The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is about exactly what it says on the tin. But is this simple premise enough to save the movie from time?
|Genre||Science fiction, romance|
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Mamoru Hosoda is a prevalent name in the anime film industry as of late, making it big with movies such as Summer Wars, Wolf Children, and The Boy and the Beast. And of course, the subject of this review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. He was also known for his work in One Piece and Digimon, giving steady rise to his name.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was loosely based on the novel of the same name, functioning as a sequel of sorts using a similar premise. The novel was popular enough to receive several film and TV adaptations, and this movie is no exception. But since I haven’t read the novel at this point, I won’t be making any comparisons to the source material. We’ll just judge the movie on its own merits.
To Reset Time
Makoto Konno is an average high school girl, a perky tomboy who enjoys spending time with her guy friends (Chiaki Mamiya and Kousuke Tsuda) but doesn’t possess special talents of her own. On July 13th, her day became exceptionally unlucky. She performed poorly on a pop quiz, caused a fire in cooking class, and became collateral damage for two boys horsing around. Later during the day, she wandered into a school science lab and picked up a strange device. Ignoring the strange visions projected by the device, Makoto hurried home.
But because of her bad luck, her bicycle’s brakes no longer worked and she apparently met her demise… until she suddenly jumped backwards into time. This surprising turn of events excited Makoto, later visiting a museum and bringing it up to her Auntie Witch (who is really Kazuko Yoshiyama, the protagonist of the novel).
Through a bit of plot convenience, Kazuko told her niece that she experienced a time leap—and she said it all with a straight face. Even at the news where her niece nearly died from being run over by a train…
So, let’s stop the synopsis for a bit. I can’t help but feel that this plot setup is clumsy in its execution. I know we’re expected to understand that Kazuko experienced time leaps before, which is why the news of time travel doesn’t surprise her one bit. But here are a couple of things to note:
- Makoto just so happens to be the niece of a woman who traveled through time before. How they gained the ability to do so are completely unrelated to one another, so Kazuko’s journey had no direct effect on Makoto’s. So the probability of two members of the same family experiencing time travel (but through different means) would be extremely slim.
- Like pieces of a puzzle fitting together, Makoto happens to come across someone who can explain everything to her, right after Makoto experienced her first time leap. A little too convenient for the plot, don’t you think?
So yeah, this plot setup is quite contrived. It’s not a dealbreaker for me to stop me from watching the rest of the movie, but it is certainly distracting. It softens the whole “unusual” aspect for me when one of the characters is treating it like it’s not a big deal.
The Butterfly Effect
Makoto grew curious about the “time leap,” wanting to learn how to use it. But she found a solution by literally taking a running leap, sending her back to the morning of July 12th. She used the ability again to restart July 13th—the day she experienced bad luck.
Things seem to be looking up for her, as she knows about the bad incidents that would happen to her and she decided to turn the day into one of the best she’ll ever have. She grew addicted to her new ability and began abusing it for small pleasures and conveniences. She avoided accidents, got better grades and even experienced the same meals again.
But soon, Makoto learns that her trips back in time are not as easy that she would have thought. Other people are experiencing consequences meant for her and she ended up ruining other people’s lives by trying to get too deeply involved with their personal matters.
Furthermore, one of Makoto’s friends had a romantic interest in her. And she had no idea how to respond to it, so she used a time leap… again.
So you can kinda see the fault with Makoto’s character here. She is still a child and she’s been given a lot of power here. I think you can see where this leads to.
Because Makoto is afraid to give Chiaki a straightforward answer, she avoids him throughout the middle of the movie. But after seeing him going out with another girl, she grew jealous. And… yeah… Makoto really doesn’t know what she wants… it gets annoying…
Don’t get me wrong. Makoto is a fun character but this immature side of hers can piss me off.
So without giving too much away, I think you already know how the rest of the story is going to progress. Makoto’s actions make things worse and she learns about the consequences.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a rare instance where there is no chief antagonist. Instead, it’s the protagonist dealing with the consequences of her actions. And because much of the movie focused on Makoto just trying to make a few days better for herself (and other people), there’s really no tension for much of the story.
I will admit that the animation is pretty nice and the voiceover work is quite solid. While I did watch the subbed version of the movie, I did watch clips of the English dub—just to throw it out there, the dub is pretty solid too. So just pick your preferences.
Even as I paid close attention to the movie, I don’t feel as invested as I thought I ought to be. From what I know, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a beloved film. But for me, it doesn’t make that same impact.
Most of the characters, aside from Makoto Konno, are rather forgettable. The plot was rather aimless for much of the film and the last 30 minutes especially feel rather off to me. The ending didn’t particularly hit me hard, which made me disappointed overall.
So the key red herring of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is this mysterious painting called The Drawing of White Plum Blossoms, Two Camellia and Chrysanthemums, where Auntie Witch spends time restoring at the local museum. According to her, someone made it hundreds of years ago during a time of war and famine. The actual meaning of the painting is rather ambiguous, but looking at it for a long time supposedly makes you feel at peace.
The last 30 minutes of the movie revealed that Chiaki Mamiya came from the future and that he has the ability to travel through time using the same device that Makoto had. His main reason for doing so is just to see this one painting, because it was destroyed in a fire in his era.
However, the movie never properly explains why he is so desperate to see this painting. He cited it as the only reason he came back in the past in the first place, wanting to “remember it for all his life.” But what he didn’t plan on was living a high school life, where he got to experience life’s pleasures and have friends. From what he mentioned, it was implied that the future turned into a real crapsack world. No rivers, no vast blue skies, very few people, etc.
How and why…? I have no idea…
I want to say that the destruction of the painting itself was what led to a crappier world, but… that’s quite a stretch for a movie with a semi-realistic approach to its world physics. Why would a painting burning away even cause that? There’s no logical conclusion here.
Chiaki revealed that the time device has a limited number of times you can jump back in time. Once it’s all used up, you’re stuck in the era. This is what precisely happened to Chiaki, when he used his final leap to save his friend Kousuke Tsuda and his lady friend from death. But he also revealed that he wasn’t allowed to reveal his secret to anyone, so he mysteriously vanished from Makoto’s sight—despite Makoto promising she wouldn’t tell anyone.
This part doesn’t make much sense to me. Was it because of Makoto’s own foolishness that Chiaki decided to leave (out of disappointment in her)? Or was it for a different reason? It’s not Makoto is simply going to forget that Chiaki existed.
Regardless, it was Chiaki’s departure that made Makoto wake up and realize that she loved him after all. However, Makoto realized she had one final time leap left, so she used it to travel back to July 13th purely to meet Chiaki again.
And somehow… Makoto leaping back into time reversed Chiaki’s own time counter, setting it back to one. This is one of the most confusing parts of the movie. So if Makoto and Chiaki could reverse each other’s time counters, then… why didn’t they…? Wouldn’t that give them unlimited time leaps for a short span of time?
Anyways, Makoto and Chiaki said goodbye to each other. Makoto promised to keep the painting safe for the future and promised to meet Chiaki in the future. Then Chiaki disappeared, presumably returning back to his own era.
This ending honestly baffles me. Not only does the time leap counter reset make no sense, the ending does not explain the significance of the painting at all. Why is this painting so important to Chiaki anyway? Why does he want it to survive in the future? What purpose will that even serve?
All I can gather is that… somehow, the existence of this painting will ensure a better and more peaceful future, during a time of “war and famine”. How and why?
……..Hell if I know.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking: This is meant to be an ambiguous ending, so there is no proper answer. Stop overthinking it. But here’s the thing: I can’t come up with a single, solid conclusion from this open-ended portion that is supposed to make us think about it. Chiaki’s motivations here make no sense. He’s not out to prevent a terrible future from happening. He’s just… here to see a damn painting…
Yeah… time waits for no one…
While The Girl Who Leapt Through Time can be a rather gorgeous film with a pleasant atmosphere to it, the plot lacks any sense of urgency and the drama can feel forced at times—due to our protagonist’s carelessness. Makoto’s spunky disposition is a joy to see, though her childlike stubbornness can get rather annoying. As for the other characters, most of them (with the exception of Chiaki) lack real presence and feel mostly uninvolved. And because the important plot elements lack solid context and barely have any explanation to them, the ending feels incomplete and unsatisfying.
I see two morals to the story:
- Time waits for no one.
- Look before you leap.
As for how The Girl Who Leapt Through Time presents them, I think it’s pretty subtle and the two clash with one another. Through getting used to her time leap ability, Makoto learns to enjoy life to its fullest. Every second, she could be doing something to improve her life: study harder, play harder, etc.
But by abusing her time leap ability more and more, she inadvertently brought misfortune to other people around her. She enjoyed a more luxurious life, at the expense of others. Hence, look before you leap. It’s only when Makoto figures out the truly important things that she was able to make a better future with lesser consequences (such as setting up her friend Kousuke with a girl who likes him). It’s when Makoto is using the time leaps for the sake of others that leads her into a better future.
So by the end of the movie, Makoto learned to strike a balance between the two lessons: enjoy life, but also mind those around you.
Despite my various complaints about the story of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I do think it’s a good movie. Not great, but I appreciate the message it delivers and its general feel-good tone. Take that as you will. It might better strike a chord with other viewers.
Oh, and before I forgot…
Anyone else think Makoto Konno kinda resembles Makoto from Street Fighter in both appearance and personality? Even the same name. I thought that’s rather interesting.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time$35.00
- The time travel aspect is considerably more laidback and mundane compared to other movies with a similar premise (those resulting in heavier drama).
- Makoto Konno is a fun character overall, though she's not without her flaws.
- Art and animation are quite nice, showing a semi-realistic mundane setting.
- The whimsical soundtrack and solid voice acting are quite pleasant.
- Despite the flawed plot, the morals of the story did reach out.
- Some of the plot is rather contrived, such as how Makoto learned about the time leaps and how many she could do later in the movie.
- The plot is rather predictable and lacks urgency.
- Most of the characters lack real presence.
- The ambiguous ending felt more incomplete than something that could have solid conclusions, due to lack of context and evidence to form solid theories.