While this column has covered anime films in the past, we have only really concentrated on the one studio: Studio Ghibli. For the next few columns we will be instead looking elsewhere.
Mamoru Hosoda did once work for Ghibli, but only for a small period of time. He was originally commissioned to direct one of their films, entitled Howl’s Moving Castle, but he was taken off the project in the early stages. Hosoda did direct some earlier films, but these were spin-offs from more popular anime TV series like One Piece (No. 6). It was not until 2006 that he began directing more original works, this being his first.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was originally a novel written in 1967 by Yasutaka Tsutsui, and it has been adapted several times on TV and in live-action films, with some of the live-action versions also being released on DVD in the UK. Hosoda was the first to make an anime version for the studio Madhouse, although it is not strictly an adaptation. This is a loose sequel. The title character in the novel is the aunt of the title character in this film.
The girl is Makoto Konno, a baseball loving schoolgirl who has a very bad day at school. She is almost late, flunks a quiz, and starts a fire during a cookery lesson. While cleaning up the classroom at the end of the day she happens to fall on top of a strange walnut-shaped device which results in something strange occurring. Returning home from school, Makoto cycles down a steep hill at the bottom of which is a level crossing. She breaks as the barrier comes down, but the breaks fail, she hits the barrier, and leaps into the air into the path of two trains. But she is not hit by the trains. Instead, Makoto suddenly finds herself further up the hill, having avoided the accident.
She meets up with Kazuko Yoshiyama, her fore-mentioned aunt and central character of the original novel, who works as a restorer at the Tokyo National Museum. Kazuko reveals to Makoto that she has the gained the ability to literally leap through time. If she runs fast enough and jumps, she can travel backwards in time, sometimes by a few hours, sometimes by a day or two. After finding about her abilities, Makoto starts using her powers to make live better for herself – avoiding being late, cheating at tests, swapping with people in cookery lessons and so forth. However, Makoto then learns that her leaps are having adverse consequences on those around her. She eventually starts to use her time leaps to people, but discovers that she only has a limited number of jumps, and if she uses them wrongly the end result could be catastrophic.
One of the notable aspects of the film was how much attention it got when it was released. In comparison to other anime feature films, it got relatively little advertising, and it only took in around ¥300 million ($3 million) at the box office. But eventually, word of mouth and positive reviews of the film helped to make it more popular and it ended up picking up several awards too.
Regarding the film itself, it certainly makes entertaining viewing. It contains lots of different elements to please a wide range of viewers. There is romance between Makoto and her friends; there is tension as Makoto gets involves in deadly scrapes such as the train accident; and there is humour, normally in the form of slapstick as Makoto’s constantly leaping means she has plenty of rough landings – into walls, cupboards, road signs, etc. You will find spots to laugh at and to cry at. With a movie like this it certainly helped Hosoda to establish the foundations of a good reputation.
The Girls Who Leapt Through Time is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Manga Entertainment. The most recent live-action version is also on DVD from Manga Entertainment. The original novel is published by Alma Books.