Thursday, June 16, 2016

5 Centimeters Per Second

Ahhh Japan, how I do love thee. Your food, your culture, your music...and your anime and manga. Nothing quite compares, and when people dismiss anime and manga, they're really missing out. It's not "just cartoons and comic books" and definitely not "just for kids". This isn't American Saturday morning stuff, guys, though there's shows of that type. It's an entire art form in and of itself, with multiple genres. There is literally something for everyone. And it really irks me when someone won't even attempt to understand that.

But I digress.

5 Centimeters Per Second is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking manga I've ever read. I watched the anime first, and happened upon the manga by chance a week later. The title refers to the speed at which cherry blossoms fall from the tree. It's a story that everyone will likely be able to relate to in some way, because it is an all-too-familiar look at friendship and love, and how time and distance can change those things.


Akari Shinohara and Takaki Tohno become friends in elementary school, bonding over everything from lack of physical prowess to their love of books and science. Their friendship is incredibly strong and a clear love grows as they do. Soon, Akari moves away from Tokyo, because of her parents' jobs. When they are thirteen, Takaki finds out he will be moving very far south, and plans a train journey to go see Akari one last time before he moves. Even though it is March, a huge snowstorm delays the trains and he is hours late, and yet Akari is still waiting for him. They kiss that night under a snow covered cherry tree, and it is the last time they see each other. The letters last for some years, but it becomes hard to relate when they are unable to visit each other.

In high school, a young woman named Kanae has a terrible crush on Takaki, which he unknowingly makes worse because he's so kind. And yet in the back of his mind he is always thinking of Akari. This carries into his adult life where we see him barely relating to anyone, basically living as a shell. His girlfriend of three years cares for him very much, but he can't even see that. The ending of the book (and film) is so sad because at this point we see that Akari has moved on with her life and is soon to be married, and there is a point at which they cross each other's paths...but then a train goes through and when Takaki turns around she is gone. But at this point Risa, his girlfriend, has let him go, and he has begun to realize what he has missed in life.


Maybe that review doesn't make much sense, but really it's a great story. Before cell phones and social media kept everyone attached at the hip (for better or worse), it took work to keep up a long distance friendship, especially one that blossomed into love so young. Do you ever find yourself wondering where so-and-so is now, and what might have happened if your friendship had stayed the same? Even in the social media saturated world, we still lose connections for whatever reason. But the important thing is to keep on living and not let those things cause us to forget to really live.

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