Daily Graphic Novel Recommendation 90

5 Centimeters Per Second

by Yukiko Seike (adapted from Makoto Shinkai)
Genre notes: romance
566 pages
ISBN: 1932234969 (Amazon)

tl;dr - if you're interested in graphic novel love stories, this is the place to start. also tl;dr - this is for me the gold standard for what adaptation can be.

When I saw that Vertical had released an adaptation of the film, I was initially skeptical. Beyond the fact that adaptations from other mediums into comics rarely fair that well, any adaptation of Shinkai’s film would have to navigate his reliance upon scene-to-scene and aspect-to-aspect cut. Part of the power of Shinkai’s film comes from its staccato barrage of imagery, something impossible to adequately simulate in comics. And then, lastly, I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to watch people engage in romantic suffering.

I needn’t have been concerned. Yukiko Seike’s adaptation acquits itself on all points. More than acquits itself, actually. Because as good as Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters is (and it is good), Seike’s 5 Centimeters is better.

In truth, while sharing a foundation, the two are very different literary artifacts. Kind of like comparing James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans with Michael Mann’s. Seike takes Shinkai’s rather terse script and expands on it… expansively. Her sense for a story that either was only hinted at in the source or even didn’t exist at all is robust. Characters get backstories. Relationships develop. Takaki’s girlfriend has enough dialogue to make the dissolution of their relationship mean something—and we actually bear witness to that dissolution. And where Shinkai’s original ends in three acts, Seike’s creates an entire additional fourth act, moving Shinkai’s world well beyond it’s original purpose.

With all of her additions, Seike’s adaptation strikes an entirely different vibe and its tonal difference is dramatic. Seike’s version is the more mature work and its length and heavy use of dialogue allow it to explore the implications of Shinkai’s world a bit more insightfully.

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Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

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