Byousoku 5 Centimetre #1: It’s Japan porn.

Here are some random and unorganized thoughts of mine on the anime:

This anime is all about the settings. There’s not really a plot. The characters are downplayed. What we are seeing is the two characters living their daily lives in a setting which is a lot larger than themselves. The character design is simplistic There are not so many close-up shots of the characters, and even many those close-up shots would contain minute details of the surrounding (even though they may be obscured by the depth of field.) Not to mention a truckload of gratuitous shots of the ticket vending machines, the please-be-careful-of-your-hand sign, PET bottles on a bicycles, etc, etc. I get a feeling that Shinkai’s focus is not on telling a story, but rather on producing awesome imageries.

No. This is not about Akari. It’s about the silhouette of the pole, and the snow falling outside.

It’s all about the sign.

Japan has never looked this beautiful. Although Shinkai stated that he wanted to “capture reality,” even the most mundane sight is romanticized. Shinjuku station bores a hell lot of Tokyo people, but Shinkai just came in, waved his magic wand to change the lighting a little bit, and — poof! — it’s certainly did look more interesting. Shinkai not only impresses foreigners with his aesthetics, but he also tells his fellow Japanese that even the most mundane thing can be interesting if they look at it from a different perspective.

Huh? This is Shinjuku station, right?

Shinjuku station?

Shinjuku station?

The LEDs has never looked so vibrant…

Why do they have to get so emo about this? I find Takaki’s angst hard to relate to. Probably Shinkai did too great a job rendering that it made me think that the story took place today, and this made me go “What? Don’t they have cell phones?” when I see the male lead sobbing in the train. (Not everyone had a cell phone 10 years ago. I know, I know.) Again, Goutokuji station (where Takaki’s school is) and Iwafune station (where Akari’s home is) is only about 2 hours train ride apart, and they haven’t seen each other for a year? Give me a break. Can’t Takaki just ask his parents to take him there to see his sweetheart before that?

Connectedness and safety. Perhaps this anime is as much about separation as it is about being connected.The fact that a 13 year-old boy can travel 104 km in a snow storm by himself safely and relatively easy is actually quite striking. In America or in Thailand, going to somewhere like Iwafune would require you to have a car, and if I were Takaki’s parent, I wouldn’t allow him to go alone for fear of numerous dangers that can befall him. However, in Japan, all you have to worry is your son’s getting lost. This is actually one of the best advertisements for Japan I’ve ever seen.

Nostalgia. Perhaps in 50 years from now, an old Japanese person would see Byousoku 5 Centimetre and get the same feeling of nostalgia as when they see My Neighbor Totoro. Even now, I believe some people would recall having to buy train time table book to plan their routes. (Now, you can just go to and get your route planned in a matter of seconds.) Shinjuku, Oomiya, and many other train stations are captured in the anime, and all the station announcements are there. Most Japanese spend at least 2 hours in the train system every day, so its ubiquitous presence in the anime would remind a lot of people about their daily lives.

Something you wouldn’t have to do nowadays.

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  1. Posted February 22, 2007 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    It’s all in the lighting, so it seems. Shinkai really loves his chiaroscuro! And I think that’s his gift–to help us see ordinary life and sights in a new “light” (literally and metaphorically).

  2. Posted February 22, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Byousoku 5CM is not about the awesome art, it’s about the theme of “distance” that Makoto Shinkai is famous for in his own works.

    Yes the story may seem boring and mundane, but it brings to life the main theme of “distance”, in this case, a physical one, very well.

    There’s still two more to go for Byousoku 5cm, and I’d say that “Cosmonaut” will be about “distance of feelings” and the last one, the eponymous “Byousoku 5 Centimeter” will be about “distance of maturity/time”.

  3. Posted February 22, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Mike: I couldn’t agree more. By the way, “chiaroscuro” is a new word for me. x_x One more SAT word in my lexicon. Yay!

    Kurogane: What I found when I watched Oukashou was that the physical distance between Takaki and Akari is artificial. With the great train system in Japan, I would say they are still very connected. I don’t mind the story being about two lovers being separated. It’s just that I find it irrational for them to feel that they are far apart when they actually are not.

    Instead, I’m impressed by the visuals: particularly by the sights of Shinjuku station and the Odakyu line I used to see every time I came to Tokyo in weekends. (It took me about an hour to get from where I lived to Shinjuku. And that’s probably why I couldn’t relate to Takaki’s feeling.) Probably Oukashou just hit me in a different spot from where it hit you. It’s true that saying that the anime is about visuals right now is probably too fast. We’ll have to see what Cosmonaut and Byousoku 5 cm has to offer.

    It’s interesting to note that Shinkai himself stated that a certain kind of imagery was actually one of his main goals. In his introduction to the anime, he said 「そのかわり徹底したロケーションを行い、今この現実をアニメーション表現の中にすくい取ろうと試みています」 (“instead of [sci-fi] elements, we have performed a thorough location hunting. I want try ladle out today’s reality in the anime”) and 「観終わった後に見慣れた風景がいつもより輝いて見えてくるような、そんな日常によりそった作品を目指しています」 (“In the finishing look, we are shooting for [images] in which familiar scenes shine brighter than they normally do.”). This makes me believe that, for Byousoku 5 cm, art comes first, and story second.

  4. restless
    Posted March 4, 2007 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    To me, I could totally relate to Takaki’s angst.. I’ve been through something similar in my adolescent days. Made me feel all teary-eyed and nostalgic when I saw him become more and more frustrated and blue. It made it all the more compelling to me.

  5. DarkPa1adin
    Posted March 23, 2007 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    wah restless “adolescent days” how old are you really? if you watch honey and clover 2 adolescent can be up to 35 years old bcuz of the teacher in the university

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