Customer Review

73 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cherry blossom petals, 16 Mar 2011
This review is from: Five Centimetres Per Second [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
I arrived at this movie from several places: some familiarity with animé, including the entire Region 2 Studio Ghibli collection; some familiarity with Japanese cinema, past and present; a visit to Tokyo and Kyoto several years ago.

Five Centimetres Per Second [DVD] [2007], like Still Walking [DVD] [2008], is unadulterated Japan in several respects. The characters behave in a restrained and understated manner, in accordance with the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. Cherry blossoms (but not cherries) and railways (but not the grease and technology of trains and rails) are important. The voice acting, especially the two female leads, is superior in the original Japanese.

The movie consists of three episodes. In each there is a pervading sense of sadness, loneliness and unresolvedness. The first episode has the most satisfactory story. Although the director, Makoto Shinkai, in a DVD extras interview, states that the theme of the movie is the rate at which things happen (blossoms drift to the ground, a train journey takes many hours, a rocket suddenly blasts off into space from Tanegashima Space Centre), it is the exquisite and pervasive sadness (the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware) infusing the movie that lingers, as in Grave Of The Fireflies [DVD] [1988].

One of the wonderful features of Five Centimetres Per Second is that it bases itself in the real world, with real, recognisable places, such as in Tokyo, and realistic activities and motivations. In this respect, the movie resembles movies such as Only Yesterday [DVD] [1991] (as well as aspects of Whisper Of The Heart [DVD], Grave Of The Fireflies [DVD] [1988], The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD] and Ocean Waves [DVD] [1993]).

Just as in most Studio Ghibli movies, some of the backgrounds in Five Centimetres Per Second are sumptuous. The attention to small details is gorgeous, for example, the articulating footplates between carriages on the train. Moreover, the 'camera angles' in Five Centimetres Per Second feel fresh and alive - although I suspect that this feature may be drawn from more traditional manga animé. The main characters in Five Centimetres Per Second, with their doe eyes and pointed noses, are pure animé. In contrast, the main characters in Studio Ghibli movies are drawn to appear more realistic. An aspect I find appealing about Studio Ghibli movies is that there can be many objects that are animated simultaneously. (The Ghibli museum in Mitaka screens, amongst other shorts, Water Spider Monmon, which is alive with movement.) In contrast, I found the staticness of characters and objects in Five Centimetres Per Second, which at times appeared like a sequence of still pictures, disappointing and mildly irritating.

The movie is paced appropriately to the subject material: mostly slow and quiet. However, the final section of the movie transforms into a kind of pop-music video, which may be indicative of some kind of emotional resolution, but if so it went over my head. The music was okay, but not haunting as in Spirited Away [DVD].

The English subtitles of the Japanese soundtrack are perfectly reasonable, despite some typographical errors. However, each subtitle quickly vanishes, and occasionally I had to replay some dialogue in order to read what was said.

The extras on the DVD are the usual, not very imaginative, offerings of a 'talking head', rather rambling, interview with the director; interviews with some of the voice artists; and a trailer for the movie. Had I been asked what I should have found interesting as extras, it would have included a short documentary addressing some of the Japanese aesthetics explored in the animation; and a documentary showing the real world locations on which parts of the animation are based. I should also have been happy to have had a director's commentary, and some original storyboarding.

Overall, I have absolutely no reservations about having watched the movie (and I shall view it again very soon), nor about buying a copy (which for me assumes that I shall watch it several times). It will undoubtedly appeal to people who enjoy feel-sad movies, as well as students of animé and animation. I am comfortable with the 4* rating I have given it.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Mar 2011 01:43:24 GMT
Neil Ford says:
"The extras on the DVD are the usual offerings." - This is not helpful at all. WHAT are the extras?

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2011 11:52:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2011 11:52:59 GMT
P. Hughes says:
Neil, although I find your comment expressed a tad brusquely, the basic point you make is fair. I was unaware that details of the extras on this DVD are hard to locate on the internet. I intended my euphemistic expression to be taken as mild criticism without seeming to overstate my disappointment. I have now edited my review to include details of the extras. Peter Hughes.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Mar 2011 09:33:04 BDT
"The extras on the DVD are the usual offerings." - This is not helpful at all. WHAT are the extras?

How rude! Considering the original poster's excellent review, complete with links. You could of least said something pleasant before your rash onslaught

Posted on 2 May 2011 12:08:42 BDT
S. BEST says:
I'd like to take the time to thank you for this review, while I've already viewed the movie (though do not own the DVD), I found the review to be very interesting and well written. Thank you.

I do have one question, there are two english dubs of this movie, one far superior to the other in terms of voice acting. The poorer version was the one originally released on DVD in the states and due to the poor quality of voice acting in it, translation etc it was not released here. I am led to believe this release contains the improved english dub, do you know if this is correct? I agree that the Japanese voice acting is probably still superior to this but I find with the english dub I can concentrate more on the beauty of the backgrounds.

Thanks for your time.

Posted on 28 Jul 2011 23:34:28 BDT
. says:
Thanks for the review, it is very well written. It is a shame that it wasn't appreciated by everyone. It is rare that a review is so interesting to read for people that have already seen the movie.

Posted on 3 Feb 2012 13:51:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2012 13:52:04 GMT
Mr. J. Dunn says:
Thank you for this review. Genuinely useful guide as to whether or not I should part with some money.
I should. :)

Posted on 24 Apr 2013 01:13:54 BDT
R. Carey says:
Firstly, I would like to say that this is a well written and clever review and I agree with a lot of the points. (I know this review was a fair while ago now) However I couldn't help but feel annoyed at the constant comparisons to Studio Ghibli films as though it somehow has to compete with them. I'm sure you didn't mean it like this, and it's likely just me taking it the wrong way. I'd be interested to hear what you thought of Makoto Shinkai's latest film Journey to Agartha / Children Who Chase Lost Voices :)
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