ANIME REVIEW: “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” – Animation Scoop

ANIME REVIEW: “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”

Although he had worked as an animator and director on numerous TV series and three “Digimon” features, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was the first film to showcase Mamoru Hosoda’s talent as a director.

If you were to ask her, Makoto Konno (Emily Hirst) would say she regards herself as a normal high school student. She’s smart, but not brilliant; a little clumsy, but not a complete klutz–most of the time. Time management is not her long suit: She often oversleeps, barely getting to school on time, and dashing frantically to run errands. Although she’s no social star, she has two best friends: handsome honor student Kousuke Tsuda (Alex Zahara) and irreverent, shaggy Chiaki Mamiya (Andrew Francis). Her favorite pastime is playing baseball with them: They play catch, bat flies, tease each other and talk.

One day, the brakes on Makoto’s bicycle fail as she’s careening down a hill toward a railroad crossing. The mechanical gnomes on a store clock strike the hour as she’s about to collide with the train. Then a weird shift occurs. Makoto finds herself back up the hill a few minutes earlier; she stumbles, falls hitting an irate housewife. She’s still apologizing when the hour strikes and the train passes. Bewildered, Makoto can’t figure what happened and why she’s still alive.

When she talks to the family friend she refers to as “Auntie Witch,” the art restorer explains that Makoto leapt through time to avoid the accident. The talent isn’t unusual in teen-aged girls, she says calmly; she used to do it herself.

Intrigued by her newly-discovered ability, Makoto begins exploring time leaps (which require a physical leap to trigger them). She jumps temporal distances as she attempts to improve her life in and out of school. She retakes a math quiz, gets an A and avoids setting fire to a wok full of oil in cooking class. She tries to sort out her friends’ romantic problems, avoiding Chiaki’s request to go on a date and pushing a shy girl to tell Kousuke how much she likes him.

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But Makoto’s attempts to use her knowledge of the past to improve the present invariably backfire. A boy causes the cooking class fire, which leads to a series of increasingly violent fights that accidentally injure a girl. Schoolwork, dating, even her friendship with Kousuke and Chiaki grows more complicated and difficult, climaxing in another cycling accident that could cost Kousuke his life–which Makoto discovers she’s powerless to stop. But a secret Chiaki’s kept hidden enables them to sort things out in a surprising but satisfying ending.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki wo Kakeru Shojo) has remained a popular property in Japan since Yasutaka Tsutsui (who also wrote Paprika) published the original novel in 1967. It’s been adapted to television, live action films and a manga. Hosoda skillfully uses what initially look like repeated shots and set-ups to capture the feeling of the moments Makoto and her friends relive due to the time leaps. However, as the complications multiply (and the viewer watches more closely), it becomes clear that Hosoda introduces minor variations to suggest that after Makoto’s tampering, things can’t be exactly as they were before.

But for all his technical skill, audiences respond so favorably to the film because of the way Hosoda blends realistic warmth and fantasy. The relationship Makoto, Kosuke, and Chiaki share is exceptionally well-drawn, and provides an effective anchor to the supernatural elements of the story, much as the budding romance between Kenji and Natsuke would in Hosoda’s next film, Summer Wars.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time scored a big hit in Japan, winning the Japanese Academy Award for Best Animated Film. It also garnered a number of prizes on the festival circuit, including one for special distinction at Annecy in 2007.

The new Blu-ray release comes loaded with extras, including an interesting interview in which Hosoda explains how he planned a sequence in which Makoto leaps back through time to prolong a karaoke session with Kosuke and Chiaki.

Shorewood Blu-ray Ocard

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Funimation: $34.98, 3 discs, Blu-ray/DVD

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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