There have been quite a few notable anime films. We have ones such as Spirited Away and Akira, both of which many consider to be some of the finest works of fiction. Does The Girl Who Leapt Through Time deserve to be counted among these greats? Since its release back in 2006, it hasn’t gained quite the large amount of attention as the aforementioned films. Still, as the 2016 re-release says on the cover, it won best animated feature of 2007, and many other awards. So at the least while maybe not attaining classic status as others it’s still very well known. Of course, one shouldn’t judge a film by the awards it gets or how well known it is. Many will be seeing Girl for the first time thanks to FUNimation re-releasing it. I am happy to say that it’s definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it before, or if you saw it back in 06 and want to watch it again in crisp Blu-ray HD. While there are a couple of factors stopping it from being a masterpiece, Director Mamoru Hosoda’s film is still an excellent watch from beginning to end.
After waking up late, flunking her pop quiz, embarrassing herself on numerous occasions, and starting a fire in her home economics class, high school student Makoto Konno figures she’s just having one of those days. And just when she thinks she’s made it through, the brakes on her bike malfunction putting her on a collision course with a speeding train. The life-ending accident would have been the perfect end to the worst day ever, but the strangest thing happens—she leaps backwards in time.
After unlocking her new ability, Makoto does what any teenager would do. She re-takes tests, corrects embarrassing situations, and sleeps in as late as she wants, never thinking that her carefree time traveling could have a negative effect on the people she cares about. By the time she realizes the damage she’s done, she only has a few leaps left to make things right.
With so many fantastical and action anime roaming around, it’s good to take a break and watch something a little different. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a drama, romance, and thriller with no fantastical elements. (Well, besides science fiction of course.) Makoto isn’t a chosen one, warrior, or anything resembling the sort. She’s just a normal school girl. The situation she’s thrown in is something we’ve seen before in various forms of media: being given the ability to travel through time. In this case, she’s able to do something called “time leap.” A question one always has to ask in these time travel scenarios is how far does one go with it? It usually starts out with simply fixing a recent problem, but then you have to ask yourself why stop there? As Reed Richards put it, once you have that ability what’s to stop you from “Knocking the apple out of Eve’s hand?” That’s why time travel stories can be tricky. With Girl’s case however, the time leaping only goes short distances in time backward, managing to avoid any of these truly tough questions.
So, we have a simpler version of a time travel story, and that’s certainly welcome. We have Makoto going back to fix problems only to realize that something bad is going to happen, even though she might have fixed something else. The film manages to keep going with the time leaping without it becoming a running gag. (An example of annoying repetitiveness is in the film Edge of Tomorrow.) At first her ability to do so is unexplained. As the story went on part of me worried we wouldn’t get a concrete answer as to how she’s able to do this. In the climax we’re finally given reasoning, and it’s definitely an interesting, unexpected twist. One might argue it kind of takes away from the overall story, but I think the writing did a good job making sure it wasn’t an outlandish, final minute twist such as in 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Since this is a drama, heavy emphasis is put on the interactions. Makoto is a likable character with a humble heart. Her relationship with her family is organic, especially with her younger sister Miyuki. (One of my favorite scenes is when the latter catches Makoto seemingly about to jump from a window and pulls her back in, thinking it’s her fault for having Makoto’s pudding.) The best scenes however are with Makoto and her two best friends, Chiaki & Kōsuke. At first a complaint was going to be that the friendship just appears with no development, but as the film goes on the viewer sees how real and genuine it is between the three. Kōsuke and Chiaki are very likable characters, being diverse and having a high sense of morality.
The film is set in high school, which can sometimes be a very bad thing. Thankfully, the film showcases it in a real, but not annoying way. We have bullies being dealt with, friends helping their friend with a crush, and other things here & there. This might be the best story set in a high school, at least in the last ten years. Are there any substantial negatives with the writing? There aren’t any big ones, just minor things. For one, the twist at the end calls into question the overall timeline with Makoto and her two friends. This wasn’t explained properly. Another thing is a slight deus ex machina maneuver at the end. Makoto is given one more time leap after running out. The story explains how this happens too quickly, which is unfortunate because how she gets it is actually quite smart.
Makoto’s aunt Kazuko is an interesting character. Just about all her lines are excellent and serves as the moral standpoint for the main character. Sadly, Kazuko is also at the same time underdeveloped. Why is she known as jokingly a witch? And why does she seem to know a lot about time leaping? The story hints at something but it’s never made known. With a little more backstory this wouldn’t have been an issue. The soundtrack is strong throughout. The end credits song nicely ends the film with an emotional touch. The actual animation looks solid. It seemed to be aiming for a retro Astro-Boy look, which isn’t a bad thing. (Though some scenes looked a little choppy.)
Overall, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a fantastic film. It’s very well written with great character focuses. There’s a large amount of genuine emotion throughout. The romance aspect of the plot is also handled well. It’s one of the best time travel stories in the modern generation. The plot twist at the end was interesting, but needed to be explained a little better. Besides that, we have a movie every anime and non-anime fan should check out.