The time it takes to fall.
Confession: I’ve never watched 5 centimeters per second to completion. I feel a bit guilty about it – I saw the first arc when it came out, and, yes, those cherryblossoms were gorgeous, and, wooo, thwarted love!, but I somehow never got around to the rest of it. So, don’t expect me to do any comparison of the two here beyond the observation that the anime looks a hell of a lot nicer since the manga is, quite frankly, pretty standard artwise (and I hate the cover art – she looks like plastic!).
5 centimeters per second is primarily about Takaki Tohno, who starts the story as a new transfer student, and who is used to his family moving around constantly because of his father’s job. He meets Akari Shinohara, who also hails from a frequently-moving family, and the two bond initially over this and a later shared interest in astronomy. Akari’s family ends up moving, though, and the two communicate by letters, then see each other briefly before Takaki’s family moves even further away, making it impossible for the two to see each other at all. The rest of the story is largely about how Takaki has failed to move on at all, with a couple of detours – one with a girl named Kanae Sumida who has a crush on him in high school but who never manages to confess to him, and the second with Risa Mizuno, who dates Takaki as an adult.
I quite liked the first arc of the story, and I even liked the second arc with Kanae. With Kanae, the story spends time following her, and we get a look at what a teenaged Takaki looks like from afar. Kanae’s also trying to work through some of her own matters apart from Takaki – she has no idea what she wants to do after high school, and she’s never left the island she’s lived on her entire life, and you can tell that this chafes on her a little bit. Its not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but its also much more insight than Akari or Takaki ever gets, and its certainly preferable to spending much time with the morose Takaki.
Takaki’s the biggest problem, honestly – he starts off fine, and you can sympathize with his longing for Akari for a little while, but then he’s in his late twenties and still flubbing on the romance because of a girl he knew when he was an elementary school student. Elementary school! If Takaki were thirty-two and mooning over someone from college, that’d be one thing (although still kind of sad), but the last time Takaki and Akari spend any time together is when they’re, at the most, twelve years old. So, when you get down to it, he’s twenty-seven or so and pining after the memory of a twelve year old – that’s creepy.
Then there’s the fact that Takaki is pretty crappy to his long-term girlfriend, Risa. “But he’s lovelorn for someone he lost!”, the narrative tries to say, even so much so that Risa forgives him when she breaks up with him. But this seems pretty weak cover for using a woman for four years, and I resent that the manga tries to act like this is reasonable behavior that is totally excusable by “uguu, he misses Akari”.
Akari, by the way, we learn has moved on, as we very briefly see her as a woman who has a fiancee. She almost comes into contact with Takaki again through sheer chance, but they end up walking past one another. I foolishly took this as a sign that Takaki was going to move the hell on, too, but, whoops, silly me! He doesn’t.
I wish we’d gotten more time with Akari across the course of the story. Kanae’s bits are pretty decent (although the very end of her last chapter is infuriating), and Akari seems well-adjusted when we catch up with her adult self. Risa’s times would be good, too, if they weren’t so much a demonstration of Takaki being a loser. But Akari gets only about eight or ten pages in total solely to herself, and I think its a sorely missed opportunity. Akari got separated from her first serious crush, too, not just Takaki – wouldn’t it be good to get to watch how she handles that, too?
Vertical was smart to bring this out as an omnibus – I think it works better as a complete whole than it would split into two volumes as it was in Japan. It’s a solid release from Vertical, but, then again, most of the time this is the case with Vertical. (Recently Vertical’s Ed Chavez, who handles their manga line, stated that this and Velveteen and Mandala are the two manga releases that consistently get re-ordered by brick and mortar bookstores.)
Not recommended. I reallllllly liked the first arc with Akari and Takaki, and the Kanae arcs were okay, but the end and Takaki past the first Kanae arc drag it down completely. This may be one of those times where it was better to not bother fleshing things out further. I’m dismayed to admit this is my third Vertical purchase in a row that has proved largely a waste of time.