Can a Singular Aspect of a Work be Too Good?
During the Easter weekend, I decided to take some time to watch 5 Centimeters per Second, an anime movie directed by Makoto Shinkai. Makoto Shinkai has always been lauded as a great anime director among anime communities, but his fame began to rise to prominence in even the mainstream with his record-breaking movie Your Name., which became the highest grossing anime movie of all time in 2016, according to Anime News Network. I have always wanted to watch the rest of his movies, but I have been known to be fantastic at procrastinating when it comes to watching any kind of movie. However, I did finally see 5 Centimeters per Second, and while I can say that in the end I enjoyed the movie, I could not help but wonder if the animation was too good.
5 Centimeters per Second is a movie that also wants to act like a compilation. It is broken up into three “episodes” that each contain a vignette about the life of Takaki. All of these vignettes are linear through time and are bound by the theme of unrequited love. The first focuses on Takaki and his friend Akari, who attempt to stay in touch through writing each other letters after Akari’s parents have to move to another part of Japan for work. Eventually, Takaki has to move farther away, so they try to see each other in person beforehand. The second vignette focuses on Kanae, a girl who is hopelessly in love with Takaki but hasn’t been able to bring herself to tell him. The final “episode” focuses on Takaki as an adult (I will not delve into the details, especially in case you want to see it. Despite the fact I have my problems with the movie, I still would recommend anyone interested to give it a try.) All three of the stories are given astounding animation. Every single frame of the movie could be mounted on a wall. However, while watching the movie, I began to wonder if such an aspect really hurt the movie rather than helped.
To say that the animation quality was too good may seem odd, especially since it’s an animated movie, and one of the essential aspects of an animated movie is animation (it’s in the name of the genre.) I don’t even think I would change the animation if I had the opportunity to. However, I found myself being distracted by it to the point that I did not have a good enough grasp on the story and emotional drama. Characters would begin to dramatically monologue, but I struggled with keeping up because I was still too busy drinking in all of the stunning imagery of the movie. It didn’t help that the plot was relatively slow moving and relied on character drama rather than definitive plot points. It’s hard to say how well it was done because of the fact I could not concentrate on what characters were thinking and feeling half the time, (however, I don’t think it’s a good sign that I never was able to drag myself back into the story), and it made me wonder about the movie as a whole. If the writing quality matched the visual quality, then the movie would be better than the individual parts. Even though I loved every still in that movie, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the fact the movie itself never truly took my breath away. I had a hard time really feeling for the characters or wanting to invest my energy in wanting to see them grow. It only made me wish that the writing aspect was held to the same standard as the visuals. Only then do I think the movie could have been made into something magical. No singular aspect of a movie can carry it. It’s a matter of each part working well with each other and becoming greater than the sum of its parts.