Another brilliant piece of animation from Makoto Shinkai. I loved his previous work Beyond the Clouds and Voices of the Distant Star and was instantly drawn to his detailed artwork in his almost sequel like Byousoku 5 Centimeter, which is actually a serious of 3 short stories revolving around Tono Takaki, going into the past, present and future. For further details, it can be found on ANN.
Plot of Ōkashō (Cherry Blossom Extract), the first of three short stories (each approximately 25mins long) revolves around Takaki and Shinohara Akari, who were best friends during Elementary school, but on starting Middle School, Akari’s family moved to Tochigi-ken and the pair drifted apart. The pair kept in touch by mail and feelings still lingered. Then one day, towards the end of their first year of Middle School, Takaki’s family decided they were moving to the south of Japan, even further away from Akari. As such, they decided to meet up one last time before they never see each other again. It was a long train journey from Tokyo to Tochigi and the snowy weather seem to want to keep the pair distance. But though time and fate, despite all the train delays, neither gave up hope. Akari continued to wait at the train station way pass meeting time and Takaki persisted on train after train despite know he’s late and Akari might not even be there anyway. But the wait was worth it and the two might find what it is they were looking for before each moving on with separate lives.
The animation quality is unbeatable. It’s no wonder I’m such a fangirl of Makoto Shinkai’s works. The detail is absolutely lovely, from the reflection in the train to the picture perfect background. The voice acting is also very good, the melodramatic atmosphere and the character’s longing to see each other are all accurately portrayed. Some has called him the new Miyazaki (refer here in this interview), I personally wouldn’t say so. While Miyazaki films display amazing artworks and fairytale like stories each giving a “moral of the story”, I see Miyazaki films largely targeting children while adults alike enjoy it at a different degree. Makoto Shinkai films however, I find target an older audience, teenagers and above I’d say, to understand the characters and the story. There’s a higher level of maturity and “darkness” to his films that Miyazaki films tend not to have.
I can’t wait for the remaining 2 short stories to be subbed. I’m interested to see what happens to Takaki as he grows up into an adult and perhaps meet his once romantic interest. The future two episodes are Cosmonaut and Byousoku 5cm. The special edition box set was recently released in Japan so I expects subs to be out sometime in the near future.