Finishing the Shinkai-related killstreak of posts here on this blog, this is something that may sound REALLY random to a few, while actually make sense to others.
I’m still not entirely convinced of it myself, but it’s worth sharing.
Subject: 5cm/s is not a tale of true love.
This is a mildly interesting conclusion I came to after re-reading the manga this weekend.
I always considered both the movie and the manga to be romances (obviously) which focus and orientation was this strong “love” between Tohno and Akari.
However, this time it got me wondering: did they really “love” each other? Or rather, did they really understand the feelings they had?
Think about it.
They had a nice relationship, that was interrupted by Akari suddenly moving away. This hit they hard, and it symbolized the end of daily meetings and chatting. None of them had many friends, and they’ve found on each other a confident friend after so many years of loneliness… Just to be over now.
Still, it didn’t weakened their feelings, and Tohno went on his odyssey by train so they could meet once again.
Yet, that’s where things changed.
So far, the story really resembles one of true love (those where “love” あい overcomes any barrier or obstacle), but when they finally meet again, it changes.
They had strong feelings for each other, and even been too immature to fully understand it, they shared this “love”, but paradoxically, they were mature enough to know it wouldn’t work anymore. Distant relationships at 1990? No possible way.
They knew they shared something special, but also knew it was impossible to move it forward. Not at that time, not at that place.
So they wish each other happiness, and hope he/she will be alright.
After that, we see they both -Tohno in particular- struggling with new relationships, refusing new people on his life throughout 15 long years… Because he still loved Akari? Because he was waiting for her?
No. That’s what got me this time I read it.
If he still had this “true love” for her, he’d go after her. Now he had the tools to go after her, he was already living in the right “speed” to be able to see her again. Kanae, after all, went to Tokyo after HIM.
So why he didn’t? Because he was afraid. He feared Akari wouldn’t remember him, he feared she ended up like him, with broken relationships, angst, an unrewarding job. He feared she didn’t move on. But above all, he feared he was somehow responsible for it.
Which leads to the conclusion:
It wasn’t unmatchable love for Akari that kept him from moving on, but instead, the lack of closure to his childhood relationship.
He shared something special with this girl, and she went away. They never got to see each other again, he never got to truly tell her how he felt, he never got to know if she understood his feelings, the meaning of his words, if they were reciprocal.
They hoped each other would be fine, but never got to see it. Never got to see if each moved on.
That was his trauma.
After talking to Risa about it, and after reviving those memories, Tohno finally understands it. See why the movie ends with the train scene?
“At what speed must I live, to be able to see you again?”
Meeting again was all they needed to confirm that they “did fine”, that both managed to move on. They followed different paths, but did it fine, and as Akari perfectly puts it: managed to turn those feelings into cherished memories from the past. The final closure they both needed.
None of this removes or obscures the merit of the story’s romance! No way. It’s still there as the North of the narrative and is downright beautiful.
What amazes me is how many hidden layers of different -and new- interpretations can come out from a story I finished years ago. Truly fascinating.