Movie a Day Blog takes film recommendations from my students seriously, so when one of them rhapsodized about a movie called THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (2006), I sought it out.
Lo and behold, it seemed to turn up on Amazon Instant as TIME TRAVELLER: THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (2010). Close enough, I thought; maybe they added a new title to the American version. I was seriously wrong, and ended up watching not the anime (lesson: pay closer attention to what students say) masterwork of 2006, but a rather loud and obnoxious live-action version based on the same novel.
TIME TRAVELLER doesn’t work particularly well as a time travel movie, since it seems to play hard and fast with the rules of the genre and concentrates more on the grotesque facial contortions of teen star Riisa Naka.
The story is framed in a sentimental Japanese conceit: Naka’s scientist mother is seriously injured in an accident caused by her sudden flashback to a moment in the past. She comes out of her coma to tell Naka to use a liquid she’s been experimenting with to go back in time and find her one true love so that she can die in peace.
The daughter dutifully obeys, hoping that if she can accomplish her task, it will inspire her mother to live. For some inexplicable reason, Naka gets the date and place she’s supposed to visit mixed up, and arrives two years after the fact.
She ends up developing new relationships of her own, although nobody in 1972 seems to notice that her clothes, hairstyle and references are all completely different from theirs. There are some humorous moments when Naka is the classic fish out of water, but the boyfriend she picks up along the way looks perpetually stunned by some unexpected news, and is hardly the kind of love interest that motivates reaching across the sands of time to be with.
There is the inevitable moment when Naka is tempted to change a major event in the past that would impact thousands of lives, and is prevented from doing so, of course, just in the nick of time. How do you yawn in Japanese?
I’ll still keep an eye out for the anime version, which my student swears is genius, but I have to admit that my ardor is now limited by knowing the predictable story, although two different writers wrote the live action and animated versions. That girl has to leap more meaningfully through the anime version of time than her real-life counterpart did. This version of TIME TRAVELLER never even gets off the ground.