Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo Review: The Consequences of Time Travel and the Value of an Ordinary but Stable Present

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My school’s art club began watching the movie Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo, or The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, before winter break began.  Since we never got around to finishing the movie there, I figured I should watch it on my own since the thought of leaving a movie hanging for many weeks didn’t seem pleasant.  The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a movie I’ve wanted to get around to for a while, particularly because I’m a huge fan of time travel anime.  The Girl Who Leapt Through Time feels a lot more down to earth than a vast majority of the time travel stories I’m familiar with and is quite different in nature from the rest (in large part because it focuses on the use of time travel in everyday life as opposed to in stories of a much greater scale with a notable sense of danger).  While it wasn’t the greatest experience out there and I personally wouldn’t rank it as highly as, say, Steins;Gate, it is still a very worthwhile watch with quite an enjoyable story.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is about Makoto Konno, a pretty ordinary high school girl.  Makoto enjoys the simple days having fun with her two friends, Chiaki Mamiya and Kousuke Tsuda.  However, this changes dramatically once she discovers that she has gained the ability to (literally) leap through time.  At first, Makoto uses her new ability to restart her bad school day, acing her tests and avoiding the unfortunate accidents that plagued her throughout.  Makoto constantly uses her new ability for minor things and attempts to use it to enjoy herself as much as possible with how she can deal with time.  However, what seem to be minor changes ultimately begin to pile up and Makoto encounters a number of problematic ordeals, concerning both her own thoughts and a number of external factors.  Makoto discovers how disastrous careless use of time travel can be, hoping to restore the days of her mundane life before everything truly falls apart.

The movie’s story is certainly what I enjoyed most.  I typically gravitate toward time travel stories so this is no surprise to me, though it is not just the time travel element that makes the movie a captivating watch.  The plot develops in a very interesting way and while it begins slowly, many significant events shift the tone of the movie as it progresses.  The story has a slice of life feel to it early on, as that is essentially what it is in the beginning: a look at the simple, normal life Makoto has.  Even right after receiving her time travel abilities, the story still feels like a slice of life, just with the added time leap touch to show just how Makoto’s life has changed.  While this part of the story is fairly entertaining and pretty amusing for the most part, it is not until the story becomes more serious in nature that it truly becomes so exciting.  On one hand, Makoto’s time travel journey exposes her to a great deal of romantic tension as she not only tries to intervene for the sake of building other relationships but also finds herself questioning what she truly feels about the bonds she shares with her friends.  This does make for interesting development and adds significantly to the character roles, but the real meat of the story does focus on the issue of time travel’s repercussions.  There are a few dramatic plot twists that are considerably more shocking than the rest of the movie and the explanation about the time leap ability itself makes for some very interesting exposition both on the world the movie takes place in and the characters themselves.  These elements not only make for an engaging story but also serve to emphasize the themes of the movie as a whole.

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Compared to the story itself, I wasn’t especially invested in the cast.  The cast isn’t necessarily bad and the characters play their roles well for all it’s worth, but character development does feel limited and most of the characters don’t stand out much.  Makoto is pretty much the typical girl she seems to be, and while I suppose unremarkable might be a valid way to describe her, it is because of this fact that the story progresses in the way it does.  Makoto isn’t the most powerful, memorable, or developed character and she is not an especially fantastic character on her own, but her role in the movie is completely fitting for the tone of the story and truly drives the events above all else.  Chiaki, my personal favorite in the cast, has fantastic interactions with Makoto and is part of some of the most memorable scenes of the movie as he is very relevant to the story.  While Chiaki is presented as a relaxed and carefree teenager at first, more of his character is revealed as the movie goes on and while I can’t necessarily label his screen time as “development” per say, it is very significant and facilitates the vast majority of what development Makoto has.  Kousuke has a decent chunk of screen time and is connected to certain important events of the movie, though his character is not nearly as fleshed out as Makoto’s or Chiaki’s.  Most of the other characters play a much more minor role in comparison, though there are some that stand out a bit more than the rest.  Yuri Hayakawa, Makoto’s best friend, is around for much of the movie and while she isn’t a big focus, she is closely connected to some areas of Makoto’s development.  Kaho Fujitani, a girl who is in love with Kousuke, is also fairly important to the story and does get a good amount of focus for a portion of the movie.  While most of the cast is relatively ordinary and straightforward, this does keep consistency with the movie as a whole, as one aspect that is important to the events is the fact that the cast is largely meant to fall under the category of regular people.  The Girl Who Leapt Through Time establishes a realistic atmosphere for the most part, and while the plausibility of many of the events is indeed questionable for obvious reasons, the setting itself displays the lives of ordinary individuals who are impacted by the extraordinary changes generated via time travel.

Like many other time travel stories, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time presents the consequences of time travel and how much the butterfly effect can cause events to spiral out of control.  This was a key element in Steins;Gate as well, though these two stories are told in very different ways and have very little in common as far as characters and atmosphere.  Many of the anime series I’ve seen that include time travel (which I hesitate to name as just about all of them would be spoiled to some extent by naming them as series with this element) do not focus primarily on this issue, in large part because the time travel element serves more as a way to drive the story itself without any actual contribution to the themes overall.  As such, it was nice to go back to an anime in which time travel was one of the most fundamental elements.  While the butterfly effect is hardly a new or uncommon theme in time travel stories, I felt it was used well for the sake of this movie.  Beyond simply portraying the worst case scenarios that can be generated from going back in time, the movie emphasizes how important the present is and just how much value one’s life at the moment has.  Life may have been mundane and a bit repetitive for Makoto and friends, yet the discoveries she makes after excessive time leaping make her realize just how much she treasured that mundane life, fearing any sort of change that could break that pace.  One cannot rely on a convenient device such as time travel to bypass all obstacles in life, and many elements of the story highlight just how important it is to make the most of what exists now, before everything truly does change in a way that can never be reversed.  Even if the daily routine feels dull and pointless, perhaps there is value to such a simple thing, as such simple times may be gone in a flash.  Makoto and her friends approach the end of high school and begin to contemplate their plans for the future, and as a student that’s going to graduate high school soon myself, I can certainly relate in that regard.  The future is uncertain and there may be no way to prepare for some of the things that lie ahead, which is all the more reason to stop and consider what to appreciate in the world that exists today.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was quite an enjoyable movie, and while I do wish the characters felt more developed overall, the story was a very interesting watch and I definitely appreciated how the story handled time travel.  While it may not have been my most amazing anime movie experience, it was easily worth seeing and it does not feel entirely like most of the anime I’ve seen.  Even series such as Steins;Gate with some similar themes and storytelling devices develop in very different ways.  For me, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time would be an 8/10.  From what I’ve heard, this film was actually a sequel of sorts to the original novel and I would certainly like to look more into the series as a whole to see what else it can offer.  Some more time travel series would be nice in general, there are probably many I’ve missed out on that I should give a try.

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    • Kori’s Anime
    • January 16th, 2014

    Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is one of my favorite Anime Movies I’ve seen so far and Mamoru Hosoda is one of my favorite movie directors as well (next to Satoshi Kon). While this movie did have some issues with the character development, I would argue that character development is not always necessary and a show or movie can (to a certain extent) work without Character Development, if the characters are likeable enough. If you remember, Steins;Gate did only have few characters that actually developed, but had a really likeable cast and a strong story. I feel like this show is kind of similar, just with even less development, but I can forgive that, since it is a Movie and didn’t have as much time. Even though I say that, the character still weren’t the point of the show but the story and most importantly the atmosphere and that is what I love about the movie. For me it’s a 9/10, but that might just be me going easy on an Anime again^^

    • Sorry for the super late reply, my schedule’s gotten pretty troublesome with school around again and I’ve been pretty laggy on getting back to people.

      That’s true, this movie wasn’t necessarily a character focused one so I can’t fault it too much for not adding more to the characters. More than anything it was really about its story and themes, and with those I cannot deny that this movie did an excellent job. As for Steins;Gate, it’s hard to describe its “development” per say as much of the development sticks only with Okabe as the experiences of the others get reset constantly. Perhaps development wasn’t the right word for me to use, but rather characterization. Steins;Gate does an amazing job with characterization and it makes nearly every character relevant to its story. I don’t feel any of the cast is a wasted space in the story and all of them have depth to them and moving stories beyond the silly quirks introduced in the more relaxed, slice of life style story of the first half of the anime.

      Anywho, this is a movie so development time is limited so the cuts to areas I personally would have preferred are understandable for sure. This movie did very well with what it set out to do so I can’t complain too much. For me it’s an 8/10 primarily because I’m really big on characters (typically more so than story, though that’s not to say I can’t appreciate an incredibly written story) and the story took some time to really pick up, but that’s personal stuff more than anything and it’s not much I can blame the movie for. There’s nothing wrong with you giving it a 9/10, I’ve seen a good share of people rate it 10/10 and I can see why. I may not have loved the movie on quite that level, but it all comes down to subjective enjoyment and in the end that matters a lot more than whatever random criticism other people have to say.

  1. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s one of my favorite anime movies of all time.

    • Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been occupied with a lot of schoolwork lately so I’ve been quite busy.

      Glad to hear it’s one you really liked. It was very much a worthwhile watch and different from a lot of the ones I’ve gotten into, even if I do lean toward time travel stories. I’ve only seen a few anime movies I really loved so I really should get around to watching more when I get the chance.

    • Kai
    • February 24th, 2014

    The Girl Who Leapt Through Time shows that you don’t need to make an massive scale avant-grade plot to tell a time-travel story^^ It’s a good movie. As for the character development, it’s been a long time since I last watch it, but I would say that Makoto’s a changed person by the end of the movie – she learned to live in the present. In fact, I would even say that time travel isn’t the main focus of the story, but a foundation for Makoto’s character development.

    • Indeed, something about this movie that stands out compared to other time travel stories in anime is that it’s a lot more down to earth and really focuses more on what happens if an ordinary person gets a hold of the extraordinary powers, whereas a lot of other anime have either outrageous settings or clearly unique characters that are shaped by the influence of time travel. Makoto certainly has grown in some form, she isn’t necessarily a massively changed person but it is true she has come to value the life she has and to make the most of what’s around her instead of depending on special abilities as an easy fix. And that really is the idea the movie was going for so it did a pretty good job with that. The time travel was primarily used to build this aspect of the story, though I often find myself quite intrigued by the time travel setups of series and the implications they come with.

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