Time Traveler: It’s Cruel but It’s History

I loved the Girl Who Leapt Through Time, who didn’t? That was a sequel to the original novel story The Girl Who Ran Through Time. This movie doesn’t really have any trigger like leaping or running so I’d call it the Girl Who Fell Through Time, maybe. It also only has one big movement through time as opposed to a bunch of little ones.

Well “The Girl who Drank a Magic Science Potion That Made Her Then Run Through a Weird Blue Screen Sequence to Go Back in Time” does not really roll off the tongue. It is possibly better than what I was going to name this article, “Time Travelers Never Do Nothing For No One” or just have a link to a certain anime song that I use whenever time travel comes up. But I guess that is why we trade-off writing the article names.

But in all seriousness Time Traveler: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is based on one of those stories like A Christmas Carol or Romeo and Juliet that is constantly remade and re-imagined. The original story The Girl Who Runs Through Time is a Japanese science fiction classic. It has been remade in several movies, TV series, and specials. This and the film by Mamoru Hosoda are both sequels that deal with younger relatives of the orignal protagonist. Thankfully you don’t need to have experience the orignal story to get into this movie. While familiarity with the original does add a bit of depth you might have otherwise missed it is not vital. The wink and the nod to the smell of lavender can be caught by fans of the original but are not necessary to anyone watching this as a stand alone experience.  This story stands well on its own as its own time traveling love story.

Akari Yoshiyama seems to have luck on her side. She just got into the school of choice and her life seems on track for a brilliant future. But when her mother is hit by a car it seems that her problems actually lie in the past. Before falling into a coma her mother asks Akari to go back in time and give a message to a young man. As ridiculous a request as that seems it appears her mother has a formula that can make it happen. But when Akari is two years off in her trip back in time she must team up with a young science fiction director to deliver her message. Can Akari find this mysterious man without permanently damaging the time space continuum?

Akari’s mother perfects her time traveling water (?) at the start of the film, but before she can do anything with it she gets into an accident and hits her head. When she hits her head she remembers her past and then insists her daughter Akari go back in time to tell her 70’s schoolhood love something. But Akari gets her dates mixed up and ends up a couple of years too late. I had to discuss it to understand why she got the dates mixed up, but it did make sense!

Still Akari ends up in the 70s and I rather enjoyed that she literally falls for Ryota. Once she realizes she’s made an error, Akari begins searching for her mother’s friend anyway with the help of Ryota.

The ease at which Ryota slips into Akari’s pace is one of the best developed parts of the movie. While at first I was surprised how little convincing he needed to believe this girl was from the future, the reasons emerged. Ryota was a fan of science-fiction and was even in the midst of filming a movie featuring space with his college friends. Even if Akari was a deusional girl who hadn’t really come from the future, I think Ryota would have believed her anyway because he wanted to.

The depiction of the 70s was fun little piece to the story but doesn’t have much of an effect on the story overall. Akari’s school uniform is not that out of place and when she changes into 70s clothes she just looks like a cool retro girl. The fashions of the guys on the other hand really places it in the time.

Much like the original story this is very much a bitter-sweet love story. If you are expecting the generally optimistic tale of Hosoda’s take on the story you will be disappointed. This movie sort of lives in both nostalgia and melancholy. The movie distinctly has a Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May feeling because even time travel will not help you erase your regrets and missed opportunities.

Unlike the alternate version there is only one real leap. Akari has enough time travel elixir to travel back once to give Kazuo Fukamachi a message and then just enough to get back home. Therefore once she lands in the 70s she is pretty much stuck there until the end of the movie. That does let the movie really live in its time period. As Narutaki pointed out you see the 70s fashion everywhere in the movie. The guys especially stick out with their disco fashion and haircuts. Even Ryota’s movie is a piece of classic amateur sci-fi as well. Everything from the cheesy special effects to the future jumpsuits is so very 70s. The movie revels in the period giving in a good sense of place. It definitely lets you soak in 70s Japan.

At the same time there is a constant feeling of melancholy. There is clearly a romance between Akari and Ryota developing but there is the unstated fact that Akari eventually has to return where she came from. Therefore anything that happens is doomed to be a fleeting romance and nothing more. The movie starts off carefree but there is always a sense that things are not meant to last. We don’t see much of Ryota’s movie, The Planet of Light, but it is clear that while abstracted the movie is an encapsulation of the story as a whole. The fact that the couple in the movie dies so very close to each other but still light years part if clearly a piece of symbolism for the greater story. When the end comes it is slightly unexpected but telegraphed at the same time. Somethings are just always destined to be.

The ending of this movie is very bitter and I felt conflicted about it, Akari has no effect on the past or the future from what we can tell. So there is a lot of sadness and tragedy that transpires. While I realize that changing the past can be a dangerous prospect (as do the time travelers in this movie) it doesn’t prevent me from being a romantic; hoping the future is a bit better than when Akari left it.

I was a little surprised that certain things I assumed would happen never did. When you experience enough time travel stories you begin to pick up on little tropes. I saw things at the beginning of the movie that I assumed would pay off in certain ways. You would learn about certain events or discover certain items and I assumed they would either be the echoes of Akari’s actions or changed by Akari. In the end they are all very important markers but not in the ways I expected. This is much more Doctor Zhivago than Back to the Future if you catch my drift.

In the end, I think I enjoyed this movie because no matter what the outcome I liked the bond created between Akari and Ryota. Because of the time traveling aspects, one should be prepared for the bittersweetness that comes with it.

Sequels and spin offs can be a tricky affair in general. If you are too much like the original it seems like a rehash but if you are too different you have to wonder why it is a sequel at all and not its own story. Overall Time Traveler wisely startles the line and tells its own story while nicely complementing the orignal. It builds upon the themes of the first movie while telling its story in a different but related manner. Unlike other works in the same setting Akari knows exactly what is going on fairly quickly. It is more a matter on figure out how to do it.

This movie is about being a stranger in a strange land even if the area is fairly familiar. But even more than it is about how all things are fleeting even when it seems like you have all the time in the world. It is more important to enjoy what time you do have then wish that you had more. No matter than happens time well spent will be forever ingrained in your heart no matter how transient it is.

One thought on “Time Traveler: It’s Cruel but It’s History

  1. Glenn from Winnipeg says:

    I agree the funniest scene was the feather floating down …. then her … and (wait for it) .. then the bag. Great comic execution .. and the gag (ironically?) was in the timing of delivery.

    The ending, I’m not sure if their intent was something particularly deep, but I agree that it allows the viewer to reflect their own thought into interpreting it. Her crying and not knowing why (wonderfully acted as it had to be to pull off the ending) .. I think it reflects on a mix of karma and how some people see and feel beyond “the world pulled over our eyes” (from the original Matrix) to have almost an instinctual perception of thing that they cannot quite put a finger on.

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