Oh boy, where do I begin? This novel, holy Jesus sweet mother of mercy. Alright I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I have to say, when I first knew of its existence I was somewhat hyped (definitely not because of the cover) for many reasons, but the most simple and straightforward one is probably because of how much of a sucker I am for multi-narrative and BOI, it did not disappoint.
Having too little information about Akari is probably the 2nd most regretful thing I have for the anime, and this “other side” did its job wonder covering that up. The writing is pretty solid in terms of expressing Akari’s mind as well as the thematic background surrounding her, which is cool. While I admit there’re some unexpected bumps out there but compared to the grand scheme of thing, they’re nothing, and it’s definitely fucking worth spending 6 hours on this trip to the “other side” of 5cm/s.
The novel is also divided into 3 parts just like the main instance of the franchise, and god damn it sucked me in right off the bat with that sublime Akari’s narrative
(Ahem, I’m not fanboying her or anything alright?). I mean yeah most of this can be deduced from the anime, the same old “weak, timid and shy girl” trope never got old ain’t it, but what really sold here is how it cleverly cover itself with subtleties and some really cryptic foreshadowing of a potential sinister atmosphere underneath.
No, I’m not talking about what happened in the anime – how the 2 characters ended up (it was sad, yeah, but not fucked up, alright maybe a bit), but something much more menacing behind Akari’s perspective and inner-thought in this 2nd novel. Basically the whole first chapter felt like a fucking trap.
At first glance it seems to be a rollercoaster ride of emotion. Akari went from a desperate young girl to being the happiest maiden in the world ever, and then BAMMM, shit happened and she got dragged down to the abyss again (ok that’s a bit of exaggeration but something like that). BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, there’s more to it than what it appears to offer because I’m damn sure this is no simple tale about love and sadness and shit like that.
It was actually very heartwarming to see Akari going through various character transformations and transitions in the story. Seeing Akari at the most “blossomy” period of her life really “did put a smile on my face”, and I laughed a lot with her naive, cutesy, and even bold interactions with Takaki (gosh these 2 are meant for each other
fuck you Shinkai). To top it off I think the writer did a really great job of portraying Akari’s desire and craving in this stage because not only does it feel real but also fitting to her “image” in the anime.
Shit, I would be lying to say I didn’t want any part of it, like, being able to casually spend time aimlessly doing whatever the fuck I want, giving no fuck to anything or anyone else, or just simply sit/lie down and think of pointless stuff, gosh, I’d pay to get a day like that (since when have I started going old geezer mode, ah youth).
And YES, finally the true meaning behind the title (5cm/s) is revealed. Lots of people theorized that it’s the pace at which people walk past one another in life. While I don’t think that’s a bad way to put it but it just doesn’t add up with the setting when the phrase was first ushered in the anime, and heck what were we even thinking, the answer was right in front of our eyes, just a fucking simple love confession, yet so powerful and filled with hope (crying now) in it. As the story moved on, that phrase carried much more weight than it originally was supposed to, which is really something.
However, those sparkling moments wouldn’t last forever. A calm before the storm they say, can’t be more accurate. The first 1/3 of Akari’s narrative was pretty sad enough (she even thought of killing herself, like wut?), but damn the last and concluding segment was literally a tsunami of feels. It’s not just about how desperate Akari was but more of her inner unintentional “destructive” side.
I’ve always found the anime’s introductory sequence a little off despite the cheerful tone it gives, like cmon what’s so bad about 2 kids running down a hill and got separated for a bit by the train? Well yeah, it seems normal but if I look carefully again, Akari went ahead of Takaki without looking back, at her own pace, and casually too.
That was always the part that bugged me the most, and “One more side” pretty much solidified this idea with Akari’s thought during that moment. The famous Cherry Blossom tree scene also got more polishing in many ways, and it basically put the final nail in the coffin with Akari’s remark on their separation being unavoidable regardless of the circumstance they are put in. It was a legit “holy fuck” moment to me, though kind of ruined the sacred and out-of-this-world atmosphere after that intimate moment, but fuck, it really hit where it hurt the most.
I know I might be reading too much into this but I think that’s how 5cm/s was meant to be, as Shinkai once stated, which is for us audience to come up with our own answer. It’s an immovable truth that Akari’s feeling toward Takaki is beyond that of love, BUT, that exact moment when they shared their first kiss was the peak of their relationship… or their “story“. They knew that they could not, or must not, take any further step beyond that.
It seems unreasonable and full of bullshitery if I have to be honest, but at the same time, so beautiful, so “shining”. I remember that Gilgamesh in Fate/Stay Night made a pretty cool quote about “true beauty are things that are unreachable”, and it kinda fits 5cm/s neatly. Their relationship had basically ascended perfection, WHICH IS WHY THEY MUST SAVOR IT, it must remain pure and unsullied. But how? The answer is easily the rest of the story with each of their own journey toward their maturity.
While part 2 and part 3 might have not delivered a powerful impact as part 1 (which is ironically the same as the first novel or anime), I could not stop turning into the new page as I kept reading. The main problem I have with part 2 is that it feels a bit “fanservice-ish”, just for the sake of comforting Sumida ship. For the record I don’t hold any bias against Sumida, she’s a good girl with a cool personality, but the anime kinda nails into my mind the idea that Takaki could not see anyone but Akari during his time in the secluded island, so it makes me question the canonicity of “One more side” (written by a different person anyway lel).
In any case, if I separate the anime from this it’s not too bad of the ride to enjoy, especially how it digs deeper into Takaki’s darkest corner and reveals some quite disturbing truth (he’s quite similar to Akari in this regard). I think the general idea is that Takaki wants to “try” loving Sumida but the past just keeps tying him down so it’ll only cause pain, and he doesn’t want Sumida to suffer for that (exactly what happens in the last chapter), so it’s quite interesting to see a completely different picture of this segment.
The last chapter is truly a blast. I was legit bombarded with lots of unexpected “GOD WHY” moments. I mean it’s quite obvious that Akari still has the “past” lingering but fuck, it was just too hard to swallow how subtle her reaction, emotion and thought whenever it was brought up, simply feels like a knife slowly cutting through my old wound (leftover from the anime). Every time the “dream” was brought up, I got an ache. Every time Akari wondered about “something” that related to “that”, I got an ache. Every time Akari gave off a sense of “regret” about the past, I got an ache.
Fuck, it’s literally a train of piercing emotion, something that I rarely got even among my most favorite works. The highlight of Akari’s narrative to me is definitely when she said “Perhaps I’ve taken something away from him“. I don’t know why, it might sound pretentious but to me, it’s just too delicate, too elegant, something that seems to have been evoked from Akari’s most concealed quarter of sense and mind. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve seen something like this, Umineko, Tsukihime, Angel Beats, heck though not literally, they are all about “sharing” a bond so deep that words can’t describe, so yeah, this one just simply hits home.
And holy shit, from the anime (and first novel) I know Takaki was pretty much in a fucked up state during the final phase of the story but this just goes double as it’s revealed in depth. I legit feel bad for the 3rd girl, Mizuno (or 4th? or maybe whatever don’t even know how many girls this guy dated lmao).
This is what would have happened to Sumida should Takaki decided to give it a go (quite menacing when I think about it), kinda gives off a “love and destruction” vibe hmmm. That being said, as gloomy as the ride has mostly been, the final moment, just like the anime, sparked a light ray of hope onto Takaki, thus making a fitting conclusion to the journey he has been through, and the decision he finally chose to make.
In my opinion, both Akari and Takaki still hold their “actual other half” somewhere in the deepest closest to their mind. Whatever year span they came up with is merely an excuse to avoid it, but damn sure they still have some sort of special affection toward each other. It’s just that the path they chose is completely different, one has a “goal” and decided to exhaustively chase it, while the other simply wander aimlessly in search of something to cover up “that” (or just move on to make it simple).
What really got me is the minor expansion on the conclusion of the story, as it constantly bounced between Akari and Takaki’s perspective to paint the full picture of the “tragedy” to come. And fuck what better way there is to put an end to the tale with the 2 forsaken letters from the very first stage of the story (made me think that they sure have come a really really long way).
It’s been a very long time since I last had this strong surge of goosebump almost to the point of tearing up. I mean there’s nothing special about those letters, I could only see 2 youngsters sharing their deepest and innermost corner of their heart, but why is it so magnificent yet tragic.
Long story short, while Akari and Takaki have had their destiny made clear in the anime, “one more side” successfully fleshed out the characters as well as providing a slightly different approach to the conclusion of their tale.
Just like the original instance, I think this one also peaked in chapter 1. Not gonna lie, even though there were lots of extra scenes that weren’t (or I wish they were) on the anime, I could picture all of them in most crystal clear view ever, ahhhhh, youth (again)… It is sad, it is full of regret, but it is also majestic and cathartic at the same time.
Farewell Akari, the path you have chosen is definitely the most correct one, some people might blame or hate you for that but it is just simply inexorable, may fortune be with you and a bright future awaits…