5 Centimeters per Second by Makoto Shinkai, illustrated by Yukiko Seike, translated by Melissa Tanaka
The copy of this story I hold in my hands is apparently the fourth iteration of a Japanese modern classic-in-the-making – it debuted in 2007 as an animated film, was then adapted (and expanded) as a novel in late 2007, became a manga in 2010, and just arrived in English translation last week from those savvy pop lit folks at Vertical, Inc.
Like the film (which I’m now desperate to see), the English manga is presented in three parts; unlike the film in which the segments are titled (“Cherry Blossom,” “Cosmonaut,” and “5 Centimeters per Second”), the manga’s tri-part structure is comprised of three chapters each (plus a bonus epilogue – but no spoilers here!).
In chapters 1-3, Akari Shinohara and Tohno Takaki meet as elementary school students, become close companions bonded by their shared peripatetic pasts and their love of reading, are separated by another move, but try to stay close through letters. Now in high school living on a remote island, in chapters 4-6, Tohno goes about his days quietly detached, seemingly oblivious to his feisty, surfing classmate Kanae’s blinding devotion to him. Fast forward to young adulthood in chapters 7-10 when the ever-noncommittal Tohno is working in Tokyo as a computer programmer, on the verge of ending his three-year relationship with a caring, patient young woman; meanwhile Akari is preparing for her upcoming wedding but still dreaming about someone clearly not her husband-to-be …
If eyes are indeed the mirrors to people’s souls, then illustrator Yukiko Seike must have special sight. Ironically, the cover art, in spite of its full color, hardly does justice to the panels within that are so gorgeously drawn with such intricate detail. Surely, the unmistakable depth and resonance of the life-long love story comes from the expressions Seike manages to capture through the characters’ eyes – from the innocent awe of two children watching the cherry blossom petals fall (five centimeters per second), to the surprised relief of recognition, to utter adoration, to a peek-a-boo side glance of hope.
Oh, oh, oh … be still my jaded heart. Mark my words, you’ll melt, too!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2012 (United States)