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