The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) is a Japanese animated science fiction drama film directed by the award-winning Mamoru Hosoda. It’s based on a 1967 novel of the same name written by Yasutaka Tsutsui and serves as a loose sequel and retelling of the the source material – sharing the same theme and premise.
The film features of the voice talent of Riisa Naka as the titular girl Makoto Konno. She’s joined by Takuya Ishida and Mitsutaka Itakura with Ayami Kakiuchi playing Makoto’s aunt and the main character from the original novel.
It went on to win various accolades from the Sitges Film Festival and Tokyo Anime Awards among others – winning Best Animated Film and earning Hosoda a Director Award as well.
Typically unlucky girl Makoto Konno learns that she has the ability to ‘time leap’ after nearly dying in an unfortunate accident. She begins to use her newly-found powers to her advantage – frivolously giving herself second chances to perfectly play out every mundane moment of her day. She uses it to retake tests, sing karaoke indefinitely, and save herself from awkward situations. She quickly learns, however, that there are consequences to her actions.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time presents an immediately enticing premise that lends itself to a multitude of possibilities. It does well in introducing us to the character of Makoto – an upbeat baseball-loving tomboy who hasn’t thought much about her future but cares so much for her two best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke. Seeing Makoto play with her new powers like a real teenager would lend to the kind of subtle realism that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has.
The film spends a good amount of time developing the character herself and building itself up to the eventual second act twist. While this was undeniably fun to watch, it still felt like it was all build-up (which it was). The film and Makoto didn’t have a clear direction for a good portion of the film.
It’s only until later in the second act that the film really starts to pick up – Chiaki asks Makoto out. The consequences for Makoto’s ‘fixes’ begin to show themselves gradually – linking to the moral that Makoto (and, by extension, we) have to learn.
I found the twist to be a bit out of place. It left more questions that it cared to answer and it broke the established mechanics of the ‘time leap’ while introducing new ones that aren’t explained – such as how did Chiaki make time stop, why was the painting important, and why would he disappear if people from the past learned about the ‘time leap’.
Overall, it wasn’t a big deal. But the unanswered questions could’ve added to us caring for Chiaki and his goals – making his “leaving” all the more impactful.
A major criticism a lot of people have for the film isn’t due to the issues I previously mentioned but is targeted at the impermanence of the deaths of Kousuke and Kaho Fujitani in the ultimate ironic consequence of Makoto’s ‘fixes’.
I don’t really agree with that.
While I do respect that death in storytelling needs to have some weight and value and understand that part of that draws from permanence (as I’ve mentioned multiple times in other reviews), that doesn’t always have to be the case. Because it’s just as important to maintain the tone of the film, even when going for a death that’s purposefully done to contrast from the lighter tones for impact. But with such a lighthearted story as The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, to have a end that’s too heartbreaking would ruin the film overall, in my opinion.
As for visuals, I found the character designs to be a bit bland, even for a film that banks on realism. The animation was chunky and lacked fluidity even when taking into consideration the age of the film. There were long shots of the characters that made them look like potatoes with arms and legs. It was distracting.
That being said, I would like to point out that the background elements and sceneries were breath-taking and pristine – bringing life to the world as if you were actually present for it. Also worth noting were the trippy ‘time leap’ sequences that were just awesome – surreal and enthralling in the Van Gogh sort of way.
The main theme of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is closely tied with its moral and is explicitly stated multiple times throughout the film – ‘Time waits for no one.”
Makoto’s aunt says something near the beginning of the film in regard to Makoto’s ‘time leap’. She says, “Time is irreversible, you know. You can’t reverse the flow of time. Which means that you were the one who went back in time.” I found this interesting because it explicitly differentiates two seemingly synonymous instances.
Even while Makoto can choose to relive the same moments over and over, time does not wait – it moves on and changes. Every ‘time leap’ triggers a butterfly effect that subtlety changes with every instance of a leap.
We first see a very easy-to-miss hint of this in the karaoke scene. The first few times it happens, the trio order a very specific set of drinks: one melon cola and two sodas. This order doesn’t change until the last leap where it becomes: one melon cola, one soda, and a ginger ale. And it’s not even that Makoto changes drinks. There’s a shot that shows that the melon cola is her drink. While they guys first ordered the sodas.
Unfortunately for Makoto, these changes only become even more apparent and their effects begin to manifest in larger, more unpredictable ways – affecting not only herself but also others, such is the butterfly effect.
In the end, the consequences of Makoto’s ‘fixes’ have become too much for her to handle that, with her last leap, she must undo everything.
It’s a lighter variant of the ending of the 2004 American film The Butterfly Effect.
Time, as presented by The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, has a sort of opposing duality to it. On one hand, it’s fragile – unpredictably malleable and subject to even the most subtle change. On the other, it’s unrelenting in its motion – never halting in its progression and change.
Her leaping through time doesn’t give her control over it in an absolute sense. Time still passes her and opportunities presented in previous timelines don’t necessarily reoccur in spite of controlled variables.
This is most apparent in Chiaki and Makoto’s relationship. Makoto had rejected the possibility of Chiaki professing his feelings for her so many times before – actively going out if her way to avoid it. So much so that, by the end, even with her going back far enough to supposedly wipe the slate clean, Chiaki never did again. That opportunity had already passed and is lost to Makoto forever.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a simple yet thoughtful coming-of-age story wrapped in the less-than-simple premise of time travel. While it may often times contradict itself, the film is a light and fresh take on the concept. Overall, it has a strong premise and lovable characters that make it fun, interesting, and mildly compelling.
How did you feel about the ending to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? What’s your favorite Mamoru Hosoda movie? Leave you thoughts in the comments below!
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