Toki o Kakeru Shojo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) – Review
December 11, 2011 2 Comments
Toki o Kakeru Shojo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) is a pretty interesting anime film. Originally released in Japan during the summer of 2006 it is a slice of life romance drama with a hint of science fiction, and an interesting look at the consequences of changing the past in order to maintain your current, apparently happy present and future. The film is adapted from the 1967 novel of the same name written by Satoko Okudera, Madhouse studios also produced it.
The story is a fascinating one, being on the one hand a simple slice-of-life drama about relationships and how they can easily be made and broken, but also adding in an element of science fiction to make a curious and quite compelling piece of work. The film focuses on Makoto Konno, a seventeen-year-old high school student who lives with her family in Tokyo. She lives life quite freely, messing around with her two male friends Chiaki Mamiya and Kosuke Tsuda, playing baseball, going to karaoke and essentially doing the normal things that seventeen-year-old high school students do.
One day after seeing a curious message on the blackboard – Time waits for no one – she unwittingly scares someone in a science room and falls onto a mysterious, walnut-shaped object. Through a series of events, and partly assisted by her aunt Kazuko Yoshihara, Makoto learns that she has the ability to leap through time, or ‘time-leap’. At first Makoto uses her power quite extravagantly to avoid small things such as being late, getting perfect grades on tests, and even to relieve a single karaoke session for several hours.
Of course like in all such films, Makoto soon discovers that her actions start to cause adverse effects on others. I really liked this element of the film, we are shown that through selfishness, or perhaps simple desire to keep things as they are or ‘safe’ has significant impact upon Makoto’s life and of course the lives of her friends. Makoto recklessly uses her leaps to prevent undesirable situations from happening, including an awkward confession from a friend. And of course once she discovers that she only has a limited number of leaps, she attempts to sort things out essentially make everything right for all of her friends. Unfortunately for Makoto her reckless use of these leaps causes knock-on effects that impact upon everyone around her.
There is also an interesting little sub-plot which never really gets resolved to do with a painting that Makoto’s aunt Kazuko, a art restorer for Tokyo museum. The painting apparently has a significant impact upon the future, although for reasons that we do not know and are never told, furthermore Kazuko seems to have her own interesting past that may, or may not have something to do with Makoto and her friends. I may have read a little more into this part of the story than was intended, however it fascinated me and I would have really loved to see more of this, and yet it made absolute sense to leave it unanswered.
The story is a fascinating one, I really enjoyed the fumbled attempts by Makoto to keep things as they are. For her the current time and place are safe and perhaps perfect, she has her good friends, a relatively good school life and a loving family. It is precisely this need of Makoto’s to keep everything as it is that creates the problems, and she does not realise this, thinking and perhaps assuming that by jumping back in time to change a few things around the result will be different and ‘better’.
At its heart I see Toki o Kakeru Shojo is a coming of age drama, it is about Makoto realizing that things change, time moves forward and how things were yesterday is not how they will be today. It is precisely because of her inability to accept her surroundings that create all of problems in the first place. The romance is very muted, but also very effective, with a lot of implied feelings, and actually very little drama, or melodramatics. It is also very nice to see Makoto finally realizing that all of her actions have consequences, some of them potentially fatal.
There is an interesting comic element as well, with Makoto running around and doing silly things. I especially like the idea that in order to time leap, Makoto has to literally leap through time, often after a run up. This of course leads to much comic amusement and often-strange glances from passers by as she hurtles around the city, jumping down hills, into rivers and even falling out of bed. And as she continues to leap we see more and more bemused faces since Makoto relives days and events with strange consequences. I especially like her reliving the same Karaoke session 4 times in a row, every-time rolling into the room after jumping through time.
The animation quality is rather nice, with some wonderful backgrounds, even when a lot of the action takes place within the school or baseball field. There are some interesting little bits of CG, primarily used for the few time-leaps that we actually see, but for the most part it appears to be hand-drawn. It is quite simple in nature though, and in places lacks detail, but at the same time I rather like this kind of animation.
I didn’t really have any major problems with this film. It is rather slow to start, and occasionally the animation quality seems a bit off, but none of these little things annoyed me or took anything away from the actual story.
Overall I really enjoyed watching this film, it is quite muted in nature, and although it does involve actual time travel that aspect of the story is underplayed rather well. I did like how the story was effectively a slice-of-life drama about three high school friends and their relationships, not only with each other but with the other students around them. And as I said, in the end, to me this is a coming of age drama that shows must that our actions have consequences and in fact the ability to leap through time does not mean that you can change things for the better, and frequently you simply make them worse. A thoroughly enjoyable film, although clearly not for everyone, it is slow in places, but generally worth watching.