The difference between Western animation and Japanese animation, or “anime”, is very stark and instantly recognisable. Both parties tend to exaggerate their characters physically and often emotionally. Anime itself tends to delve heavily into melodrama for which it frequently draws criticism for, and “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” does sometimes dip into this melodramatic tone. Admittedly I haven’t seen very much anime at all — this is actually my third anime film — and I’m happy to say that my recent branch from Western animation has been pleasant and unique. “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is a gorgeous and visually rich film, that deserves your attention.
Makoto (Riisa Naka) realises her bike brakes are broken as she hurtles down a steep incline towards an incoming train. During these final moments as Makoto is thrown into the air she awakes at an earlier time, much to her utter confusion. She soon discovers that she has literally leapt through time, and she decided to travel back as she so pleases.
Kosuke (Mitsutaka Itakura) and Chiaki (Takuya Ishida) play baseball after school with Makoto and they essentially serve as the potential love interests. You won’t be surprised that Makoto eventually goes for one of them, and then you won’t be surprised which one it is, despite the film suggesting otherwise. The phrase “Time waits for no one” recurs throughout the film and serves as a theme that actually ties into many of the plots events. It gives the film more depth and turns what could have been a somewhat average love story into an interesting one because of the twists and turns the time travel creates.
In terms of raw style, anime is take it or leave it I guess. I would say that “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” isn’t just beautiful in terms of its animation style, but also in its cinematography. Take a scene where Chiaki and Makoto ride on the same bike home together and the sun shines on the lake behind them. A feeling of compulsion to appreciate the serenity is important as later on we are told of a future that has been ravaged, a time where not even baseball exists. I feel insulted, England doesn’t have baseball, no one told me we were living in a post apocalyptic wasteland. The unknown future that is told about but never once shown feels incredibly harrowing even though overall it isn’t what the film is focusing on. It is just another piece of food for thought on top of everything else the film offers.
Makoto is a normal girl for the most part so we get to see what the average Japanese teenager would get up to with the ability to time travel. She mostly uses it for entertainment and to stay in bed. Auntie Witch (Sachie Hara) tells Makoto that if she is enjoying herself so much, surely it is at the expense of someone else? Makoto doesn’t yet realise — and neither do we — that she is setting events in motion that she would most certainly rather avoid, despite her efforts to do good eventually. It is interesting to be able to see how a teenager would be unlikely to use any sort of power for something truly good. It suggests the natural naivety of someone like Makoto who has only experienced the world in terms of what she has been told to expect from school.
A majority of the film is lighthearted, and some may argue that it is even too lighthearted in that for a while it doesn’t concern itself with the consequences of Makoto’s actions. I would say that is the point, to lull us simultaneously with Makoto into a sense of security and safety, where nothing seems to be out of place when in fact things are rapidly boiling over.
The final moments of the film feel somewhat cobbled together which results in some of the time travel not making sense but this only becomes a real problem if you think about it too hard. If the ending is taken at its base then it certainly does the job and leaves things quite nicely open to interpretation which I am very much a fan of. “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” has succeeded in getting me to seek out more anime films, as I think I am guilty of overlooking them somewhat.