Coming To Terms With The Pain Of Distance

秒速5センチメートル (5 Centimeters Per Second)

I took a journey through the eyes and inner conscious of Takaki, from his childhood first love and the ripple effect it had through to his adult life. This movie, 5 Centimeters Per Second, moved something in me in those three episodes. Beginning with a final encounter in his elementary school days with Akari, the girl he loved. His high school years spent struggling with the distance between the two of them, and the effect on Kanae, the girl eagerly anticipating the perfect moment to get closer to him. Concluding with the pain that has built up over his younger years into his adulthood.

All human bodies have a limit of mental and physical exhaustion. Each vessel differs in their perception as well as capacities. In all its hindering forms, pain weighs heaviest. Events out of our control add to our pain, but can easily be overcome with a correct mindset and time. However, a continuous bombardment of self-inflicted negativity becomes an accumulation of pain, combined with the events beyond our control. The ability to stop a recurring and harmful habit on one’s self is a skill. Such is the case with myself when I explore love and friendship in anime. The pain brought forth, while watching love between friends and lovers, grows exponentially when we see characters as past, present, and potential future forms of ourselves.

I recently took a big step out of my comfort zone, and moved to the other side of the world. While a much greater distance than what Takaki and Akari endured, moving away from friends and family was difficult. However painful it may be, lessons to learn from and build on are present in this beautiful story.

Episode I: Cherry Blossom

“You wouldn’t recognize me if you saw me.” – Akari

This is Takaki’s story, an evolution of personality. I see myself in his friendship with Akari. Both think things will last forever. Even at my age, I wish for moments to last a lifetime. I am not a child anymore, but sometimes we wish things would not end. No matter the awful job, crushing pressure we have been acquiring, sadness that seems irreversible, we live for those short moments in our week. A brief visit is all it could be. Returning to earth from those short moments, back to real life after grasping our happiness, is painful. We live our lives parallel to the story of Akari and Takaki, as we experience similar friendships and love. How we confront those feelings makes us who we are.

Harbouring the idea of everything working against him, Takaki musters enough strength to see Akari for the last time. Waiting for the next train in a blizzard, the clock hands moving ever so slowly, countryside filled with nothingness. As a result, his creeping anxiety became that much greater. He has been waiting for this. If he was not already so far he would have turned back, and it is clear when he exclaims there is no choice but to push forward. Although, the pain is evident as “time crept by slowly, with clear malice towards [Takaki]”.

Equally as painful were Akari’s letters that were sent in the months leading up to their final encounter. “The last time we were together was at our elementary school graduation. It’s been half a year since then. Do you still remember me”? It is a terrifying thought, to be forgotten. Wondering if someone has forgotten you, someone you love. The pain of being forgotten ever more present in the moments while she waited for Takaki. With his train being hours late, the thought of being forgotten takes the reigns. We know Akari waited in agonizing pain for his train to arrive. Yet, she did not leave.

Even when anticipated, a final encounter between friends is hard to fathom. In control or not, there is no ‘I am ready’. Many series try, but not many can express that sensation of love in friendship or in a significant other. It’s difficult to comprehend the pain until it happens. It is just distance. Between us, how I feel is unchanged. Distance does not show itself as the problem until incredible expanses separate those problems. It is a feeling that I could not predict until I stood face to face with the plane that would take me far, far away from everyone. That feeling is something not easily forgotten.

Episode II: Cosmonaut

“I’m sort of lost all the time. I just do what I can… that’s all I can do.” – Takaki

Takaki would struggle with distance as the years passed by. Immersing himself in our cosmos, dreaming of a perfect world. As a young girl cherished the present with him, he would exist transfixed on the past. Kanae is chasing someone who is lost. Great strength and diligence is required to find ones way. Barriers block ways we thought would never end. These hurdles are expected, but some of us are afraid of seeing what is on the other side. Exhausting strength into failure is devastating. As our fear develops, the distance between everything grows with it. We could live for those small moments to fulfill our desires, but when that becomes part of the routine, nothing feels like happiness.

Close to five years of Takaki’s life were spent staring into space. Literally. From middle school until high school graduation he would become lost in his own world and worlds far beyond his reach. In the span of half a decade, not once were his immediate surroundings acknowledged fully. He was more concerned of the messages he would write with no receiver, with his phone. Writing of his reoccurring dream of a girl, with a face he does not recognize, on an uninhabited planet. No words are spoken between them as they gaze upon a barren world. We can see the future, but we wait for it to come. Every day is spent waiting, hoping time will fill that void. When in reality, one’s self should have been filling that void, in order to escape becoming the hollow shell time would make you.

Life is strange. We blind ourselves to the truth, until the end can be seen. When it was too late, Kanae learned this. Her adolescent years expended waiting for the perfect moment. She enjoyed the time she spent together with Takaki, but ultimately, it felt more like pain than happiness. With each consecutive encounter, the pain rose, until she figured out the truth. To tell Takaki how she really felt about him was pointless, she “came to the very clear conclusion that [Takaki] was never looking at [her]”. He was “always looking past [her]… at something far beyond”. The past, the farthest out of reach.

To express ourselves freely to the ones we love is a skill I wish to master. I know there are many people who are in the same spot as I. The difficulty is opening the mind for others to see what is on the inside. To see the heart of the problem so others may help. I want to give everyone the torch, to find the centre of it all. We might find something we have never seen before, in ourselves. I focus on the past in this sense; I wanted to open up when distance was not between us all. There are still moments to capitalize on, even at this distance. A lot of strength is needed, and it is unclear if the power can be found to hand someone that torch.

Episode III: 5 Centimeters Per Second

“… and one morning, I realized that my beliefs, that I once held so passionately, had completely disappeared. That was it, I knew I was at my limit.” – Takaki

Takaki finally experienced the weight of everything on him. He understands there exists a hindrance that has been plaguing him for a long time. He thinks, “for the past few years, [he’s] wanted to move on – to grasp something beyond [his] reach”. However, it goes back much further than that, it is clear with his experience moving away from Akari.

A sad moment of reflection presents itself in a vision of a past self, wishing to be just like them again. There is hope to overcome this. I can see it. Not in the future ahead of me, that will be left for the individual I become. In this moment as I see myself now, I wish to grow. Perhaps it starts with that changing mindset, similar to what Takaki felt. Strength to understand and act on a part of your life that you know is unhealthy. The people I have stuck closest to over my years will always be there. I just need to step back and understand that I am here for them, and they are here for me. I may be a world away, but they are a lot closer to me than I originally thought.




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