Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)


This anime title would always pop up when I was doing some research on Satoshi Kon films. He didn’t have anything to do with it, but it seems that a lot of folks who like his stuff enjoyed this film. So I decided to give it a try.


Makoto Kanno (Emily Hirst) is your typical high school aged girl. She’s got a couple guy friends Chiaki Mamiya (Andrew Francis) a handsome goofoff and Kosuke Tsuda (Alex Zahara) an athletic baseball fan. When she isn’t hanging out with these guys, she’s running late to class, annoying her sister and visiting her aunt Kazuko (Saffron Henderson).

One day Makoto finds something odd in the storage room behind the school science lab. She never gets a good look at it, but from that day forward she can time travel. With a leap, she can hurtle back in time. Mokoto quickly uses this to correct mistakes she makes throughout the day. Annoying sister eats her pudding snack? A quick jump back and Makoto gets to first. She makes an ass out of herself during Home Ec? Jump back and let some other poor dope lights his food on fire. She’s having so much fun that she doesn’t realize that all her little changes are affecting everything around her. When one of her friends ends up in very real danger because of her changes Makoto has to figure out a way to undo the damage before her ability runs out.

Good Points:

  • An interesting take on time travel
  • Manages to work a little romance and poignancy into the story
  • There’s a neat twist at the end

Bad Points:

  • Some of the animation is a little on the sparse side
  • The tone of the movie varies wildly
  • Makoto is a bit dense at times.


This movie was a pleasant find. Many of Makoto’s actions feel just like something a typical teenage girl would do if granted the power of time travel. But the movie can’t seem to nail down a tone – one minute it’s silly high school comedy, next it’s a meditation on fate and death, next it’s a romance. It ends up hurting the pacing a bit and kept pulling me out of the story. But the final result was an entertaining film with enough depth to make it worth your time.

Scores (out of 5)

Visuals: 4

Sound: 3

Acting: 3

Script: 4

Music: 3

Direction: 4

Entertainment: 4

Total: 4

In Depth Review

Most tales of time travel focus on the big picture. How will the character shape or interact with major events in history. Its rare to encounter a story that focuses on time travel in the smaller scale, just jumping back a day or two to change things around.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is not about the why or how time travel is possible, but more focused on the themes of choice and fate. In that way, it’s less a sci-fi story and more of a character study of Mokoto. She’s your typical high school aged girl. She’s unsure of herself, a bit awkward, but a decent girl who only seems to be truly annoyed by her little sister. But also she’s completely focused on herself and how others perceive her. That’s not to say that Makoto is vain, but she’s a typical adolescent.

We watch her during the course of one day, the way she interacts with people, the choices she makes, and the little incident in the storage room behind the lab. But on her way home things go badly: the brakes on her bike don’t work and she ends up being thrown in front of a train. But this “leap” pushes her into a time warp and the next thing she knows she can time travel. Once she figures this out, it becomes a game to her.

At first the movie is light fun, with Mokoto doing her best to make the perfect day. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Groundhog Day. But the incident with the train stays in our mind (and Mokoto’s). After a conversation with her aunt, who is often referred to as Aunt Witch, Mokoto realizes that the little changes she makes may be affecting others.

This is combined with the fact that a small couple of numbers appears on her arm, counting down the number of jumps she has left. Now Mokoto attempts to fix some of the impacts she makes on others and discovers how interrelated everything is. This is actually a very interesting concept: a dash of chaos theory. The smallest thing can have a huge impact on the way her day turns out. There are times when she gets asked out on a date; other times she is left wandering home alone. Sometimes one of her friend’s ends up on the broken bike, and killed, other times she finds herself back at the same fork.

What I found interesting is the fact that death appears early in the film and continues to loom through the rest of the movie. It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure novels that would end in your demise. Mokoto doesn’t want her friends to die, and she doesn’t want to die, but is it necessary that someone dies in front of that train?

Eventually the movie reveals how Mokoto obtained the ability to time travel, and while it does end up slowing down the finale of the film a bit, it also adds an interesting twist to the whole thing. We’ve seen so many of the same moments with slight variations that it becomes obvious that one of the times that Mokoto ends up in the storage room, she could easily have run into herself or someone else who is also time leaping (shades of Back to the Future Part 2). This combined with some of the more cryptic lines from Aunt Witch and we begin to wonder just how often folks end up time leaping.

While all these themes are present the movie spends most of its time providing an interesting combination of gentle laughs, a bit of romance and some sadness to the story. The only problem is that these transitions end up being a bit jarring. Things get a bit convoluted in places and the ending lacks the proper punch, because of all the different elements that make it up. In all honesty this is actually a pretty ambitious story to tell, and I can see how it ended up a bit tangled.

The animation is pretty good, a bit plain looking in places and lacking in some detail (especially compared to something like Tokyo Godfathers or Ghost in the Shell). But in many ways it fits the story and the mood the film is going for. There’s a lot of softness to the movie and the colors tend toward the golden and airy. The exceptions are the time warp scenes, which utilize hard looking computer animation and lots of brilliant colors. It makes these sequences stand out but again, fits with the story.

The English voice acting was pretty good and fit the characters. So if you prefer your anime in English this one won’t cause your ears to bleed. The musical score was a perfect fit, but never really caught my attention.

All in all you get a pretty solid movie, one that takes a typically sci-fi premise and turns it into something of a romp. Anyone looking for something a bit different for a weekend rental will find a lot to enjoy here.

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