Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Based on a successful media franchise starting in 1965 and encompassing 2 books, 3 TV series, 5 films and a manga, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was originally authored by Yasutaka Tsutsui, with a 2006 anime film adaptation by Mamoru Hosoda. Hosoda would also later bring us Summer Wars and Wolf Children. The voice actress who played the main character would also later go on to play the protagonist in the 2010 live-action film.

'Twas born into a Tasty legacy.

Makoto Konno is your average teenage tomboy. She has 2 best guy friends, an annoying little sister, and likes to play baseball. The chronic oversleeper wakes up late on a school day in mid-july and rushes right out the door into one of the worst days of her life. After school, while performing some classroom chores, she slips in the science lab and falls onto a walnut-shaped item, then proceeds to hallucinate from the resulting head trauma. Shaking it off as a dream, she runs out of school and onto her bike to deliver some peaches to her aunt as a favour to her mother. But as she speeds down the hill, her brakes have stopped working...sending Makoto flying right in the path of a commuter train. Or did it? As she wakes up on the pavement next to her toppled bike, she sees the train that just killed her speed by further down the street, leaving her unscathed...
Well, PHYSICALLY unscathed, if not mentally.
From the start, the premise of this movie was interesting. Obviously it's been interesting enough to carry it in various forms for 50 years now. But this Girl Who Leapt Through Time is actually a spin-off of the original book, leaving this as technically a standalone. With Hosoda and Madhouse behind the wheel, however, there was never any doubt that this was going to be good, and they definitely did not disappoint (mostly).
She's wearing her Important Hat.

Right from the start you can tell this is a Hosoda work because of the art style. The facial structure, much like any artist (say, for example, Ghibli or Tezuka), stays the same in all of his movies (sans One Piece, but there isn't much room for flexibility there....though he seems to have relaxed them to his pace a LITTLE bit), from the Digimon Adventure movie (1999) to Wolf Children (2012). His style is somewhat close to Ghibli, with roundish eyes and more realistic noses, but has a wider colour pallet and more variety. His relationship with Madhouse was well-suited, since their animation is also quite fluid. Both make for a relaxed film, which is nice in this context since it's part sci-fi, part slice-of-life.

Yuuup. this is DEFINITELY a Hosoda film.
Given that this is a standalone in the Time franchise, one can't expect much characterization from previous works to be present. However, in this regard we should be thankful that Hosoda is the director since his characters never suffer from a lack of personality. Makoto in particular reacts just as one would expect a teenager to react to certain tough situations, such as changing intra-personal relationships. She also uses her newfound time powers for completely frivoulous reasons and cries when she loses her friends. An interesting point is that, while this is a spin-off and these are all new characters, they're not ALL new. Makoto gets plenty of counsel and advice from her Aunt, the original "Girl Who Leapt Through Time".
Don't Do Drugs, Children.
The only major beef I can find with this movie is the ending. Sure, the music's passive and the plot can be hardish to follow, but the ending almost made me flip my laptop. (Almost.) Even with the rest of the franchise propping it up, the creators should ALWAYS assume their work to be a standalone, in that the viewer either may not have access to or have the will to seek out any sort of additional work. The loose ends they leave are not just sloppy, but a slap to the face of the viewer. One could argue that the ending "wrapped up nicely" with a simple smile and "I'll Be Waiting!", but this viewer is not satisfied without some kind of resolution.

On the upside, sometimes she gets to look like a stupid badass.

Despite that rude ensnarement, the movie was still quite enjoyable and long overdue on my part. I'd expect no less than this from Hosoda, a director I greatly enjoy, and though being frustrated with the outcome, was pleased with the middle. This is typical anime fare, but unlike other typical anime fare there's no fanservice. Sure, there's theoretical death, but no gore (and actually, no real images of anyone striking any trains) is shown. The closest it comes to being "inappropriate" is a few harsh words. Ergo, show this to almost anyone you want. As long as they get it, it'll be fine.

This and maybe a few swears. That's all.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is licensed on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America by Bandai Entertainment. It's seen TV and theatre airings in the US, and some theatre airings in the UK. Though it was not expected to be as popular as it was (and indeed, only recieved limited theatre distrobution in Japan at first), word of mouth increased its popularity exponentially and it eventually went on to several international film festivals, winning most of the awards it was nominated for. Wikipedia is hazy on other releases, but the copy I had (which was a Blu-Ray rip) had a Spanish subtitle track, so it stands to reason that there will be other language sub tracks if you search for them, too.



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