Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: anime / In category: 4 of 10 / Overall: 37 of 100

Mamoru Hosada’s ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ is a highly acclaimed anime with a rating of 8.0 on IMDb. It’s beautifully animated and its ouroborus-like narrative is elegantly constructed. It benefits from a kookily likeable heroine and conjures a moment of heart-stopping tension in the final reel that leaves you convinced that Hosada is going to deliver the darkest, bitterest ending this side of H.G. Clouzot. And yet I can’t shake the feeling that it’s little more than a re-imagining of Yoshifumi Kondo’s ‘Whisper of the Heart’ with a time-travel twist. Indeed Makoto, the accidental time traveller of Hosada’s film, is very much a slightly tomboyish version of Shizuku in Kondo’s heart-warming classic.

‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ starts with Makoto hearing a snippet of a news forecast on TV before, late as always for school, she dashes from the house and pedals her bike full-tilt through the narrow streets. The TV tells her it’s going to be a lucky day. It turns out anything but. In short order, Makoto causes a flash fire in her home economics class, is almost crushed when horseplay between some fellow students gets out of hand, takes a tumble in the science lab and, heading home, finds the brakes on her bike defective as she plunges down a steep hill towards the railway crossing.

Makoto cheats death. As she struggles to understand how she could possibly have survived, it becomes apparent she managed to travel back through time a few moments. The first third of the film is great fun as Makoto figures out what happened and how, tries to replicate the circumstances, and proceeds to have a whale of a time changing the past in a number of small ways (such as jumping back three or four minutes every time her song finishes at a karaoke bar; her allotted slot lasts all evening and she wakes up the next morning with a sore throat; the way she rasps through the next scene, sounding like an oriental version of Lemmy, is priceless).

It’s when Makoto starts using the technique to effect changes in other people’s lives (never mind that she genuinely intends her meddling for their betterment) that the downside to time travel becomes apparent. Accordingly, the film’s second act shrugs off the erstwhile exuberance and explores darker territory, particularly in respect to the poor unfortunate who causes the home economics fire due to Makoto’s judicious re-editing of circumstances. This slightly plodding stretch is counterpointed by an emotional subplot regarding Makoto’s conflicted feelings about her (male) best friends.

Still, it’s involving enough and Makoto’s rollercoaster through the highs and lows of adolescence is wryly observed. Hosada shunts the narrative back into high gear as the film approaches the home straits and things threaten to take a bleakly ironic turn. It’s at this point that Hosada pulls the rug from under the viewer and the film makes a sudden aesthetic and tonal shift, haring off into the realms of the metaphysical. All well and good, but his subsequent attempt to segue back into the teenage angst hinted at earlier just adds to the burgeoning sense of inconsistency. The denouement, mawkish and unfocused, drags on interminably. The final scene left me shrugging my shoulders indifferently. Which is a shame: as a 30-minute short, ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ would be joyous.


Bryce Wilson said...

(Add to Queue)

The Film Connoisseur said...

Sounds similar in premise to Run Lola Run or Groundhog Day, where characters end a story the wrong way and then restart again hoping things will be better the second time around.

Never heard of this one, but I always enjoy a well animated/written anime film. Ill add it to the list!

Neil Fulwood said...

Look forward to reading your comments once you've seen the film.