5 Centimeters Per Second Re-Watch: A Bittersweet Analysis of a Bittersweet Tale

by eternal on January 2, 2009

Makoto Shinkai’s latest masterpiece was a short film that provoked lengthy discussions – discussions about childhood romance, the definition of love, and the use of melodramatic backdrops and sunlight to heighten the impact of a story. However, more important than the discourse it encouraged are the questions that it forced all of us to ask ourselves. Introspection with no particular cause nor goal, introspection sparked by a subtle story with a lifetime’s worth of meaning…introspection that differs between each and every viewer. This is what I believe 5cm/s achieved, and through this post, I would like to discuss and attempt to deconstruct this masterpiece of anime that affected me more than anything else.

The story begins with a reference to the film’s title: five centimeters per second. The rate at which the cherry blossoms fall, the cherry blossoms that accompanied young Takaki and Akari in their childhood bliss. Beginning from such a straightforward, innocent point in one’s life, 5cm/s pulls the viewer in by providing a scenario that can be either relatable or enviable, but certainly believable. Who could watch the two children walking together in the flurry of sakura, unbeknownst to the pain that life holds, and not smile? The innocence of the characters’ feelings for one another, romantic and otherwise, is captured as well in the first several minutes of the film as it is through the rest of the story.

And then, the train ride. Takaki’s reminiscence on his childhood emphasizes the delicate atmosphere set by the opening, developing the story in a short time frame. Considering that the movie is only an hour long, the plot had to be fleshed out quickly, otherwise it could have easily taken a few more episodes to get to the drama.

However, what impacted me the most was the setting of his soliloquy. Alone on a train, desperately shielding himself from the cruel winter breeze, with nothing but a letter containing his feelings to keep him going…the setting outside and the setting within his mind portray much of what their relationship had become since their childhood. Certainly, things hadn’t degenerated to the point where they were cut off from one another, and their innocent love burned through seemingly all forms of common sense (as it should), but their lives weren’t easy, either. They had already been separated physically, attending different schools and living far away from one another, and now that it was getting harder and harder for them to see one another, they were starting to drift apart emotionally. Even though they cared deeply for one another, the world was tearing them apart.

The bright, jovial setting of spring, with the slowly falling cherry blossoms and quiet days spent in the school library, were not suited to the hearts of the lead couple during the first chapter of the film. They were suited instead to the icy winds and the harsh winter; the winter that Takaki had to live through as he sustained himself on his memories. And when they were finally reunited, we were treated to what I consider to be one of the most beautiful moments in the film: a kiss under the winter sky.

Doesn’t it somehow remind you of snow?

Apart from being aesthetically appealing and pleasing to the viewer because of its significance in the story, the moment also represented the passion the characters felt for one another as I previously described: they were ready to fight against even the most difficult hardships. Takaki arrived in the dead of night, Akari waited for him until the dead of night, and even after everything they had been through, their feelings for one another burned stronger than anything else. When they kissed, nothing mattered to them; not the loss of Takaki’s letter nor the fact that the future was bound to keep them apart. All that mattered was their feelings for one another, and the limitless possibilities of the future stretched out before them. This indescribable passion is but one of the many faces of love, and the first chapter of the movie portrays it well.

In the second chapter, time passed, bringing us to Takaki’s life in high school. Right off the bat, we are shown a (beautiful) image of the main couple sitting on a hill, looking out at infinity. The sky has apparently dissolved in this work of Shinkai genius, leaving us with the illusion that outer space can be reached if you try hard enough. Takaki, always looking into the distance, had his eyes fixed on “outer space” as the metaphor phrases it – he had no eyes for the present.

That is where our third character, Kanae, comes in.

Kanae was a fairly ordinary high school student, living a seemingly satisfying and independent life. Her rides on her scooter to and from school coupled with her surfing training make her appear free-spirited and self sufficient, even before she was “assigned” a personality. However, there was one thing that held this girl back from riding the waves and deciding on her career goals, and it was a problem that I daresay every human being goes through at some point in their life.

Kanae had a crush on Takaki since they first met, and over the years, her feelings developed into something far more real. By the present day, when the students were thinking (or forced to think) about their post-secondary goals, and when she found her surfing ability slipping away, she realized that it was time for her to confess her feelings.

However, this is where things go wrong; and from what I remembered of my first viewing of the movie and from my second impression, this was the one moment in the story in which I felt truly sympathetic for the cast. Maybe that was just me, letting personal experience force its way into my opinion (and it should do that, after all, considering that I’m a human being), but it served as one of the biggest emotional punches to the gut 5cm/s delivered to me nonetheless.

Stop being so kind to me
Takaki was never a bad person, and he certainly wasn’t the type to push people away. But wasn’t his kindness hurting Kanae more in the end, giving her the illusion that she had a chance? It would be far easier to get over her loss if she could find an excuse to hate him…alas, life is never quite that simple.

We begin by witnessing first hand how shy and nervous Kanae was whenever it came to the person she liked. She didn’t seem like such a quiet person, and she was able to talk to Takaki comfortably enough whenever they were together, but through her thoughts and her actions – waiting by the school parking lot to “bump” into him just so they could go home together isn’t exactly normal behavior – we can see that she was more than a little apprehensive about her love.

However, she inevitably came to the painful realization that Takaki could never have feelings for her. It didn’t matter if she walked home with him every day, if they stopped by the convenience store together to buy coffee, or if they simply never talked for the rest of their lives: he would have never loved her anyway, because his eyes were already focused on that elusive figure at the other end of the dissolved sky. Her feelings, no matter how strong they may have been, were meaningless in the face of the childhood friends’ bond. It’s cruel, but it’s also life, and if there’s one thing 5cm/s does well, it portrays life in all its ups and downs without pulling any punches. And that brings us to the conclusion of chapter two, where Takaki’s heart remained forever tied to the being that existed so far away from him.

The space shuttle that shatters the boundaries of humanity and reaches out into the unknown. Takaki, with his eyes fixed upon a distant, nearly unreachable goal, could never have spared any time to be with the girl who liked him in the present; he was living in a different world. The only future he thought of was the future in which he and Akari could be together. Cosmonaut is a fitting title for the second chapter, with the struggle to reach out and touch the vastness of space representing Takaki’s goal of being together with his distant love. It matters little whether or not any of the characters are Russian.

Several years passed after that, resulting in a Takaki that couldn’t possibly be described as happy. He was alive, he was supporting himself, he was apparently in contact with a woman – by society’s standards, he might have been considered a successful person. Not rich, not famous, but certainly not unhappy or desperate. However, the state of his heart proved otherwise.

After their long distance relationship caused them to break up, they both went their own separate ways, resulting in Akari getting engaged or married to a man she seemed to be happy with. As she conducted herself around her friends, and as she clung onto the arm of her new loved one, she didn’t appear in the least bit unhappy. However, Takaki was destroyed. He was never able to get over everything that had happened, and over time, his life had degenerated into a monotonous routine that was neither fulfilling nor promising. There was no conceivable way for him to smile sincerely again.

His heart had hardened over the years, resulting in a being that was living yet not truly alive.

Why had Akari recovered so easily while Takaki had not? I wish I knew, but I haven’t the faintest clue. Maybe that’s just how life is, maybe it’s another one of Shinkai’s merciless stabs to the heart. It’s evident that they both cared for each other deeply when they were younger, but maybe Akari looked back at it as only a childish crush? Or maybe they both acknowledged how “real” their relationship was, but Akari somehow found a way to put her mind past it…either way, the answer will always remain a mystery to me. It was easy enough to tell, though, that Takaki had never gotten over his loss, even after he became an adult. One would hope and assume that time could heal a wound like that, but all it did was dry the blood into an ugly scab. And wouldn’t the removal of that scab still leave a scar?

Finally, the film draws to a close with the One More Time, One More Chance sequence, summing up the lives of the lead characters and how they had changed over the years. Through the lyrics, Takaki’s bittersweet feelings shine through, his longing for Akari remaining within his heart even after all those years. It was easily the climax of the movie, and it was the moment in which the “meaning”, if there was one, became most clear. All of the emotions the viewer should have been feeling, and certainly all of the emotions the characters were feeling, culminated into that one point: the memories of their childhood, and the story of their innocent love that was torn apart by the world. Beyond any kind of moral or message that one might get out of the film, the simple feelings behind the simple plot were highlighted during this final closing sequence, proving that simple does not equal weak.

And at last, the smile. What did it mean? It’s the viewer’s guess, but I can only take it to mean that Takaki finally built up the strength he needed to move on with his life. Would he succeed? I don’t know, and I don’t think he knew, either. But as Akari’s figure disappeared behind the train, there was only one direction he could have followed from there on out. As for whether or not he would wind up happy…that’s a story for another movie day.

Ultimately, 5 Centimeters Per Second is a story about love. Whether love is good or bad, whether it’s a blessing or a curse, whether it’s the one key to happiness or humanity’s main source of sorrow…in the end, none of those things matter, because the story is about about all of them. Told subtly with minimal dialogue, beautiful visuals, and music that tugs at the heart, the film tells a tale of a young couple that didn’t get their happily-ever-after, that didn’t get their reunion under a sakura tree. And as much as I’d hate to admit it, I suppose that’s life.

Each and every one of us, I believe, has a voice at the back of our heads, wishing that a fairy tale-like love story can be possible in the real world; and yet most all of us wind up at a mental conclusion similar to the conclusion 5cm/s reached. Love is not a reunion with a childhood friend that has been in a coma for seven years, or a relationship with the reincarnation of a goddess that’s destined to die whether you like it or not; it’s something more powerful, perhaps just as passionate, but conclusively far more real. Real means that the endings aren’t always happy, that there isn’t necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel (or that the light could have been nothing more than a mirage). Real is rarely what people want to see, want to admit to, but when it forces itself upon us with the strength of a masterpiece like this, it dredges up a torrent of emotions equivalent to a million Keys.

In the end, I’m unsure of what to make of the story’s meaning. Personally, I don’t believe the plot had a central message at all; rather, it was a short but powerful story about the role love plays in our lives and about how influential it can be on the rest of our thoughts. Love is a mysterious emotion, so much so that the human race has dedicated countless works of fiction to it and yet we still can’t put our finger on what precisely it is; but it’s the occasional story like this that explores the emotion without cutting corners and pulling punches, and in doing so, it creates not only a memorable story but also an unforgettable feeling that the viewer will forever associate with that snowy train ride and the delicate falling of cherry blossoms. It is because of this thought-provoking realism that 5cm/s will remain an objective favourite of mine, but it’s thanks to this feeling that the movie’s impact will never truly leave me, regardless of how fast the cherry blossoms decide to fall.


{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Nazarielle January 3, 2009 at 12:03 am

Boy, I keep hearing things about this movie. I guess I’ll have to check it out after all.

Nazarielles last blog post..Kimi Kiss


afatcow January 3, 2009 at 1:08 am

Very nice analysis. I don’t think I would have been able to put it in any better way (though I could try… ^^;). Sorta feel like I understand the movie even better now.

@Nazarielle: You definitely need to check it out.


slpless January 3, 2009 at 2:44 am

I agree with most of your thoughts, especially that the strength of 5 cm/s comes not from conventional means (ie story, characters, animation, etc) but rather from its reflective nature. This is especially true in the 2nd and 3rd parts of the movie, showing immediately identifiable realities of love. The 2nd part dealing with Kanae’s failed love I’m sure most people can relate to. Unrequited love is most likely to end with the painful (often slow) realization that the other person will never love them back, not a bang like a confession you know will fail. When Kanae cried I felt her pain, along with the pain of the memories I had when I too, realized that the person I loved will never feel the same way. However, it was the 3rd part that I related to the most, perhaps its because I’m the same age as Takaki in the 3rd part and working in a similar industry. Here is where I take a different POV, I felt that the cause and effect are opposite. Takaki’s life hasn’t turned out how he wanted and has become a monotonous grind then he think’s of a better time/what could have been. Rather than Takaki is still hung up on Akari thus his depression.

Also, I can’t help but think that Takaki’s situation is similar to Shinkai’s. He did after all leave a job at Minori to be independent….


suneo January 4, 2009 at 12:05 am

What a lovely written analysis. Wish I could write that well haha. Can’t write worth crap even if I tried.

It’s been over a year since I first saw the film, and it tugged at me so hard it was all I could think about for the next few weeks, at school, at work, lying in my bed…it put me in a real slump (I’m easily influenced like that lol). Since then I’ve gotten the dvd and an HD version of the film, but I still haven’t watched it again cuz I’m afraid I’ll get sucked right back into that funk again lol.

Even so, I remembered the film so well that I could picture every scene you were talking about clearly and it felt like I was watching it again lol. I really should give this another watch.

suneos last blog post..2009 Happy New Years!


miretruck January 4, 2009 at 12:49 am

Man i loved this movie. Great analysis on it.


Optic January 4, 2009 at 9:12 am

It’s been a year now and the funny thing is, I still haven’t finished off the last 2 ep. :s
I think there is a problem with me? lol

Good analysis. It would make more sense if I finished it first. ^^

Optics last blog post..Chairman Mao and The Forbidden City


ETERNAL January 5, 2009 at 10:57 pm

@ Nazarielle: Yes, please do :P

@ afatcow: It couldn’t hurt to try; the thing about the blogosphere is that whoever you are, almost every idea seems to have been done before by someone better than you, so you just have to write anyhow at the risk of boring the vets ^^;

@ slpless: Good point: that’s actually a lot more practical when you think about it. I’m sure it’s happened countless times in real life as well.
Also, Shinkai was employed by minori? Then again, I guess he wouldn’t have made their opening videos for free…

@ suneo: It couldn’t hurt. After all, this was my second viewing. (And speaking of HD, I should probably look into that some time instead of relying on this old fansub…)

@ miretruck: Thanks for reading!

@ Optic: lol, it would definitely do you well to finish it :P


slpless January 6, 2009 at 10:23 am

Oh, my bad, I just remembered that Shinkai only worked with Minori on various projects, I’m pretty sure he didn’t work full time for them. Which which really don’t make any sense now that I think about it… Anyway, I forget which company he quit before working on Hoshi no Koe…


a fan January 8, 2009 at 9:59 am

You should watch it HD. Also get the accompanying PV in HD too.

Have you seen it? The ‘One more time, One more chance’ PV?
I had only watched the PV after seeing the movie, , it gave me another emotional impact. Especially ‘that part’ … ;_;

Also, have you known about this blog?

The summaries of the novel made me like the movie even more..


Black_Claw January 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Nice analisyst, the best that I know so far, exactly like the way I think about the movie. Man, you rocks! :D


tflops January 13, 2009 at 7:27 am

All the marks on what I think is exactly you have said, moreover I’ll watch (the) Girl have leapt through time which is said interelated with the melodramatic movie. If only people we’re meant for each other… sob .-.

tflopss last blog post..Staffs for New Full Metal Alchemist Anime


james allen January 25, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Although overall i thought i liked the film, i have to say the ending really, truly annoyed me (so much so that I’m writing about it now). I agree with your comments but its the smile, at the end that drives me crazy as i can only reasonably take it to mean two things (the latter being most likely).

‘For a brief moment they acknowledge each other, they had both walked together through the cherry blossom one last time.’

1. Takaki smiled because he was remembering fond memories.

Well in this case Takaki’s no better off now than he ever was, he is still obsessing over her, not wanting to let anyone else close. Nothing is resolved, and he remains in an never ending limbo of obsession, depression and hopelessness.

2. Takaki smiled because he has finally learnt to move on with his life as she has.

Her turning to look back, but then being able to walk away, is a metaphor for this. He in contrast remains, then he looks sad, then he follows her example, and takes a step away, a smile breaking across his face as if finally able to leave the past behind…

Well if that’s what was being said, as i believe is as implied, then it is quite simply, absurd. From what we are led to believe Takaki has only wanted to be with Akari and nobody else since the films start. Yet in that split second he has resolved to forget all this, appreciate what they had, and move on. I just dont buy it, it just seems completely out of character.

Due to the films heavy focus on the closeness and deep affection of their relationship, the fact that it ends without either character having even enough reason, to want to see the other again, i feel, cheapens what went before. In the context of the story, you want them to be together, you want them to overcome the obstacles. And while the fact that they didn’t, is very human (certainly expected for a couple their age) I don’t think it makes for a great film.

james allens last blog post..I’ve got mine thanks…


ETERNAL January 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

@ james allen: To be honest, I was a little bothered by that as well. It almost sounds too optimistic for us to believe that he was able to overcome his pain that easily, even though it’s what I want to believe. As you said, the closeness of the two characters is heavily emphasized in the film, which is a huge part of why I initially read Takaki’s emptiness as a result of his breakup rather than his unsuccessful adulthood. The couple is close to the point that we believe that they were “meant” for each other, and the movie concludes by effectively dispelling that wish.

I’m not sure why Shinkai would have chosen to make Takaki smile at the end, but I suppose he wanted to give the film a more positive message. I’m assuming that he wants us to believe that love can’t hold people back forever, but in many ways, that indeed does contradict the rest of the story. However, even though it might have felt “out of character” for the viewer, it might have been realistic for the characters, considering how much time passed in between. Either way, I don’t believe that he intended the ending to be tragic more than it was bittersweet, so I was able to come to terms with the conclusion.

But maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe, given the circumstances, Takaki should have never smiled at all. I’m not sure, and I don’t think I want to find out.


kerokero February 13, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Nice written analysis ^^
In the third episode, both Takaki and Akari have found their own loved ones.However Takaki broke up with her girlfriend he has been dating for three years, so doesn’t this mean Takaki also moved on his life after going out with that girl?
I wonder maybe if Takaki didn’t lose the letter, or if Akari remembered to give the letter to Takaki what would’ve happened? Maybe the ending would be different, but at the ending song Akari took the letter out again, that part i did not understand what the producer is trying to emphasize.
I still can’t understand why Takaki wasn’t able to go on with life, and Akari did….

kerokeros last blog post..Shugo Chara! – Episode 70


ETERNAL February 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm

@ kerokero: Well, I read it in terms of his happiness; he might have been going out with someone else, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he had completely gotten over Akari. On the other hand, though, that could just have been me romanticizing the whole scenario.

As for the ending, they were both remembering their relationship at school, and I’m guessing that the letter was Akari’s main physical proof of their history together. It was presumably a tool to symbolize their relationship. I don’t think that the letter would have made any literal difference in the outcome of the story, but it’s a nice image nonetheless and it adds to the heartbreak of the conclusion. It’s sad, of course, but I suppose that’s life.


balance February 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I remember watching this and when it ended I had to double check on the time left on the movie. I was like “That is the ending you got to be kidding me!” I thought to myself after what he has went through and all the good girls he has rejected.. He ends up without Akari. The part where Akari was departing from the train station I thought she was metting up with Takaki but I was wrong.

As few of you said it made most us feel that they were meant to be together…

Overall about ending, there are pros about a bad ending… I usually remember bad ending more than good ones, but I will get over it but thinking about it still depresses me but that is life sigh…

The romance part in the beginning was really nice, she waited for him ^^. Why didn’t Takaki write to Akari? – I seem to forgotten the reason…

@Eternal keep up the good work, PS I don’t like the bright white BG it hurts my eyes =_=

balances last blog post..First Figures, Haruhi Suzumiya goodies!


raizo March 6, 2009 at 10:02 am

@james allen: Tohno actually didn’t overcome that pain easily. I believe he already tried to forget Akari since Cosmonaut chapter, notice he want to send message to Akari but he can’t, and on chapter 3(he’s about 30yrs old) he tried to create a relationship with another girl. In the end he still can’t forget Akari and when he’s realize there is no one behind the passing train, he finally able to notice that no matter how long he wait, Akari won’t appear(the lyrics of the song suit the plot perfectly here). I know some people expect a happy ending, if u watch the commentary from Makoto-san, he said that the movie originally end up with a happy ending, but life is not like that, there is no definite ending in life (if i found the link to his interview i’ll add them later).

The sakura tree actually mean that even when 2 petals originated from the same branch, the might end up falling in different places. Byousoku 5 Cm itself mean the speed of a person’s changing by passing of time.

*some of these review are not mine, they’re basically collection of review from many blogs
lastly i know my english is not very good, forgive me if i made lots mistakes


ETERNAL March 7, 2009 at 8:31 pm

The sakura tree actually mean that even when 2 petals originated from the same branch, the might end up falling in different places. Byousoku 5 Cm itself mean the speed of a person’s changing by passing of time.

Thanks for raising that point, it’s been bugging me for ages. Now I no longer have to make up a vague excuse when people unfamiliar with the movie ask me why it has such a strange title.


KENNTH August 8, 2009 at 10:23 pm

What it showed me was that even love can’t withstand time.


SarahRHCP August 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

What a lovely analysis! You helped me understand some of the finer details in the movie :)
All I can say as to how Akari was able to move on, or seemingly so, is maybe because they say ‘when a heart breaks, it never breaks even.’ Maybe where Takiki felt all that emotion at their first kiss, how he felt her soul as well as his own, wasn’t reciprocated as much with Akari?
Although I do believe Takiki reached a turning point when he seemed to accept that he would always love Akari and so is able to turn away and keep moving in his own direction, away from her. Quitting his job seems to back this up as it seems like a drastic decision for him to make.
I loved this movie simply because of how real it was. Life isnt always how movies make it out to be. Typically, Takiki would have quit his job, found Akari, made a lovely speech about how he’s never stopped loving her and they’d have skipped off happily to watch the cherry blossoms fall, but does that ever really happen? It’s refreshing to see an ending that’s so real, and one the majority can relate to in some way, and I think this is what makes this movie so timeless :)


Viewer November 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I agree with most of your analogy, but there is one part that I disagree on.

You said at some point that Akari moved on quickly and got married and was happy, when that is not necessarily the case.
In the movie, I believe that Shinkai wished to show that Takaki and Akari were very similar in terms of personality and feelings. The man whom Akari ended up getting married to was most probably the boy he had been rather close to during high school (as seen in the ending sequence), who would have eventually confessed his love to her, leading to their reunion. The reason why she didn’t refuse was because, like Takaki, she is “too nice.”

Takaki also had a very similar scenario. Kanae loved him very much, but Takaki was still reminiscent of the times between him and Akari, which make it impossible for him to love Kanae. However, if Kanae had confessed to Takaki, he probably would have accepted and gone out with her and eventually married her, as Akari had done in her case.
In the ending scene, you can see that even when married, Akari still remembers Takaki and still possesses fragments of feelings towards him, as Takaki would have undoubtedly done if he were married to Kanae.

So in the end, what I’m trying to express is that there is some sort of mirror effect.
If you re watch the movie again, picture this : Everything that Takai is feeling, Akari is feeling. They are just so similar, and only have different endings due to the gender factor.

Sorry if I wasn’t so clear, but I wanted to express my views on this. :)


ETERNAL November 16, 2010 at 12:26 am

Thanks for the comment. I understand what you’re saying and, to be honest, I think I agree. I wrote this post almost two years ago and my opinion of it has matured a bit, but it’s a good observation nonetheless.


clannadkanon April 20, 2011 at 5:56 am

WHY!!!! DAMN!!!!




LeriJin May 28, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I saw the movie a minute ago and immediatly searched for an analysis, just in case I missunderstood the plot. But it seems I did not.
Really good job! But what I missed was your interpretation about text messages Takaki wrote in the second chapter, the text messages that weren’t sent to any address, but obviously were supposed to reach Akari, you know? I’d like to hear your opinions about that.
I think each and everyone of us is afraid to end up like Takaki. Although at the end he really seems to find the strength to look forward to the present. He could have went the other direction, trying to follow the young lady, who seemed to be Akari…but he did not.


Kyoko June 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Very nice analysis , it really is well done !!


Daniel August 26, 2011 at 5:42 am

The last smile… well going threw the analysis and the comments I couldn’t find anyone saying something close to what I felt…

Akari still thought about Takaki once in a while with a bittersweet feeling, but the new guy would usually dismiss those thoughts… why? because she found another love.

Takaki… well he tried forgetting… he thought that he should try living, having a girlfriend because life can be lonely … but in the end he couldn’t stop thinking about Akari… until one day he had the feeling that he was becoming emotionless… no emotions at all… and that was even scarier than the pain… he thought he lost everything… he even resigned from his job, to try to find something that might shake his heart … anything that might awaken his feelings again… that’s when he crossed path with that girl… his eyes sparkled, the feelings came back ! OVERFLOWING WITH EXCITMENT! He thought: maybe it’s her!!! He waited a long time for the train to pass by…. but nothing … it wasnt Akari… then he realised it was ridiculous, but he also didnt forget, he wasnt really alone, he still had his love for her, he wasnt empty after all. He wasnt lifeless, he wasnt emotionless.

**Maybe he thought that he could only keep that feeling inside of him and start heading forward. Accepting that ghost, and living side by side with it. It’d be a way to stop chasing for the real one.

I don’t know if that’s what they wanted to show, but I’ve seen myself sooo much in this smile… I use to roam streets I knew expecting to see her (my special someone)… and once I thought I saw her on the corner of a street we used to walk together… but It was just a random girl… and I started laughing out loud at myself. I was just so obssessed it was ridiculous… but at the same time it felt good to feel that excitement instead of that dark and heavy numbness, nothingness.

True love (obssessive love) can fuck you up… and the only cure is time…. a looooong time. Psychologist say it takes from 2 weeks to a year to get over someone… they’ve never met the right one… it took me more than 6 years and even after that I still had dreams about her… and the only thing that saved me was to finally meet someone else who finally made my heart beat again.

I wish you guys and girls the chance to spend as much time as possible with someone like that. Love is hard, but it’s the thing that can make a whole life worth living.
Peace and love boys and girls.

Dan out


Blonde Emo October 11, 2011 at 6:11 am

Ah…thank you for summarizing this. You helped me understand it. You’re awesome.


David April 5, 2012 at 9:33 am

I am not one to comment on blog posts, but regardless, this analysis (and summary) has truly moved the memories of the last time I saw this film. I honestly regret to have seen the film years ago and not have seen this analysis as great as the masterpiece right after. The thoughts were the same as mine, but I couldn’t have expounded it as better as you have.

Also, there are a lot of statements here worth quoting, which will stay nailed in my brain because it’s just the amazing truth it is.

And… I hope you could make one for the latest film of Makoto Shinkai, Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (Hoshi o Ou Kodomo). While in competition to this film be definitely superior to the other, I’m “excited” to hear your thoughts on his latest work despite that and perhaps many others.


Bear-run April 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

So…do you write other awesome analysis on other animes? Or was 5cm/s the only anime beautiful and deep enough for this?


Thumper April 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm

Loved the movie, as it is very reminiscent of my own childhood. When I was young, I had a mutual crush with a close childhood friend of mine, but during our early teens, she and her family had to move to another country, thus separating us. I was deeply depressed which took me more than two years to recover (and I was only a young teenager) after finding a new niche of friends. But I tried hard to maintain contact with her for many many years. In miracle, she decided to return for college and settle down afterwards. I, being one of the very few friends that maintained contacted with her, I was one of the few friends she went to and stick with upon returning. From there on, we were finally able to blossom into a real relationship, then we got engaged, and then we got married.

Though this movie made me realize how my life would’ve easily been had things unfortunately went the other way, had my girlfriend (now wife) not returned. And I could easily picture myself being like Takaki at the end of the film if that was the case.

And the interesting point about why Akari was able to move on with her life, while Takaki wasn’t, I assume was because Takaki refused to let go of Akari, as evident in Chapter 2 of the film when it seems like he was literally trying to alienate himself from his surroundings and give in on the influences of anything or anyone. Like it was discussed, Takaki was just staring into the impossible unreachable distance of Akari, rather than looking at what is immediately reachable and attainable for him, which is Kanae. In contrast, Akari was probably doing the exact opposite, accepting that Takaki was just a “phase” of her life and was just living out her life and doing whatever is in front of her and connecting with whoever is in front of her (which was what I did that got me out of my depression). With this, Akari ended up with a fiancé. Kanae on the other hand was Takaki’s ticket out to live his future like Akari did, but he refused that ticket. I guess it would’ve been cool if they actually gave us a chapter on Akari’s life in high school or college in showing us how she handled her disconnection from Takaki.

A sad, but a very well-done and emotionally rewarding movie.


Zihahhhaha October 18, 2012 at 4:42 am

A Great analysis :D
Truly admire you C:


Joe Fabritz February 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I know I am coming into this a bit late, but I just watched this movie. Too damn emotional for me, gotta lay off the tragic anime for a while…

I like your commentary and haven’t read the novel translation yet, but something made me think based on the first episode. Takaki’s letter to Akari was probably all love and how much he wants to be with her. I start to think that Akari’s letter was about how they needed to move on from each other now that they are moving so far away from each other that the odds of them ever being together were very small.

The kiss under the sakura tree in Akari’s village completely messed up her plan to give him that letter. She didn’t want to ruin the moment and that is why she kept it in her pocket when he boarded the train back home.

So that is why I think that Akari was able to move on, because she was ready to accept the fact that they could not be together.

The ending scenes did show them going out to their mailboxes and no longer finding letters from each other. I can’t reconcile how they really drifted apart since those scenes did not make it look one sided.

If Takaki was persistant in the letters and maybe emails (if he even knew her email address), the story could have been different. That could also have turned into Akaki no longer writing back to Takaki, which would have caused him to reevaluate their relationship much earlier, possibly allowing him to have recognized Kanae or even Lisa in the third episode.

I liked it – made me sad and teary eyed, but that’s okay it was worth it.


kyriu May 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

YEAH it make me want to do a table flip!!


kyriu May 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

wow nice on pal.. this movie is very epic and after watching it i just want to do a table flip!! .. Then i searching for the novel in english version which has been translate by lhyeung.com, in part 7 of eps 3.. when in movie before the trains left she say to takaki “I’m sure you will be okay from now on”, in novel it explain that in bottom of akari hearts she want to say “It’s okay, your lovers is waiting for you” !! my god, my body just shivered reading the text. And in the final scene when Takaki and Akari finally meet in the train rail, takaki though “it doesn’t matter the girl is Akari or not, because he promised after the train is over, he will be MOVE ON”, that’s why he just smile and not try to find akari.. (in manga that i read, a little Akari swing her hand wich mean goodbye Takaki, I love you) ..
When I watch this movie for first time, i feel sad, but after I read the novel and watched the movie for the second time, i’m helplessly CRY T___T … And will always make Byousoku 5cm per second the most epic movie I’ve ever seen..


kkk21 May 8, 2013 at 5:34 am

ahm It would be better if you would read the manga and especially the NOVEL of it because it has the different point of view from takaki,akari and kanae it explained well there and you can really understand what went wrong.


gee June 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

wow, i just watched the first episode but then i found this. So, i’m having second thoughts to whether watch the next 2 episodes or not. Probably, i will not; this analysis makes it clear to me. It’s truly epic, we used to love fantasy movies that give us false hopes about “love”. I used to love watching fairy tales where usually ends in a happily-ever-after scene but i’ve realized that in real life, it wasn’t like that after all.
This movie is just an eye opener for all people who always insist living their lives according to what they think is best and what they know is right. They end up miserable just like the character in the movie, what went wrong? well, we can’t expect everything that we desire will happen exactly as what we think it will be.
ah..i just can’t be patient over this things like waiting for someone to comeback…it’s just not realistic. This movie is sad but it really works in real life. I have friends who are like takaki, so i can relate to this movie and i agree with the writer, you are the next ” hayao miyazaki”. please make more stories like this!!!!


raphael July 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

this… movie…alone…fucking made me a wreck


TheBlueGuy July 24, 2013 at 7:21 pm

The way I see it, Akari and Takaki represent two different viewpoints on their mutual relationship except that Takaki did a half-assed job with his role.

Akari, through her actions later in life and through the letter that she never gave Takaki, shows us that she had already accepted the extremely slim probability that both of them would ever meet again and decides to move on. She, in her letter, professes her love to Takaki but also stresses that both of them should move on and that Takaki would be fine. Akari took her own advice well; she adapted to her new school, made new friends, and accepted a proposal to marry another man.

Takaki however wished to continue his relationship with Akari. In his time in Kagoshima, he very clearly pushes away the advances of another girl and is always seen looking at a distant “something”. But that’s not good enough! He should have been writing constantly, emailing, saving up money for a short visit etc. I mean he had 13 years to make sure Akari never forgot him and he did jack shit. Both of them should be around 25 by now seeing as elementary school finishes around 11-12 and adding on the 13 year gap. Even accounting for university, Takaki had a good 3 or so years to reconnect with Akari, but he didn’t.

I think this is why I’m feeling so conflicted about the ending. Takaki never fulfilled his end of the “bargain” so to speak. He writes to Akari for sometime then just stops and spends the rest of his high school years looking at the sky and moaning about her. (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻) There is never any indication as to why he couldn’t have just paid her a visit the moment he moved back to Tokyo for work. ¬_¬

This is stretching a bit, but I think Takaki is still hung up on the “idea” of Akari, that nice girl that got him though elementary school, who would encourage him and was also supported by him. This is in contrast to the “real” Akari that Takaki never seems to put any effort into finding again except to dream about in his fantasies. Gahhhhhh! I’m probably never going to get this out of my head unless I go extort the “happy” end that was supposedly tossed around out of Shinkai-san. >.>


Devilry August 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

The way I see it, Takaki didn’t fight for their relationship because he’d been deluded by his romantic expectations. His childhood had set him up to believe that his relationship with Akari was willed by the heavens, and no matter what kind of obstacles came in his way, she’d always be waiting, like how she did at the station. He was no longer thinking about her as a real person, but a surreal fantasy. As long as his continued to think about Akari, he thought that fate would not allow his love to go unrequited, and all the feelings that he typed for no one would eventually find their way to Akari.

Yes, it is his fault for not actively courting Akari. To him, maybe it’d spoil his expectations of their relationship, one where two childhood friends drift apart but inevitably come back together. It would be completely unromantic of him to refuse to let her go and trust ‘destiny’ to do its magic.


TheBlueGuy August 24, 2013 at 6:33 am

I really like your line of reasoning but there is just one small problem. At the end of their last meeting Takaki explicitly states that he never expects to see Akari again. However, even that is open to interpretation. Not being able to remain together could be seen as a short term affair and distinct from the distant future in Takaki’s mind.

But regardless, I’ll take what I can get. Your response provided the only reasonable explanation of the events that transpired without throwing out a key portion of the relationship dynamic that the director was so keen on building or even worse, don’t even address the weird behavior of Takaki during his high school years.

As far as I’m concerned, stepping outside the story, the only reason Takaki behaved the way he did was because the director wanted a more “realistic” ending. It seems from my light research that the director had planned a more typical ending with the happy reunion but decided to go for a more realistic one. But how to do it? It would still be a “happy” ending if both characters moved on. I, personally, would have loved that too but noooooo. Mr. Director has to screw with Takaki’s personality, break suspension of disbelief, and have him turn into a zombie for most of high school. All to make the viewer suffer through the heartbreak of Akari’s absence. I’m not saying it’s a bad strategy, but even having Takaki temporarily forget Akari and remember too late would have been better.

Fuck it. I’m done. I like your explanation. It wraps up a lot of loose ends. No one has anything better. I’ll just take “Takaki went crazy with Akari fanatasies” for 100 and be done with it.

Thanks man.


ThatGuy October 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I just recently watched 5 Centimeters Per Second, and I really enjoyed reading this brief article on your thoughts.

I’ve been looking back on the film and reading other’s thoughts on it and I think I have come to a conclusion on at least what I will take away from watching this film.

I think there are lots of different ways to interpret the movie, and I believe that Shinkai was trying to express several things throughout the film. Many are expressed so subtly though, such as the faint smile at the end. Its hard to pick up on many things, especially when the length of the movie forces it to glimpse over many of them. In contrast, the novel written on the movie some years after, actually goes further into depth on Tohno’s feelings and what his true desires were.

Ultimately I don’t think that 5 Centimeters Per Second was really written to be a love story. Rather I believe love was used a mean to convey the message that Shinkai wanted to say. Of course that then comes to the question of what exactly it is that he wanted to tell us if it wasn’t about the devastations of love. The title of the movie in itself is a clear representation of it. Its quite simply how distance will break people apart over time, no matter the situation. Many people wonder why Tohno didn’t chase after Akari if he loved her, or why he didn’t keep messaging her. A line that Tohno says near the end of the movie explains it quite well. It was regarding his new girl friend who was breaking up with him. He said “We must of emailed a thousand times, but I doubt our hearts got even a centimeter closer.” The messages exchanged between Tohno and Akari would have meant nothing, because the distance between them had torn them apart.

If left at that, we are left with a depressing and pessimistic outlook on life. Some view the ending as somewhat of a tragedy. I did too at first, but on closer inspection its intentions were more along the lines of bittersweet. Shinkai wanted to show how the distance tears us apart, but he didn’t want to leave to only take that away. He wanted to describe how we should deal with it. He uses both Tohno and Akari as opposites to describe it. Tohno is caught up in the past, he simply can’t let go. Akari on the other hand has been able to move on. She’s no longer being dragged down by her childhood. She is able to fall in love with another man, and live a happy life. In the last episode we see a depressed Tohno, with no hope in life. The film does a confusing way of showing his emotions though. It explained further in the book. Essentially, Tohno knew that he had to move on. He was reminded of something said when they were young. It was of when Akari said that he’d be alright, and he responded with “but will you be ok?” Tohno wanted to move on, but he couldn’t do it without knowing that Akari was able to. The final scene with the train ultimately provides the final closure that Tohno wanted. He caught a glimpse of something from his childhood, and acted on instincts in his constant search for something he once knew. He waited, to see her face again. I like to believe that in his heart, he actually was hoping that Akari would not be there. Once the train stops, we are presented with the devastating picture of, well, no one. Tohno’s initial face looks like something of disappointed, as he longed to see her again. But he doesn’t run after her, he doesn’t cry, and he doesn’t even appear sad. Instead he turns and smiles. Akari wasn’t able to stay and wait for something from her childhood that couldn’t be real to her anyways. She moved on, rather than reminiscing. Tohno saw this, and it gave him closure. Once he saw that she was okay, that she wasn’t still desperate for him, and that she moved on, he was able to do the same.

One thing that isn’t expressed very well in the film due to how short it is, is the time that passes. In the magazine at the end it shows the dates of when the rocket he saw with Kanae was sent off, and it was a long time. At this point in their lives, their childhood is more of a distant memory. Something they can’t quite grasp, but something they can’t forget.

At least the way its shown in the book, is that Tohno was never looking to be with Akari again. He knew it was something that couldn’t be. So he wanted to be able to move on. And that’s what to me made the ending special. So I don’t think that its wrong to interpret it as a love story, or a story about romance, as someone can definitely take away something from the relationships shared between the characters. But to me, it was more about nostalgic memories, and what we make of them because people are separated after high school, and the distance pulls them apart.

So what do I take from this film? To me the film was story about moving on. Its how we can keep living miserably in the past, or learn to accept things and move on. The memories will never go away, as shown by Akari who remembered fondly of the blossom trees. But shortly after she is thinking of the past, her new fiance shows up, and she smiles, signifying that she is happy in the present.

I think the reason the film is so memorable is because of the ending. In a way the end is almost shocking. Its so unexpected, and it hits you hard when you’ve taken the film seriously and applied it to your life. The first time I watched it, it wasn’t really feelings of sadness or despair. It was just depressing and gave me no hope for life. After looking closer at it though, I’m much more satisfied with the ending, and its not intended to leave us in despair, but with hope that we can move foward.

Its quite funny, how its so hard for me to move on from this film. Anyways, that was a lot that I wrote, and I don’t expect anyone to read it anyways, but I’m glad that I was able to share my thoughts on this brilliantly portrayed film somewhere. And maybe now that I’ve done so I will be able to move on and stop thinking about it.


tonerton October 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm

You said, “A line that Tohno says near the end of the movie explains it quite well. It was regarding his new girl friend who was breaking up with him. He said “We must of emailed a thousand times, but I doubt our hearts got even a centimeter closer.” The messages exchanged between Tohno and Akari would have meant nothing, because the distance between them had torn them apart.”

I think the person Takaki was pertaining to was not Akari but his girlfriend, she said that he’s still in love with Takaki but Takaki clearly says that “We must of emailed a thousand times, but I doubt our hearts got even a centimeter closer.” This means that his feelings will still be for Akari. Knowing his limit though he decided to move on. Hence, he didn’t followed the girl after the train left.


KAORU January 30, 2014 at 10:02 am

Agree, I think Takaki still can’t let his yearning for Akari from that point.

And by reading the manga, i come to grasp something, it’s like Takaki who left Akari first. (Quote from Takaki words in the manga; “In reality, i had never thought… …about meeting her again… …or waiting for her. however, despite everything, I swore to live my life with someone else.”) from Takaki words, i’ll think he already try to move-on when he leaving from Iwafune, yet failed.. he still longing for Akari deep in his heart.

And while he try to move-one, Takaki stop sending the letter to Akari, while Akari still waiting for him IMO.
to explain my opinion about Akari still waiting for him; (Quote from Akari words in the manga; “Takaki-kun do u have someone that you like ? What are u thinking about, in a place that i don’t know ? Am I..already a memory for you ?”). this happen while some boy asking Akari to go-out with him, she still have a feeling (waiting) for Takaki, even the feeling gradually to disappearing because of time.. because Takaki isn’t there with her, and because she still have to go-on with her present life !

Another Quote from Akari words in the manga; “Yesterday, I had a dream. It was very depressing. Were u thinking “Did she go home already ?” You probably wanted me to go home. After all, you were so kind. However I would have waited until the end of time. I believed that you would come no matter what. I really, Really…… *got disturbed by the phone-mail*). from this point-of-view I’ll think Akari always waiting for Takaki in a long time, yet Life must go-on.

“No matter how far away you go, I will definitely… always LOVE you. Please…Remember that.” Quoted from Akari words in the manga.

This movie and manga really got me a depressing feeling, mix-out emotion, and personally I think they both can be together (I wish..) If Takaki still had earnest and sincere feeling that he once had. (Quoted from Takaki words in the manga; “I could never.. forgive myself for.. not holding onto.. ..the serious feelings.. …the earnest and sincere feelings.. that i once had.”).

Quoted from Takaki words in the manga; “I betrayed both her and the me.. from back then.”

From my point-of-view; If Takaki try to be sincere and earnest about his real feeling back then, probably it would’t end like this. yet it just my opinion, we can’t change the ending thought.. cos the GOD of 5cm is Makoto Shinkai. LoL

It’s really depressing to watch both people who love each other, yet can’t be together. really, really.. hard to approve..


Someone you know from U of T September 30, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I watched this film a few times, but I just re-watched this film yesterday, and damn……that gave me the depression. I could literally see myself reflected in Takaki, because I also moved quite a bit during my youth and I only settled down once I finished my elementary school (by that time, most of the new people I met were douchebags rather than angels like Akari). I sometimes curse my parents for making me lose all of my childhood friends, but I guess such is the toughness of life. And not to mention, as much as I don’t want to admit, moving around the world has also benefited myself in important ways.

The one thing that I want to talk about here is whether Takaki is a representation of someone who Makoto Shinkai knew about or it is just a product of his harshly real imagination. I had childhood friends who were very dear to me when I was young, but after I left them, with my very selfish personality at that period of time, paid no effort to contact them ever, nor did they ever try to contact me, and this is completely opposite from the relationship between Takaki and Akari. With the way everything was setup in the first episode, I think the film was portraying a love that is so dramatic that it is hard to apply it to any people in the real world. I think this is an important question, because Shinkai’s intention in creating this love makes a world of difference in how this film can be interpreted. Part of me wants it to be just a simple dramatic romance, because then I wouldn’t have to take anything in the film seriously and continue on with my life. Ignorance is certainly bliss.

Nonetheless, 5cm/s was certainly a thought-provoking film, and I am glad that I rewatched.


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