Makoto Shinkai may not have many anime films out there currently, but due to his brilliant talent of drawing he’s becoming an incredibly well respected anime producer, writer and director and is becoming known as ‘The next Miyazaki’ who is one of the greatest and favorable anime film directors of our time who has created films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and most recently Ponyo. But now Shinkai has entered the world of animation and film making and has as much talent to offer as Miyazaki and has already bought us the stunning ‘The Place Promised In Our Early Days’ which was fantastically reviewed by critics, and now he returns again with another masterpiece; 5 Centimeters Per Second.
Shinkai returns with another stunning animated film that is built from the main characters memoirs set into three chapters. The film itself easily falls into the romance genre from the moment the film begins. It’s given that the concept of the film is speed from the title that is taken from a line in the film ‘Do you know, the speed at which cherry blossoms fall… 5 centimeters per second’. The theme is also expressed during other moments of the film such as the speed of the train took for Takaki to reach Akari, the speed of which their feelings grew for each other and finally for when they lost each other. The story revolves around a young man named Takaki and his childhood memories of his best friend and first love; Akari who both become challenged when Akari moves to another city. Even with the distance of Akari, Takaki cannot distance himself from her memory. During the second chapter a second female character named Kanae is introduced and brings a little more complexity, as the second chapter explores Kanae’s love for Takaki whilst she’s always on the outside looking in. The story isn’t greatly complex, and not a great deal happens throughout the film, but it is compelling and shows the development of three characters and how their childhoods created who they became later in life. The overall film is beautiful but the story is almost clichéd and relies on the animation and overall appearance of the film to emphasize the characters emotions and to create the main atmosphere of the story.
It’s impossible to put into words how breathtaking the visuals of this film actually are. The colours and details appear so delicate within the incredible landscape shots that create a overwhelming atmosphere that compliments the narrative with a melancholic charm. I can easily say I have not yet seen an anime film with such lifelike and striking animation, and its definitely a film worth watching if not for the story but the visuals alone. Despite the film not being in 3D it films incredibly close at times the way Shinkai has constructed aspects of snow appearing at various transparency levels bringing forward hundreds of specs whilst others settle into the background. Not to mention everything that appears to be made of metal or a similar material all have shimmering reflections from surrounding glistening lights that also create shadows giving even more dimension than is already on screen. The colours are soft pastel colours and yet they are bold and breath taking with soft glowing edges and highlights that illuminate on screen and add a romantic essence and really capture the world Shinkai has successfully created in its greatest possible beauty that just makes you want to become part of his imaginary but so lifelike world.
I’d recommend this film to any fan of anime, even for the visual aspect alone, but be prepared whilst the story may seem cliché at first, the end isn’t. It’s one of the most beautiful, heartwarming and heartbreaking stories of love and loss told through a child’s eyes as he develops into a young adult. The film is told along through almost poetic dialogue along with the amazing visuals and is presented in a heartwarming and yet heartbreaking way that had me desperately hoping that the end wasn’t well… the end.