March 4th was the day of (the 13-year-old) Takaki’s and Akari’s reunion after a year of separation, and it happened to be the day I went to Cinema Rise of Shibuya and watched the full Byousoku 5cm.
Cinema Rise. In contrast to my image, it’s quite a shabby and old cinema.
Well, the seat was comfortable, and that was all it mattered to me.
They also sold a tiny booklet about the film for 600 Yen, which was an instant must-buy for me. I also got two nice handbills.
I got the ticket just about 30 minutes before the movie was shown, and I was quite surprised that the theatre was not jam packed with people. I guess Shinkai’s work is not so mainstream after all. It is an art movie: something that does not catch much interest from mainstream moviegoers, and fail to interest otaku because the lack of moe and loli. (Akari is 13 in Oukashou, but she is not flatly delicious at all.)
Okay, on with the summary!
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read further if you do not wish to be spoiled.
Disclaimer: My Japanese is very weak, and I didn’t understand all that was said. I’m pretty sure the following summary will be inaccurate in some way or another, so don’t blame me if you get the wrong impression of the anime.
#2 Cosmonaut: Takaki moves to Kagoshima and makes friend with Sumida Kanae, a local girl. Kanae falls in love with Takaki at first sight, feeling that there’s something different about him. She is learning how to surf, and,every day after her early morning practice, she would try to say hello to Takaki who has morning Kyudo practice as well. Kanae waits for Takaki every evening to go home with him. Along the way, they would stop at a convenience store, where Takaki always buy the same coffee milk (I like it as well!), and Kanae always buy something else.
One day, Kanae finds that Takaki already went home without her, but, on the her way home, she found Takaki sitting alone on a hill, text-messaging someone. This kind of nails it for her that Takaki has someone special that he’s always communicating with, and makes she feel a little down. However, Kanae walks towards Takaki and they have a little chat. I didn’t quite get what they were saying, but Takaki mentions something like he was trying his best and doing what he could then. Takaki’s word inspires Kanae to try her best at what she can do at the moment (surfing and studying so that she can go to the same university as Takaki) as well. After that, they go home together. On the way, they see a train sluggishly transporting a NASDA rocket to the Kagoshima Space Center. Kanae mentions that the train’s speed is 5km per hour (jisoku 5km).
Kanae works very hard at her surfing afterwards. On the day she is able to ride the wave for the first time, she decides to tell to Takaki her feeling. After they routinely stopped at the convenient store to buy some milk, Kanae tries to confess but doesn’t have enough courage to say it. When they are about to take off from the convenient store, they found that Kanae’s bike is broken. (Yeah, I kinda forgot to mention that they commute to school buy bikes. Kagoshima is that backwater of a place.) Takaki suggests that the leave their bikes there and walk home because somehow he feels like it. On the way, Kanae starts to cry (I guess because of a mixture of Takaki’s indifference and her inability to say what she wants to say). However, when Takaki turns back and asks what was wrong, their conversation was interrupted buy the sight of a rocket taking off from the space center. (I think this depicts the launch of the Nozomi Mars orbiter on July 3rd, 1998 because the story took place in summer and near the end of a term.)
At the moment she witnessed the launch of the rocket, she came to understand that Takaki has always been looking at someone else, not her (although I didn’t really understand how Shinkai linked the sight to the conclusion). The episode ends (and also begins) with a surreal depiction of what Takaki always “look at.” He is depicted standing on a flower field on the moon with Akari, gazing at the Earth from there. (So, Shinkai manages to insert some Sci-fi element in the film after all.) In the end, Kanae is unable to tell Takaki that she loves him.
#3 Byousoku 5cm: The episode starts with an all grown-up Takaki walking on the roads we see at the beginning of Oukashou. He walks pass an Akari-lookalike when he crosses the railway track. When he reaches the other side of the track, Takaki thinks that he gets the feeling that, if he turns around, he would see the other person turning around as well.
The scene then switches to show Takaki in his room in Tokyo. He has recently quits his job, and has recently broken up with a woman from the company he’s been dating for three years (no, not Akari). Takaki says he had been having a dream of the time with Akari, and is somewhat angsty. (I was actually confused at what was going on. I think I have to wait for a fansub to understand it fully. -_-‘)
Akari, on the other hand, discovered the letter she didn’t handed to Takaki in Oukashou, and has been dreaming about the time she spent with Takaki as well. However, now she has a real boyfriend, and the episode shows her traveling from Iwafune to Tokyo to see him.
The song “One more time, one more chance” then plays, and the screen displays random shots of Takaki’s, Akari’s, and Kanae’s past along with shots of Takaki’s walking aimlessly in Tokyo, and Akari’s taking the train to the same capital city.
The scene then cuts back to the railway track at the beginning of the episode. Takaki turns back, but the passing train blocks the sight of the person he just walked pass. Takaki waits until the train clears away, but the person he was expecting is not there. Takaki then smiles and continues on his way.
I’m holding off the real impression until I watch the sub to understand everything. For the first impression, I think the art is as gorgeous as it can get. The scene where Kanae watches the sun rises over the plain of Kagoshima is just breathtakingly beautiful, and makes me want to kind of conduct a pilgrimage to Kagoshima Space Center and the surrounding area myself.
However, I think the story is either a hit or a miss for everyone, and to me it seems like a miss. I get the impression that Shinkai wants to tell us that everyone has some sweet pasts that he/she cherishes like Takaki and Akari do. In the middle of our ever chaotic lives, these experiences can suddenly come, make us all nostalgic, and remind us how much we are alive. While this is all good, I have to sadly admit that I have never had a girlfriend, and so I cannot really relate to the story. So, somehow (what I think is) the main concept of the anime doesn’t resonate with me very well.
The ending is bittersweet, in a good way. I thought that Akari would also turn around and reunite with Takaki again. However, the ending Shinkai gives us is more realistic: we all cherishes our memories, but it’s hard to relive them, and life has to go on.
Of all the characters, I like Kanae the best. She displays a variety of emotions, which makes her very human to me. This also makes Cosmonaut my favourite episode. Takaki, on the other hand, seems surreal throughout the story. His angst in Oukashou is unrealistic. He doses off to space in Cosmonaut. And he gets angsty about life for some reason I don’t understand (due to the language barrier) in Byousoku 5cm. Akari just has too little screen time.
I also feel that the ending is kind of abrupt. We are not actually shown how the communication between Takaki and Akari comes to an end, and how they deal with their separation. (Maybe it was shown in Cosmonaut or mentioned in Byousoku 5cm, but I didn’t catch it.) Somehow Takaki and Akari just slip away from each other, and I feel I need some explanation to tie the loose end here.
Byousoku 5cm is a feast to the eyes, and is worth seeing for the art alone. However, I feel that the story can be improved, but I shall not pass the judgement yet. I’ll wait for the sub and write a real review then.