Japanese author Tsutsui Yasutaka’s eternally popular 1967 sci-fi romance novel ‘Toki wo Kakeru Shojo’ receives another screen outing with “Time Traveller, the Girl who leapt through Time”. This latest version was produced with full approval of the novelist, with a script from Sugeno Tomoe and first time director Taniguchi Masaaki at the helm. Essentially building upon and moving on from the original story, the film features actress Naka Riisa in the lead, who interestingly enough also provided the voice for the titular character in the hit 2006 anime version, as well as working on the likes of “Summer Wars” and recently starring in Miike Takashi’s “Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City”. Yasuda Narumi plays her mother and the protagonist of the original story, with Nakao Akiyoshi (“Colorful”) and Katsumura Masanobu (“Kimi ni Todoke”) rounding out the supporting cast.
The film begins in 2010, some 30 years after Yoshiyama Kazuko’s (Yasuda Narumi) time travelling exploits, with her now working as a researcher trying to recreate the formula. After being hit by a car, she ends up in a coma, leaving her daughter Akari (Naka Riisa) with a mysterious message to meet her first love back in the 1970s. Following her mother’s work, Akari concocts and uses the time travel potion, though sadly she misses her target by a couple of years, quite literally landing on college student Ryota (Nakao Akiyoshi) in the science lab. Managing to convince the aspiring film maker and science fiction fan to help her, Akari pushes on with her search, with romance slowly blossoming between the two.
Making “Time Traveller, the Girl who leapt through Time” a continuation of the original story rather than yet another remake or vague re-visioning was certainly a smart move, as although it basically sticks to the say themes, it does at least have a few new twists and a fresh protagonist in Akari. It’s really the latter point here which is more important, as with the plot itself being fairly predictable, it’s Naka Riisa who is effectively given the job of carrying the film as the heroine and providing its emotional core, with the viewer experiencing the 1970s through her eyes. Thankfully, the actress does a very creditable job, bringing the same sense of energy that she did to the anime, and making Akari a likeable character despite some of her excesses and occasional daft behaviour. Nakao Akiyoshi is also pretty good as the geeky Ryota, and their relationship is all the more engaging for his not being a traditional romantic leading man type. As a result, although things do get a bit sappy during the final third when Akari’s inevitable return to the present looms, the film is genuinely moving and never too saccharine or melodramatic.
Probably as expected, film is more of a character drama and nostalgia piece than the 2006 anime, though it still does have a few flashes of exuberance, CGI and some neat science fiction touches which are used to enrich the plot rather than just as gimmicks. Taniguchi Masaaki keeps things moving along at a good pace, with there being very little in the way of the usual needless subplots that tend to clutter and bloat such films. The film really benefits from having a light rather than angsty feel, and this helps to make its few lapses into sentimentality more palatable, with some nicely judged comic relief along the way. Ryota’s geekiness not only makes for a few laughs, but also adds an extra layer of interest, with there being a good few scenes and plot points revolving around his low budget film making.
This, along with the time travelling theme and background science fiction flavour do mean that “Time Traveller, the Girl who leapt through Time” is able to rise above its more basic romantic teen drama trappings, and it stands as a very enjoyable and quite charming piece of wistful cinema. Naka Riisa makes for a winning heroine, and drives what is a successful extension of the original story and a welcome addition to the canon.
Masaaki Taniguchi (director) / Yasutaka Tsutsui (based on the novel by), Tomoe Kanno (screenplay)
CAST: Riisa Naka … Akari
Akinobu Nakao … Ryota
Narumi Yasuda … Kazuko
Masanobu Katsumura … Goro
Kanji Ishimaru … Kazuo
Munetaka Aoki … Gotetsu