The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

The Girl Who Leapt Through TIme

THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME

Watched via DVD/BD

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a re-working, or “sequel” of the original classic Japanese novel by the same name. The general premise of both stories is pretty much the same with a young school girl discovering her ability to travel through time and falling in love with a man from the future (also the cause of their time traveling abilities in the first place).

What’s great about the plot of this movie is that the story is rather timeless. Everything is so simple, that it transcends generational gaps. Sure there is some re-working to make it easier to relate to, such as how goofy Makoto is, but overall anyone can easily follow and relate to this story. That goes for non-Japanese watchers as well.

Makoto is your typical high school student, not particularly talented, with no real future goal. When she first is granted the ability to travel through time, she uses her powers to be lazy and to show off. I really enjoyed this part of the movie. While it seems juvenile, I think most people would use their powers the same way given the opportunity.

Once she determines that there is a limit to the time jumps, and that there can be consequences to her actions, the remainder of the movie is directed towards restoring the world’s balance. This is finally done at the expense of her romantic epiphany and future desires. You could say she flowers just in time for winter. While the ending is bittersweet, there is still a glimmer of hope. Above all else, Makoto’s character still grows throughout the film, and even if the future doesn’t go the way as desired, you still are left with the impression that Makoto’s journey is just beginning.

Fruitless epiphanies and endings that don’t go as planned…. Isn’t that how adolescence always is? This film relays that aspect of adolescence very well, I think.

PLOT: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a classic Japanese novel from 1967. This film version doesn’t adapt the novel, but from what I understand it does have some parallels to the original novel. It’s even hinted that the aunt of the film’s protagonist, Kazuko, is the novel’s protagonist. Even though I haven’t read the novel, I like the connection between the two works, which keeps this film from seeming like it has a different plot for no reason.

Makoto’s a seventeen-year-old girl who one day falls onto a mysterious object at school. Later that day, the brakes on her bike go out, and when she’s flying through the air at a train, she somehow ends up a few minutes back in time. She talks to her aunt Kazuko about it, who (having prior experience in time leaping) explains Makoto’s new power to her. Makoto then does all manner of teen things with her power, like singing a lot of karaoke, getting to eat pudding from the fridge, and avoiding an awkward love confession.

Eventually Makoto realizes that her time-leaping affects events for others, and they lead to two of Makoto’s friends being struck by the train in Makoto’s place after they borrow her bike. Makoto desperately tries to undo this event, but the time-leaping is trickier than she’s expected, and it takes the help of a time-leaper from the future to untangle Makoto’s mess. Fortunately, Makoto does play a part in saving the day, and the story comes to a bittersweet conclusion while Makoto decides upon a direction for her future.

This film, like Whisper of the Heart, is all about the uncertainty of adolescence and figuring out what to do with yourself as an adult. I think the film strikes a good balance between Makoto’s character development and the time travel plot, which allows it to be entertaining on two levels. I’ve heard some complaints about Makoto or anime-style clichés, but I do think this film stands on its own well and could be shown to a broad audience, so long as they don’t have an aversion to characters like Makoto.

I wish the original plot hadn’t been hinted at through the aunt’s character. I think it makes it more confusing. A lot gets thrown in at the end, kinda deus-ex-machina style. Actually, I’d even say that it needed more forecasting.

SETTING: One of the limiting factors for the setting, is that as a sequel, the story had to tie in in a small way to the classic storyline. So in this version, the school girl of the classic novel is now an artist, who works in restoration at a museum, and happens to be the aunt of the main character, Makoto. Before I read up on the origins of the movie, I felt that the focus on the aunt was really peculiar. I suppose this demonstrates just how strongly ingrained in Japanese society the original story is, that something simple, like the aunt’s character, can be thrown in without a more direct focus on context. Anyways, I was very confused as to why the museum mattered, and it seemed like quite the after thought when a painting from the museum seemed to shape the whole world building and time traveling.

So, in this modern day version of Japan, time travel is possible, but only in the way distant future as a progression in science. Really this idea of focusing on the past, rather than future, is a nice way to side-step having to actually come up with how time travel works, as the writers can just say that some guy got stuck in the past (our present) and Makoto accidentally happened across a gadget, instead of showing something happening from the future perspective looking back. Honestly it isn’t the “setting” that makes the story so great, but the idea of “place” through time. In the end Makoto’s future is based on the time traveller’s past and ensuring that it changes in the present (when he goes back).

SETTING: This film uses Japan’s hillsides throughout the film, which I love. Makoto’s hometown is definitely a hilly place, which works its way into the plot in various places. There are the incidents with the train, of course, but hillsides recur so often that they’re a constant companion throughout the film. I appreciate the inclusion of the hills into the film’s plot, since so many anime just create bland settings without anything to set towns apart from others. In this case, though, I’ll always remember Makoto’s town for having so many darn hills.

Other elements of the setting work into the plot, as well. Makoto’s aunt works as a restorer at a museum, and the painting she’s currently restoring proves to be important to the time traveller who helps Makoto. You could call that too coincidental to be believable, but I thought it tied the story’s thread together nicely. Though reality’s frequently messy, it sometimes makes better narrative sense to simplify events and rely on coincidences that work thematically.

CHARACTERS: I love Makoto’s character. Now that I’m no longer a teenager, it’s nice looking back on those good old selfish years. I think it’s easy enough to say that the whole point of this movie is to show Makoto that the world is bigger than herself. She’s stuck in those good old years where everything revolves around her, and nothing could possibly exist outside of her egocentric brain to hurt her, until she almost gets hit by a train. We get to see Makoto grow and understand that she can’t control everything, and that it’s okay if things don’t always work out the best in her favor. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Really this is a lesson we all have to learn as we grow up, so it’s easy to relate to, it just happens to be more exciting to watch Makoto go through all the life lessons.

The other two main characters are Chiaki and Kousuke, Makoto’s best friends and romantic interests. Their position in the story is to directly and indirectly assist Makoto in growing up. That’s putting it simply. I really enjoyed the portrayal of these two guys and their sincere friendship to each other, as well as their relationships with Makoto. Honestly, it’s refreshing to see guys depicted in a non-stereotypical manner. I get sick of seeing the same Gary Stu types that are found in moe, or the meat head proteges that are in everything else.

Man, Makoto’s dense, but in the same relatable way as Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart. Maybe I’m used to watching adolescents in my anime, but I never found Makoto too obnoxious, even when she was being completely ridiculous with her powers.

CHARACTERS: Makoto is a brash teen who’s stereotypically athletic and a little dense. For example, she never figures out that one of her close male friends is in love with her, and it takes her several time-leaps to discover the tattoo on her arm counting down how many leaps she has left. However, she’s also stubborn in a good way and fights to create the best outcome from the situations she creates with her time-leaping. Overall, I find her very likable, and she sees enough development that I find her decisions and changes to be believable and relatable.

Makoto’s two male friends, Chiaki and Kousuke, are perfect portrayals of men in high school. They joke around with Makoto in a realistic way and act more like real people than many male teens who show up in anime. I can’t go into much more about them without going into spoilers, but I really like their characters and their roles in the movie. I especially like being able to see realistic men like this, when so much of anime is plagued by unrealistic caricatures of what teens are like.

The last main character of the film, Kazuko, shows up only to give Makoto advice about time-leaping, and she’s always mysterious when doing so. I’m sure her presence is very exciting for everyone who’s read the novel, but for me she’s just a nice, solid adult role model for Makoto who knows what to tell her. It’s nice having an adult like that around in an anime.

I’m glad you mentioned the two guys. People are always talking about the negative portrayals of women in anime, but I think the negative depictions of men can be just as damaging. So yay for more inclusive examples of what men are allowed to be like.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: As expected with a movie budget, the animation for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a magical cinematic experience. Each scene is exceptionally well thought out and works well with the pacing of the story. The storyboarding was whimsical and worked well to create an empathetic experience where, I at least, could strongly relate to Makoto, even during her zany pudding eating moments.

The character designs are iconic, while remaining muted, to give the story a more realistic school drama feel.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time does an excellent job of building up action through time travel. There is also the additional tension created by what is not illustrated in regards to time travel, which allows for us viewers to project our ideas onto the world building to create an more expanded universe of our choosing.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: This film is by the director of Summer Wars, so it has a similar visual style, though it’s not quite as developed here. Primarily the art style’s realistic with a close attention to details, and the art team only got to play when Makoto leaps. Those visuals are beautiful to look at, and they evoke the later visuals of OZ in Summer Wars, with the clean but complex look of futuristic technology. Beyond that, the animation is gorgeous and fluid, courtesy of Madhouse with a film budget, and the backgrounds are all lovingly rendered in a more realistic style than that of 5 Centimeters per Second, which takes the level of detail to an extreme.

The character designs are also great, with every character looking unique and fresh. Like with Summer Wars, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of Evangelion and FLCL did the character designs, bringing his unique style that’s been muted a bit to fit into the film’s realistic world. I’m very excited to see what he does with director Mamoru Hosoda’s next film, Wolf Children, which should be coming out soon in the US.

OVERALL: Time travel is really just a gimmick used to get the story going, and probably as a necessity to relate to the old classic novel. In reality, this story is all about growing up and falling in love. In both regards The Girl Who Leapt Through Time doesn’t do much of anything to break new grounds in cinema. That said, the character portrayals and development are well worth the predictability of the plot. Well that and there are a couple of curve balls thrown in that legitimately gave me a shock, so I guess it isn’t all recycled.

I’m a huge sucker for long distance relationships, so I can’t get enough of this film. It’s charming, whimsical, off-beat, and will give you lots of good wholesome happy vibes. I don’t think you can go wrong with at least one perusal of this movie. Not only that, but it’s a great family movie, and could even be watched by those more novice of fans.

OVERALL: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a very solid teen coming-of-age film with a sci-fi spin to it. I was thoroughly entertained the whole time, and, while it has some predictable elements, the portrayal of being a teenager is spot-on and worth watching the film alone. The time travel won’t shake up anyone’s world, but it’s still interestingly executed, and it’s a nice throwback to a classic Japanese novel. Though Summer Wars has surpassed this film for me, it’s still a great movie that needs to be watched by anime fans. Mamoru Hosoda’s my current hope for the future of anime films, and he’s had a strong run from this film to Summer Wars, which will hopefully continue with Wolf Children. If you haven’t watched this film, go out and find it. It’s not revolutionary by any means, but it has a rare realism that deserves to be celebrated.

FINAL SCORE: (10/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)
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2 thoughts on “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

  1. I still don’t know why the two of you like this movie so much. If I gave this a 10, Summer Wars would be a 20. I feel that this is a “When Harry Met Sally” thing…

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