long time. When Takaki has to leave on the morning train, Akari tells him that he’ll definitely be ok from now on. As the train pulls away, Takaki asks her to take care and write and call. Takaki thinks to himself that he didn’t tell Akari about the letter that he was going to give her, but later lost. What he doesn’t know is that she also had a letter with his name on it that she didn’t give him. Takaki feels that the world changed because of the kiss and he now wants the strength to protect her. As he thinks about only that, Takaki continues to watch as the scenery goes by outside the window.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from this other than some really amazing animation quality, and I think it’s safe to say that that lived up to expectations. The backgrounds and landscapes in this are easily some of the best I’ve ever seen animated. The music was also as good as that on the trailers, though I wish that particular piano song had been played for longer. However, if the story sucked, then the production quality wouldn’t matter. Fortunately, that was far from the case.
Throughout much of it, I thought that Takaki wouldn’t make it to see Akari and that the first part would end in disappointment. The narration was done in such a way that it was like I could almost feel Takaki’s frustration and pain. Instead though, Takaki was able to see his childhood love and the two got one night together before having to separate. I loved all of the recurring themes and symbols like the snow and the bird, and how the beginning and the (near) end of the episode tie together with Akari saying that the sakura petals falling are like snow. Of course, all the snow and sakura petals also make for some beautiful scenes to complement the story. Still, if I had one complaint about this first part, it would probably be that it started a bit too fast and complicated. All the flashbacks had me confused enough so that I didn’t catch on how quickly time was passing by until Akari’s third or fourth letter. But maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention at the beginning.