In 1967 Yasutaka Tsutsui wrote a novel entitled Toki wo Kakeru Shoujou. It was highly received and constantly re-published to new audiences to this day. Several adaptions into live-action were made throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, but what most international fans think about when they hear the translated title is the 2006 animated film. While not a direct adaption of the story, the film takes concepts and applies them in new ways for a new story of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Before this review, I had not seen the movie but I had heard many good things about it due to research in an earlier review of Summer Wars, another film by the director Mamoru Hosoda. The movie is highly liked by many American fans, even going as far to give the main actress in the dub an award for “Best New Actress in a Voice-over role”. I can safely say that the film is indeed worthy of the praise leaped on it.
The main story can be summed up in one sentence: A girl stumbles into a power to leapt through time and uses it to modify her life out of unwelcome situations not knowing the effects they will have. The heroine, Makoto, is a realistic portrayal of how a teenage girl would use this power. Not to help humankind, not to bring vengeance upon anyone, but to just make her life feel better. It’s a very well-written story with minimal plotholes that keeps you guessing until the final scene. Hosoda deserves praise for bringing about a new take on this old story.
Both in the original Japanese and the English dub all of the main cast just fit their roles perfectly, but I cannot give enough credit to Hosada for casting Riisa Naka as the lead heroine. She brings enough energy and variety so that Makoto feels real. It helped that she was a student at the time of recording. Both male leads are excellent in their roles and are well-suited. Listening to them talk normally, you’d be hard-pressed not to associate them with their characters.
The background music left a lot to be desired. While not atrocious, the music is not to my liking. It feels much too somber at moments that could better be served with more variation than a piano piece. Both the insert and the ending themes not only fit their purpose, but add to the movie itself. The insert theme comes at a wonderful time and works well to contrast the rest of the film’s course. The Blu-Ray is in Dolby True HD for both English and Japanese and the music is heard very clearly in each. I detected no problems with my system.
Visually, the movie does show its age with some thick lines at times but still manages to look impressive for being made 5 years ago. The ripples of water and flowing through time scenes both looked very well. As mentioned in the commentaries, Hosoda chose to use a non-shading motif for the characters and it highlights the lighting aspects throughout the rest of the film as well as other character features during pivotal moments. The backgrounds are incredibly lively and feel like a busy suburb of Toyko. It’s old, but still looks very impressive.
And onto the bane of this review: the extras. I’ve made mention of my “watch 80% of something for a review” and never did I expect a situation like this. I cannot give enough praise to Bandai for including all of these wonderful features that give so much insight into both what Hosada was thinking when making the movie as well as how nervous he was to show it off on opening day. This set features the main feature and some trailers on the BD and the rest are on a separate DVD (BD extra rights were rather difficult from what I’ve heard as well as being in SD to begin with, thus no complaints from me on the format). The extras DVD contains: the main feature with storyboards and two commentary tracks: one with Mamoru Hosoda (Director), Riisa Naka (Makoto), Takuya Ishida (Chiaki) and Mitsutaka Itakura (Kousuke) and another with Mamoru Hosoda (Director), Toshihiko Ito (Assistant Director) and Hiroyuki Aoyama (Animation Director), a Direction file with Hosoda, the stage greeting at the premiere event In Tokyo as well as a feature behind the scenes, the “Garnet” Music Video by Hanako Oku, the trailer for the movie and finally a TVCM. Yes, I watched all of those extras just for this review.
It’s quite interesting to compare the final film with the initial storyboards by Hosoda. The details added, the extra insertions of characters, and seeing how the movie was shaped give another perspective on his work. Combined with listening to the commentary tracks, it’s quite the insight into not only his mind, but the minds of the animation staff. During the commentary with the directors, he couldn’t stop pointing out and thanking the key animators. That led to a funny scene where he mixed up the animators for two similar scenes after being praised for his memory. They offered many good stories such as the animator who had to run down a block and filmed himself doing so for a scene and all of the equipment another animator brought in for reference on a background used. The second commentary with the cast also brought up funny moments such as Naka messing up the name of Chiaki during her audition. Both were a joy to listen to and made re-watching the movie tolerable.
Watching Hosoda bring about points of direction such as “do-po” (using the same angle repeatedly for effect) and how to ensure it doesn’t look lazy was fascinating as well in the Direction File. He very thoroughly thought out each angle and why that would be used in a specific way. Contrasty, you can tell the excitement and nervousness he felt at the premiere showing of the film. He was quite honored to meet one of his idols, which he thought he’d never get praised by. After watching his interview in Summer Wars two years later, he gained a lot of confidence from this film.
Finally, the remaining features are nice but don’t require much detail for description. The “Garnet” PV is quite nice and Oku does a wonderful job singing the theme song. The trailer and TVCM prepare you well for the film.
Overall, I prefer Summer Wars as an emotional film but I think The Girl who Leapt Through Time is better technically speaking. It feels very polished for every scene and wastes no time. The time travel never got confusing, even near the climax of the film. I can’t say that I’d like to watch it again and again, but it’s definitely a work that I am proud to finally own. If it was just the film on BD I’d recommend it to anyone, but the sheer amount of extras makes it a “must-buy” for any anime fan who is interested in a great film and how it came together. I appalud Bandai and hope to see many more works like this in the future! More screencaptures can be found in this Photobucket album.