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If it’s a Monday it must mean that it’s time for another edition of Anime Monday. Many of us are wishing right now that we could go back to the weekend we wasted away lying in bed binge watching tv. There’s just never enough time. But if you did have all the time in the world, what would you do with it? Time in all its complexities is explored in this week’s film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
Makoto Konno is a teenager in high school. According to her she’s a pretty average person. As a student she’s not bright, but at least she’s not dumb. She’s not lucky, but she’s not unlucky either. You just happen to meet her on what might possibly be the worst day of her life. She oversleeps and is almost late to school. She completely blanks on her pop quiz. She burns the tempura and starts a fire in home ec. On her way home, her bicycle brakes fail throwing her smack into the path of a speeding train. Makoto’s day seems unredeemable, because, well, she’s dead now. Or that is, she was dead. Entirely unaware as to the means, Makoto discovers that she has jumped back in time to the crucial moments before her death. Luckily, she’s crashed into an innocent pedestrian and lived to tell the tale this go around. Equipped with the newfound ability to time travel, Makoto behaves like any sensible teen and proceeds to run amok.
Unlike many other films with a great conceit, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time succeeds because it very quickly becomes about something other than time travel. Naturally Makoto abuses the ability, repeating events until achieving the desired outcome. This is relatively simple for things like karaokeing for ten hours straight but only paying for an hour. However, once that Makoto attempts to undo or alter the actions of other people, things start to get a little icky. And like any self-absorbed teen, she doesn’t realize the full extent of her actions until they start coming back to make her life miserable. Her altered relationships quickly begin to supplant fun teenage activities. Growing up and falling in love is hard enough, Makoto meanwhile finds herself reliving her youth multiple times.
The animation is lovely in this film. The lighting is absolutely gorgeous, and is technically speaking one of the film’s best qualities. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an anime whose characters and narrative proved to be equally if not more captivating than the visuals. Makoto as the titular heroine is beguiling, and instantly likeable. The voice work by actress Riisa Naka should be applauded, as she instills the character with just the right amount of naivety and rebelliousness to make the character a believable high schooler. Plus, that mad cackle Makoto has when she’s done something naughty or is especially enjoying herself is priceless. While we’re on the topic, I should note that except for a few films, I’ve been watching almost every anime in the original Japanese with subtitles. It’s mostly a personal preference as I enjoy seeing the dialogue actually sync up properly with the character’s mouths. And, since subtitles don’t bother me, I prefer it to the occasional bad dubbing. I can’t imagine the English version subtracting at all from the overall film. You are missing out on a great cackle though.
With a well-developed time traveling concept and a classic coming-of-age narrative, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is sure to appeal to almost any viewer. Lots of great visual gags peppered throughout and fully realized characters make this an enjoyable watch. More likely than not, it will come in second to the charming Makoto whose misadventures with time leaping will keep you hooked from beginning to end.