Love can be just as fleeting as it is beautiful, worn down by the passing of time and the weight of growing up. 5 Centimeters per Second delves deeply into memories of first love, presenting a story that is equal parts nostalgic, heartwarming and depressing.

Takagi Tohno and Akari Shinohara were perfect for each other from the start, becoming best friends after they both moved to Tokyo in elementary school. However, their dreams of attending the same high school are dashed when Akari and her family move away, forcing her and Takagi to contemplate life separated from each other. 5 Centimeters per Second details the effect distance and the passage of time have on Takagi and Akari as they come to terms with their budding feelings for each other across their physical distance.

Fans of the romance and coming of age stories will find plenty to enjoy here. This book will have a wide appeal to those who enjoy romance of all types, and is not limited to either shonen or shojo readers.

  • A wonderfully mature, if somewhat depressing perspective on love is presented that makes this book stand out among its genre peers. The conflict between the naivety and idealism of first love versus the reality of life is illustrated exceptionally by author Makoto Shinkai and is skillfully interwoven into the main narrative. I particularly appreciated how Shinkai’s decision to alternate perspective between Takagi and his future classmate Kanae Sumida paid off because it added an extra dimension to our view of Takagi’s emotional struggle. Kanae’s character arc also complimented Shinkai’s thematic emphasis by showing another facet of this internal conflict in a poignant emotional demonstration. The thematic consistency present was excellent and played a big part in how powerful the narrative ended up being.
  • Shinkai masterfully underscores the personalities of his characters through showing rather than telling. For example, Takagi’s thoughts are used both to provide him with characterization and to drive the plot forward, but never feel forced and allow the readers to naturally reach the conclusions Skinkai wants to emphasize. I enjoyed this greatly because it allowed me to get a personal sense for each of the characters without being explicitly dictated what to think.
  • Seike’s art is fantastic and compliments the story perfectly. Backgrounds are vividly drawn and accentuate the emotional impact of certain scenes such as the falling of the cherry blossoms early on in the story as well as Kanae’s time surfing. Character designs are memorable, as well as cleanly and consistently drawn, making the art one of the stand-out aspects of this book.
  • For anyone looking to read this after watching the movie, this book is highly worth having a look at. Its presentation of the third chapter is much improved and is told in a regular narrative style rather than as a montage. I felt this was much more effective in telling the story as it allowed a more detailed look at the events during this span. In addition, a final epilogue chapter is added which makes the story feel much more complete and should not be missed by those invested in this story.
  • I have no complaints about this release, as the narrative, characters and art are masterfully combined by Shinkai and Seike in telling this story. On a purely personal level I may have liked it if Shinkai had decided to end his story differently or shown more of Akari’s side of the story, but I can’t fault him for the way he stayed true to his intent all the way through this book.

5 Centimeters per Second is a powerful look at the conflict between love and reality in the lives of its characters, effectively using wonderful artwork and excellent characterization to deliver this tale. This book should not be missed by anyone looking for a poignant examination of the love’s emotional impact through the years and is a brilliant achievement by both Shinkai and Seike.

What do our scores mean?

5 Centimeters per Second was illustrated by Yukiko Seike and published by Vertical Inc. on June 26th, 2012. The series originally ran in Kodansha’s Afternoon from 2010-2011, and is based off of the original movie by director Makoto Skinkai.

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