Anime / 5 Centimeters per Second
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 movie's focus is about two people named Takaki Tohno and Akari Shinohara, 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 is too rigid to move toward anyone — until the end, at which point he becomes capable of taking control of his own life and driving 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 Takaki. Contrasting Takaki's implied meeting with Akari, Kanae decides to pursue him when she appears to have found him again.
  • Airplane of Love: To emphasise how distant Takaki is to Kanae, the launch of a rocket replaces the airplane.
  • Alien Sky: Takaki's recurring dreams feature sweeping panoramas of familiar landscapes juxtaposed with skies featuring unique sights.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Takaki sees a woman in his dreams that looks like Akari, and he later sees her while awake in the final part. She never speaks, however, which makes it unclear whether she's actually Akari, a lookalike he's projecting her likeness onto out of his longing for her or, given that they cross paths at a place that was significant to their childhoods that he just coincidentally happened to be at, an outright hallucination. The film ends without declaring any way.
  • 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.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • 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.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with Takaki and Akari at the train station with Cherry Blossoms falling around them.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Kanae struggles to tell Takaki that she's deeply in love with him.
  • Caught the Heart on His Sleeve: Kanae grabs Takaki's sleeve and tries to confess her love, but it never really works out.
  • Cherry Blossoms: First mentioned by Akari, the rate at which Cherry Blossoms fall under normal circumstances acts as a metaphor for falling in love.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Owing to the stresses arising from his job, Takaki is shown to have taken up smoking by the third act.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Takaki and Akari never get together despite a good taunting/glimmer of hope thrown in for good measure at the end - which doesn't pan out.
  • Diegetic Switch: The famous J-ballad "One More Time, One More Chance" by Masayoshi Yamazaki is first heard playing in low fidelity from a convenience store's speakers, but transitions into the soundtrack itself, in the final act.
  • Environmental Symbolism: One of the subtle signs of the disconnect between Takaki and Kanae is, as shown in the page image above, a shot of a power line bisecting the moon.
  • Expy: Takaki incorporates elements derived from the male leads in Shinkai's previous works, and shares some similarities to Jay Gatsby.
  • Foreshadowing: You know the tune of the background music in the scene where Takaki and Akari part ways when they're 13 after meeting for the first time in years? Sure is pretty, ain't it? It's actually taken from a pop song, which supposedly pretty much everyone in Japan has heard about. It's about a man who persistently longs for his doomed love. If you know what the song is about beforehand, then you probably had a pretty good idea of where the plot of the movie was going.
  • Gratuitous English: As with most of 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.
  • Ironic Echo: A nonverbal variant in the first part. Takaki had written a letter to Akari containing his compiled thoughts, only to have it get accidentally blown away by the wind before he could pass it to her in person. As his train leaves Iwafune Station after their meeting, Akari takes out a letter of her own that she had written to him, but didn't pass it to him during the meeting.
  • Just Friends: Takaki becomes thus to Akari (possibly) when she doesn't turn back, and Kanae to Takaki when she doesn't reveal her feelings for him.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: Akari stands on her tip-toes to kiss Takaki under the sakura tree before they spend the night together.
  • Last Kiss: Takaki and Akari share a (first and) last kiss at the end of the first chapter. The remaining two chapters are about their separate lives afterward. Heartbreak ensues.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The final Vehicle Vanish shot, set to the final guitar riffs of "One More Time, One More Chance") is noticeably longer than scenes elsewhere in the film, concluding only after the trains have passed to reveal that the woman's walked on.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Befitting the sense of longing and distance the film conveys, the piano pieces in the soundtrack convey a gentle and melancholy tone.
  • Long Distance Relationship: Takaki and Akari share letters over long distance as youth, but when Takaki moves to the southern islands, their communication ceases, and their relationship gradually fades.
  • Loving a Shadow: In his adulthood, Takaki appears to be in love with an abstraction of Akari, rather than Akari herself. Consequently, he finds it difficult to make meaningful relationships with those around him, leading his girlfriend, Risa, to remark that he feels distant in spite of all the time they've spent together.
  • 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.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Akari does a small dance with her umbrella in hand at the beginning of Cherry Blossoms.
  • Real Place Background: The various locales shown in the anime are inspired by locations in Tokyo.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Akari is blue, Kanae is red.
  • Sad Times Montage: The third act portrays a flashback of Takaki experiencing the aftermath of his breakup with his girlfriend and ensuing depression.
  • Scenery Porn: The artwork is awe-inspiring; the sheer volume of detail present in the movie, especially with respect to some of the minor scenes and background elements, almost makes reality look drab by comparison.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • The satellite belt in Takaki's recurring dreams bears resemblance to the Union's tower in Shinkai's previous work, The Place Promised in Our Early Days.
    • The cover of the railway book that Takaki buys in the first act is an environment shot from The Place Promised in Our Early Days.
  • Slow-Motion Pass-By: When Takaki and Akari pass each other at the train tracks at the end, the picture briefly slows down.
  • Snow Means Death: Alluded to, though it's the death of a relationship rather than a person. In the first part, heavy snowfall delays Takaki's trip to see Akari at Tochigi. Their relationship reaches its peak when they kiss that night in the snow, but it's all downhill from there; their relationship subsequently unravels to the point that she has found a new man, if not outright forgotten about Takaki, by the time they see each other (maybe) a long time later.
  • Snow Means Love: Takaki and Akari kiss under the Sakura tree for the first time. While it signifies love, it also signifies the coldness Takaki feels when faced with the prospect of being separated from her.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The jarringly up-beat and low-fi, diegetic pop music in the second chapter seems to be an affront to the Scenery Porn and the lovely soundtrack. One song piped in to the convenience store crows "daijobu da yo (It's all right)" while Kanae suffers her unrequited love in silence. In another case Kanae on her bike is passed by her sister blasting similarly upbeat and indelicate tunes. This seems to be a mordant joke about the interference of the modern world with even the potential solace of Scenery Porn in the midst of disappointment. The sonic environment is being destroyed.
    • The third chapter, on the other hand, shows the protagonist browsing magazine racks with "One More Time, One More Chance" playing in the convenience store. Later the song moves from diegetic sound to the extradiegetic soundtrack: the effect is, at least meant to be, cathartic.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Forces outside of Takaki or Akari's control drive a distance between them, as their parents must move for their work.
    • For Kanae, her tearful confession is cut off by a rocket launch, and she ultimately decides against letting Takaki know of her feelings on the basis that he appeared to be longing for something beyond what she could offer.
  • Theme-and-Variations Soundtrack: Some of the piano arrangements share motifs with "One More Time, One More Chance".
  • Time Skip: Each act is separated by the passage of a few years.
  • Title Drop: The movie opens with Akari explaining to Takaki that cherry blossoms fall at a rate of five centimeters per second.
  • 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 Takaki 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 Takaki and Akari's classmates have drawn the umbrella symbol on the blackboard with Takaki and Akari's names under it to tease Akari. When Takaki enters, he clears the offending material and takes off with Akari to his classmates' surprise.
  • 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. The final shot of the movie depicts the adult Akari (or a lookalike, or a hallucination) and Takaki walking across the train crossing from the start once again, passing by each other. As the two notice each other right after crossing, two trains pass right between them. As the train leaves, Akari disappears, and Takaki looks longingly into the emptiness before finding peace in himself, makes a faint smile, and leaves the crossing, finally letting go of his past.

Alternative Title(s): Five Centimeters Per Second