Five Centimeters Per Second - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 65
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Five Centimeters Per Second

Five Centimeters Per Second

By Chris Beveridge     May 26, 2008
Release Date: March 11, 2008


Five Centimeters Per Second
© ADV Films


What They Say
A breathtakingly vivid tableau of young love, desire, loss, and hope told in three heartbreaking chapters. The latest film from Makato Shinkai.

The Review!
Made of three connected tales, Five Centimeters Per Second presents the latest beautiful if somber imagery from Makoto Shinkai.

Audio:
The bilingual presentation for this film is pretty good but it is material that doesn't really require a lot since it's very focused on the dialogue and atmosphere. The original Japanese language track is presented in its stereo form done at 224kbps while the English language version is done in 5.1 at 448kbps. There are differences to be found between the two, though more often than not it feels more like volume levels than anything else. The film is very much a dialogue driven piece with only some minor directionality here and there when appropriate. There's a good amount of depth in the required scenes and this carries over a bit more in the English language adaptation. While the film doesn't stand out with its audio presentation, it is solid overall and it fits the material, particularly when the end song kicks off.

Video:
Originally released to theaters in early 2007, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Not unlike past Shinkai pieces, the transfer for this is one that's both beautiful and problematic. The visual design lends itself well to the theatrical feeling as it has a lush look with beautiful colors. The gradients are pretty mild as well with only a few backgrounds really providing noticeable areas of it. Where the film runs into a great deal of its problems is with the aliasing throughout it. The film has a lot of panning sequences and these just come alive with it which is incredibly distracting and problematic. The other issue is that the film seems to get a fairly low bitrate during a lot of it which leads to some noisy and overly grainy feeling areas. The film has so many lush colors to it that a lot of them start to show too much noise at times which is almost as distracting as the aliasing. There are a lot of very good scenes as well, but the problematic ones feel like they outweigh the good ones.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release fits in with previous Shinkai works in that there's a certain understated nature to it but one that shows off the real beauty of the film. The layout is one that keeps the characters somewhat mysterious as they're facing the background where a rocket is just starting to lift off as the sun sets against a beautiful blue sky. The cover evokes a very powerful feeling of distance with its mixture of beautiful colors and the starkness of the power lines. Bringing in the visual of the moon off in the distance and the poses of the characters only strengthens that. The back cover comes across fairly weak as it doesn't utilize the space to push the beautiful imagery all that much as there are a couple of very condensed shots along the top next to the summary. The quotes about the film take up a good bit of space and the center strip brings in the discs extras in a clean listing along with the production credits. The bottom portion is rather good though as it has a full length strip of artwork that evokes similar feelings to that of the front cover but with a bit more lightness to it. The discs basic features are spread out along the bottom in a less than clear technical section and no insert is included with the release nor is there a reversible cover even though it's in a clear keepcase.

Menu:
The menus for the release are rather basic which isn't a surprise but they work out wonderfully since they use the beautiful visuals from the show. The main menu is a winner right from the start as it has the dream vision with Takaki and Akari walking along the hill at night where you see the beautiful landscape and the bright stars out. With a mild and soothing piece of instrumental music, it just captivates and flows perfectly. The three stories are selectable from the top level and they change up the navigation a bit by listing the other sections as "Choose a Language" and "View the Extras" instead of just listing it as language and extras. Submenus load quickly and the menu is very easy to navigate. The unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
There's a good amount of extras included in the release that showcases the staff behind it. The opening one is a really great one as it's a five minute photo montage off the production showing various things such as the location hunting that went on and what they took to adapt it into animation. The actual animation studio material is included as well and the whole thing is set to some very relaxing and enjoyable instrumental music. The really big extra is the interview with Makoto Shinkai himself which runs about thirty six minutes. Shinkai covers just about everything about what went into the production of the film and it's something that is just like a dream for anyone who wants to hear someone like him talk about what he's passionate about. With the questions thrown up on the screen here and there, it's all about him as he sits in front of his desktop and talks about his love. The last extra is broken up into four parts as we get the voice actor interviews. Each of them runs just under ten minutes each as we have video pieces involving the three leads talking about their characters and what was appealing about the film. Akari's voice actress gets a double hit as a different actress played the characters in the last segment which is really unusual but adds some different depth to the character.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ever since his first short piece back in 1999, Makoto Shinkai has been something of a darling of the anime world. His independently produced Voices of a Distant Star gave him a certain kind of reputation and credibility while Place Promised in Our Early Days gave him a much larger canvas to paint with which further cemented his reputation. With that film completed back in 2004, his next feature eventually got underway and became this, Five Centimeters Per Second. With a subtitle of "a chain of short stories about their distance," it takes three short tales focusing around a pair of characters and the way their lives change in grow in ways that they never could imagine they would.

With a runtime of only an hour, Five Centimeters Per Second plays out in its three acts which all have different lengths to them, so it isn't a series of three twenty minute chapters. The film introduces us to junior high students Takaki and Akari. The two have grown up together for quite a few years after they both transferred into a school around the same time. They were both somewhat sickly children in different ways which had them spending a lot of time together indoors in places like libraries. This gave them time to grow closer together and that bond became strong, though they never truly verbalized it. Everything changed after the entrance exams for junior high though and Akari ended up moving away because of her family. The news certainly wasn't good for her but it devastated Takaki completely and the two didn't talk for months after she left.

Time doesn't always heal all wounds but it can make the heart ache and the two eventually reconnect through letters. The timing isn't good though as Takaki himself is about to move much further away which will make it harder for the two try and reconnect even more. His heart has soared since getting back in touch with her so he makes the effort to meet her at a rail station so they can have some time together before he leaves. With an emotional letter in hand, the first third of the film deals with the troubles of his journey from Tokyo to where there's a great deal of snow. Through his preparations for the trip and the journey itself on the train, Takaki recounts his relationship with Akari and the bond between the two of them is plainly evident.

The journey isn't one that is just of this train ride though as it takes us a few years later to his high school days at his new school and then later on to his adult life where he's working hard. The film is one that doesn't deal with a lot of plot as it's far more about mood and atmosphere, feelings and the sense of distances. The film makes a note very early on about its title which resonates throughout the entire thing as a metaphor. Akari points out to Takaki that it's said that cherry blossom petals fall from the tree at about Five Centimeters Per Second. The metaphor runs along the idea that we as people tend to start together in a tree like the blossoms, particularly with family, and then as life goes on we all float down slowly and spread apart. The film is about that experience that these two kids have and lightly about one or two other petals that they come across in their lives. Takaki and Akari are two petals that very much want to be together but the distance between them only seems to grow and is seemingly impossible to fix.

Five Centimeters Per Second avoids a lot of what made up the previous features Shinkai has worked on as it doesn't have much in the way of science fiction elements to it, though it does play up a small dreams sequence and there is a lot of background pieces presented about mankind getting out to the stars. These small accents are quite nice and fit in with the overall motif that Shinkai seems to play with while not dominating the film nor dictating where it's going. You can't help but wonder during it whether he'll actually go there considering that the second chapter is entitled "Cosmonaut." The focus on the characters is one of the two main strengths of Shinkai's films though and it's quite apparent here once again as we see these two or three characters connecting with each other. Their emotions aren't worn openly but through their narration we understand them a great deal and it's very easy to sympathize with them or even to project ones own emotional state with it to feel their sense of distance and disconnect.

The other strength continues to be Shinkai's sense of visual design. When watching his works, it always makes me feel like I'm seeing the world through the eyes of someone who sees the beauty of the world in a way many others cannot and that he's able to express it in this form. Shinkai's world is one that is rich and layered in its beauty and the details are almost intoxicating to take in as they can overwhelm. The simple scenes of the characters browsing through a convenience store holds so much that it rivals many theatrical anime films easily with how it looks. Yet he can then shift easily to something that has an outdoor sequence with incredibly striking backgrounds that give a sense of scope and depth but also the small place we all inhabit within it. Whether it's the daytime with it lush blues or the night time in which it feels like the entire galaxy is at our fingertips, Five Centimeters Per Second never fails to amaze with how it looks.

In Summary:
The entry of Five Centimeters Per Second in the library of films by Makoto Shinkai is one that is quite welcome as it does what his films do best and that's to invoke strong emotions from the storyline and the visual design. With a shorter running time compared to his previous film, Five Centimeters Per Second feels a lot tighter even though it has the same kind of pacing to it. With the film not feeling like it's dragging out, particularly in the third arc, the experience was quite pleasing and left me somewhat emotionally drained afterwards as well as reflective. Five Centimeters Per Second has everything that I love about a Makoto Shinkai film and even if it is pretty familiar and doesn't stray from what he's done before, it's done in a way that just works. Sometimes it's good to stick to what works for you and produce pleasing films, but it does make one curious to see what he'll do when he finally decides to break out of it for awhile. Fans of his works will find a lot to like here though I suspect many will simply be more critical because of the familiarity and because there can be more comparisons made now. In just enjoying the film however, Five Centimeters Per Second succeeds very well and left us feeling very satisfied afterwards.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes,Makoto Shinkai Interview,Voice Actor Interviews

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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fetishjerk93 3/11/2010 10:41:13 AM

this movie was one of the most well put together films ive seen the soundtrack was perfectly picked. the artist are top class the background art is amzing. the original japanease version is the best way to watch it, great story line. the best anime movie ive seen since "Voices from a Distant Star"

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