I thought I’d change things up this week and talk about a movie, rather than a series. There’s no rule that says I can’t, so I figure, why not? Besides, I really like this movie.
Released in 2006, from Madhouse of course, because it’s Madhouse, The Girl Who Leapt Through time is a sort of sequel to a 1967 novel by the same name. The novel, written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, was critically acclaimed in its own right, and while the movie isn’t a direct adaptation, the main character does make an appearance as the aunt of the film’s protagonist.
As for the film itself, it revolves around Makoto Konno, a slacker teenager who just wants to play baseball with her two best friends, Chiaki and Kosuke, and has no real dreams or ambitions in life. It isn’t even that she’s selfish, just thoughtless and kind of lazy. Initially, we follow her through a typical day where she fails to be a very good student, and in general, bumbles her way through her life.
All that changes as she’s riding her bike home from school, and as she coasts down a steep hill towards a railroad crossing, her brakes fail, leading to her death. Except, she doesn’t die. She leaps back in time to the beginning of the day.
Makoto slowly figures out that she has somehow gained the ability to literally jump through time. Naturally, being a slacker, she uses this ability to avoid responsibility. We relive the same day, except this time she uses her time travel ability to change things to her liking.
Actions have consequences, however, and as Makoto uses her dwindling ability to jump through time for frivolous things, the effects on those around her escalate. Following a tragic accident that claims the life of one of her friends, Makoto learns the origin of her powers, and just how badly she messed up the lives of everyone around her.
With a final leap left, she sets out to right things.
She does not turn into Scott Bakula at any point in time, however.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is one part comedy, and one part drama, with a little dash of sci fi in there just to set the stage. It’s in the comedy and drama that the film really works, and it works those areas extremely well.
The first half of the film is dedicated to Makoto avoiding things, and changing things, as she pleases, with little regard for the effects her actions have. We learn from other characters that this is more or less how she goes through life. What some would call care free, or free spirited, but is really just careless and a little self centered. Not that she is a bad person, but she is at that age where she’s caught between childhood and adulthood, and nobody is a very self aware person at that point in their life.
Which also makes this a coming of age tale, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Probably the best I’ve ever seen, if I’m to be honest. Mostly because Makoto’s growth is completely believable, and her transition from carefree child to young adult is handled in a way that is completely relatable, and believable.
That’s where the dramatic aspects of the story come in. As Makoto carelessly alters time to suit her, we begin to see the ramifications on those around her, as their lives begin to change for the worse. Kosuke, especially, takes the brunt of this, after Makoto uses her time travel ability to get a perfect score on a pop quiz. Kosuke, the more studious of the three friends, takes this as a sign he’s not paying enough attention to his studies, and breaks off a budding romance with a girl in his class, hurting them both.
This is the first big sign Makoto gets, and she slowly begins to take stock of the other people around her, and how her actions have harmed them. The first step of responsibility, as an adult, begins with a friend, who is hurting. It is a highly effective moment, because we have spent half the film getting to know Kosuke as well.
Probably the best thing about the movie, though, is how subtly the sci fi elements are worked in. The time travel part is obvious, naturally, but it is only when the movie ends that you realize everything has happened over the course of a single day, which Makoto keeps reliving, of her own choice, in an effort to avoid responsibility, and then, to take it on. It’s done with an extremely light tough, enough so, you don’t really notice it the first time through.
In terms of animation quality, it’s Madhouse, so yeah, the whole movie just looks amazing. Does anyone really expect less out of them anymore? From character design to backgrounds, the entire movie is just beautiful to look at, with quality animation in every frame that hods up even now, ten years later.
Director Mamoru Hosoda is smart in how he uses the camera, keeping everything framed beautifully. The almost montage like series of cuts early in the film of Makoto abusing her ability of time travel is one of the real highlights of the film, just for the way the whole thing comes together. Makoto getting a ton of free hours at a karaoke club is one of the better pieces of camera work, though the entire final sequence is just a work of art all unto itself.
Very little touches the raw, visceral moment Makoto’s actions catch up with her, on the same hill she discovered her ability. Every moment, every frame, is perfect, and Hosoda gave it such gravity and weight, it’s gut wrenching.
Of course, this is the guy who directed the first Digimon film in 2000, and one of the One Piece movies, Baron Omatsuri, as well as his more recent projects, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast, so it should come as no surprise he knows how to make a powerful movie.
Seriously, Wolf Children, man. That is one hell of a movie.
Not to mention The Girl Who Leapt Through Time won several wards, including six at the 2007 Tokyo Anime Awards, including Animation of the Year and Best Director. So, yeah, Hosoda knows his shit.
The music is from Kiyoshi Yoshida, who also handled Kurozuka, which I talked about previously. As there, so too here, the music is just gorgeous. Really, this is one of those soundtracks you want to own, just so you can listen to some of these tracks whenever the urge strikes you. It is a beautiful score, and really elevates everything to the next level, which is appropriate.
The only down side to writing about this movie is that, in order to avoid spoilers, I’ve kind of run out of things to say. Do yourself a favor, and watch it. It really is an amazing movie, and one of my all time favorite anime films, probably beat out only by Spirited Away, and really, how do you not have a Myazki movie as your favorite anime film? Is that even possible?
If you like comedy, drama, coming of age, or sci fi stories, then this really is the movie for you. It’s powerful, beautiful, poignant, and emotional. It will stay with you years after you see it, the way the best kinds of movies do. Best of all, it’s family friendly, so you can watch it with your kids.
In fact, I highly recommend it.
Till next week, keep watching more anime.