Name: Z-Kai: Cross Road
Animation Type: Commercial (2mins)
Voice Actors: Ayane Sakura (Hotarubi no Mori e), Ono Kensho (Kuroko no Basuke), Masahiko Tanaka (Get Backers)
Director: Shinkai Makoto (新海 誠)
Other works: The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭), 5cm Per Second (秒速5センチメートル), She and Her Cat (彼女と彼女の猫), The Place Promised in Our Early Days (雲のむこう、約束の場所), Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ)
Music: Yanagi Nagi (Nagi no Asukara; Bakemonogatari)
Story Rating: 9/10
Graphic Rating: 10/10
I’ve always been a fan of Shinkai Makoto’s work. I discovered him about ten years ago when I first heard the song Kimi no Koe and then proceeded to headhunt for where it came from because it was just so beautiful. I then went on to discover that it had come from the very beautiful, very sad movie, The Place Promised in Our Early Days – with a name like that, how can it not be sad and depressing? Then I made the mistake of watching Voices of a Distant Star, which left me with a leaden feeling in my chest for days and made me feel so much pain without actually crying. There is something very deeply thought-provoking about his work and the way he arranges the music along with the storyline that makes it all the more poignant. Shinkai Makoto has a way of evoking very raw emotions and creating stories that inflict intangible wounds and that touch upon some very human fears of loneliness and loss and presenting them so subtly that you don’t know what you’re feeling until it suddenly expounds upon you.
Some might be relieved to know that Cross Road is neither depressing nor painful on the heart, but is every bit as stunning visually and emotionally as any of his previous works. Spanning only two minutes, it is the story of Miho (Ayane Sakura) and Shouta (Ono Kensho) as they prepare for the next stage of their lives after high school – university entrance exams. Miho comes from an off-the-beaten-track island and Shouta lives in Tokyo itself, working part-time. It’s hard to decide whether the title is just so fitting for the story or whether the plot brings the title meaning and that much more depth, or perhaps they are symbiotic and working so wonderfully together to create a very fresh and lush storyline within two glorious minutes. Both Miho and Shouta are working hard in order to get into the same university and their paths are crossing all the time without them even knowing and before they’ve even met. One could draw a a line of existentialism and philosophy from this phenomenon but I think there’s something innately romantic about witnessing two lives in the moments before they meet and truly appreciating the different walks of life, the different backgrounds and the differences and similarities of their pasts and how they finally touched.
Another aspect of this short little commercial is the fact that it is just so beautiful. The lighting and the colours and the vast play of the warmth of sunsets is so stunning and eye-catching and when coupled with the music it’s just so brilliantly anticipatory and sweet and touching. I suppose my only qualms about it is that it isn’t a feature-length anime series and it just really could be. It could be amazing and something reminiscent of a KyoAni series. It’s quite disappointing that it is only two minutes long when there is just so much to interpret from what we’ve seen and so much more that can happen once these two meet. I think it really says something about a man who can fit a story into two minutes and leave thoroughly invested in the main characters’ stories. I do wish there was more and perhaps if enough people petitioned for it, it might become one but I’m not holding out any hope for it. Nonetheless, this short piece is incredible and should most definitely be appreciated for the brief glimpse it gives us into a world that I think we’d all love to explore if given the chance.
My admiration of this talented man was increased upon discovering that much of his early work was hand-drawn, illustrated and animated all my himself, or with the aid of a few close friends and acquaintances, whom he chose to be the voice actors of his characters. I think the very personal, independent and non-mainstream way of animating his stories is incredible and inspiring. He is definitely a man to watch out for.