This post includes a character analysis of Takaki Tono, the protagonist of the 2007 Japanese anime “5 Centimeters per Second”.
5 Centimeters per Second
In “5 Centimeters per Second”, Takaki grows apart from his childhood friend Akari after they both move to different cities. Before going their separate ways, they agree to meet up one last time.
Despite the snowstorm and the train delays, Akari is at the train station waiting for Takaki. During their brief encounter, Takaki and Akari share a kiss and spend the night in a shed. The day after, they parted ways.
Years later, Takaki is still thinking about Akari. There is a girl at school, Kanae, who is interested in Takaki, but he barely notices her. As an adult, Takaki moves back to Tokyo to work as a computer programmer. And nothing seems to have changed, Takaki still feels lonely and aimless.
Unlike Takaki, Akari has moved on with her life, she is about to become a married woman. One day, Takaki and Akari crossed paths at a railroad crossing. Meanwhile, a train passes by. When Takaki looks back, Akari is gone, and he smiles.
Note: For those who are interested, here is another article discussing the meaning behind the ending of “5 Centimeters per Second”.
Takaki Tono Character Analysis in “5 Centimeters per Second”
“5 Centimeters per Second” presents Takaki Tono as a young man who struggles with feelings of loneliness and nostalgia. His first love is Akari, a childhood friend. Although they’ve been apart for years, the memory of their time together still haunts Takaki. Even in adulthood, the young man finds it extremely difficult to form a genuine bond with his romantic partners.
In terms of personality, Takaki Tono is a sensitive and introspective person who has trouble moving on from his past. Over the years, Takaki never managed to get over Akari. The young man keeps holding on to his memories of her. The deep connection that Takaki once had with Akari prevents him from loving someone else. As a result, Takaki became an extremely lonely and melancholic individual.
Takaki Tono’s Character Evolution
As Takaki grows older, his inner struggles take a turn for the worse. First, Takaki becomes more reserved. As a result, the young man became more distant from people, making him less eager to express his emotions.
Second, Takaki becomes an extremely nostalgic person. He always finds himself thinking about Akari and reminiscing about their last encounter. The memory of Akari often makes Takaki sentimental and wistful.
Third, when Takaki entered adulthood, he was already what some consider an emotionally complex person. In other words, the young man himself hasn’t come to terms with his feelings for Akari. Despite not seeing his childhood friend and first love in ages, Akari often populates Takaki’s mind.
The habit of constantly thinking about an idealized version of a person would eventually bring trouble to Takaki’s personal life. His unwillingness to let go of an ideal actually prevented Takaki from forming a genuine bond with other people.
Why Did Takaki and Akari Break Up?
Takaki and Akari broke up because they drifted apart over time and distance. The two were close friends in elementary school, but then Akari moved to another city. In the beginning, the two remained in contact through letters. Nonetheless, their relationship is to be put to the test again when Takaki also moves to another city, increasing the physical distance between the two.
Being in two different cities, far from each other, made it difficult for Takaki and Akari to visit each other. During their last meeting, they kissed and spent an intimate night together at a shed near the train station. Before parting ways, they promised to keep exchanging letters, but they never did. As time passed, they both became memories of each other.
Takaki Tono and Relationships
Takaki’s personality plays a significant role in his relationships. His inability to let go of the past and move on prevented Takaki from enjoying what the present has to offer. Over time, the young man developed huge commitment issues. Despite having girlfriends after Akari, the relationships would never last.
Why is Takaki Tono so unlucky with the ladies? First and foremost, Takaki has ladies that are into him. However, he’s not into anyone else but Akari. And that’s the main problem. Takaki is living in the past when he should be focusing on the present.
Takaki is basically ignoring all the women on the planet because of a distant memory. That’s why the young man feels so miserable, he’s not living. Despite his pain, it’s also Takaki’s fault for being in this predicament.
What Is Wrong With Takaki?
If Takaki really wanted Akari, he would have gone out of his way to find her. Instead, the 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, if he continued exchanging letters with Akari, their relationship would eventually lead nowhere due to the distance. However, by cutting contact with Akari, Takaki was able to “crystallize” his relationship with her.
When Takaki “froze” his relationship with Akari at its peak (the infatuation phase), he also set an impossible standard for love. That might explain why it was so difficult for Takaki to find someone else. He was basically comparing all the others against an ideal. And it’s tough to compete against an idealized version of someone.
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 who got away. As a matter of fact, Takaki is not in love with Akari, at this point, obsession is a more accurate word to describe what he feels for her.
Takaki’s inability to move on from the past inadvertently hurt Kanae. Not only that, but Takaki’s inability to commit also impacted his relationship with his last girlfriend. He sort of led her on by making her believe that it could be something more.
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 Tono is just emotionally “dumb”. Having said that, Takaki is someone who really needs to work on his emotional intelligence and stop hiding in the past.
From the ending scene of “5 Centimeters per Second”, it’s clear that Akari has moved on. Now, should one feel sorry for Takaki? Not really. Living in the past was a choice 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” from his life. As expected, Akari moved on and allowed herself to love someone else.
Overall, Takaki Tono is an interesting character that reminds its audience of the dangers of dwelling too long in the past. Although it’s positive to have good memories of someone, it’s never a good idea to constantly romanticize the past. Often, these feelings of nostalgia might prevent one from enjoying the beautiful things in life that the present has to offer.