(Some spoilers ahead)
Hey now, a post of a movie I’ve already reviewed? What are these dark magicks?
Well, I’ve decided to have some fun by shoving a list of 30 of my favorite movies, a list compiled in a crazed, 2 AM haze into a list randomizer, and reviewing the film at the top of said randomly generated list. That’s what I now consider fun, and you should take that into consideration before letting your 13 year old start an account on a movie forum like my mom did.
Anyway, the randomizer/Hand of God chose 5 Centimeters Per Second.
So that’s what I’m going to review. And I’m not complaining: I love this movie to bits and pieces.So here you go, even more thoughts on this pretty much perfect little anime:
There’s a moment in 5 Centimeters Per Second where two characters share a moment that, for one of them, is devastating. She is in love with the boy. He is not in love with her. She knows it. It’s crushing. Behind them, a space shuttle launches. Its trail soon towers over them, soaring into space. It’s a gorgeously composed shot, with a sense of scale and awe that most films don’t seem aware of.
The scene, from “Cosmonaut”, the second chapter of 5 Centimeters Per Second, features the two recurring motifs of the chapter. The first is space. The second is scope. The characters are constantly juxtaposed against the landscape, looking tiny against the horizon. Then planets, stars, fill the horizon, looming hugely against the tiny planet than already threatens to make these characters seem to insignificant.
And through it all, a girl’s heartbreak over unrequited love is treated with tender seriousness. There’s no attempt to minimize her feelings. They consume her. Love can hurt like that. Love can feel bigger than the universe.
I’ve long and often sung hosannas about “Cosmonaut” to anyone who’ll listen, and many more who don’t. But it’s just one chapter out of three that form, for me, a perfect short story anthology of a movie. I’ve often said it about 5 Centimeters Per Second: at 65 minutes, it’s exactly as long as it needs to be.
Three chapters, connected by the presence of one character: a boy (and, by the last chapter, a man) named Takaki. He’s the protagonist in the first chapter, the object of affection in the second, and seemingly unaware that he was ever in a narrative in the third.
The first chapter, “Cherry Blossoms”, is itself a pitch-perfect exercise in restraint. Its plot is simple: Takaki is about 13, and taking a long train ride to see his best friend, a girl named Akari who moved to a new town and whom he hasn’t seen in a year.
The train ride is longer than he expects. It snows. The train gets delayed. Hours pass. The wait becomes inexorable. Every passing minute is laden with dread. There’s not much to the plot, but the story is so human, so palpable, that it’s nerve-wracking. Its payoff is earned and then some.
The virtues of animation are endless, but more often than not good animation is praised for its distance from reality, for its ability to create worlds otherwise unfilmable. But what about stories like this? This is a film whose script could easily have been filmed live-action.
But, would it or could it have been improved as a live-action film? I don’t think so. Makoto Shinkai is so in control of his instrument here, composing visual symphonies. I’ve heard people say that “the animation is better than the story” in this movie. I think this is misguided. The images are inseparable from the story. The realism of the environments in “Cherry Blossoms” are crucial in its enveloping nature, in drawing us into its rhythms so that the simple passing of time becomes something to dread. And the spectacular scope of “Cosmonaut” is a storytelling device itself. It takes the weight of the universe and overshadows it with the simple, singular sting of a broken heart.
Edit: I realize I didn’t say anything about the third and final chapter of the film. It’s pretty much a short epilogue, and while quite lovely in its own right, I don’t really have much to say about it that I can add to what I’ve written about it already. That, and I’m tired and need to sleep. There are limits to my night-owl powers.