5 Reasons Why 5cm Per Second Is Makoto Shinkai's Best Movie (& 5 Why It's Not) Compared to more recent films like Weathering With You, how does 5 Centimeters Per Second hold up?
It can often be hard to decide which of the work of a film-maker is considered their best. There”s constant debate over whether Inception or The Dark Knight is the better Christoper Nolan film, or which Star Wars trilogy is the worst, and the same debate is often had about animated films as well.
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With the recent release of Weathering With You as another reminder of the genius of Makoto Shinkai, it presents an opportunity to look back on his previous work to see whether one of his first full-length films, 5 cm Per Second, is still considered to be his greatest work to date. Here are 5 reasons why 5 cm Per Second is his best work to date, and 5 why it no longer holds the top spot.
One thing Shinkai loves to put into his romance stories is some element of fantasy or science fiction, usually used as the backdrop to push his characters towards one another. Your Name does this in spades, where there”s not only body-swapping and time travel, but also elements of fate and destiny surrounding parts of the story aside from its central romance. While this makes the story far more interesting, it also makes it harder to relate to the characters and the events in their lives that lead them to one another. One the other hand, felling unrequited love for someone and life pulling friendships apart is something most people can relate to on a personal level.
On the flip side of this, the realism of the story also makes it more heavy-hitting when Tataki and Akami don”t get together at the end of the film. It”s more realistic for two people who have been forced apart by their life choices and the choices of their parents to stay apart, and not find some way to make it work in spite of everything going on around them. While the realism is refreshing, it is also disappointing to see two characters who have very clear and strong feelings for one another to never make it work, despite how hard they tried.
As time has moved on and technology has evolved to the point where we”re basically all carrying a computer around in our pockets, the idea of only being able to communicate by mail is a thing of the past.
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For Tataki and Akari, that is the reality of their world, as the film begins before the rise in popularity of cell phones and internet message boards and it adds a layer of difficulty to the relationship that is relatable for anyone who has lived through a time where that was the reality of communications.
The fact 5 cm Per Second is presented as three short stories rather than as one continuous timeline helps to push the story through many years of the lives of Tataki and Akari, but the overall length of the film doesn”t give us enough time to see how it really impacted them. We see a few scenes where Tataki writes texts to himself, with the intention of sending them to Akari, but never gathering up the nerve to follow through with it. It would have been nice to see just a little more of their lives as they tried to come to terms with the breakdown of their friendship and relationship.
One part of the romance genre that can be tiresome to see is that the plot only focuses on the main characters” relationship and nothing else. 5 cm Per Second takes a unique approach and not only shows Tataki”s struggle with how far away he lives from Akari, but also shows us Kanae, one of Tataki”s classmates, as she is coming to terms with her unrequited love for Tataki as he spends his days pining for his best friend.
Even though 5 cm Per Second is one of the most loved and successful anime films of the current era, it doesn”t even hold a candle Shinkai”s other work, especially Your Name. Aside from having a whopping 98% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, it did the impossible and knocked Spirited Away off of its pedestal as the highest-grossing anime film of all time, a position it had held for fifteen years.
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When you look at the sheer popularity of the two films, it”s hard to see 5 cm Per Second as anything other than second best.
There are some romance stories out there that present the two characters in such a way that you don”t care one way or the other if they get together in the end or not. Thankfully, 5 cm Per Second doesn”t do this, and you spend the majority of the film waiting to their luck to turn around and for life to let them be together like they so desperately want. Not only that, but even in the short amount of time Tataki and Akari are seen together, their relationship is believable enough that romance would be the next step for them.
While the central plot of the film follows Tataki struggling to come to terms with Akari moving away, we spend so much time with his side of the story that we never see how Akari dealt with the move herself. Despite being a major character in the film, she only shows up when they meet at the train station and share their first and only kiss before Tataki has to return home, and in the ending when it is shown she is engaged and passes Tataki on the street.
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It would have been nice to see exactly how she got from A to B, and not just be shown snippets at either end of her life.
The ending of 5 cm Per Second is a strange one for modern romance, as most stories end with the characters either getting together or realizing that they really wanted to be with someone else this whole time. Shinkai”s film takes a left-field approach and shows us that, despite how much time has passed and how hard he has tried to move on, Tataki hasn”t been able to get over his feelings for Akari, and his life has deteriorated as a result. In the last minutes of the film, he has quit his job, lost all motivation in life and his girlfriend of three years has broken up with him. It”s a refreshing take on the genre that hasn”t been done nearly enough.
The ending may be unique and realistic, but you can only appreciate that for so long before you realize that what you really wanted was for someone to get a happy ending. Even Akari, who was on the verge of getting married, had all those emotions come back to her after finding the letter she wrote to Tataki as a teenager, but never had the courage to give him. Compared to Your Name, whose closing scene is eerily similar to 5 cm Per Second, it was nice to see at least the beginnings of closure there, with Mitsuha and Taki actually acknowledging one another rather than turning back and accepting fate as it is.
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Callum Archer is a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia. He is an avid gamer, Nintendo fanboy and lover of weird sci-fi novels, who also dabbles in manga from time to time, usually dark and twisted work like Uzumaki and Death Note.