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?
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 . . .