Manga Shelf

Manga First Look: 5 Centimeters per Second

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Philosophy and religion and other forms of human questioning all attempt to answer the bigger questions of our lives. They try to answer questions like why are we the way we are to one another. Why do we love each other? Why do we hurt each other? How do we interact with one another?

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They give us answers in which we can choose to ignore or embrace because there is no one doctrine or philosophy that we all 100% accept. This leaves us with the open ways of making paths for ourselves in the world and choosing how we interact with one another.

This freedom, however, does come with a price. With freedom for how we approach each other comes the chance to be both good and bad with how we do it. As humans, we have emotion and these emotions can be amplifiers to these doctrines or they can completely obliterate them.

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I myself admit that my emotions get in the way of a lot of things sometimes. I know, for instance, that I should not allow myself to be angry with people who have a different opinion then me.

I know that, when I’m in love, I shouldn’t hinder myself from being open with the person. I know that when I interact with people, I should be who I am on the inside, and not worry about their judgments. I know that I should stand up for someone when I feel like they are being stomped on by some jerk. I still find myself learning how to be comfortable with myself.

These are what came to my mind, once again, as I read the manga reiteration of Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters per Second. What I love about Shinkai’s characters and his stories is that they tend to follow a theme and these themes tend to be around ideas like human interaction, love, and other altruistic concepts.

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The actions, the words, the reactions, they all tend to resonate deeply and I think the reason is because Shinkai really understands what it means to be human in that philosophical/religious manner. What was also so very endearing about 5 Centimeters in particular was that Shinkai had no problem piercing his story with true sadness, as we see things slowly drift into oblivion, because that’s how life is.

Life and love and everything we are, is fleeting and though people would find looking at that to be depressing, I would argue that it gives us hope. The hope comes from understanding that because everything is fleeting, you should enjoy what you have while it lasts.

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I came across the manga adaptation of 5 Centimeters a little while back. I was with my friend, and I stopped talking midsentence when I saw it and freaked out. My friend didn’t understand, and I didn’t bother trying to explain. I grabbed the copy off the bookshelf and told her that I had no choice. I had to get it.

Perhaps I’m more naïve in my manga and anime consumption but I don’t have the usual hang ups some fans do about worrying that things are going to go sour soon between adaptations.

Turns out, for now, my naïve manga and anime loving self-had nothing to worry about. Yukiko Seike is the artist who did the adaptation. I enjoyed the way she brought the story to life, and I think that the panels were well chosen to convey that same sense of love and eventual loss that comes with the story’s evolution.

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I hate to admit it but I actually liked the manga, in some ways, a little more. As good as Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters is (and it is good), Seike’s 5 Centimeters is better.

I think that one of the reasons why I may like it a little more is because of the medium in which the adaptation is done. Manga, in a lot of ways, has more time to really dwell on concepts, develop things and expand something that has to be condensed into 3 minutes of prose for an anime. Seike took what Shinkai had and decided to take the manga’s abilities for all it’s worth.

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One of the first things I noticed was the characters and their greater sense of development. There was back story for characters who I somewhat knew about but had to extrapolate from multiple 5 Centimeters anime viewings. One character for whom I never liked mainly because I considered her a hindrance to my favorite pairing in the anime, Takaki’s girlfriend, is given more story.

At first, I cringed because I wanted her to get off the page. My opinion of her, however, changed a lot with the development. As a matter of fact, when their relationship started to crumble, I started to feel bad for her and felt like an ass forever thinking badly of her.

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Fans of 5 Centimeters will also be either excited or baffled to know that there is a fourth chapter that Seike added to the story. It gives more of Sakaki and I feel like I was both excited and torn on the addition simultaneously…

On one hand, I love the fact that things were expanded and the story felt more whole, however, I had gotten used to slight ambiguity of the ending. There was freedom in there that allowed me to explore the take away message and also allowed for me to internalize and contemplate the themes more heavily.

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The one thing that did feel a bit out of place in the ending was the sense of hope left within the end. I know that sounds horrible, but as I had mentioned earlier, 5 Centimeters embraced its stories’ sadness and it is something I really love about Shinkai’s works.

That sliver of a hope felt like a small slap in the face for those who love the original ending. However, I can see the manga appealing to perhaps a broader audience with it because many readers do tend to like to see some form of light come from the future.

Regardless of this, I still cherish the manga so much and have even accepted the ending for what it accomplished. The manga still tends to focus on Takaki and the way in which love and distance leave him broken.

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It is quite relatable in the sense that we can think of ourselves and how our own struggles to interact with other humans and the world leaves scars on us. We affect one another and sometimes we forget that even a small moment of interaction with someone can leave and everlasting echo.

I think that reading the manga version should be an accompaniment to the anime as opposed to a replacement. But I also think that those who watched the anime and are enthralled by it should definitely read the manga.

The last bits do add more to Takaki’s ending, but I would ask that those who have the patience and the interest to experience both and then make up their own minds as to which ending they prefer to believe.

As I said in the beginning, there are multiple ways to approach everything.

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Currently a grad student, professionally awkward person, writer, and all around total geek. His works are featured on PeculiarBeings.co, PopGeekly.com, and his personal blog lifeonthehighwire.wordpress.com.