(JAP - 2007)
Directed by Makoto Shinkai, with the voices of Kenji Mizuhashi, Yoshimi Kondou, Ayaka Onoue and Satomi Hanamura as the main characters, Byôsoku 5 Senchimêtoru - A Chain of Short Stories About their Distance, usually shortened to Byôsoku 5cm, is an anime divided into three parts and tells the story of three fellows: Takaki Tōno, Akari Shinohara and Sumida Kanae. As the subtitle already makes clear, it's a film about distance, about missing people, about friendship and, specially, about the opportunities we lose in life.
There's one important metaphor used in the film which is summed up in the title itself: "5 centimeters per second", the speed at which cherry blossoms fall, is said to be as well the speed at which two people can get separated from each other as life passes by.
"Cherry Blossom Story" is the title of the first sequence, when we get to know Takaki and Akari in childhood, contemplating the beauty of cherry trees and the spectacule of the blossoms falling and covering the whole ground of soft pink. In this sequence, older Akari moves to a different city and starts to exchange letters with Takaki. There's already a feeling of distance, they miss each other and sometimes they can't deny their relationship has changed. They set an appointment and try to meet in a train station - Takaki should take the train and Akari would wait for him - but Winter has came and the snow results in a more than 3 hour delay. "Has Takaki gave up on me?", "Is she still gonna be waiting for me when I get there?" are some of the most remarkable lines.
The second segment, called "Cosmonaut", is my favourite. The focus now is on a girl Takaki meets in high school, called Sumida. "He's so kind with me", she says, and as time goes by, she starts to develop a crush on him. But she also sadly notices Takaki has his mind in somewhere else, and even when he's looking at her he's thinking about another girl - Akari. There are some visually astonishing, breathtaking sequences in this part, where Takaki and Akari meet "in his dreams", in a scenery which is the materialization of the title of the segment. Takaki starts to feel the weight of the absence on his shoulders, as he slowly loses touch with Akari. Sumida, on the other hand, has to decide whether she's going to tell Takaki about her feelings or trying to forget everything. I never seem to be able to stop my tears no matter how many times I watch Sumida's decision scene.
The last segment - "5 centimeters per second" - portraits a grown up Takaki living a boring life in a big city. He goes out with some girls now and then, trying to finally forget Akari, but keeps mentally waiting for her signs. He discovers something about her which breakes his heart and, after that, they even have the opportunity to meet, but how will they react after so many years without seeing each other? It's Spring again and the cherry blossoms are falling, will that be enough to reunite two hearts which were separated by destiny? Or is it just the sign the distance between them is no longer trespassable?
The music played during ending credits (as it's usual for Makoto Shinkai's works) relates to the story and has a little videoclip showing some of the best sequences. It's not a song I listen to very often (I find a bit too cheesy), but it fits very well to the atmosphere of the film and completes its experience.
I think it's very difficult not to feel touched by this film, specially if you ever had to move to a different city or a very close friend or relative did so. The soundtrack, the visuals and the way it is built makes Byôsoku 5cm unique. It is short (63 minutes long), but the impressions it leaves might last for weeks or even months.