Writers: Yasutaka Tsutsui (novel), Satoko Okudera (screenplay)
Yet again, the great country of Japan has produced a near-perfect animated film. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a visually stunning, surprisingly emotional masterpiece. Its unique visual style separates it from other great animated films, plus the story and characters are beautifully developed. It piqued my imagination and made me wonder if there is more to this world than meets the eye. Without a doubt, the story is what makes this such a masterful film. Its other attributes are the cherry on the cake. The style lies somewhere between sci-fi and drama, with a twist of romance towards the end. At times the film had me feeling terribly emotional because there's so much happiness and innocence in the story, but also searing moments of tragedy and heartbreak. This is easily one of the greatest animated films ever made.
Makoto is a your average, precocious teenage girl. She wakes up late for school, gets into all sorts of trouble, and she wishes she could sort her life out so that there is more time for work and fun. Her two best-friends, Chiaki and Kosuke, are always there to give advice or tag along. On a particularly bad day, she finds herself in the worst possible situation. Somehow she manages to leap through time, where she finds herself in the past, minutes before the bad events occur. Makoto learns about time-leaping, and uses it for light-hearted entertainment purposes. It's when she time-leaps to reverse big events in her life, that the drama truly unfolds. All things are explained by the end of the film, where there's a crazy and beautiful twist at the very end.
Obviously, I loved the story more than anything. It just unleashed a world of possibilities in my mind. What would I do if I had that power? It also raised a million questions about the plot, the main one being: how come Makoto can time-leap? There was a lot going on with this time-travelling element of the film, which is why the high-school drama aspect is a nice way to combat the complication. It's hard to capture the essence of what it is to be a teenager. We all have our secret crushes, our hobbies, our close-friends and our flaws. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time managed to produce realistic teenagers with problems that many of us can relate to. It's through the excellent character building and honest dialogue that we can truly form a bond with Makoto, and become invested in her mind-bending story.
The animation is quite different from that of Disney and Studio Ghibli. I give it an A+ for the astonishingly beautiful background images and scenery, but a 'B' for the animation of the characters. When we see characters walking from a distance, they seem out of place with the backgrounds. It looks like they've been animated onto a pre-painted background (which is a common technique in animation). That's the only problem I had really. That small nit-pick is what prevented me from submersing into that environment. Other than that, it truly looked flawless. I also think the music was wonderful too. I still think it could have used a masterful score by Joe Hisaishi, or just something entirely beautiful from any composer... it would have given this film the extra kick it needed to become a masterpiece. In the end, everything just seemed 'near-perfect' rather than flawless.
What I love most about this film is the underlying messages behind the amazing story. It's really telling us to not put things off, and take a chance. If you like someone, tell them how you feel before it's too late. If there's something you truly want to do in life, chase that dream. As much as we'd like to think the world will wait for us, it won't. All you can do is seize the day, and make sure that you wander through life without regret, knowing that you've at least tried your best to get what you want. On top of all this, it also sends the message to do the right thing and be a good person.
I'm sure there are inconsistencies regarding the little details of time-travel, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. I loved The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It's an unforgettable tale... a tale that managed to make me take a look at my life, and judge whether I'm truly chasing my dream. It's funny, sad, and utterly beautiful. Give this masterful animated film a watch. It may be known as a 'classic' in future.