5 Centimeters per Second: Distance of the Heart Part 2

The second part of 5 Centimeters per Second, with Kanae, takes a step in a slightly different direction, portraying another kind of naive love while still continuing the sad tale of Tohno and Akari. Kanae is a girl who is helplessly in love. Always timing her meetings with him, always so quiet and shy, yet always watching the man she thinks she loves. Frustrated with herself and her inability to convey her feelings to her “ideal guy,” her loss of ability to surf can be seen as her struggle against naivety. Believing she is right, believing that what she feels is true love; believing that she can surf and knowing that she has that ability yet there is a barrier. She spends a large portion of the story struggling against both the waves of the ocean and of her own helplessness. Her eyes are unable to see the truth behind her naivety and as a result, she wanders aimlessly and fails to reach her goals. The day she surfs again is the day she comes to a painful realization of how the man she loved has never once looked at her. What she thought was a possible growing affection was merely a continued meaningless personality of kindness. He was a person who was always looking past her and she had herself convinced he was at least looking in her general direction. Thus they are the opposite of what Akari and Tohno were – close physically but their hearts could not be farther apart. She says she will love him forever – and she probably will, but this was a love of admiration and infatuation. It was her first experience with such powerful emotions and the years she spent investing in them caused them to grow to the point of affecting her as a person; they become a meaningful part of her existence, so while the feelings themselves are for someone who she perceived existed but did not, they are too important to ever let go of.

5 cm_2

Then we have Tohno, who is now being portrayed as an apathetic yet kind person. Successful and popular in school, yet a boy who is still looking deep into the past. When he looks at a person, he does not see his classmate, but a past classmate. Everywhere he looks, he sees Akari, the girl who once, and still does, meant the world to him. But that is no more. The exact circumstances are unclear, but the letters stopped. Although he does not know who sent the last letter, the time between letters grew so great that it does not even matter. The distance was far too great and their hearts were no longer in the same place. Time is the most powerful and unstoppable force that can change emotions, feelings, beliefs, and relationships. He is always writing text messages but never sending them. What he writes and who he wishes to send them to is unknown, but it is a clear indication that he once again is isolated like so many years ago before he met Akari. He longs for companionship and a person who can understand him, and this does not necessarily mean Akari. Anyone would suffice, but as no one does, Akari is the only one on his mind. These constant thoughts of her fill his mind as much as he fills Kanae’s, but the effect is something far different. Rather than growing a love out of something that does not exist, he is multiplying one that did. With nothing else to do with his life, with no one else to talk to, the amount of emotional investment he has in Akari reaches something that can only be done over the course of his few but long years. He incessantly compounds his obsession over her yet is unable to do anything to fix the endless gap between them. But he knows the truth: he will probably never see her again, and if he does, she won’t feel the same.

The final part of this story is short and straightforward, but leaves the open-ended interpretation of the true moral of the movie. Tohno has been living an average life of an average person with an average job and average relationships. He recently quit his job and is ignoring his pseudo-girlfriend. Despite his relationships with women, he is still stuck in the past and no surprise there. He spent his entire youth with eyes for only one girl, now a woman. He watched her, waited for her letters, and thought of her, always. She was the one who understood him, but now she is gone from his life, leaving his heart as an empty void that can’t be filled. Akari on the other hand is now engaged, but clearly has not forgotten him. A dream of that day from reading that undelivered letter: she remembers him fondly, but not as a lover. She has come to terms with her naivety at some point and realized she needed to move on. How exactly her adolescent years played out are a complete mystery; we only see the result after many years. She realized that what they had was not real love – it was child’s play. Their broken relationship does not bother her in the slightest because it is all in the past to her. It helped shape her into who she is, as all experiences do, but she understands how futile it would be to regret not continuing their relationship.

But for Tohno, if you deal with child’s play long enough, it can become reality. No matter how naïve and foolish the love was originally, it has become real in the sense that it is unbreakable. However, this does not change the reality he faces. The final scene by the train is a final confirmation of that reality. He recognizes her; he knows it’s her for he has only seen her every day of his life. In his mind, he watched her grow up and knows every feature that she will have. The trains pass as he turns. He cannot look away because he has waited for this moment since that fateful day they parted. But she can. Regardless of whether she did recognize him, regardless of whether she didn’t, it doesn’t matter. He is a memory to her. A good memory, but still just that. She may turn out of curiosity, but she will not give more time than that. The trains are done passing and only he remains, standing, looking at nothing. He leaves, knowing that this is reality. He has always known this reality as well, ever since that day. He turns and smiles, understanding how many years he wasted away with a futile love.

5 centimeters per second_ train

Thus, in the end, 5 cm/s is a story of how 3 people mistook a feeling for love, how they dealt with it, and how it developed them as a person. Tohno dedicates his life to it and ends up unable to love anyone else until he finally accepts reality years later. In comparison, Kanae spends a lot less time investing in her feelings and comes to terms with reality much sooner; however, even so, he is someone she will never forget about. Unlike the other two, Akari does not let one failed hope affect her life. She is able to move on quickly, understanding how naïve her hopes were, and become engaged without letting her past hold her back.

The previous story was about a relationship where the two hearts were not able to connect regardless of how much superficial effort the two applied. However, Kanae’s story is about a girl who does not even recognize the need for it. While Akari and Tohno initially felt that their relationship was bounded by a strong love, Kanae simply jumps at the prospect of potential love. Without consideration to anything, she believes in her feelings. In other words, “love at first sight.” What Shinkai is telling here is that such a feeling, in and of itself, is meaningless. People want to jump at the first prospect of love based on first impressions alone. However, if they never really try to get to know the person, such a love will never go anywhere. It will never even reach the person you are supposedly in love with. To love someone is to understand and respect them. One-sidedly expressing your feelings without regard to what the person’s opinions or thoughts are is a naïve kind of love.

That said, such feelings can grow into a real and more powerful love. For Kanae, when she finally understood something about Tohno, she chose to keep her distance. She gave up on being with him but her feelings for him matured into something that was not simply a child’s love. For Tohno, he indulged in his feelings for Akari to such an extent for so many years that it did not matter whether their hearts would not move closer. He overcame that barrier by dedicating his entire existence to her. I’ve said again and again how Shinkai is depicting the naivety of love, but even that can grow into something real. It is the initial reaction and feelings that are too often misinterpreted and what Shinkai is warning people of. Many relationships, romantic ones in particular, fail not because of differences or changes in people but because the foundation was not there; they were based on naïve love rather than an understanding of the hearts.

What Shinkai has shown as a whole are three people and how long they take to learn how to accept their own naivety. People are always so excited to declare their love for each other, but while such a thing should normally be joyous, it can also be foolhardy if that love has no foundation. The foundation requires connection of the hearts, or at the very least, in Tohno’s case, a long-term time investment. To express naïve love as real love risks hurting both parties, and it is important to be able to distinguish your feelings not just for romance but for your own maturity. It is only when Tohno finally accepts reality at the end that he can lift the burden he has carried for so many years and truly move forward in life. All three characters were shaped into who they were by their experiences with naïve love, and no one can really say whether their choices were for the better. Regardless, in the end, none of their loves succeeded because they lacked a connection of the hearts.

I think I explained the importance of connected hearts well enough in the first post, so I tried to focus on naïve love rather than repeating myself. While everything I’ve said can be called a cynic’s view, real love with a strong foundation is what the story is trying to promote. Furthermore, God’s love for us is anything but naïve love. A lot of people indulge in their feelings because it is the strongest emotion they have felt but God’s love is on an entirely different level. He understands everything about our hearts and His love exists outside the barrier of time; such a love is beyond our comprehension. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, that is only the beginning. The love He gives us cannot help but overflow our hearts and into others’. The feeling is perhaps similar to a first love or love at first sight, but the love is far more real and concrete, and that is why, as long as you make the effort to connect your heart to God, a relationship with Him will always succeed in the long run.

Kaze

Kaze is a graduate from the University of Tokyo who currently works on developing gene therapies for genetic diseases. He is a Nanatard since 2009 and mostly spends his time reading VNs and studying Japanese. Strangely enough, also a devout Christian.

One thought on “5 Centimeters per Second: Distance of the Heart Part 2

  1. Wow, I really have to say, that you opened up my eyes with your analysis. Now I think, that I really have understood the movie (or at least better than before).

    When I first watched this movie i was a bit unsatisfied at the end; I was not sure how to interpret it. And since i’m not that good at analyzing movies I searched for some analyses and came across yours. I really have to say that you definetley changed my view on the topic of love. As for myself, I always thought of two kinds of love. One kind is this superficial love, which occurs if you have a crush on someone, and the other kind is true love, the connection of two hearts as you said it.

    So this is why I think most people don’t like this movie because they mix up those two definitions and thought in the first part that they can actually overcome the physical distance (I have to say that I thought so too when I first saw the movie). But like you said in reality their hearts didn’t get a centimeter closer to each other.

    So if you really pay attention to the details from the beginning on, you can probably guess that this movie doesen’t have a good ending. As for me, even in the end I still had hope that they going to be together somehow. But nevertheless this movie is a true masterpiece and I’m glad that this was the first movie from shinkai that I watched.

    I watched all his other movies, too and I think they’re all masterpieces. I really cannot understand people who dislike his movies because of a ‘bad plot and characters’. Those people just didn’t pay attention to the subtle details that reveal much more of the story than what’s actually telled.

    So thanks again for your brilliant analysis and I hope we can witness more shinkai masterpieces in the future.

    Take care,

    Alex

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