VOICES OF: Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida, Mitsutaka Itakura, Ayami Kakiuchi, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sachie Hara, Yuki Sekido

2006, 98 Minutes, Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda

The only thing that mars this near perfect full-length anime movie is the over-emotionalism that is so typical of the genre . . .

You will never see anime heroines stoically accepting their fate or merely a solitary tear rolling down their cheeks. No, instead they will bawl hysterically like a cartoon baby making sure audiences get the point that the character is indeed very, very unhappy!

This aside The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is sheer brilliance, a small scale science-fiction anime that plays out more like an intimate drama than the usual kitchen-sink-and-all pyrotechnics of more action-based examples of the genre such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Makoto Konno (Riisa Naka) is a teenage girl who one day has a bizarre accident at her high school’s laboratory and afterwards finds that she can literally leap backwards through time.

What does Makoto do with this unexpected gift? Change history by going back in time and killing Hitler? Prevent the 911 attacks? No, Makoto’s concerns are more prosaic and she does the sort of thing that anyone else of us would probably have done in the same situation: avoid socially embarrassing situations, make sure she gets to eat that piece of cake in the fridge before her little sister gets her hands on it, be on time for class and of course cheat on her exams. Hey, who wouldn’t?

"Sheer brilliance!"

However with each jump she finds that her altering the timeline has an adverse effect on those around her. Also, in true Groundhog Day style she sometimes manages to make certain situations worse for herself. Time waits for no-one as someone has written on her classroom’s blackboard and despite her jumping back in forth in time to change certain events in her personal life Makoto will soon begin to understand this. She is on the cusp of womanhood and the more she paradoxically tries to make things stay the same by changing them, the more they do inevitably change . . .

Cleverly written with the plot always veering into unexpected directions, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time boasts the sort of low-key but adequate animation that never calls attention to itself. After all, the focus is on the story which is genuinely emotionally affecting thanks to some very human and likeable characters. (Note: It may be animation and not particularly violent or anything, but The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is aimed at adult animation fans and not at children.)

Ultimately The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a gentle antidote to the usual violent excesses of the genre. Blood-thirsty teenagers probably won’t like it, but anyone seeking some intelligent story-telling will definitely warm to it.

Anime for people who can’t usually be bothered with anime . . .

By the way, classical music fans might be interested to know that Bach’s Goldberg Variations are used prominently on the soundtrack. (It is the solo piano music playing when Makoto has her accident in the science lab.) Movie fans will of course know the music as the recording playing in John Cleese’s study that made Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) decide in the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still that humanity may be worth saving after all. It is also Hannibal the Cannibal’s favorite piece of music in Silence of the Lambs and its various spin-offs. Make of that what you will . . .


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