The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
English Title: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Original Title: Toki o kakeru shôjo
Country of Origin: Japan
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Screenplay: Satoko Okudera
Editor: Shigeru Nishiyama
After miraculously escaping a fatal accident at a train-crossing on her way home from school, 17-year old Makoto Konno (Riisa Naka) realises she can leap through time. Initially she is wasteful with her newfound talent. Bemused are her friends, Chiyaki Mamiya (Takuya Ishida), and Kōsuke Tsuda (Mitsutaka Itakura) along with everyone else who witnesses her crashing into different times (literally) as Makoto recklessly uses the time leap to get good grades in tests, avoid confrontation and even re-live a session of karaoke for ten hours. Eventually she realises that the leaps she makes for her own benefit, prove to have repercussions for those around her. Unfortunately, she also finds that the number of times she can leap are limited, and what remains of her allowance may not be sufficient to set right her mistakes.
Studio madhouse’s bitter sweet coming of age story was inspired by Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel Toki o Kakeru Shōjo, previously adapted many times for television and film. Winning praise from the author as an excellent, second generation rendition of his work, this animated film deserved a lot more attention than it initially received upon release, due to poor promotion. Nonetheless it scooped up a number of awards at festivals across Japan and has become one of those cult gems that slip between the cracks of popular mainstream cinema. Unlike Tsutsui’s dark and sinister Paprika, also adapted into an anime feature of the same name directed by Satoshi Kon, The Girl who Leapt through Time is a poignant, feel-good film that in no way lacks seriousness. It is similar to Makoto Shinkai’s work in its wistful depiction of youth, albeit surpassing it in delivering a more rounded, convincingly human story. With some genuinely humorous moments and a satisfying degree of emotion, it avoids the pitfalls of turning overly melodramatic, which one too many Shinkai films have suffered the fate of. Every aspect of this film: from the animation; the colours capturing the atmosphere of carefree summer; the details of a schoolyard or an evening by the river; to the sound of the cicadas in the afternoon heat, brims with nostalgia. It is proof of the creators’ skill that such a simple and not necessarily original plot, is so engaging and sophisticated without being pretentious. There is many a scene which succeeds to capture a suspended moment in which Makoto gazes into mid-space or the burning sky at sunset. Such instances are almost lyrical in their ability to engage the senses so fully, creating a deeper affinity with the already rounded characters. The Girl Who Leapt through Time is about growing up, and anyone who has had to do so, will feel the embarrassing pains one more time. In Tokyo’s Shitamachi district, Makoto and her friends, Chiyaki and Kōsuke, are living on those blissful fringes of adolescence before the last remnants of childhood are lost for good. The realisation that their carefree lives together will not last forever slowly dawns with unexpected confessions of love and the need to choose majors, and make decisions about an impending future which awaits them. The phrase ‘Time Waits for no one’ which Makoto discovers on a blackboard, thereafter frequently figuring at various points throughout the film as though in urgent reminder, sums up the story’s fundamental theme. Makoto’s reckless use of the time-leap is ultimately her struggle to preserve the innocent life she leads with her best friends. Her mistake is not considering the direction that those around her might want to go. This is figured in the gradual degeneration of her world, following the film’s pivotal moment, in which Makoto chooses to bypass riding home on the back of Chiaki’s bike, in order to avoid his suggestion that they date. It is only too late when she becomes aware that the declaration of his feelings is Chiaki’s response to the realisation that their time together is rapidly drawing to an end. The irony is that the measures Makoto takes to ensure that nothing changes, leads to precisely what she wanted to avoid.
Author of this review: Elest Ali
Peer reviewer: Elest Ali