- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: This film opens by introducing us to Makoto, a young girl who doesn't seem exceptional in an obvious or traditional way, but during the course of a particularly clumsy day, she accidentally gains the ability to time travel. At first, she uses this extraordinary ability for superficial reasons: she skips back a day so that she can do better on a test, she skips backward to continue singing karaoke with her friends Chiaki and Kousuke, and so on. Naturally, things become more complicated. There's an element of the monkey's paw here, in that one should be careful what they wish for... even superficial uses of her new power can turn out to have wide-ranging consequences.
The movie doesn't get carried away with this though, and one of the things I really like about this movie is that it doesn't let the fantastical elements detract from the human element. It's not a science fiction story - the time travel isn't particularly well established (and there are some open questions in the end) - but it uses those elements as more than just window dressing. At times if feels like more of a high-school comedy, albeit one that grows more serious as the story proceeds. Dramatic elements are intersperced as well. The typical high-school subjects of love and confusion about the future are explored a bit. I'm not entirely sure about the ending, but I liked spending time with these characters so much that it worked well enough for me.
The pacing, more than anything else, is what keeps this movie on track. The introduction sets the stage well, and just when you're starting to wonder where the story is going, the time travel elements are established. This leads to a wonderfully light-hearted exploration of Makoto and how she copes with her new powers. And just when that starts to get cloying, the story shifts again as Makoto realizes that her new powers have impacted her relationships with friends and family. In particular, her friends Chiaki and Kousuke seem to be affected, and she just wants things to go back to normal. Interestingly, the time-travel is probably superfluous here - this is exactly the sort of thing that teenagers go through all the time. It all leads up to a climax that was much tenser than I would have ever expected at the beginning of the film. But it mixes all of this together rather well. There are still some open questions and potential plot holes in the end, but I have to admit to having a ton of fun with this movie. Recommended! ***
- Whisper of the Heart: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time enjoyed pretty favorable reviews in the otakusphere, but Pete wasn't too impressed. He says "If anyone wants to see a much better movie about the same thing, watch Whisper of the Heart." So I threw that in my Netflix queue and just watched it today.
It's another school movie following a quirky girl and the people around her. Young Shizuku has been reading books at a voracious pace and she notices that every book she gets at the library has been previously checked out by the same boy... Despite Pet'es recommendation, I found it to be very different from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. While I thought that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time had great pacing and was able to balance between it's various disparate elements well, Whisper of the Heart doesn't really have great pacing... because it doesn't need to. As a story, it's much more seamless and doesn't require any sort of balancing act. Now, I do think it's a bit too long, but in the end, it's a wonderful story. If the elements of the fantastical in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time bother you, then you probably would enjoy this movie much more. It's a much more grounded film, and everything in the movie falls neatly into place by the end.
The thing I liked most about this movie was the way it captured the tentative nature of young teens as they try to figure out what they're going to be doing with their life. Even those who know exactly what they want to do have a certain hesitancy and insecurity about their future, and this movie really nails that feeling. I suppose it helps that Hayao Miyazaki was writing the screenplay, and you can certainly see his hand at work here (especially when you find out about the Baron). All in all, it's a very good movie, and one that will probably stick with me (though I suppose only time will tell).
Animovie Double Feature
A couple more quick reviews of Anime movies I've seen lately.