This post includes a brief plot summary, an explanation about the ending of the film 5 Centimeters Per Second / Byôsoku 5 senchimêtoru (2007) and a character analysis of Takaki Tōno. Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, the 2007 Japanese anime stars Kenji Mizuhashi as Takaki Tōno.
5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) – Plot Summary
The film is a compilation of stories following the life of its main character Takaki Tōno.
EPISODE 1 – CHERRY BLOSSOM
Takaki Tōno is a young boy living in Tokyo. One day, he meets Akari Shinohara, a girl who just transferred to Takaki’s elementary school. The two quickly become best friends due to similar interests and health issues. However, Akari’s parents are on the move again, meaning that Akari has to continue her studies in another school. At this point, Takaki and Akari are still keeping in touch with each other through letters.
Due to the physical distance between the two, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the friendship. Besides, Takaki is also moving to another city, which is even further away from Akari’s place. As a result, Takaki decides to meet up with Akari one last time before they stop seeing each other.
Takaki takes a train to see Akari. In his hands, he holds a personal letter confessing his feelings for her. Meanwhile, a snowstorm keeps delaying the train and during one of the stops, Takaki steps outside for a moment. Then, a gust of wind blows towards Takaki, making him lose the letter written for Akari. The constant delays makes Takaki arrive at the station several hours after the scheduled time. Nonetheless, Akari is at the train station waiting for him.
Both Akari and Takaki head out of the train station to seek refuge. As they walk toward a shed, the two share a kiss. After spending the night in a shed, Akari and Takaki part ways. They promise to continue writing letters to each other. As the train leaves the station, Takaki gazes at Akari with sadness. Meanwhile, Akari pulls out a letter from her bag. Although, she wrote it for Takaki, Akari decided to keep it for herself.
EPISODE 2 – COSMONAUT
Takaki is now a senior high student. One of his classmates, Kanae Sumida has a crush on him. As a result, she often waits for Takaki after the classes so they can ride home together.
Despite of Kanae’s attempts to be with Takaki, he seems to be completely oblivious about her feelings and romantic advances. Meanwhile, Kanae notices that Takaki is always writing a message for someone. In addition, she often catches him searching for something / someone far away.
After all these years, Takaki still dreams about Akari. As a result, he developed the habit of writing messages to her without ever sending them. Despite of Takaki’s indifferent attitude towards Kanae, she doesn’t give up. However, right when she was about to confess her feelings for him, a rocket launch takes place and diverts Takaki’s attention away. At this moment, Kanae realizes that Takaki’s heart belongs to someone else and that he’ll never see her as more than just a friend. Upon this realization, Kanae cries herself to sleep.
EPISODE 3 – 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND
Takaki is now an adult working in Tokyo. However, he’s not happy with how his life turned out. There are flashbacks of a woman sending a couple of messages to Takaki, they are presumably from his ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, Akari is planning her wedding.
Both Takaki and Akari begin to recall a recent dream, where they relive their last encounter. Then one day, Takaki and Akari pass by each other at a railway crossing, but a train passes by and cuts their view. They crossed paths at the same exact spot where they expressed their wish of watching the cherry blossoms together when they were kids (before Akari moved away).
In the end, Takaki stops to see if Akari is on the opposite side of the railway crossing. However, once the train was gone, she was gone too. Although not seeing Akari left him somehow sad, Takaki chooses to smile and continues to walk as the petals fall from the cherry blossoms.
5 Centimeters Per Second (2007) – Ending Explained
Those who were expecting a happy ending from this anime, sadly, are not going to get what they want. So in the end, it’s clear that Takaki is never going to get with Akari ever again. However, why did Akari keep walking? And why did Takaki smile at the end?
Let’s start with Akari’s reaction at the railway crossing. Did she noticed that Takaki was the man next to her? Well, Akari stopped for a brief moment, which means she thought about him in that moment. However, wouldn’t you stop walking to greet an old friend? Here’s the thing: Takaki is a distant memory for Akari, that’s why she continued walking.
Unlike Takaki, Akari has moved on, she’s living her life and has a fiancé, with whom she’s going to marry very soon. That said, Akari thought about the possibility of seeing Takaki at the railway crossing but didn’t give too much thought into it. From Akari’s point of view, Takaki is someone who belongs to the past and she’s no longer living in it (unlike Takaki). That was the primary reason why Akari continued walking and didn’t wait to see who was on the other side of the train passing by.
Now, let’s talk about Takaki’s reaction in the end. Despite of feeling sad, why did he smile after seeing that Akari was no longer on the other side? When Akari and Takaki crossed the railway with the cherry blossoms falling, that was them fulfilling their old wish as kids. Seeing that Akari didn’t wait for him, gave Tataki the permission that he needed to move on and allow himself to love someone else. Although, Takaki feels sad that Akari no longer loves him the way she did years ago, he’s also glad that she has moved on. That’s why he smiled, Takaki finally feels free to move on with his life.
So is it fair to say that Akari doesn’t have any sort of feelings for Takaki? Well, it’s obvious that she thinks about him occasionally but that didn’t stopped her from meeting other people. In a way, Akari didn’t feel that she owed her feelings to anyone. Remembering the sweet moments that she spent with Takaki (her first love) doesn’t invalidate the feelings that Akari has for her fiancé. Everyone has a past and it’s normal to relive memories from time to time. In the end, Akari did what Takaki should have done many years ago: move on.
The Significance / Meaning Of Cherry Blossoms In 5 Centimeters Per Second
The film starts and ends with cherry blossoms. Why? When Takaki and Akari were kids, they made the following promise to each other: watch the fall of the cherry blossoms together. However, Akari moved to another place before they could execute that wish. After many years without seeing each other they finally cross paths at the same spot where they once planned to see the cherry blossoms together. In a way, without being aware of it, Takaki and Akari made their wish come true, as adults.
5 Centimeters Per Second is the speed at which cherry blossoms petals fall. The tree and its petals are a metaphor for people and relationships. For instance, Akari and Takaki start together (cherry blossom tree) but due to distance and time, the two individuals start to eventually drift apart (the fall of the petals). Nonetheless, Akari and Takaki’s relationship did not change overnight, it happened slowly just like the fall of the cherry blossoms.
Takaki Tōno – Character Analysis
Why is Takaki Tōno so unlucky with the ladies? First and foremost, Takaki has ladies that are into him. However, he’s not into anyone else but Akari. Do you see where his problem is? Takaki is living in the past, when he should be focusing on the present.
Takaki is basically ignoring all the females on the planet because of a distant memory. That’s why he feels so miserable, he’s not living. But, let’s be honest for a second. If Takaki really wanted Akari, he would have gone out of his way to find her. Instead, the boy / young man decided to crystallize a sweet memory and build a whole narrative around it. If Takaki was so in love with Akari, why did he stop writing to her? Fear of rejection. Takaki loved Akari so much, that he couldn’t stand the idea of her losing interest in him.
By not writing to Akari, Takaki took away Akari’s power to reject him. That said, had he continued exchanging letters with Akari, their relationship would eventually lead to nowhere due to the distance. However, by cutting contact with Akari, Takaki was able to “crystallize” his relationship with her. The young man basically “froze” his relationship at its peak / infatuation phase. That’s why it’s was so difficult for Takaki to find someone else. He was basically comparing all the others against an ideal. And who can compete with that?
The Akari that Takaki is in love with is not the real Akari, it’s an ideal that Takaki created in his head. From an outer perspective, what Takaki feels for Akari is not love. He hasn’t seen her for years, yet he still thinks that she’s the one that got away. Let’s be honest here, Takaki is not in love Akari, at his point, obsession is a more accurate word to describe what he feels for her.
It’s clear in the ending scene that Akari has moved on, so should one feel sorry for Takaki? Not really. Living in the past was a choice that Takaki made. Akari never asked Takaki to save his love for her, as a matter of fact, he was the one who “cut her off” of his life. As expected, Akari moved on and allowed herself to love someone else.
By constantly focusing on Akari, he inadvertently hurt Kanae’s feelings and led his last girlfriend on. Were Takaki’s actions somehow selfish? One could say that, but it’s hard to blame it all on Takaki. The young man never made those decisions with the deliberate intention of hurting those two girls. He just did it without realizing it. Does that make him a bad person? No. Takaki Tōno is just emotionally “dumb”. Having said that, he is someone that really needs to work on his emotional intelligence and stop hiding in the past.
As unsatisfying as the ending of 5 Centimeters Per Second might be, it’s also one the realest anime dramas about romantic relationships. The film might not be for everyone, but it’s still an interesting exploration about time, distance, memories and loving the idea of a person.
5 Centimeters Per Second really makes the viewer frustrated about the main character Takaki Tōno but also feeling sorry for him, which is great. Why? Characters need to have some depth, otherwise they’ll just feel flat and unrealistic. In this case, sometimes it’s upsetting to watch Takaki managing is life. Distance definitely contributed for the two childhood friends to drift apart. However, Takaki was the first one who made the move of pushing the other away.
The failure to express feelings seems to be the recurrent theme of the film. First, Takaki kept hesitating to write to Akari, despite of still loving her. Then, we have Kanae and her unrequited love for Takaki. She also failed to tell Takaki how much he meant to her. Last but not least, Akari also tried to write to Takaki a couple of times, but also hesitated and ended up not sending anything over time.
The film is a real roller-coaster of emotions. As a viewer, I wanted a happy ending for Takaki and Akari, so the ending scene of 5 Centimeters Per Second was really heartbreaking. For more than a decade Takaki has been “looking” for Akari, then he finds her at the railway crossing and she just passed by him. At this point, both are just memories of each other.
Despite of the sad ending in 5 Centimeters Per Second, it was also uplifting to see Takaki smiling. Has he ever smiled during the whole story? I think not. Having said that, it was somehow satisfying to see that the main character has finally understood that he needs to move on.
Overall, 5 Centimeters Per Second is a beautiful film: the story is interesting and the animation is breath-taking. Makoto Shinkai never disappoints. Despite of its ending, it’s an interesting experience to watch and rewatch a film like 5 Centimeters Per Second because each view will feel different to the viewer.