“Even after exchanging 1,000 text messages our hearts only got one centimetre closer to each other,” intones the male voiceover, dripping with the portentousness and blandness of an ’80s power ballad.
This Japanese anime tells the story of love lost and found between two characters, who meet in high school aged 13 years old, with relocation, accident and the clutter of modern living keeping them apart – all told in three separate episodes.
The boy, Takaki (Kenji Mizuhashi), is a bit of a heartthrob, all spiky hair and big eyes, whose friendship with Akari (Yoshima Kondou) leads her to develop a massive crush that causes a painful separation when her family decides to relocate hundreds of miles away in rural Japan.
As the relationship develops, both characters are afforded lengthy voiceovers to explain their inner thoughts.
It’s hard to tell whether poor translation or the original script leads to the clunking nature of the words – which may be too cookie-cutter even for teenage ears, including as they do dialogue such as, “Everything in the whole world has suddenly changed.”
What director Makoto Shinkai does get right is the detailed, and at times beautiful, nature of the design.
Enhanced by subtle lighting effects, the film concentrates on the tiny, incidental details of life that both clutter and serve as a backdrop to time passing: ticket stubs, mobile phone screens and empty train carriages.
These are rendered in the characteristic hand-drawn style that can’t quite be matched by digital animation.
All of these are framed by the almost constant falling of snowflakes, or cherry blossom, which viewers are informed falls at the speed mentioned in the film’s title.
The overall effect is a story that never manages to propel forward, instead lingering like a poem.
Unfortunately, that snail’s-pace plotting makes it hard to sustain dramatic interest, especially when the story is entirely led by voiceover and
almost nothing of note happens in a conventional scene.
As befits the anime label there are some nods to conventional science fiction, as Akari and Takaki share sequences staring out across a horizon that looks like it is dominated by a giant planet – only to reveal a stylised moon.
It’s an interesting diversion from the usual tropes of this genre that 5 Centimeters stays earthbound, even if director Shinkai hints in the interview that he could apply his visual flair to more cyperpunk environs.
Less demanding anime fans will enjoy the characterisation and the detailed artwork, but a lack of any drama makes the film slow going