Time Traveller – The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 117 minutes
High school student Akari Yoshiyama (Riisa Naka) is on top of the world after passing her mid term exams but tragedy strikes when her pharmaceutical researcher mother Kazuko (Narumi Yasuda) is knocked down by a car and ends up in hospital. Before slipping into a coma, Kazuko asks Akari to fulfil a unique and unusual task for her – drink a special liquid in her lab that will enable time travel so she can deliver a message to an old flame, Kazuo Fukamachi (Kanji Ishimaru), in 1972.
Naturally Akari is sceptical but not wanting to let her mother down, she acquiesces only to discover that the liquid actually works and Akari is indeed projected back in time. Unfortunately, being a bit of ditz, Akari got her dates mixed up and arrives in 1974 instead falling – literally – into the life of aspiring filmmaker Ryota Mizorogi (Nakao Akiyoshi).
The most well known of the many adaptations of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1963 novel in this country is the 2006 Anime feature from Mamoru Hosada, which will assuredly draw much attention to this title through association. However this is not a live action retelling of the Anime at all – in fact it is an entirely different story altogether as you may have already divined from the above synopsis.
If anything this film has a case of being an unofficial sequel to the novel as Tsutsui’s original protagonist is now the mother of the schoolgirl time traveller. Also returning from the novel as adult versions of themselves are Kazuko’s childhood love Kazuo Fukamachi and her good friend Goro Asakura (Shota Chiyo), but the conceit of the story in this film is that Kazuo doesn’t appear to exist in 1974 making Akari’s mistake a rather costly one. Not even a teenage Kazuko (Anna Ishibashi) has any recollection of him in one of many inadvertent Back To The Future tributes to be found here.
Speaking of which, Ryota, the poor sap Akari relies on for help, is a sci-fi film maker (remember George McFly in BTTF was a sci-fi writer) and inevitably cupid’s arrow strikes between the two; convenient since there is no mention of Akari’s father anywhere in this film, certainly not by Kazuko when issuing her request to her daughter.
Thus we have the same teasing of the time paradox problem and the existential “chicken and the egg” dilemma of Akari being in the same place and time as her mother which is an apparent concern come the final act when the big surprise twist arrives to remind us of the golden rule of time travel – you must not change the past. Kudos to director Masaaki Taniguchi and screen writer Tomoe Kanno for keeping this in mind to deliver a darker denouement than one would expect from what is essentially a fantasy romp.
Where Time Traveller is likely to falter in some eyes is the middle section plays out more like an angsty romantic melodrama than a sci-fi romp and slows the pace down a notch, but thankfully it avoids slipping into mawkish sentimentality despite teetering close on a couple of occasions. What keeps the energy going is leading lady Riisa Naka – who voiced Makoto Konno, the protagonist in the Anime version – who presents us with a likeable enough heroine although she lacks some of the charisma of her prior animated incarnation.
The remainder of the cast provide suitable support seemingly aware that it is easy to ham it up for such a project and thus rein it in accordingly to ensure the right mood is achieved. Director Taniguchi, in his debut feature, decided to keep things rooted in reality as much as possible, with his realisation of 1970’s Tokyo looking exceptionally authentic in its minimalism, meaning suspension of disbelief is only required in small doses.
Overall Time Traveller is a worthy addition to the The Girl Who Leapt… franchise -just as along as people remember this is nothing like the Anime and are willing to judge it on its own merits in its own context.
Ratings – Main feature ***/5
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