The Quest For 5cm/35mm

I have reached a major turning point in the quest to pursuit it as a fan and to promote it as a fan, so I figured I should share what has happened, and what will continue to happen.

A time long ago, in a galaxy not-so-far away…

There were some blogs and news sites that reported the unveiling of Makoto Shinkai’s latest work, strangely titled “5 Centimeter per Second – A Chain of Short Stories about Their Distance.” What was really remarkable was that a 720p trailer was released to annotate this major news item (at least, for people who cared for avant-garde Japanese animation).

The summer of 2006 was a time of uncertainty. The Hi-Def format war was just underway and the waves of heavy blows had only begun to clash between the two camps. Seeing a Hi-Def trailer for an anime film, straight from the Japanese Horse’s mouth, was an oddity, even if it was norm for big-budget productions. It’s not a secret (at least to me) that a fair number of TV anime was already being produced with HD in mind, and even some are aired as such. But the media tycoons here, let alone the more fiscally conservative Japan, was not too keen on jumping on the bandwagon, even if Blu-Ray has pretty much gotten Japan locked down from the get go.

The strange title and the fragmented telling of 5cm was already pretty much a “huh” since it was hard to say what it was about, besides that we can see it may very well be another film long-distance relationship. It was surprisingly sci-fi free, but with that rocket we can’t tell for sure. Not everyone then picked up that it’s a three-parter. Just about no one knew the last part was suppose to be a “cap” and a music video. The winter 2006 trailer didn’t really help either.

(The Star Wars nod is not too far off, as I thought back to what happened.)

As fandom and fans approached the winter of 2006, babble about 5cm has generally quieted down. Stuff like Paprika and Tokikake was in the mind of the anime film buffs. The steadfast Shinkai fans preordered the limited edition R2 DVD box sets, as it would come with Tenmon’s soundtrack (and so far, no way else). The fortunate Shinkai fans waited to see it in theaters in spring of ’07. I was neither.

(Come to think of it, 2006 was one hell of a year for anime if we added these two works to 2006’s umbrella of fandom-rocking productions.)

I did get to read about the film, and at least watch a nice sub of it later in 2007. I was so pumped about that fansubbed Episode 1 (Oukashou) that I made everyone I knew watch it at Otakon 2007, where they promised a screening with their 35mm programming track. Not only was its reception mixed among my friends (as it was decidedly depressing for some and outright outrageous for few; as many liked it however), they screened a DVD with crappy resized option selected. It looked horrid. Prodding the Otakon forums after the fact did little good besides that ADV has dropped the ball (in an usual manner of how industry reps drop balls at cons, I guess).

And showing it in such horrid way is the greatest injustice you can do to one of the prettiest film I’ve seen. Having been promised a 35mm run by ADV, it was a kick in the balls. Hearing it being licensed was great news as it was announced around 2007 con season. I was so looking forward to it too.

That summer marked the start of a small chase for me to catch 5cm in a proper 35mm showing. I know ADV did stuff in Texas with all their theatrical releases, but it was a little too hard to justify traveling down there just for that. Plus, I had no idea where to start looking for information tied to their local showing. All in all, I only managed to catch two other “screenings” of 5cm since, so I guess I wasn’t really that hardcore at all.

A whopping year later we’ve finally seen this work in its original 35mm beauty. The NYCIFF screened it twice in three weeks; I caught the last showing today.

It’s been a long year since the seeds of anticipation bore fruit. Even compared to a nice, high quality rip of the original DVD, seeing it on 35mm was a notably more powerful experience. Details between light and darkness jumped to life; deep ocean blues and the pitch-dark, starry sky gave a particular depth that made Episode 2, Cosmonaut, a glittery magic that probably will escape most people’s displays (unless your display can show some very awesomely deep black levels, anyways).

This was probably my fourth real “experience” with this film. Not counting the time when I watched it piece-wise or doing it at home, anyways. At today’s showing there were a couple hiccups which interrupted the screening (thankfully nothing really major), and we had to take a 5-minute break between episodes 2 and 3. I realized this actually significantly changed the way we viewed the ending because the awesome kid-friendly atmosphere of a typical NYCIFF showing really cuts into suspension of mood. I sort of took pity to this one mom who was reading the subs to her child as her child wasn’t old enough to read that fast.

A bit of funny: as usual NYCIFF major features always demo a short before the actual feature. For today’s showing there was this stopmation Russian fairytale. It’s only fitting that 5cm is also licensed in Russia, I guess.

What’s next? I’ve done chasing this film, so odds are I can happily pluck down some money for the Hi-Def version of the film (along with Beyond the Clouds) later this year. Hopefully we can see R1 licensees release them with translation soon after.


5 Responses to “The Quest For 5cm/35mm”

  • chami

    You watched it on 35mm. I hate you now.

    After rewatching it countless times, I find that I can forgive the horribly cheesy editing at the ending montage. I didn’t really think the song should have been there and that everything should have been cut to it, but it grew on me after time – I guess I was just extra cynical when we watched it at Otakon due to overexposure to fade-outs. :p

  • omo

    Are you coming to Otakon? Do yourself a favor and make noise on their forum. We now know a 35mm print exists, there ought to be no excuse from ADV this time around.

  • Vonbon

    You should check out the novels too!

  • Zeroblade

    You watched it on a screen bigger than 19 inches. I hate you now.

  • TheBigN

    Zeroblade: Just because it was on a screen bigger than 19 inches doesn’t mean anything if the quality wasn’t up to snuff. I would’ve loved to see the 35mm cut of this myself. :3

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