I’d been meaning to see The Girl Who Leapt Through Time for awhile. I knew absolutely nothing about it, so I went in without any expectations whatsoever, except that it must surely involve time travel of some sort. While that made me curious, I wasn’t curious enough to go out of my way for it, so this one’s been lying around for several years (released in 2006) just waiting for me to watch it. Now I’ve seen it, and my personal opinion is as follows:
Grade: C. Perhaps a C+, but, still, C.
Three stars out of five.
Exactly average, no more, no less.
Now allow me to explain this:
It’s sort of a coming of age story for the main character, a teenaged girl named Makoto Konno. She’s a normal high school girl in present-day Japan, albeit one who has a terrible day where she wakes up late, finds her pudding has been stolen by her little sister, fails a test, accidentally sets a fire in Home Ec, gets hit when one classmate picks up and throws another, gets saddled with carrying a huge pile of papers to a remote office, falls on something like a walnut, and finds out her bike brakes are faulty just in time to crash and fly into the path of an oncoming train, and die. And then she wakes up, back at the beginning of the day.
Turns out (very luckily), that the “walnut” was a time travel device, and it charged her up like a battery so she can “leap” (literally, she must be leaping in the air) through time. As she was in the air when the train hit her, she time leaped at the single most fortuitous moment in her life.
It is hilarious how she has to leap, and lands in a roll, as she relives parts of her day over and over and over again.
What does she do with her new superpower? Why, use it for the most important things in her life! Like nabbing her pudding before her sister does, arriving on time for class, acing a test, and avoiding accidents! Oh, and spending several hours (instead of one) singing karaoke with her guy friends, Chiaki and Kosuke (they play three-way catch after school a lot, and she uses it to catch all of Chiaki’s balls too). And avoiding Chiaki’s love confession (her reaction is hilarious!). And setting Kosuke up with a girl who has a mad crush on him.
But even though Makoto has no ill intent, her reckless usage of her power has dire consequences. She avoided having an accident in Home Ec, but her classmate, who had the accident in her place (and is driven mad by chronic bullying), blames her and wants to hurt her. She keeps Chiaki from getting hurt in the chaos, but instead her very best girl friend is hurt instead. She sets up Kosuke with this girl, but then he borrows Makoto’s bike to give said girl a ride, and discovers the faulty brakes just in time for both of them to die.
This happens exactly when Makoto has realized she’s used her last time leap, and she can’t go back to fix what goes wrong this time.
But there is salvation in the form of Chiaki. He asked Makoto about time leaping earlier, surprising her, and it turns out it was his walnut-time-travel-device she fell on, and used up. He is from the future, and came back to see a painting which, in his time, has been destroyed. Likely in the same series of events which reduced the human population so much that Chiaki has never seen so many people as are in this city. He tells her this while he has frozen time, having used his last leap to save Kosuke and the girl, because he’d found Makoto crying and blaming herself for her friends’ deaths. As punishment for divulging the information of time leaping, his time is up, the moment time resumes, and he vanishes.
So though everything turned out right, in a way, it still cost Chiaki someone she loves.
Fortunately, through the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ways of time travel, Makoto has been given back her last leap, due to Chiaki using his to prevent what made her use hers. Thus, she is able to tell Chiaki how she feels, and promise to preserve the painting he still hasn’t seen, before he uses his restored last leap to return home.
So, with things being fairly normal, the only differences being that Kosuke and Makoto now have three new friends (the girl with a crush on him and her two friends) joining them for baseball, Chiaki is gone, and Makoto has made a decision regarding her future. And she’s keeping it secret from Kosuke.
So, that’s the movie in a nutshell (ah, accidental pun). Or, rather, that’s what happens in the movie in a nutshell. My first big complaint about this movie is all of the time where nothing is happening. Not just “time where things are slow.” I mean they took the time and effort to animate entire sequences where nothing happens. When time is frozen, they take forever to establish it with all of these superfluous images. When Chiaki is running for something, they take forever to show her running, and losing speed as she tires, and gaining speed as she pushes through the fatigue, etc. This sort of thing, where nothing is happening, happens several times. It was annoying.
My second complaint is how the plot revolved around the characters not knowing something I know twice, namely: what to do when your bike brakes are broken. It’s very simple: take the hit. Take it early, before your speed increases and the damage worsens. Take it, before you risk flying in front of a train. Or hitting a pedestrian. Or any number of things! Forget grace and reputation! Forget injury, it’s better to take the damage as early as possible rather than guarantee that it will be worse! Do whatever it takes to STOP! Lean to one side and fall and skid if you must, but stop! No matter what, stop!
I say this having been in more than one accident on my bike. And received mostly superficial damage.
Setting that soap box aside, there are other things for and against this movie.
It does not lose any points for any “inappropriate” content (it’s fairly family friendly). The acting/dubbing is well-done and entertaining. The music is sometimes pleasant, sometimes far to epic and sweeping for this movie. The animation is smooth, but something about the style is, and I apologize for being vague here but I haven’t quite figured out how to verbalize this yet, visually discordant. Like they tried for something realistic, but it just enhanced what was fake. Or perhaps it’s just a moving painting? (and those were some huge tears Makoto cried)
The plot had drama, and Makoto was a particularly believable, and relatable, character. Chiaki, on the other hand, was not. I mean, first he was a normal guy, then he’s the guy Makoto is trying to avoid because he asks her out on a date, then he’s a time leaper from an depopulated future who came back in time just to see a painting, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then he’s gone again. And his last words are “I’ll be waiting for you.” So he goes back in time to see a painting, gets distracted, falls in love, and confesses his love, and then leaves forever. Why not just stay in the populated present? I mean, if they were going to get together, it might be more ideal (and less disturbing) to do so in the present day, when she’s young and alive.
The suspense was high in certain parts, but it took us completely by surprise. Quality storytelling builds suspense, rather than hitting you on the head with it like a hammer.
Finally, there’s the theme. The message. The point.
…which I’m still trying to work out.
It’s obviously not true love. It’s not taking responsibility, because they never really do that. The characters don’t really grow at all, not even Makoto, so there’s no real guide as to what the message is. She doesn’t make sacrifices, she makes mistakes, and she doesn’t really learn much from them. All she really does, I suppose, is decide to stop drifting. That can be a worthy decision, but we never see what happens because of it.
All in all, despite everything this movie had in its favor, it felt rather lackluster to me.
Enjoyable, particularly among friends, and I don’t have anything really against it, but not thrilling.