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Friday, October 5, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"5 Centimeters Per Second" | A shimmering, delicate look at love

Special to The Seattle Times

It's pointless to refer to Makoto Shinkai as "the new Miyazaki," since there's nothing more than a fleeting similarity between the fantastical anime of Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") and the contemplative, melancholy dramas that Shinkai enhances with a visual poetry all his own. Both animators are masters, but 34-year-old Shinkai is the rising star to Miyazaki's veteran status.

Thematically speaking, Shinkai is something of a shoegazer, following the beautiful "Voices of a Distant Star" and "The Place Promised in Our Early Days" with another sensitive and achingly beautiful tale of youthful love, loss and longing. To match the bottled-up passions of his characters, Shinkai (using photos of actual locations as inspiration) designs their Earthbound drama in a dazzling palette of vibrant, shimmering hues. Everyday moments are captured in the hyperreal intensity of romanticized memory.

In "5 Centimeters Per Second" (the speed of falling cherry-blossom petals, or a metaphorical reference to the ephemeral nature of youth), Shinkai presents a triptych of stories connecting three lovelorn characters from elementary school to young adulthood, as love goes unrequited in the ebb and flow of time and distance.

As poet of heartbreak, Shinkai could be accused of treacly mush (the voice-overs are a bit florid, and the saccharine piano score doesn't help), but he's got a delicate touch with sentiment that will have receptive viewers reaching for a Kleenex. Above all, he continues to expand the horizons of anime by crafting intimate human drama in an art form typically exploited for maximum sensory overload.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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