5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)
June 22, 2008 by Dennis Amith
“Shinkai Makoto’s third animated film is just PERFECT!”
DVD TITLE: 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND (Byousoku 5 Centimeter)
DURATION: 65 MINUTES
DVD INFORMATION: English 5.1 Surround Sound, Japanese 2.0 with English Subtitles
CATALOG #: DFCS/001
COMPANY: ADV FILMS
RATING: TV PG
STORYBOARD, ORIGINAL CHARACTER DESIGNS, SCREENPLAY, DIRECTOR AND ORIGINAL AUTHOR: Shinkai Makoto
KEY ANIMATION DIRECTOR AND CHARACTER DESIGN: Nishimura Takayo
PRODUCED BY: Shinka Makoto – COMIX WAVE FILMS
PRESENTED BY: Shinkai Creative – COMIX WAVE FILMS
Beginning with the lyrical image of cherry blossoms falling at five centimeters a second, Makoto Shinkai paints a breathtakingly vivid tableau of young love, desire, loss and hope. Told in three heartbreaking chapters, we follow the young dreamer Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, silence and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to crush the delicate petals of true love. Finding beauty in everday objects and moments, Shinkai reveals he is a master of animation and haunting, beautiful storytelling. Fall in love with this gorgeous, thoughtful film, hailed by critics and audiences alike for its beauty, truth and innovation in animation.
Shinkai Makoto has been someone of a hero for me. Back in 2002, when he won the award as “Most Valuable Newcomer” at the Tokyo Anime Fair 21 for “Voices of a Distant Star”, I was blown away by his work for creating a short animated film by himself using only a Power Mac 7600/120 computer and various consumer and professional design and animation software.
In 2005, he returned with another award winning film titled “The Place Promised in Our Early Days” and his third film “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” which hit theaters back in March 2007 was another award winner for “Best Animated Film” at the Asian Pacific Film Awards.
But what makes this film different from his previous work is simply amazing. The previous films were very good but “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” is just perfect!
From the screenplay, the animation, the music – everything in this film is just perfectly done, well-planned and there is no doubt about it, Shinkai Makoto is one of the most brilliant animators in the world. There is something about his way of thinking, his way of animation that people just fall in love with.
With this particular film, “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” is a film divided into three parts.
The first part titled “EXTRACT” features two friends, Toono Takaki and Shinohara Akari, both attend a new school (fourth grade) with each other. They have the same class and they enjoy the same things. As they grow older, both are very fond of each other but in many ways, have difficulty expressing their true feelings for each other. During junior high, Akari moved away and transferred to a new school in a town in the Tochigi Prefecture. The two kept in contact ala penpals through letters sent to each other quite often.
When Takaki’s parents move towards a country area (Kagoshima Prefecture) near the ocean, their distance has increased. Both are still wanting so badly to see each other, wanting to communicate their emotions to each other but still have difficulty in doing so. One year after Akari has moved away and a week before Takaki moves, they both agree to meet each other in Akari’s hometown. What will happen when the two reunite?
For those wondering about the title. From the initial starting scene of part one, the title is derived from Akari telling Takaki that a cherry blossom petal hits the ground in 5 centimeters per second.
The second part is titled “COSMONAUT”. The story continues years later as we learn that Takaki lives in Tanegashima, an island that is used by the National Space Development Agency of Japan for rocket launches. Takaki plans for college and to return to Tokyo but in the meantime, his classmate Kanae has fallen in love with him. In fact, it’s more like love at first sight.
She very much wants to tell him how she feels about him but as for Takaki, his mind seems to be somewhere else. In fact, he seems to be texting on his cell phone quite a bit? Who is he texting to? And will Kanae reveal her love to him?
It’s very interesting to watch this second part and to see how Takaki has been since moving to a new area and how one yearns for the past.
The third part is titled “5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND” and without revealing too much of this final part of the film, the story revolves around Takaki who is now an adult possibly in his late 20’s. Working for a company and his life has changed since his teenager days. All I can say is this final segment alone is just one awesomely, beautiful visual piece with the awesome music of Yamazaki Masayoshi’s hit song “One More Time, One More Chance” and just how everything just fits.
The storyline for each three parts is definitely heartwrenching and there are words said by each character that one can just come away watching the film and just realize how touched they were.
The film is presented in 1:71:1 and is presented in 16:9 anamorphic. For me, what was accomplished via background art, character design and just overall animation was just perfect. The staff traveled to various locations and took thousands of photos and within the year and a half of making this film, you can’t help but just be amazed of how much was put into this film.
From various scenery, skylines and locations in Tokyo or somewhere in the country, you get not a few but MANY background art variations. The way the sky, the city or town, the hills, the snow, the trees, the vehicles, a building or buildings, indoors, you name it…they take you on one hell of a visual tour that just screams of awesome, beautiful backgrounds.
I am just amazed of how realistic the background art was done and even though Shinkai says that he and his team are not trying to reach realistic sceneries but more of a scenery that one has in their memory of, I’m just digging every aspect of it.
The character designs are just impressive. From the emotional standpoint of the characters, to breathing patterns, the flow of wind and how it affects the characters, was remarkably done well on this film as well.
For the Japanese audio, it’s presented in 2.0 with English subtitles with encoding at 224kbps while the English dub is in 5.1 and encoded at 448kbps.
As for the voice acting, I primarily watched the version with the Japanese audio but also watched it in English. My only problem with the English dub is when the beginning scenes feature a junior high Takaki, he sounds no different from an older Takaki. While in the Japanese version, there is a difference and amazingly, even discussed further about that situation by Shinkai and the voice actors in the bonus features.
But it was pretty cool to watch both because in a way, the variety of emotions in Japanese and the English dub, there with each character is different and you can probably watch both versions and come away with something different emotion-wise but both voice acting are well done.
The fact that for the Japanese version, what these voice actors were able to accomplish for their first time voice acting and the direction that Shinkai and staff wanted to achieve was impressive and you learn all about the casting selection and his experience on the special feature interview.
As for music selection, I was impressed by the music used. When I heard LINDBERG’s “Kimi no Ichiban ni” in the second episode, I realize that they put the time period at around 1996. I was surprised to hear LINDBERG but even moreso suprise to hear Yamazaki Masayoshi’s hit song “One More Time, One More Chance” and how it was utilized for this film. Excellent!
For the special features, I can’t tell you how happy I was to have an in-depth interview with Shinkai Makoto on this DVD. The interview lasts around 36 or so minutes and Shinkai really shows us what was on his mind from the creation, finding locations, the voice acting, the man is quite meticulous in his planning and he knows what he wants and how to work with great people and work together.
Also, where the previous films, distance and speed were a focal point. Although distance is involved, he wanted to show the speed of how things change within time and how he shows the changes in different time periods of the characters is impressive.
I actually was surprised to hear about the growth of the staff and how everyone worked at his apartment and how the apartment could not handle electricity-wise of all the computers used for the film. So, he rented another apartment for more of his staff nearby and how they all worked together. It’s so amazing!
He’s also so down to earth that even during the interview, his cat was walking around his office and that’s something you just don’t see in an interview. That was interesting to see.
And to make things even more special is similar to a Robert Rodriguez or even Quentin Tarentino DVD of them helping film fans understand how they shot certain scenes, on this DVD, Shinkai has no problems of showing his thoughts of a creation of an anime and will show you steps of how they accomplished certain scenes and the staff using Adobe Photoshop for the backgrounds and character designs. I was so happy to see them talk about this and I just wish there was so much more.
I really enjoyed how they would show the original photo of the scenery and then show the after animated version, especially adding snow and giving a wintery feel. That was cool to see!
Shinkai has definitely become a fan favorite because of what he was able to accomplish by himself with “Voices of a Distant Star” but his approach to creating an animated film is just so avant garde, unique and fresh that I’m just proud of him and his work and how he plans things out. Especially his mentality and his observance of people, especially on how he selected his voice actors.
Also included in the bonus feature is interviews with the Japanese voice cast and the challenges they faced (since for many of them, it was their first voice acting job) and more importantly what scenes touched them and how they reacted to the film after watching it.
These are lengthy interviews and was very happy to see this.
Last is “THE MAKING OF 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND MONTAGE” features behind-the-scenes shots of Shinkai and staff but also a few shots used on location for the film.
I can’t tell you how much I loved this film. Shinkai achieved perfection with animation, background art, screenplay, voice acting and the music, everything is just amazing!
This is not a film that could be live-action but done in animated form and even animated, almost reaching realistic settings through the background art. Shows the talent of Shinkai and his staff. Absolutely awesome!
There are not many people who have achieved perfection but it’s amazing how Shinkai Makoto has evolved from a guy working on his own to winning an award, to getting a second film and working with a staff and now, his third film and a DVD that just showcases his mindset and what he set out to accomplish.
This is one DVD that deserves an A+, 5 out of 5 stars and simply a must-buy! Highly recommended!
+ Animation, background art, music, voice acting and involving, heartwrenching storyline achieves perfection in many levels!
+ Informative interviews and very cool bonus features!
+ An anime that will probably be regarded as a classic!
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