Five Centimeters Per Second

Makoto Shinkai / Yukiko Seike – Vertical – 2012 – 1 volume

I frequently blind buy Vertical titles because they are almost always unusual, in terms of manga that gets published in English. I’ve been slipping lately, but my roommate reads the ones I’ve left to languish, such as Flowers of Evil and Velveteen & Mandala. I was pretty excited when I realized that this was a huge omnibus, and picked it up almost as soon as it arrived. I lost my momentum after I learned that it was an adaptation of a movie, though. I usually eat up romance stories like this, and this is a very good one, but still… adaptation. Hm.

The plot is pretty great. The first third is an earnest love story, where 7th graders Tohno and Akari bond over the fact they are both transfer students, and then proceed to grow closer and closer as they realize they have similar interests and develop them together. By the end of the first story arc, their bond is quite deep, though neither has admitted how much the other means to them. Of course, they wind up moving far apart by the time they enter high school, but you’re left with the impression that they’ll keep in touch and fate will bring them together again.

The second story arc is from a different character’s perspective, and about her unrequited love for an upperclassman. They spend a lot of time together, but she can never get herself to confess her feelings, because he obviously has someone else he’s interested in. I had taken a long break after the first part, so it took me until the end of this story arc to realize the love interest was Tohno from the first story.

And the third story arc moves back to Tohno as the main character, an adult version who just isn’t happy. I’ll leave it at that soas not to spoil anything. The epilogue switches perspective back to the main character of the second story as an adult.

It’s basically a story about connections between people and the depths with which one or both of the people can feel them. It goes about the telling in an interesting way, and I loved how thoroughly it portrayed all types of relationships, and the good and bad aspects of deep bonds. I was most interested in the ending, actually. While endings such as the one featured in this book are never satisfying, I love seeing them all the same. It really went with the theme of the work here, too, in that it was quite realistic. Well, almost. I have my doubts about the complete validity of the relationship between Tohno and Akari in the first story.

The title comes from Tohno and Akari’s shared interest in science. Akari is fond of naming random facts, and one of them is that cherry blossoms fall at a rate of 5 centimeters per second.

It’s an enjoyable little love story, and a fairly fresh take on one in terms of manga storytelling. It doesn’t share the overly sappy or idealistic version of romance one finds in shoujo, nor the more sexualized and/or also idealistic version one might find in shounen or seinen. I had a hard time figuring out where it was going with all this and ultimately… well, it finishes with a sense of reality, and I really liked that. It was nothing to gush about, and it probably isn’t something I’m going to re-read, but it was lovely all the same, and if you’re looking for a more mature love story, this is it.


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