Before he would direct 2012’s Wolf Children, acclaimed Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda had a hand in films from the Digimon and One Piece franchises, as well as a few anime television series. But in 2006, Hosoda would release his first major original film, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
The film serves as a very loose sequel to a 1967 Japanese novel of the same name. The novel definitely isn’t required reading to enjoy this film, but there are a couple of nods and winks to avid readers. While the film and novel share the same basic premise, the story and characters are completely different.
Time Waits For No One
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time centers on the story of Makoto Konno, a high school senior who spends her days hanging out with her two best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke. Makoto is kind of… a klutz, to say the least. She’s always late to school, never studies for exams and is rather accident prone.
One day, Makoto discovers she has the power to time travel, which she does by, as the name implies, literally leaping. Makoto’s powers come to her just as she is about to die in a tragic bike accident. Like any other normal teenager would do (sorry Uncle Ben), Makoto takes full advantage of her newfound powers in order to correct past mistakes, both large and small.
While Makoto initially takes great delight in being able to bend time to her will, it is not long before she realizes the consequences that her time leaping has on others. As the film reminds us, time waits for no one. Time also flows like a river, meaning certain events are destined to transpire.
For example, Makoto goes back in time to switch groups with another student in her home economics class, in order to avoid a previously embarrassing situation. This leads to said student making the exact same mistake as Makoto, making him the target of ridicule and bullying for the rest of the film.
This isn’t the only example of Makoto’s meddling with time going bad. One of her friends getting injured in a schoolyard scuffle, a girl getting her heartbroken, someone else taking her place in the bike accident, and even someone getting displaced in time, this film does a good job of driving home the point that time travelers should not directly interfere with past events.
Makoto Konno, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
My favorite part of the film is the heroine, Makoto. She’s a senior in high school, and naturally, is afraid of her post-graduation life. She initially has no idea where she wants to study, or even what she wants to major in. This is a common problem for many students, not to mention the fact that Makoto also has to deal with issues involving time travel.
The most interesting aspects of Makoto’s personal growth are the lessons she learns from time travel, and the impact they have on her character. Makoto’s excessive time leaping begins as the result of her wanting to avoid a particularly embarrassing situation. In spite of all her efforts to avoid said situation, time always finds a way to force her to confront it. By the end of the film, Makoto has learned to face it as a mature adult, no matter how much she wishes to avoid it.
Although many of the bad things that happen to the other characters are the result of her reckless time leaping, it’s worth noting that Makoto’s heart was always in the right place. While she initially uses her powers for her own personal gain, it is not long before she uses them to help others. From something as simple as playing matchmaker, to saving people’s lives, Makoto always had the best of intentions.
Coming Of Age
Similar to Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time takes a classic story framework, and gives it a unique twist. Although the film’s central narrative focuses on time travel, and the negative and positive ramifications that come along with it, it’s really a coming of age story.
A young girl who is trepidatious about her future, and wishes to simply spend time with her best friends, is forced deal with the realities of growing up. And by the film’s end, she is able to face her future with a bright, optimistic smile. Standing strong in the face of uncertainty is an important life lesson, and as Makoto herself knows all too well, time waits for no one.