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At what speed must I live... to be able to see you again?
5 Centimeters Per Second is Makoto Shinkai's third film, and was released in 2007. However, unlike his other works, the events here reflect the relentless nature of reality. The end result is a highly polished, but also very depressing, heart-breaking and beautiful romance movie.The movie's focus is about two people named Takaki and Akari, following them as they mature. It is divided into three episodes that together, comprise the movie. The first part, "Cherry Blossoms", follows Takaki's reflections on his relationship with Akari while they were children. The second act, "Cosmonaut", leaves Akari to depict Takaki as a teenager and is told from Kanae Sumida's perspective. The final part, which is also called "5 Centimeters Per Second", shows them as young adults, in a montage set to the famous Japanese pop song "One More Time, One More Chance".The title 5 Centimeters Per Second refers to the speed at which Cherry Blossom petals fall and acts as a metaphor for the nature of love and human relationships.
5 Centimeters Per Second provides examples of:
Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: This is subverted to some degree: while Takaki's mind does indeed go yonder, his heart remains fixated on one constant point: this accounts for Kanae's observation that he is always looking toward something distant, and fails to notice people around him. For most of the movie, he is unable to have the individual who invoked such feelings in him because he was too rigid to move toward anyone — until the end, at which point he becomes capable of actually taking control of his own life and taking it in the direction that he wants it to go. To this end, his heart has not gone yonder; rather, it becomes a little more malleable and open.
Adaptation Expansion: The manga adaptation breathes insight into Kanae's life following the events of the movie and parallels Takaki's experiences during his adulthood; with her life passing through the same cycle of entering and leaving relationships, she ultimately decides to confront her feelings head-on by trying to meet up with Tohno. Contrasting Takaki's implied meeting with Akari, Kanae decides to pursue him when she appears to have found him again.
Airplane of Love: To emphasize how distant Takaki is to Kanae, the launch of a rocket replaces the airplane.
All Love Is Unrequited: The driving force behind the story, this movie illustrates how reality does not follow the "happily ever after" route, and how love is sometimes unrealised.
Anthropomorphic Personification: Symbolic only in the minds of the characters. These aspects are present within the title and other subtle details such as the rocket launch and the train.
Bittersweet Ending: While Takaki quit his first job and broke up with his girlfriend, he gradually takes control of his life and begins to overcome the lonely and bitter feelings that he's been nursing for fifteen years. Takaki eventually finds a job as a freelance developer.
McDonalge, a fast food chain in Takaki's recollections
A Starberks Coffee is located in one of the train stations.
Takaki glances at his Ocasi digital watch several times en route to Iwafune.
A Windows Vasta magazine can be seen in a convenience store that Takaki visits as an adult.
In an aversion, Takaki uses a wireless LogiCool mouse at his workplace. Known as Logitech in other nations, Logitec belongs to another Japanese organisation that specialises in peripheral manufacturing.
Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Takaki and Akari at the train station with Cherry Blossoms falling around them.
Expy: Takaki incorporates elements derived from the male leads in Shinkai's previous works, and shares some similarities to Jay Gatsby
Gratuitous English: As with Shinkai's other movies, it has a Japanese title (Byōsoku Go Senchimētoru/"5 Centimeters Per Second") but an English subtitle; in this case: A Chain Of Short Stories About Their Distance.
In Medias Res: The last third begins on March 2008, with Takaki working at home before going for a walk. He then sees Akari again at the train stop, whereby the rest of the segment flashes back to him at his old job and old (or at least messy) apartment. It is still implied he had finished his three year relationship by this point, due to the date on the text from his ex-girlfriend showing February 2008. Of course once the ending sequence begins, the vast majority is in the form of flash backs since it goes back to their childhood, before returning to the present day.
I Will Wait for You: This is implied in the second act and subverted in the third act: In the period between the end of part two and the beginning of part three, Takaki has had at least one long-term relationship with another woman, and Akari has become engaged to another man.
Just Friends: Takaki becomes this to Akari (possibly) when she doesn't turn back, and Kanae to Takaki when she doesn't reveal her feelings for him.
New Transfer Student: Owing to their parents' work, Takaki and Akari transfer to different schools throughout the story, bringing them together in the beginning but separating them as time passes on.
In one of Takaki's flashbacks during "Cherry Blossoms", Akari stops to pet a cat named Chobi, and remarks that it must be lonely for him without Mimi around; in Shinkai's short "She and Her Cat," Chobi is the name of the titular cat, and he has a lady-friend (also a cat) named Mimi.
Snow Means Love: Tohno and Akari kiss under the sakura tree for the first time. While it signifies love, it also signifies the coldness Tohno feels when faced with the prospect of being separated from her.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Tohno and Akari have more hope for a happy ending than typical cases, but they qualify nonetheless. This is more apparent in Kanae's situation: her tearful confession is cut off by a rocket launch.
Technology Marches On: The first act occurs in the early 1990s, and as such, cell phones and email are still relatively rare. As the story moves through the second and third act, these technologies become more commonplace.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Akari and Kanae never meet in the movie, but Akari is noticeably more intelligent whereas Kanae is noticeably more physically active and assertive. This is played with in the reverse direction: Kanae comes across as being more emotionally fragile than Akari.
Train-Station Goodbye: When the two lovers finally part, they leave behind their innocence and unspoken emotions.
True Love's Kiss: Despite Tohno and Akari sharing a kiss early on, life for Takaki remains somewhat of a challenge from there until the ending of the final act.
Umbrella of Togetherness: some of their classmates have drawn the umbrella symbol on the blackboard with Tohno and Akari's names under it, presumably to tease Akari; when Takaki enters, he sweeps the board and runs of with Akari
Unlucky Childhood Friend: All three characters find woe in matters of the heart, but Kanae fits the trope best, as she's not a main focus character.
Vehicle Vanish: This is perhaps one of the most moving instances, as Akari and Takaki become separated after their last meeting together.