Category Archives: Byousoku 5CM

Never Running Out of Things to Say

Some people are very detail oriented, directed, motivated, focused and ultimately, verbose.

I can’t quite say that about Makoto Shinkai, but that is how he came across when I spent the good half hour reading the wall-of-text interview on the 5cm DVD (R1 release, thx ADV!). He doesn’t ramble–in fact it seemed like it was well-planned, almost as if he has had time to think up answers to the open-ended questions these interviews tend to make them answer.

What was impressive was seeing the same degree of attentiveness to detail to his works. And it’s not so much in the animation but in the degree of control he exercised over the work that made it seem like he knows what he is doing–what exactly he wanted to say to his viewers, and how he wanted it done.

I won’t parrot what he said in there, but I will say there was even a lolcat moment.

Even though it was well planned, it seemed that he did not have anything to read back from, so the speech was natural (and at parts, edited for brevity) when he hits the various points to answer a question. The question he gets asked all the time (such as “are you telling us a story from your own life?”) he answers rather concisely; but some of the more descriptive questions surrounding 5cm’s production gets much more fleshed out.

And how he transitioned from what lifts him up from his daily grind as an office guy to a way of life; a hobby turns into a full time job. It’s probably worthy of being told in a film all by itself.

In a nutshell, while some advertisers may jump quickly and claim Shinkai’s successorship as the next Miyazaki, I see him as someone who has simply mastered storytelling in this one particular style. Perhaps today’s media industry lacks people who knows how to tell stories, especially in this style, but it will be up to him to combine his talents, dedication, and finding the story that he wants to speak to us about. That’ll be the defining prereq of his true masterpiece.

Still, I have a hard time running out of things to say about 5cm. Sure, it really spoke to me, and many others, but much like Satoshi Kon’s works (and he’s another very detail-oriented person) there’s just a jam-packed amount of stuff in the film. Not only it takes a long time to unpack all that’s in the film, Shinkai has made it fun to do so. In light of the new Spring 2008 offerings, I am still mostly ambivalent about that in light of what has transpired in an year-old film that ran just a tad over an hour.

In one of those soul-searching moments, a stroll in the valley of introspection and self-reflection, things like 5cm is exactly what props me up and reaffirms that there’s something worth being a fan for in this business.

And 5cm says it so simply. Concisely.



Year in Review: Makoto Shinkai

You know, Makoto Shinkai made this short which debut on NHK this week about cats.


Unlike his first known work, She and Her Cat, this colorful skit about cats is probably his first comedic work. Aside from the shared namesake of Chobi, anyways, there are not a whole lot in common. A Gathering of Cats is part of a program on NHK that highlights notable animators and have them put on a show for us. The short is merely 60 seconds long, so be sure to grab it and take a look!

Anyways, back to Year in Review: Shinkai is indeed one of the shining beacon of light dotting the landscape of the anime scene for me. This year was particularly remarkable with the release of 5cm. This will be the first post rounding out my favorited spotlights of this ending 2007.

One thing I love about anime is how it takes a very eastern, humanist message and package it in a candy shell. I don’t really care about the usual story so much that drives American television (but sometimes they do offer something interesting), so I take particular notice at this kind of thing. Unlike my more adventurous breathens I don’t steep deep into it; the random jpop tie-in of Studio 4C’s Amazing Nuts is as far as I go with the really weird this year (I didn’t watch it until 2007, bleh), I guess.

But more about Shinkai. I think 5cm is really his first film that he could be truly proud of. Hey, it won foreign film fest awards. Regardless how you like it compared to his earlier works (which definitely depends on your tolerance and affinity to the lo lo sappy romance happy end), Shinkai actually managed to tell a story with his film. In his last movie, Beyond the Cloud, he merely told us a story as a normal film did, and his film played second fiddle (albeit in Tenmon’s orchestra that is still pretty awesome) to the colliding mystery and the romantic reunion of the protagonist couple. In 5cm, the film carried the story like a master chef going at miles long of ramen dough, or insert some other familiar culinary analogy about kneading…things. The three-way partition throws people off, but I believe this all the more highlights the impressiveness of his narrative through telling us a story with what we experience overall, and not merely what we see or hear.

Plus, it sure as pretty. And I mean Pixar/Studio Ghibli pretty. I am dying to see this on 35mm. Com’on ADV!

Makoto Shinkai is definitely the most exciting prospect on the scene right now for independent anime filmmaking, and he’s just starting to make waves. Will he ever shed that arthouse aura? I don’t know, but I don’t care! It’s good stuff.

This is the first part of a series of blog entries highlighting some of the memorable and remarkable points of 2007 in review.

5cm: When the Distances Between Hearts Become Quantifiable

Mayama is a better man than Takaki Tohno!

The “jist” of 5cm is really summed up by an analogy of distance and quantifying the things that we can’t say.

In short, 5cm is about people being able to love and come to embrace each other in an ever growing-closer (or farther) circle-strafe dance of understanding each other. If we were to talk about UT2004 deathmatches, words are like bullets and rockets–it’s always good to throw a lot of them at your opponent, but it doesn’t mean you will “get through” to the other side. In Makoto Shinkai’s masterpiece, this is really the same analogy he is drawing except with physical distance.

Yea, bear with me for a second, because distance is both the ammunition and the representation of how close the hearts are between our main character and what his heart longs for. Sometimes it doesn’t take much but a timely-delivered snailmail letter. And ironically 5cm refers to thousands of text messages! Ahh don’t you like that little nod at Hoshi no Koe? I did.

But I suppose most of you reading this post probably hasn’t seen all three episodes of 5cm? Or maybe you have? Subs of it are on the usual pirate-y places now with the R2 DVD release only a couple weeks ago.

The one thing I would rail on is that despite the fact 5cm is clearly drawn up to be 3 separate parts connected by a chronologically consistent main character, the last piece doesn’t quite deliver because the narrative was a bit unclear. We see the “very end” in the first part of the third episode, then we see some of the “beginning” time-wise for episode 3, then we get a musical montage which explains how it all relates to each other, and how the first 2 episodes relate to episode 3.

Sure, if you take a second to think about it, you know what is happening. But considering how episode 2 spins out, the way episode 3 comes about goes against what you are expecting to see. It would’ve helped a lot to make it simple for the viewer if they just bother to explain it for us more, I guess. Overcoming poetic denial? Plus, the ending song doesn’t really hit home for everyone. It wasn’t too bad for me, but some of my companions didn’t connect with it.

In a way, I feel the same about this film as the film itself–words just don’t do it justice. Shinkai’s work this time is not merely a bubbling surge of rushing emotion but a calculated narrative of forward-moving regret. 5cm carries a heavy burden on its shoulders, but when you look as awesome as 5cm, you’re willing to both forgive it and let it take you to wherever it’s going. It’s definitely a more mature piece from Shinkai, and for that he deserves a lot of props.

And boy, is it beautiful. Don’t just watch it on DVD. Go see it on 35mm, you’re going to regret it otherwise if you know how shockingly awesome it is suppose to look.