5 Centimeters Per Second
Makoto Shinkai & Seike Yukiko
The manga of 5 Centimeters Per Second is adapted from a 2007 animated film from Makoto Shinkai, by artist Seike Yukiko. I've never seen the film, but this manga definitely feels very cinematic, and is really quite beautifully illustrated, with special attention given to detail, particularly when it comes to the environments the characters live in. It's a very emotional story about a young boy, Takaki Tono, who falls in love with a girl in elementary school. Unfortunately, his family moves around a lot and while they attempt to stay in touch, writing letters to one another over the years, and even taking a long train ride to see each other during a snowstorm, they eventually fall out of touch, words of unrequited love left unspoken between them. Takaki's relationship with the girl, Akari Shinohara, shapes the rest of his youth and early adulthood, where he finds himself uncertain when it comes to forming relationships with other women. This book is divided into three acts, just like the film, and Kanae Sumida is the main character of the second act of the story, as it follows her infatuation and one-sided love for Takaki, despite his disinterest. The third act kind of brings the feelings of all three individuals to a head, showing how they are able to move on with life despite the disappointments they've encountered. This is a really thick manga, clocking in at 566 pages, but it moves quickly and is never bogged down with too much narrative or story. In fact, it's kind of a breezy read, like a summer romance, although it definitely packs a lot of emotion into the lives of the characters. I like how the story rotates between characters, so we get to see Takiko from several different perspectives, at different points in his life. A lot of the story is told through the expressions of the characters and internal monologue, which makes for a pretty personal experience, which was also rather pleasant. I think that some people will be disappointed by how this story ends, even if it does pick up dangling plot threads. It's just not the romantic reunion that people probably expect, but it's still packs an emotional punch nonetheless, and I love the final scene with Takaki and Akari. It's perhaps a little cold and distant, but it's realistic and holds a lot of hope for the future of all parties involved. This manga tackles big themes of love, expectations and uncertainty, and tells the story of a lost boy in a very honest and intimate way. I really enjoyed this book.