Starring: Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondou, Satomi Hanamura
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Running Time: 62 mins
5 Centimeters Per Second is a Japanese film about a young man who, through the years, faces countless obstacles in all walks of life, preventing him from succeeding in love.
Famous for directing some of the most beautiful animes of the 21st Century, Makoto Shinkai does yet another fantastic job with 5 Centimeters Per Second. Although lacking some of the storytelling power of his other films, it’s an astonishingly beautiful piece of art, and shows off enough astonishing landscapes and photo-realistic animation to have you engrossed even despite the short stories’ relative lack of power.
Let’s start with what really makes this film stand out: the visuals. As the film is only an hour-long collection of short stories, it’s clear that this is meant to be first and foremost a visual experience above anything else. From start to finish, this film is incredibly beautiful to look at, mixing some more classic animation, in the design of the main characters, with ultra-modern high-definition visuals.
In that, you get the old-style charm of a pleasant Ghibli movie (Whisper Of The Heart comes to mind here), but Shinkai’s use of modern animation gives the film a unique and bold look, distancing itself from simply being an anime. What that entails is a combination of near photo-realistic macro focus, including hyper-realistic depictions of stations and city environments, and massively wide landscape shots that portray natural scenery as if it’s from another world.
That last point is the most outstanding feature of this film, as well as all of Shinkai’s other movies. Anime has always been the forerunner for beautiful landscapes on the big screen, but this incredibly unique take on nature in animation is striking and mind-blowing to look at. The pinks, greens and blues that seem so unnatural in the real world are utterly mesmerising to witness, providing not only beautiful visuals, but also a profound emotional tone to the film.
If there’s a ranking of visually beautiful films out there, then 5 Centimeters Per Second has to be right near the top of the pile, because there’s no doubt about how much of a work of art it is.
Unfortunately, the same can’t quite be said for the film’s story. Now, whilst the story here isn’t necessarily bad, it really suffers from being put into such a small runtime. Of the three short stories that make up the overall story arc, the first (and longest) is the most engrossing, providing the best of the film’s emotional drama as it takes its time to allow you to develop a deep connection with the characters.
Whilst the rest of the film isn’t necessarily boring, I just felt that it was missing so much more. In a sense, it’s great to leave a film wanting to spend more time in its world, but this film’s incredibly short runtime had more of a feeling of being incomplete than having a deliberately vague approach to tying up loose ends. Whilst there is a lot to care about here, the story just isn’t long or engrossing enough to fully pull you in.
Overall, 5 Centimeters Per Second is a very impressive film. Its story has some good and bad points, but is in truth completely overshadowed by Makoto Shinkai’s astonishingly beautiful direction. With exceptionally striking visuals from start to finish, this is one of the most picturesque and visually mesmerising films of all time, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.