Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time 時をかける少女 (Hosoda Mamoru 細田守, 2006)

Hosoda Mamoru's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an imaginative story about a girl who accidentally becomes able to go back in time to replay her day's events with a simple leap (its never made explicit, but it seems the harder she leaps, the further she goes back in time, but you never know.) Its basically a shojo style anime where the girl takes center stage and faces tough questions about growing up. Of course, these tough questions are given a new spin because not only can she literally avoid answering them, but change what she says once she says it. The film is so well done, however, that it never becomes even remotely obtuse and is easily followed from beginning to end.

The animation is absolutely gorgeous, combining hand drawn and digital through high tech layering software, and achieving a combined effect of realism and beauty that few cartoons can lay claim to (in this way it felt a sister film to Takahata's Only Yesterday and My Neighbors the Yamadas.) If you find yourself staring endlessly at the backgrounds, you're not alone. Nature is on full display in this film, and the characters that inhabit it never seem far from a stream or flock of birds. Sunlight glinting off of sign posts, fields saturated in pastel greens, and the cozy warmth of indoor nesting play a large part in setting the mood. Character designs are detailed but not distracting, with all the main characters having expressive unique faces that don't veer off into the Anime extremes. The sound is a huge factor in the film, as it should be in all animation in my opinion, with subtle and effective voicework.

I have a feeling this will become one of my most watched animes. It has a sense of humor about itself, but the emotional notes ring very true. You find yourself caught up in a world where reality isn't exactly what it should be, but the stakes aren't all that high in the larger universal context. What you end up with is a story about relationships, ethics, communication, and the inevitability of making mistakes.

Hosoda Mamoru was a Studio Ghibli animator and was set to direct Howl's Moving Castle, but declined and went on to work on his own projects. Howl's Moving Castle seems, in retrospect, like the last movie in the world this director should be involved with. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time reminds me more of Kondo Yoshifumi's If You Listen Closely (or Whispers of the Heart), one of my most beloved films, about a young girl also facing adulthood who lives partly in a world of fancy. For this film he's been nominated for a number of awards, and hopefully will begin work on new projects soon.

This film is available with on DVD with english subtitles in Korea.