Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki Wo Kakeru Shôjo)

I Believe I Can Fly

The poster of this animated movie looks a little suggestive, but nope, it's actually a wholesome time travel movie which explores a little on the vestment of such powers to a klutzy individual, as well as relationships, and the perennial question of what would anyone do if you have the ability to go back into time, and make changes presumably for the better.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time tells a wonderful story centered on 3 friends, the tomboyish and clumsy Makoto Konono (voiced by Riisa Naka), and two hunks Chiaki Mamiya (Takuya Ishida) and Kousuke Tsuda (Mitsutaka Itakura). Theirs is a friendship formed after school at the baseball court where they spend quality time talking about typical teenage stuff. Things start to change however, when Makoto by accident gets the power to time travel, and in her own ditzy way, uses her new found abilities for "good" - directly for herself, or in some Emma like moments, to influence the outcome of relationships for her friends and play matchmaker.

And that's just scratching the tip of the iceberg. While it's animation style is kept simple and fairly straightforward, it doesn't compromise on the complexity of its storyline. Not that it serves to confuse, rather you'll be amazed by the amount of pathos the story contains, with its various subplots especially when the time travelling stuff kicks in. It has adult sensibilities in the treatment of the plot, and knows exactly when to hit the right emotional chords when warranted.

Although based on a book, the story here serves as a quasi-sequel of sorts which takes place some 20 years later, what I can say is that the love stories intertwined has its major one being able to touch like that in Be With You. I loved that movie, and watching how this bore some similarities, you can't help but feel the same emotions coming across in the same way, nevermind that the characters here are animated, as you can feel the pain, the love, and their despair. And that is something that I should say is difficult for the genre - they're not real persons on screen - but yet being able to evoke emotions and for one to react and empathize, definitely makes it powerful, and a cut above others. Something that our local animated films had failed to do in giving us cold characters and bastardized stories from folklore.

But it's not always all the time serious in tone or mood. The movie has light hearted moments, sometimes bordering on the slapstick, no thanks to the bumbling Makoto character. In a sequence, it was reminiscent of Chinese Odyssey starring Stephen Chow, where each time travel moment gets played ad nausem with different comedic effect. Undoing blunders as we see is not exactly Makoto's forte, and while she may be using her powers in a carefree way, with great powers come great responsibilities (sorry, can't resist that one!)

As usual, anyone can find fault with the time travel paradox which rears its ugly head in any time travel movie, but I would suggest that you park those thoughts aside, and enjoy the story that the Girl Who Leapt Through Time is telling. There are slight attempts at addressing it with its creation of totally new and different realities with each jump, but even then a major paradoxical flaw still exists. At its lowest denominator, the film reminds to seize the day like it's your last, do what's right, and don't be shy in telling someone how you feel about them.

The Best Animated Film of the recent Awards of the Japanese Academy, this film gets my vote of support too with its superbly emotional and touching tale, and with its similarities to that aspect of the film which I like in Be With You, it will be no surprise if this movie finds its way to my Top Ten of the year. Highly recommended!

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