Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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It’s been roughly 30 years since Yoshiyama Kazuko, the heroine of the original novel, had her time traveling adventure. She has since grown up to become a researcher, still looking for a formula that will enable her to travel back in time. However, a tragic car accident sends her into a coma. Hearing a story about her mother’s first love in 1972, Kazuko’s daughter Akari believes that discovering and bringing back her mother’s first love will make her awake from her coma. Following the formula prescribe by her mother, Akari accidentally time travels back to the year 1974–a full two years after her mother’s first love. Here she meets college student Ryota, who decides to help her on her search. Along the way, a romance blossoms between the two, but Akari knows that she will eventually have to return to 2010, ultimately leaving Ryota behind.

Author Tsutsui Yasutaka’s 1967 novel Toki wo Kakeru Shojo has had considerable success within Japan, resulting in a variety of artistic outlets to iterate and expand the original story. Whether through film, television dramas, manga, and most recently that of 2006 animated film, the Toki wo Kakeru Shojo franchise has been re-imagined to accommodate new generations with the classic tale of time leaping, promise, and love. Acting as a direct sequel to the original novel, the 2010 Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time explores the generational experience with that of time travel, this time following the original protagonist’s daughter as she ventures into the past. Those familiar with the original film and/or novel will find much to appreciate here as it references plenty of source material to complement the original, including that of ultimately concluding the original novel’s storyline.

Filling the role of the main heroine this time is Riisa Naka, an actress who injects considerable enthusiasm and playfulness into her character. As the voice actress of the main protagonist of the 2006 animated film, Riisa effectively brings forth the same charisma as viewed within that role to this film. Viewed as a more energetic role than perhaps many of the past interpretations, she provides some much-needed originality to a character role that is often viewed rather dramatically throughout the series. This garners the film a more comedic tone within its first half, but then slowly changes to that of the dramatic as it nears its conclusion, which is quite similar to the way in which the animated film was conveyed. Another aspect that is sure to please long time viewers of the series is its inclusion of past characters. This works out well to establish some linkage to past films while also providing the opportunity for past conflictions to finally be resolved. While some might disagree in the way these conclusions our handled within the film, they still offer a solid foundation in which to conclude the series, if they ever choose to do so.

What’s relatively surprising about this film—and the franchise in general—is just how consistently creative it remains considering its abundant reinterpretations. For a franchise that has had numerous interpretations of its plot throughout the course of nearly 30 years, Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is still able to offer yet another unique take on the time traveling heroine. While the device of time travel has always been a main component within telling the story, the films have steadily remained focused upon the personal dilemmas of its characters, never allowing the use of time travel to take over the course of its story. This is even more visible within this film, mainly because the element of time travel is only performed twice throughout and doesn’t remain a huge aspect of the film like some of its predecessors. At its core, the film focuses upon the notion of promise and how one can fulfill that promise despite the passing of time. This notion was explored in the original 1983 film, and it works exceptionally well here even more so given the rather vivid relationships shared amongst the characters. While the familial bond was only a minor aspect of the 2006 animated film, here it’s utilized as the catalyst to promote the story and is viewed as major element in concluding the storyline from the 1983 film.

With this film focusing primarily on the familial relationships shared amongst its cast, it once again explores the platonic love that develops between the main heroine and an individual from the past. This aspect, while certainly a considerable element of the film’s latter half, is not entirely realized here. While one can see their relationship as authentic in many regards—and the emotional backing is expressed adequately as well—the way it develops is treated rather hastily. This is rather unfortunate considering that the film provides great background concerning the maternal relationship shared between Akari and her mother, but does little in showcasing the development of Akari and Ryota’s relationship, which becomes an important element as the film nears its conclusion. What we are offered is a relationship that is seemingly presented as one-sided throughout the film, but is eventually expressed as a mutual one only when the direst of consequences present themselves. While the emotional impact is still prevalent, more time spent exploring the fruition of their relationship would’ve made the conclusion considerably stronger and in a better sense, simply more believable.

Overall, Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is still a wonderful addition to the established universe of Yasutaka’s novel, even if its somewhat inadequate in terms of fully developing its relationships. Considering the longevity of the series, the aspect of originality is certainly brought into question, but the element of creativity is still present. This quality stems primarily from its characters, especially that of actress Riisa Naka who does an effective job at revitalizing and representing the role of the heroine of the series. Fans of 2006’s animated film will appreciate her honest and quirky portrayal within this film, which establishes a new approach as to how one may view the main heroine in the Toki wo Kakeru Shojo series. And while the usage of time travel is not as eccentric as past films, the film’s ample focus on familial affairs and long withstanding promises remains at the forefront. Whether this is the final film in the series is certainly up for speculation, but what Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time provides is a satisfying and complementary conclusion that is sure to please fans—both new and old alike—of its classic tale of time travel, love, and loss.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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  • Jin

    Just saw the Anime, now very curious to see how a live action version would unfold!