Alright, this is the blogging project that I mentioned I was going to be doing in my summary of the Catching Up On Classics project: Tribute From a Hater. How this works is that I look at an anime (or possibly an aspect of anime) that I’m not big on and point out the positive things about them whilst slipping in my own dislike of them into the mix. It’s mostly going to be highly acclaimed anime, although I might do one for anime that not many people actually like sometime down the road. Also, I don’t have to hate the anime. I just have not to care for it. Basically, whenever I think I can do a proper “tribute” to something, then I’ll do it. And what better anime to start this project with than the critically acclaimed animated masterpiece from the guy who is great visually and terrible presentation-wise, Five Centimeters Per Second?
Five Centimeters Per Second is Makoto Shinkai’s most famous movie. Certainly the movie that made me aware of his existence. Whilst Voices of A Distant Star and The Place Promised In Our Early Days are also well-known, bring up Shinkai and 5 cm will instantly get mentioned above all else. To understand why this is, let’s take a look at the premise of 5 Cm Per Second. It’s an anime about two children who grew up together and fell in love, but due to their parents, they end up moving away from each other. What you have is an interesting premise about star-crossed lovers who are separated by distance. If you’re familiar at all with these types of stories, you’d think they’d get back together in the end like most idealistic anime do. That might have made the movie interesting, but let’s keep my biases out of this for now. No, Shinkai didn’t want to rehash his old formula with this one. He didn’t want magical elements like the sci-fi stuff that were the only interesting things about his other movies (besides the animation of course). He wanted a more realistic take on how time and distance can affect people’s lives. And that’s basically what 5 Cm Per Second is, as well as the main reason why it’s his most famous film.
Shinkai is to distance (and clouds) what Miyazaki is to the rainforest, as you’ll see regarding all of his movies. Hell, even the title refers to distance itself. 5 Cm Per Second is an allusion to the speed a sakura petal falls from a tree. In case you don’t know the actual implications, the petal basically presents how humans grow up together, but as time passes, they slowly drift apart. This is a very mature message that other Japanese products like Clannad: After Story, Kids on the Slope (mostly the manga), and…um…well Kimi No Iru Machi should have done this, but fuck it if Seo Kouji wants to fall back on old habits. Basically, my point is that it has been done before in the 2D Japanese world, but not as often as I would like. I think more anime and manga really need to get into the habit of doing this kind of story, because there’s some great ideas you can use from that concept. Meet new people. Get a job. Start a new life. Seriously, where are the other anime that do this shit?! Am I just missing them?
The point is, Shinkai is one of the few people I know of who actually implements this theme of distance. And he didn’t fuck it up the way LNs fuck up there themes. He just didn’t make it interesting.
Development and Artwork
Despite the flak I give Shinkai, the man is crazy talented and works harder than most people do in order to get their story told. If you ever did research on Voices of A Distant Star, you’ll know that he practically wrote the story, did some of the voice acting, directed it, and basically soloed the entire production. On a Mac no less. That takes major props to do and I can’t stress enough how the animation industry needs more people like him rather than the lazy idiots who fucked up the Persona 4 anime. With 5 Cm Per Second, he joined a working team for the very first time…and still ended up doing most of the work. Seriously, he wrote, directed, animated, edited, and basically owned the entire thing. The only thing the other team did was create the music (which Shinkai directed), designed the characters, and some other important yet minor stuff. In that regards, 5 Cm is a miracle. I mean I can’t think of a single frame that wasn’t pretty, nor can I think of a time when the story meandered. I guess it makes sense that Shinkai’s stuff is always short (except for his latest film I mean), because a shorter length guarantees more consistency in terms of production values as well as writing. And it’s especially necessary when you want to look as pretty as possible. I’m not the biggest animation expert, so I can’t address some complaints I’ve heard like too many bright colors clashing or aliasing or the like. All I have to say is that I really enjoyed the scenery. Didn’t enjoy the talking. Lots and lots of talking.
Speaking of the animation and artwork, I really need to bring this up because I’ve seen people say that it doesn’t matter what the artwork looks like as long as the story and characters are good. While it’s true that I would rather watch David Production’s cheap-ass anime over this one, I still find that way of thinking confusing. It’s called anime because it’s animation! It’s an art form! What’s the point of watching 2-D over 3-D if you’re not going to appreciate the 2-D? Yes, a pretty anime with no substance is like a woman who has nothing to her besides her looks, only the looks don’t fade away over time. And I know that unlike American animation studios, Japanese ones are a little on the cheap side and have different production schedules, hence all the cost-cutting shots I see in stuff like Future Diary. Still, don’t dismiss it. While I don’t like Shinkai, I’ll still watch anything he puts out just for the artwork alone (and because I want to love at least one of his movies). I mean you can’t deny that animation is hard and that Shaft really needs to get off its ass and start using the stack of money it made from the bazillion sales of Monogatari and Madoka (yes, Sasami-san had great animation, even though it still used some cost-cutting maneuvers). Okay, the clouds and trains are kind of obnoxious at times and the fact that sometimes the art is there just to be there is a little off-putting. Still, it’s better than the atrocious animation of fucking Who Is Imouto. Seriously, how did we anime fans fall so far as to not care about the art? Did we learn nothing from what happened to Minami-ke and Hayate?
Not that I’m dismissing lesser studios, so long as their direction is up to snuff. I mean Jojo is cheap, but the direction overcomes it greatly. Better than the OVAs, which I thought were just alright.
The Take On Romance
Combined with the theme of distance, the way this movie handles its romance is what really draws people to this movie. 5 Centimeters Per Second is sort of like 500 Days of Summer in that besides the fact that I think they’re both awful (Yeah, I hate 500 Days of Summer. Sorry), they don’t go for the fairytale ending of most romances, but rather the “realistic bitter-sweet” ending that is sad, yet feels so right. I’m sure most people who’ve heard of this anime by now were spoiled by the ending, so I’ll just say what happens in the story. The male and female leads grew up as children and fell in love, but they were separated due to moving away. They first mailed each other (no cell phones at the time), but as time went on, the letters stopped. And then they grew up. The guy had several girls after him since then, but he couldn’t move on from his childhood. The girl was arranged to be married to another guy. Suddenly, by chance, the two almost run into each other…but a fucking train ruins the reunion. However, rather than chase each other, the two decide to walk away and move on, as they have grown too far apart to the point that chasing once they had is a childish fantasy. Do I even need to describe why that concept is both touching and mature? Hell, that description alone made me sad when I first heard about Five Centimeters. Too bad the actual movie didn’t, but I’d really like to see it more in anime. Kids on the Slope is the closest thing I can think of that does this. That’s not really a good sign.
In the end, whilst I didn’t like the movie, I have to say that my hatred for it has simmered over time. I still think Shinkai needs to not put fucking narration in his movies, because narration is an awful storytelling tool that needs to be destroyed as far as I’m concerned, and give me the ability to care about the characters rather than treat them like abstract tools. Or give someone else the responsibility of writing the script (not the guy who writes the Shaft shows. He sucks). But still, it’s a beautiful film that I recommend you watch at least once, especially if you’re an anime fan. I mean it’s only an hour of your life. You could be spending it on a love story written by Seo Fucking Kouji, which just goes on and on and on and fucking on!
- If I mute the movie and watch it raw, I actually kind of like it.
- Future anime for this project involve stuff like Rahxephon, the Monogatari series, and…urgh…Simoun.