Stats: Japanese Contemporary Graphic Novel, Volumes 1 & 2, 566 pages, English Edition First Published by Vertical, June 2012.
My Rating: 4 Stars
When you look back at your life what stands out?
The story behind 5 Centimeters per Second is one that will seem familiar no matter what your personal experiences are. At some point we all lose something, we all regret losing something, and we all long for the something we lost. For Tohno Takaki he fell in love at a very young age and lost the chance to experience it when the girl of his mutual affections, Shinohara Akari, moves far away. They fall out of touch, but she's the girl he just can't move on from. There's no closure, no ending, just a long silence of something that never got the chance to be anything.
This graphic novel is just two volumes long and is based off of the 2007 animated film of the same name. The author Makoto Shinkai also wrote and directed the film, which can only mean good things for the adaptation quality.
I'll be honest, it feels wrong to talk about the graphic novel without at least linking to the movie trailer. The art of the film is so beautiful that I almost feel like on a visual level it could be a better format for the story, but I will have to wait till I see it to make any comparisons. The trailer here is the subtitled version, though there is an English DUB of the movie as well.
As the story goes we see the various relationships Tohno falls in and out of. Growing up isn't easy, love isn't easy, but you've got to make it work somehow right?
What I enjoyed about the graphic novel is that we don't just see things from Tohno's perspective. This is not just his story, it's also Shinohara Akari's story, and Kanae Sumida's story, and a bit of Risa's story too. Normally these women would be considered secondary characters Tohno's narrative, but 5 Centimeters per Second stays true to its realism in making these characters have their own development and their own life story that we get to somewhat engage in.
Despite the overwhelming praise I've seen in people recommending this, I didn't come away from the book liking it as much as I thought I would.
The graphic novel has a unique perspective that as a reader you add your own personal meaning to the story being told. What stands out to me may not stand out to others and vice-versa. You may see this as a depressing story or you may see this as a hopeful story. Either way it's all up to how you interpret the characters and their interactions on a personal level.
The experiences I bring to it is part of the reason of why I just didn't enjoy the first part of the book with the events between Tohno and Shinohara Akari. I just couldn't see a good reason for why these two were so very attached to each other. As someone who has moved around a lot it was impossible for me to view their separation via distance as something as dramatic as the story needed it to be. Yes, people lose touch, but it's not impossible to stay in contact if you want to as badly as these two did. That personal experience I was talking about involved me moving 5 hours away from my best friend and we kept in constant contact for four years after after that move.
But not all was lost! I became quickly engaged in the story when the character of Kanae was introduced. I connected with her instantly, which made her the most relatable character in the story to me. Different people will connect with different characters. The great thing about this sort of story is that it isn't required of me to connect with each and every one in order to enjoy the book fully. 5 Centimeters per Second is like a collection of short stories that happen to be interwoven together as part of life's grander scheme. It's something that you'll want to read more than once just to see what you can devise from its meaning.
Despite any misgivings I had at the start, this graphic novel is something I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in reading it. I'm seriously looking forward to checking out the film just to experience this story again.