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Movie Reviews

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time



Reviewed by: Mark Hester

Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda

Starring: Takuya Ishida, Mitsutaka Itakura

Certificate: 12a

“Time waits for no one.” The only thing we might have asked it to wait for is time to get the tissues. TGWLTT is a wonderfully charming and thought-provoking animé feature that delicately hovers along the lines of cute and delicate whilst blending with serious message and poignancy. There’s a little of everything and a lot to love.

A loose sequel to the 1967 classic Japanese novel of the same name, the film picks up with seventeen year-old high school student Makoto Konno. She is a brash and feisty, uncompromising character. Upon inadvertently discovering a blackboard message at school, she stumbles upon a mysterious object. Travelling home soon after, a freak accident involving her bicycle nearly kills her before she is transported back in time to a few minutes before the accident.

She later discovers from her Aunt (The titular girl from the original novel) about the powers of time-travel and that she is not the first, nor will be the last to do so. After finally accepting that this is all real, youthful exuberance kicks in and Makoto goes the whole nine yards with the time-reversal, making plenty of time for baseball and extended karaoke along the way. However, unbeknownst to Makoto before is the fact that there is a limit to her number of time-leaps and eventually she must run out. With her Aunt pointing out that to equate for her positive fortune from the leaps, someone must be receiving the negative, Makoto has to come to terms with the fact that not everything can work out how you want it whilst trying to undo the mistakes she has made before time does run out.

Following the tradition of many time-travel features, the film delves into the concepts of chaos theory. Makoto’s decision-making at first seems harmless and her actions deliver positive results for her, with nothing seemingly going wrong. However it dawns upon her that there are consequences and we’re really forced to empathise with her. Her happy-go-lucky and carefree spirit had only been further indulged up until this point but as would happen with her growing years, she has to deal with the aftermath of her choices. At first, she can simply erase faults, but eventually it catches up to her. Makoto’s character is a strong lead, and her personal struggle and development through the film is a real treat. She doesn’t try to win the lottery or save the world with her new powers, she does normal teenager things like avoid boy trouble and make lots more time for baseball and getting the last pudding.

Most of the supporting cast hold their own too, with two best friends Chiaki Mamiya and Kōsuke Tsuda proving more than adequate and avoiding falling prey to one-dimensional stereotypes. The one flaw here seems to be Makoto’s Aunt. Aside from her link to the book, she seems little more than a convenient plot device. And a regrettable one at that. Her character offers very little, and when prompted to do so, seems far too apathetic to be the supposed cool Aunt who is always there for Makoto, to look after, care for and give advice whenever she needs a familiar experienced shoulder to lean on.

The voice-over style seems almost an inspired choice here. Thankfully used sparingly enough to avoid withdrawing us from the story, it is used appropriately to great effect. It allows us to really acquaint with Makoto and see events from her perspective. Her rise and downfall are looked back on with a great sense of remorse and this reflection is a great tool to derive a deep personal connection with the audience.

Voice-acting generally is spot-on here, with only the aforementioned Aunt role being a disappointment. Lack of enthusiasm and warmth on that part are the only blotch on an otherwise impressive call sheet. Thankfully the English dubs sync up well with the animation too, allowing seamless coexistence between the two and avoiding the all-too-often dub distraction that is prone to spoiling otherwise superb foreign features. Finally, the score. Spot on. The soft instrumentals seem to echo the sentiment of each scene perfectly and particularly resonate with Makoto’s emotions at the time.

Marred by the odd plot inconsistency and the occasional lapse in otherwise superb animation, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a real treat for the eyes, the mind and the heart. Fans of Studio Ghibli should love this absolute gem, with its warm and engrossing style appealing to fans young, old, male and female. A very enjoyable and heart-wrenching tale all at once.


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