Its title the measure of the time it takes for a cherry blossom to drift to Earth, Shinkai’s three-part romantic drama of longing, love and loss recounts Takaki Tono’s relationship with classmate Akari—from their elementary school friendship to their last-chance meeting as adults in Tokyo. Initially, after Akari moves to Tochigi, both manage to keep in touch, but their romance is finally cut short when his family moves to an island far away. In one of Shinkai’s most unforgettable sequences, the meticulously planned trip is illustrated with a dizzying montage of train maps, train rides and display boards. Upon the agonizing delay due to a severe snowstorm, the audience feels as if they too are taking Tono’s journey. In order to imbue his films with a dynamic realism, Shinkai diligently scouts the actual locations depicted, taking copious photos. In his hands, visions from everyday life become, in the words of critic Mark Schilling, “impressions of life lived at its most perceptive, intense—and heartbreaking.”
Age recommendation: 8+
Shinkai's short film begins with fifteen-year-old Takao on this way to high school in Tokyo. When he skips his class to sketch shoe designs in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, he meets a mysterious woman, and they strike up a friendship. When Takao finally learns her true identity, their connection is both deepened and complicated. Shinkai's hand-drawn look of accurate, everyday life impressions of Tokyo 's train stations, telephone wires, apartment buildings are simply breathtaking. The Shinjuku Garden and the rainy season seem to be their own characters, with the rain connecting the protagonists while the garden unites them. In Shinkai’s hands, the Shinjuku neighborhood has never looked so stunning. If the short running time leaves audiences wanting more, Shinkai’s astonishing visuals will more than make up for that loss.
Age recommendation: 14+