Is 5 Centimeters per Second Makoto Shinkai’s best work?

5 centimeters per second

Makoto Shinkai is known for his brilliant romance movies. His best work is considered to be Kimi no Na Wa, a wonderful fantasy tale of two lovers. However, that might not be entirely true. Hidden within his wide collections, 5 Centimeters per Second is his true masterpiece. Lesser known, yet beautifully crafted, this story is the one everyone needs to know about.


5 Centimeters per Second

5 Centimeters per Second is a story of a boy who chases after his love. The story is shown to us from three different perspectives, each adding to the essence of what it means to be in love and what it means to move past that love. The story is one of the most delicately written works of Makoto Shinkai. It is the final piece of his anti-romance era, but somehow, it teaches us more about love than his widely known work, Kimi no Na Wa.

A still from the movie 5 Centimeters per Second
A still from the movie | Courtesy of CoMix Wave Films

There are multiple levels to this movie that one discovers each time they watch it. That’s largely what makes it so beautiful. Viewers from all ages will watch it and learn something different. For a younger audience, it is that love comes once, and it stays forever. For a more older audience, it is that dreams that have died are not reborn. And if one is to say that that is all there is to know from this movie, one would be highly mistaken. This movie is an embodiment of lessons that move past time.

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Why is this movie considered Shinkai’s best work?

The movie is divided into three episodes. Each has its own depth and complexity. There are many factors that make this movie the greatest of Shinkai’s movies, and we’ll dive right into it.

The Chosen Cherry Blossoms – A Dream Realized:

Tohno and Akari
Tohno and Akari | Courtesy of CoMix Wave Films

The movie’s first episode begins with Takaki Tohno’s perspective. He is going through a sad phase as he learns that his best friend, Akari, is leaving. They try to maintain their close relationship by sending letters to each other, but at one point, they come to the conclusion that this is not possible any longer. With this conclusion, they decide to meet for one last time.

  • They spent their last night together in the train station as Tohno got late. As they talk and remember their days together, time ticks to when they have to bid their farewell. Everything meant one last time till that point, but one event changed everything, and that was the kiss.
  • While the kiss was simply just a kiss, both perceived it differently. For Tohno, it reignited his dream of being together with her. Taking the kiss as a sign that that’s what she wanted to do, he could not have been more wrong. Misunderstanding what had happened, he started dreaming of being together with her. For Tohno, Akari was his dream.
  • This was not how Akari perceived it. For her, it was a way to end their close friendship. A final token of love, not to continue but to bid goodbye.


Tohno and Sumida
Tohno and Sumida | Courtesy of CoMix Wave Films

This is the second episode, and it is from Sumida’s perspective. She is a new friend that Tohno made as he grew up. She was the mirror to him. Her purpose in the story was to reflect on how Tohno is and how he is going to end up. She loved him deeply. Tohno was to her what Akari was to him. Both of them loved the other with extreme passion. For Sumida, Tohno was her dream.ย 

  • Everything was perfect for her. She had no love rival, she could spend time with him as much as she wanted, and there was no possibility of her moving away. For anyone else, this was a clear win. One confession and the person is set with their partner. But that is not how it went for her.
  • Tohno saw beyond her, he was mesmerized by his dream that was reawakened that one fated night. She was sure of her success, but when she failed, she lost sight of everything. He was her dream, she could not see beyond that. Faced with rejection, she could not live with her dream.
  • She could not accept the truth, because all it brings is the devastation of her cherished dream. This is where Tohno is headed. Clenching his dream with all his might, he has nowhere to go but his awaiting downfall.

Moving Away, Moving Forward:

Tohno and Akari
Tohno and Akari | Courtesy of CoMix Wave Films

This is the last episode of the movie, and it brings back Tohno’s perspective. Abandoning everything he had till then, he was a man who quit his job, lost his girlfriend, and gave up on his life. Walking aimlessly, he reunites with the woman that started it all.

  • He has living in his dream, and all that awaited him was his doom. Meeting her after decades, he finds his second chance at life coming to life. However, what he finds is another illusion he does not need. She had long past moved on from him. Married and happy, he sees her one last time before she vanishes when the train passes by.
  • He has a choice – to run after her or to finally take in the truth. He decides to be happy, and he takes his first step, in a direction that does not lead to her.

Makoto Shinkai’s best work – His underdog

The movie clearly depicts that love is not all about chasing the one you want to be with. Sometimes love is acceptance of their happiness over yours. Sometimes love is moving away from what you want the most. Sometimes love is choosing yourself. And sometimes love is not where you think it will be. This is Shinkai’s most complex and intricate piece of work.

The movie is divided into three parts, each having its own lessons, and each having its own wonders. But when it comes together, it is a flower that hides within the elegance of the other flowers in the garden, a white lily in a garden of roses. A hidden and less appreciated masterpiece by the great Makoto Shinkai, one that is easily overlooked but one that will teach you in 5 centimeters per second.

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