Here’s an anime feature that I have wanted to see since it was first released. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a beautiful science fiction romance, more focussed on the emotion than the technical aspect of the premise.
Makoto Konno (Riisa Naka) is a bit of a tomboy. Her two best friends are guys, and she spends most of her spare time hanging out with them, playing baseball, or subjecting each other to painfully sincere Japanese ballads at the local karaoke bar. To her dismay, she finds that as they get older, the dynamics of her friendship group are shifting. Her friend of many years, Kôsuke Tsuda (Mitsutaka Itakura), has become the object of another girl’s affections, whilst Chiaki Mamiya (Takuya Ishida) might even have *gulp* strong feelings for herself. This is most upsetting to Makoto, who doesn’t want things to change – indeed, she isn’t even willing to choose which field she’s going to focus on next year at school. Then one day she discovers she has the power to flit through time, and with this newfound responsibility comes joy – she can do all the things she loves over and over without having to worry about what comes next.
If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, that’s probably because you’ve seen either Groundhog Day or The Butterfly Effect. Sure, the science fiction conceit isn’t particularly original, but as I’ve already said, this isn’t the prime focus of the film. There are similar moments to those other two films – particularly when Makoto decides to have some fun with her new ability – but this film is really about growing up: that moment in your teen years when you realise that things are never going to be the same again.
It’s this poignancy that makes The Girl That Leapt Through Time such an impressive film. The beauty of the matte paintings truly complements the touching coming-of-age tale. The animation itself isn’t as flashy as the usual big-time anime that makes it to the big screen here in Australia – this can’t compare to the likes of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Inosensu: Kôkaku kidôtai) or Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, but like all good animation, it hits the right expressions at all the critical moments, and the voice acting is pitch perfect. When I say voice acting, I am of course referring to the Japanese cast – I’m way too much of a purist (read: somewhat dogmatic) to watch anime in a translated language.
As a Blu-Ray disc, the film is gorgeous. The time-travelling moments (when the animation does take off) look fantastic. It is a pity that no one’s gone to the effort to move the subtitles at the one or two moments that all the action’s down the bottom of the screen, and thus obfuscated by text. As you will probably already know, however, (from the gajillion times you’ve seen Ice Age used as a demo disc in TV stores) animation brings out some beautiful colours on HD.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a wonderful film that shows that the science fiction genre can have a softer side. It only disappoints if you’re expecting some answers to the more vague aspects of the narrative – it certainly leaves some questions unanswered. As a coming of age tale, however, it’s up there with the best.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is available on Blu-Ray and DVD through Madman.Rating: