Update: You can read this story yourselves in English on my new site!
Exams are over and I have a week free before the second semester begins so now I can finally spend time reading my 5cm novel without distractions. I couldn't help but notice my book was a second print copy which is a little disappointing. This must be the new batch that was printed off when Makoto Shinkai mentioned on his site his novel was selling really well. A first print copy would have been great but too bad.
After reading the first story of the movie, I can say that I agree with all the reviews on Amazon JP that say he has the talents to be a writer. The way he goes about describing characters and setting the scene is pretty astonishing.
Japanese blogs have been categorising his novel under "light novels", which are basically novels with a theme you would expect from Anime / Manga and contains a few pages of illustrations. Due to the nature of the story I wouldn't really class it as that myself but, considering it came out in animated movie form first, I guess they're kind of right about it.
I don't know how Shinkai went about drawing up the plot for his previous movies but, "Byousoku 5 Centimeters" started out in novel form as part of the many short stories he wrote when he was trying to come up with ideas. Thus, converting it into a full novel really shouldn't have been hard if that was the case. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the new material is what was cut from the movie considering the number of cuts made.
Here I will be making a comparison between the movie itself and what's in the novel, highlighting material that wasn't in the movie. See the notes I've been scribbling down here? The very first story, "Oukashou (Cherry Blossoms)" is divided into 5 chapters and a total of 47 pages.
Parts in italics are my attempt at translating exactly what was written in the novel. I say attempts because I probably didn't manage to do it justice.
- Takaki is narrating and begins by saying he is going to talk about what happened seventeen years ago when he was only in primary six. He recalls it, describing it as if he was viewing from outside a picture frame.
- Opening scene from the movie when Takaki and Akari were only 11 years old running along that path. Akari describes the falling cherry blossoms as if it was snow but, Takaki didn't see it that way at all. To him, snow was snow and cherry blossoms were cherry blossoms at the time. However, "Five centimetres per second" had a mysterious ring to it.
- Akari also goes onto saying how rain fell at five centimetres per second and clouds moved at one centimetre per second.
- Listening to the small pleasant voice of Akari telling him these things made it sound like it was the truth of the universe.
- Instead of talking about the Cambrian age like in the movie, they talk about other things they learned from watching TV and reading books such as the position of the stars, the age of the universe, what temperature silver melts at. Both of them had a longing for far distant things and, "like squirrels preparing for their winter hibernation, they desperately" gathered these little bits of knowledge as if they were shining fragments of the universe. They had thought it would all come in handy in their lives.
- There's no Chobi scene.
- The two had known since primary four.
- The anxious look on Akari when she first arrived reminded Takaki of himself when he moved schools a year ago. That was the reason why he went to talk to her and found themselves getting along well.
- Takaki was on the way to the toilet when he saw Akari standing by the blackboard in her classroom. She was going to wipe off the message on the board that was making fun of her but, stopped midway because she was probably too embarrassed. That was when Takaki stepped in to help her.
- When they ran out of the classroom, tightly holding hands. They believed that they could overcome anything in the world and life ahead of them as long as they had each other. With that belief in mind, they studied together to get into the same junior high school after their three years together.
- Due to them being slightly more mature than other children, they were introverted and didn't get along with other children during primary school. Thus by graduating they were looking forward to starting new junior high school life with other students, where their world will grow bigger. They also believed they will also be more certain about their emotions and one day be able to say out the words, "I love you". They will be able to close their distance and work hard towards freedom.
- However, Takaki felt they were talking about the things they learned with each other at the time because they somehow had the feeling they would be separated one day. By exchanging their little bits of knowledge, they will at least leave something with each other that they can remember the other by.
- Over the next few days after the phone call until graduation, Takaki felt ashamed he couldn't say anything to Akari to comfort her. Later when Akari met Takaki to say goodbye at graduation, Takaki couldn't find any words to say to her. They didn't want to separate but at only twelve years old, they had no choice.
- After becoming separated in junior high, Takaki wasn't happy with his life without Akari. He tried to overcome this by busying himself spending time with his friends, joining the football (AKA soccer) club, finishing off his homework and studies quickly before going straight to sleep.
- Takaki hoped Akari had forgotten about him after that call on the phone. He felt he hurt her when he shouted, "That's enough." after hearing she was going to a different high school. He hadn't want to hear any more and didn't know what to say at the time.
- Half a year later, a pink letter arrives from Akari. Takaki had felt more perplexed than happy at first. He was trying very hard to forget her and now his feelings of missing her came flooding back.
- Knowing more friends had the opposite effect. Doing so made him realise just how special Akari is to him than other people.
- Takaki couldn't help but read the letter over and over again. Even in class he would secretly hide it with his textbooks so that he could gaze at it. Since then, they wrote a letter to each other once every month through the summer, autumn until winter in the first year of junior high. During that time Takaki became more aware of his surroundings instead of trying to use activities to bury himself. From the letters they felt very strongly that they were the only ones in the world that understood each other.
- By now, Takaki was thirteen years old, had become taller, more muscular and less prone to illnesses unlike when he was in primary school. He felt he was closer to the world now and imagined Akari was the same.
- On the third semester, Takaki was soon going to be moving to Kagoshima on Kyuushuu which means he will be further away from Akari. At the moment, she is only a three hour train journey away but after he moves, it'll take a two hour plane journey. It was as if he was moving to the edge of the world. This was the reason why Takaki wanted to see her once again before the move.
- There was still two weeks before the promised day. Takaki spends that time writing his eight page love letter to tell Akari things such as the kind of future he wanted, his hobbies, favourite books, music etc. Everything he wanted Akari to know. But most of all, he wanted her to know how important she was to him. As long as she read this letter, Takaki would be able to survive the days on Kagoshima more easily.
- While writing his letter he had the same dream many times. In the dream he became a bird, flying through the sky above the densely packed buildings to where Akari was, sitting by a cherry blossom tree reading a book. It was a while before she looked up as if she noticed Takaki's presence.
- On the promised day when Takaki was going to meet Akari, it was raining early in the morning. The sky looked as if it was shut out by a lid, concealed by a single shade of grey as fine raindrops poured towards the ground. It felt like a mid-winter day when the closely approaching Spring had changed its mind and turned back.
- Takaki couldn't concentrate on any of his classes that day. He stared out the window imagining the conversation he would be having with Akari who would be wearing her uniform. That kind gentle voice she had. As he gazed at the rain, he remembered how she had told him rain fell at five centimetres per second.
- He made sure none of his classmates were around before leaving for the station after school.
- The novel details every stop you have make to travel from Goutokuji (豪徳寺) to Iwafune (岩舟) where Akari was. You could probably follow the directions if you wanted to trace the route.
- Takaki had to glance at how people were using the ticket machines at the station because they had no buttons like the ones he was used to. On the other hand, the movie shows he knows what he is doing even though it's his first time travelling so far.
- The black G-Shock watch he wore was given to him as a gift to celebrate his successful entry into junior high.
- As he travelled, he remembered the time on the train when he was moving from Nagano to Tokyo with his father, just when he was entering the third year of primary school. It's been five years since then and he was now thirteen years old. He only managed to endure the hard times thanks to Akari and he prays it was the same for her too, that he was the one who helped support her.
- Takaki couldn't do anything despite knowing he was going to be very late. He was helpless. At the time, mobile phones were not that common amongst students and Takaki didn't have Akari's new home number.
- The narrating grown up Takaki looks back at the time he dropped his letter. Even if he didn't drop it, he didn't know if he would have managed to hand it to Akari or not. Either way, nothing would have changed. He felt there were many things that happened in their lives that almost made it unbearable and the lost letter was just one of them. In the end, no matter how strong their feelings were, slowly they would change with the course of time whether he managed to hand over his letter or not.
- Just like the movie, it was just pass eleven o'clock at night when Takaki arrived at Iwafune. He was four hours late.
- Takaki thought Akari's grown up voice was mixed with gentleness and shyness.
- The home cooked food and Houji tea was the best he tasted in his entire life. He tried to hide his tears of happiness.
- Akari tells Takaki that she made the Obento (Japanese lunchbox) right after she got home from school with a little help from her mother. Her mother looked quite happy when she asked Akari, "Who are you making this for?" Akari just smiled thinking her mother understood what she was thinking. Takaki on the other hand didn't understand what it was that her mother "understood" but just continues eating.
- As Takaki and Akari talked, they could feel how much they missed each other even though they didn't put their feelings into words. Not once did they think about going back home.
- The staff member at the station had to close the place eventually. He said he didn't want to disturb them since they looked as if they were having a great time together. Takaki and Akari thanks him before leaving. It was around midnight when they left the station.
- Iwafune was completely buried in snow as they cheerfully walked along the path where the blue street lamps made spotlights in the snow. Takaki was glad that he had grown a few centimetres taller than Akari and watched as the grown up her happily ran ahead of him.
- That night they spent their time in a small wooden shed, huddled up together in an old single blanket they found on a shelf. They talked about various things until they fell asleep. It was a surreal night with the moonlight shining through the window, filling the shed.
- Next morning they woke up at six. The snow had stopped. Drinking what was left of their slightly warm tea, they made their way to the station. From this point onwards, they will have to go back to being alone in their separate lives. It was a sudden parting after they felt the distance closing between them after all that talk. Takaki didn't want to tell her about the lost love letter so Akari is the first to speak saying, "You will be all right, Takaki-kun". Takaki didn't know what she meant but felt those words would be a great source of encouragement for him in the far distant future.
- The story ends the same way as the movie, Takaki wishing he had the power to protect Akari as he stared out the window of the train. Novel doesn't mention anything about Akari having a love letter to hand to him here.
Most of the novelised version of Oukashou is pretty much the same as the movie whether it was the dialogue or the descriptions of the various places. However, with the extra and extended scenes I listed above, I think it paints a bigger picture of the relationship between Akari and Takaki had than the movie does overall.
Here the novel goes into much more detail as we see how much they understood and supported one another throughout primary school whereas in the movie, we only catch glimpses of what happened. Even when they reach junior high, we still have more insight into what's going on in Takaki's mind. We can see his sadness and how he tries to get away from it by burying himself in everyday activities. I'm curious if this is also the reason why he gets up so early in Cosmonaut to practice archery.
With the bigger picture from the novel in mind, I think there is a greater impact during their reunion and parting scenes. Maybe the sparser details in the movie was the reason why we see Akari also has a love letter that she didn't hand over to Takaki while in the novel, we don't.
However, there are parts of the movie which I felt depicted the story in a better way such as the scene where Takaki is stuck in the middle of no where, waiting on a train. Just seeing him hunched over his seat, face hidden under his hood coupled with the sound of a slowly ticking clock and the dark cold blizzard outside could really make one feel what he was going through.
Getting back to the novel, I thought it was also interesting how that very first scene of a bird flying through the night sky was in fact Takaki dreaming. I didn't really think much it when I watched it to be honest. I thought it was there just to show the distance between the two and what Akari was doing at the other place.
And if anyone really wants to know, in the book's afterword, Makoto Shinkai writes that this is a novelised version of the movie. He started writing this after the movie premièred in March 2007. He says there are some parts of the stories where the movie and novel complements one another so you may enjoy it more if you have already read or watched either works first.
So he doesn't really mention if any of the new material is what was taken out of the movie but, I'm looking forward to the next story, "Cosmonaut" now! Wonder what new details we'll find in there!