Apr 15, 2011

[Movies] The Girl Who Leapt Through Time / Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (2006)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time / Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (2006)It's hard to be a geek in these modern times. It's especially hard to be a geek who doesn't specialize just a single aspect of geek culture since every genre includes it's own core essentials that you need to get into, or at least that's how it seems.

A true Transformers fan must have seen the original G1 cartoon series
and the original 1986 movie. A Star Trek fan must have watched the entire run of their favorite franchise (and I won't wade into which one is "essential"). Each fandom has their unwritten rules and regulations about what is canon and what isn't and sometimes it gets a tad overwhelming.

My forays into the world of Japanese anime usually involve my parter or some friend being all shocked that I had not see this movie or that one. As much as I love the genre, I have to admit that I haven't devoted a lot of energies to it. Hence the reason why I watched my very first Ghibli movie only back in 2009.

This another of those movies that everyone said I just HAD to watch...and after doing so I can understand why. I'm glad that I took the time to see it and hopefully this review will do the movie justice.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or Toki o Kakeru Shōjo is a 2006 Japanese anime film that is mostly science fiction with a good subtle romance thrown in for good measure. The movie was directed by Mamoru Hosoda and was inspired by the novel Toki o Kakeru Shōjo by Yasutaka Tsutsui. It won the Japanese Academy prize for Animation of the Year in 2007.

時をかける少女Image by ihorner via FlickrOur story starts with high school girl Mokoto Konno (Riisa Naka / Emily Hirst). She seems ordinary enough with her tendency to be late for school, her odd circle of friends composed of fellow students Chiaki Mamiya (Takuya Ishida / Andrew Francis) and Kōsuke Tsuda (Mitsutaka Itakura / Alex Zahara). But after an unusual encounter in a classroom after school has her fainting after a mysterious object that looks like a walnut, every changes. As she bikes home, her breaks give out and she barrels down a busy street and past the security fence just as a train comes along.

But instead of dying, she finds herself a few minutes back in her past, thus avoiding her fated death because of the train. After a brief consultation with her aunt Kazuko Yoshihara (Sachie Hara / Saffron Henderson), she discovers that she now has the ability to make "time-leaps" back into the past. Thus this leads her to various crazy uses for her new power such as making sure she's not late for school, getting to the last pudding snack before her sister does and other antics, each ending with her violent re-entry once she successfully completes a time-leap.

But of course there's a lot more to her new power than she initially realizes and in time she understands that there are cases when her powers will be a lot more necessary beyond just harmless tricks. This also becomes an exploration of her relationship with her two male friends, the circumstances around the three of them and of course the deeper mystery of how she gained this ability to begin with.

From a production standpoint, the quality of the animation is rather stunning. Each scene is beautifully done and the detail in the work is beyond impressive. Plus both the Japanese and English voice-acting really fit the characters, thus making the whole experience quite fulfilling.

The story has a nice relaxed pace that is kept alive through crazy sequences like her post time-leap rolls and of course the great scoring consistently applied throughout the movie. The characters are nicely real given their individual complexities and nuances, all the more recreating the novelties of a high school setting with the added twist of the whole time travel thing. The director was able to manage both the science fiction and coming-of-age aspects of the story pretty well while ensuring it all felt part of a greater, coherent whole.

I can understand why this movie won awards - it's really good. Yes, as simple as that - it's an experience in itself and one that you really have to see for yourself to appreciate fully. No reviewer can fully do this movie justice since words fail to describe the delightful poignancy of the film as it was presented. And yes, I now understand why so many friends say it's one of those must-see anime movies and I'm definitely joining that chorus espousing its virtues.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is now one of my favorite anime films and one that this geek strongly recommends. It gets 5 Makoto rolling tumbles out of a possible 5.

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