5 Centimeters per Second is a two-volume manga written by Makoto Shinkai, based on his critically acclaimed film of the same title, with illustrations by Yukiko Seike. He also did a novel adaptation of the same title. The manga was released by Vertical as a single omnibus volume.
I picked up this title at Half Price recently on the strength of all the praise I’d read about the film and my enjoyment of another of Shinkai’s hit films, Voices of a Distant Star. 5 Centimeters focuses on Takaki Tohno and Akari Shinohara, two elementary school kids who meet after Akari transfers to Tohno’s school. They quickly hit it off and their friendship seems aimed at turning into more, until Akari has to transfer again and they find themselves separated on only by distance, but life as they continue growing and time moves on. As the years pass, the letters become more sporadic and it becomes harder to know just what to say.
Note: This one is a harder story to talk about without giving some spoilers and hints about its nature, though I’ll attempt to avoid any big ones.
5 Centimeters is not a title I’d say I really loved. I was, in fact, a bit disappointed in this manga. Whereas Voices of a Distant Star had, in some ways, a similar set up of a couple in love separated by distance and time, I felt 5 Centimeters presented a sad, rather hopeless feeling.
Even in the earlier parts of the story, I felt as if Takaki loved Akari deeply, to the point that he can’t move on even as an adult, while she more clearly recognized it as the first love of childhood and did. The one-time their feelings seemed in sync is during an early part of the story when they both desperately try to make it to their arranged meeting despite a heavy snow storm, but even then Takaki’s efforts to get there far out weighted Akari’s.
Much of the story is showing Takaki with his failed relationships, and I admit I couldn’t see why all these other women seemed to fall for him. In some cases, like Kanae, a girl from high school, it was without any encouragement on his part, but still, nothing about him after he lost Akari came across as particularly attractive or desirable. He was bleh, depressed, and rather boring. I suppose one could make an interesting analysis of why, when seemed to love Akari so much, he doesn’t act on it by looking for her or trying to reunite with her when he’s old enough to do so.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it left me unsatisfied. While I don’t mind open endings, as many anime and manga works have them, this one just seemed to end on a kind of “life sucks” sort of note, and not one I would have expected. In many ways, after I reached the end, I found myself struggling to see what the point of the story and the events depicted were.
5 Centimeters is well drawn and, if you did see and enjoy the film, expounds on some of the side characters and relationships Takaki has as he grows up nicely. The story telling style is a bit hard to follow at times, like most of Shinkai’s works, with time jumps happening with little notice other than mild visual cues or hints in the dialog.
5 Centimeters Per Second is available in paperback form.