Directed by Makoto Shinkai
Makoto Shinkai's second full length film, "5 Centimetres per Second" confirms his incredible talent both as a storyteller and visual artist.
"5 Centimetres per Second" is divided into three chapters which follow three main characters -- Takaki, Akari, and Kanae -- from elementary school to young adulthood. The first chapter focuses on Takaki and Akari, who attend the same elementary school and hope to attend the same middle school until Akari moves away. Chapter 2 follows Takaki, now in high school, and Kanae, his classmate who is hopelessly in love with him but can't find a way to tell him. The last chapter, the shortest of the three, follows the three characters into young adulthood.
Since the release of "Voices of a Distant Star" in 2002 Shinkai's critical acclaim has gone from overwhelming to almost hyperbolic. The excitement over his work is absolutely and unquestionably well deserved, however, and each time I watch one of his films I can't help but wish that he had a bigger catalogue behind him so I could feast on his gorgeous works in abundance, rather than watchings his limited filmography over and over again.
"5 Centimetres per Second" hits on many of the same themes that run through Shinkai's work; distance, time, and the enduring, and often debilitating, forces of memory. Shinkai is incredibly adept at exploring these themes, especially the concept of the elasticity of time which can seem infinite one moment and incredibly finite the next. In all of Shinkai's works the characters, always in their teens, often want to say things or do things but often wait for a perfect moment to do so that usually never comes. In other instances their life circumstances pull them apart and seemingly trivial moments (in the case of "5 Centimetres per Second" a broken spark plug, a delayed train) become heavy with importance. It's a universal theme, I believe, and all of us can certainly think of moments in our lives that seemed fleeting or trivial but have, over time, taken on a tremendous amount of importance. Shinkai is a master at exploring this theme and also in giving these moments an emotional weight, often discovered in hindsight by his characters, that give them a tremendous sense of authenticity.
As good as the content of Shinkai's work has been, his animation is probably an even better reason to check out his work. His animation is exquisitely rendered and his use of light (or creation of it, as it is) is second to none. It's a treat to look at and, when coupled with his terrific storytelling, Shinkai's work elevates itself far beyond usual animated fare.