It’s already a lottery within itself to have an anime series licensed for the UK, but to have multiple versions of the same story – especially one being a translation of the original book – is rarely seen, if at all. But The Girl Who Leapt Through Time proves to be a delightful exception; with the great success of the 2006 animated release, the original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui was officially translated into English for the first time in May 2011, with the 2010 live action film released not long after. The live action adaptation is handled by the same production team as the anime film and has Riisa Naka in the leading role, who also provided the voice of the leading female in the 2006 anime film, so how does the live action version hold up?
Despite the disc case advertising the film as a ‘live action sequel to the hit animated film’, the correct description would actually be as a ‘sequel to the book’ as the original heroine of the 1967 story, Kazuko Yoshiyama, is now grown up and working as a scientist trying to create a time travelling potion. Not long after she discovers an old photo of herself standing next to a mysterious boy, she gets hit by a car and sent to hospital. Whilst in and out of consciousness, she suddenly recalls the name of the boy and the time period she met him in. Unable to go to him in her state she pleads to her daughter, Akari, to travel back in time and deliver to him a message. As Akari is desperate for her mum to get better, she takes the potion and sends herself back in time…however 2 years too late to met the mysterious boy. As she searchers frantically for a way to get her mum’s message to him and return home, she finds herself growing attached to the student filmmaker, Ryota.
Speaking as someone who loved the 2006 anime film, I did also very much enjoy Time Traveller, however in a different way to the anime film as neither of them are very alike. They have light sci-fi elements, similar leading ladies and fall for a boy from another time period; but whilst the anime film mostly centred on Makoto literally leaping through time back and forth to satisfy her teenage girl whims, Akari’s journey on the other hand is driven a lot more by emotion. She thinks little of how ridiculous her mother’s words are when she tells her daughter to drink a time travelling potion to a find a random boy from the past, she just does it because she wants to help her mum. When Akari discovers she’s in the wrong year, she doesn’t hesitate to befriend the boy she (literally) fell on and try other ways – such as finding her mother’s past self and newspaper ads – to deliver the message. Whilst Makoto had more fun with her powers jumping back and forth as she pleases, Akari is stuck where she is so she must accustom herself to the 70s lifestyle and live with Ryota until she can get home. There are a few clever time-travelling aspects here and there in Akari’s journey; such as befriending an actress before she’s known as a famous star in Akari’s time and slowly discovering her father’s identity, but on the whole the time travelling feature is kept to the minimum. Like the book and anime film, the sci-fi elements are used lightly as a plot-driving device – interesting enough to keep the unique flavour of the story but not going in too deeply to draw too many questions, as doing so would most likely make the whole tale fall apart.
The live action film is a coming of age story, and a slower paced one at that. There will be gaps inbetween the comedy and time travel fun where Akari is running around asking questions or helping Ryota with his movie, as a result the film may seem lacking in adventure compare to it’s anime counterpart. What keeps the movie going however is the blooming romance between Akari and Ryota (which is very sweetly done and resonates the original book in a ‘reach for the tissues’ way) with the ending fully utilises the emotion built up between the characters and delivers a dramatic and bittersweet climax. The film isn’t as eventful or bold as the anime, but it still contains the heart, and that is what keeps you glued to the screen even if you’re missing the wacky forward rolls into time.
Also like the anime, the film features a good cast of characters; all of them are lively and warm from the moment they’re on screen. They act human with their jokey ways and several awkward moments, so even if the story is a little out there the characters still keep it grounded. You can’t help but cheer on Akari because she’s so determine to help her mum, you’ll admire Ryota’s passion for filmmaking and smile as his feelings for Akari slowly develops. Fans of the book will also enjoy the return of the original heroine as well as her 2 male companions Kazuo and Goro. The several comedic moments are fun to watch; Ryota’s reaction to a 2010 mobile phone model is priceless and Akari’s slapstick landing onto him when she first arrives in 1974 is well timed.
Music is quite simple for the drama/light sci-fi material, mostly piano based (nice piano melodies, mind) with several J-pop songs to pad it out, overall it’s a nice listen. Special effects are interesting overall; Akari’s journey into the past is done like Alice’s leap into the rabbit hole rather than a Doctor Who experience that the anime went for but it’s still nicely done.
DVD extras include 2 trailers and ‘film clips’ – the latter acts as a cliff notes or highlights reel of the movie. There’s no dub, only options to switch English subtitles on and off.
Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a nice tribute to both the original book and the anime film; it has the likeable characters, creativity and development of the sweet romance that the anime excelled at, whilst at the same time containing the tone and bittersweet ending of the original book. The film may not be as energetic as the anime, the live action film is more coming of age tale with some drama and sci-fi elements mixed in, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie – just a different take on a concept. Despite its slower pace, the story is sweetly told and it’s easy to get invested with the well-acted characters. You don’t need to see the anime or read the book to enjoy this film as the back story is clearly told within the movie; in turn it serves as a great companion to both of them.