Physical and Emotional Distance: Brief Analysis of 5cm per Second (Oukashou)
(Note: Some parts may be bordering on overanalysis. XD)
It is not easy to comprehend what the score between the two is, but perhaps, the closest we can label it is that of boyfriend-girlfriend romantic relationship. Even though they do not fit the typical bf-gf relationship (not holding hands, not kissing often, etc.), it seems they are loyal and are close to each other enough that they can be considered a couple.
Physical distance and emotional distance are two factors that affect Tohno’s relationship with Akira. It is clear that they want to be together and they dislike the physical distance between them. They try to mitigate the sadness they experience due to this by writing letters. They also try to preserve their intimacy by doing this. Tohno even imagines Akari writing these letters alone. I interpret this as either a projection of how he writes his letters or a longing for a space for him to be filled beside Akari. I consider the latter to be more true. I think Tohno has only seen Akari as either alone or with him, and since they are apart, he imagines her as alone. It may also be possible that he wants Akari to be alone so that he may fill up that space beside her. Provided with few details, it can only be inferred that Tohno wants Akari all for himself. I do not mean Tohno’s obsessed with her or anything worse. It is just that, I think Tohno wants the whole Akari for him. He wants Akari to be always by his side, to be always thinking about him, and to be always loyal to him. The details need not be accurate but that is the nature of Tohno’s feelings, at least in my view. As shown in the movie, he does not express any of these, but the arduous tasks that he was willing to undergo proves so much about his feelings. The letters, the long train ride and studying hard for Nishi Secondary are some of the things that show how hard not just Tohno, but also Akari, works just for them to be together.
Although, even if they try their best to be closer, they both show a degree of emotional distance, especially Tohno. Both of them have parts of their feelings that they find hard to express to the other. The letters, which they do not want the other to learn the existence of, represent parts of the characters that they find difficult to let the other know about, that they may be uncertain about regarding their relationship. Why should they be afraid of the result of the other reading the letter? Probably, the letters are emotions that the characters are not yet ready to live up to or they perceive the content to be unfeasible in their context–the distance. One thing that may symbolize this is they seldom walk together. One of them always walk ahead and the other gets left behind. It seems as though there is discomfort when they walk alongside.
Throughout the whole Oukashou segment, there has always been a gap between the two characters. Even when they were together, their emotions set them apart. There will always be a part of the two that they cannot close, that causes them to be separated. But, one thing that strikes me the most is the fact that they try extremely hard just to close the gap. They try so hard to close the distance even if they are not sure if they can at all. In the end of Oukashou, the viewers are left unsure of their fate–together or apart. In the end, whatever the result of their relationship may be, the most beautiful thing to see there is their attempt.
img credit: Shinkai Makoto