The Girl Who Leapt Through Time jumps forward with inventive narrative gears producing a multi-layered clock. "Time waits for no-one". Ever wanted to go back in time and avoid a certain conversation or pass your exams (knowing the answers beforehand) with that elusive one hundred percent rating? Makoto did, and dare I say I would watch her do it all again. Hosoda is an acclaimed director of the Japanese animation genre, particular with his accessibility for Western audiences. However one of his first films that broke through the international spectrum was this, a science-fiction romance that boasts both hilarity and drama. Upon reflection, despite the frivolous shenanigans, it's a meaty story. Acting as a personable coming-of-age drama that ticks along perfectly. A teenage girl acquires the power to leap back in time, and so she starts to resolve minor problems that she and her friends experience. However she starts to realise that messing with time causes fatal consequences.
The ability to seamlessly blend a variety of genres and still maintain adequate character development for central protagonist Makoto all comes down to Okudera's pragmatic screenplay. He takes the idea from the original 1967 novel and questions the motives of a teenager if they were to acquire such power. They wouldn't leap back in time to stop a war or change the course of worldwide history. They would time travel to match-make their best friend or consume their mother's delicious Wednesday night dinner again. It's a personable story to Makoto, which is why the plot feels so involving. You believe in her actions. We watch her grow as a young woman every time she "time-leaps", in an attempt to improve her life. But naturally, changing the course of time for one's personal gain consequently results in others having their timelines affected. Makoto rapidly realises that her life is altering for the worse, despite having control. A romance blossoms and then swiftly dissipates. Her friends too busy to play baseball with her. It's small narrative alterations like these that prove the time-shifting narrative structure is as effective as ever. Hosoda inventively recycles the same scenes, as Makoto travels back in time, to comedic effect as she attempts to perfect each scenario. He then culminates her journey into this pivotal scene involving a train and then it hits you. This wave of realisation. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Makoto's to be precise. And I have to admit, it's a near perfect resolution.
The rules and laws of "time-leaping" are set out from the start and Okudera frequently leaves breadcrumbs for further developments, such as Makoto mysteriously garnering markings on her arm. Where he does fail though is the third act, which is all too common in sci-fi anime flicks. The entire story and character motives are explained through a long succession of verbal diarrhoea, and is abhorrently uninspired. It lacks the impact and inventiveness of the story that preceded it, basically hand-holding the audience relinquishing all sense of mystery. A five minute scene almost diminishes the entire story, but fortunately Hosoda gets back on track and delivers a conclusion that made me stand up and shout "I ship them!". Sweet, tender and executed with the correct amount of sensitivity.
The animation is stunning as to be expected, particularly the moments where time stops and characters are floating in mid-air. The bustling environment harnessed bright colours and character movements were fluid. There are a few scenes where background characters lack detail and look somewhat unfinished, but it's all part of the charm. Also to note that Yoshida's score was exceptional, especially the piano tracks. Suitable for that summer sweetness and chaotic classroom life. And probably for the first time ever, I actually liked the English dub. Suffice to say I loved the film. Adored it even. If a film manages to push me into shouting at my TV "Run! Find him before it's too late! Embrace him!" then it's a success. Hosoda is the man! Oh, be right back, just going to travel back in time so I can watch this again.