You can always count on U.S. distributors to falsely advertise Asian movie releases. They have gotten better through the years, but every now and then, they would falsely market a movie to get more sales. Wrongfully promoted as based on the anime hit “TheGirl Who Leapt Through Time” on the dvd cover, director Masaaki Taniguchi’s “Time Traveller: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is actually a direct sequel to the 1983 adaptation of the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Originally called Toki o Kakeru Shōjo- translated “The Girl Who Ran Through Time”, this film has a very different premise with different characters from the anime hit.
I am at very huge disadvantage since I have not read the novel nor seen the first 1983 film, but despite this, I found “Time Traveller” to be an engaging drama about lost, destiny and how one can cope with it. The story begins in 2010, when we find Kazuko Yoshiyama (a character from the original novel played by Narumi Yasuda) who is working on a secret formula for time travel. Her daughter Akari (played by Riisa Naka who also voiced the main protagonist in the anime film) had also just passed the entrance exam to the university. The two appear to have a simple life which is content, until a car accident leaves Kazuko in a coma.
Akari then learns of a mysterious man called Kazuo Fukamachi and to find her mother’s lost love, Akari decides to use the formula to time jump to the year 1972 to find a younger Kazuo. But instead, she lands in the year 1974, and befriends a young aspiring filmmaker named Ryota Mizorogi (Nakao Akiyoshi). Together, they intend to solve the mystery of Kazuo, and the more time the two spend together, the two begin to feel a strange bond. This makes things complicated since Akari is a girl out of her own time.
The story of “Time Traveller” is pretty simple and granted it does not go into any of the theoretical time travel mumbo jumbo and declines to explain this part of its premise. Rather, this is a drama meant to give its viewers a look at genuine human emotions and how such things sneak up on you despite the fact that you may not want such a thing. The screenplay by Tomoe Kanno keeps things light and brings the central focus to Akari’s adventure. Much of the groundwork was set by the original film, but it was very easy for me to pick up where it had left off. The script and the direction knew how to deal with such things that even when I did not read the original material, I had no problems getting into the movie.
Able to stand on its own, “Time Traveller” is quite an engaging film. As with most movies about time travel, Akari gets to meet people from her time in the past. It gives the film that feeling of being lost in time. With purpose, Akari and Ryota go through the steps to find the mysterious Kazuo and along the way, she meets her uncle in his younger self (in some Asian cultures, uncle is used to address a close family friend) and even has some intimate conversations with her mother as her younger self (Anna Ishibashi). The direction and the writing took time to develop Akari in her travels as she learns more about her past, the more I became invested in the story.
It was also quite amusing to see a girl from 2010 trying to cope with the 70’s, since the changes in practices between the different eras are so different. The set designs were effective in bringing forth the 'feeling' of being in the 70's. Vehicles, clothes and older gadgets and equipment were used to express this time period. I also did not have any issues with the way Akari convinced Ryota to help her in her quest, the way the script laid out the groundwork was credible; Ryota being an aspiring sci-fi movie maker was open-minded about the whole thing. The characters in the film were also very likable, I had no problems buying into the chemistry between Riisa Naka and Nakao Akiyoshi. It started out rather slow, with the two reacting as a brother and a sister, and they become closer and closer, and without even knowing it, I could truly believe that they were starting to fall in love. Naka was very charming as Akari. The actress was amazing in her portrayal as a girl lost in time. She was funny, clever, sassy and I really could not help but develop a liking to her character. Akiyoshi’s Ryota is more of the quiet, shy but good-hearted young man which may appear cliché, but the dynamics between the two worked. In taking the time to develop the relationship between the two, it sets up the film’s final act with such heart-breaking impact in the narrative.
As with several time travel movies, the film leaves some details left hanging to be put together by the viewer. “Time Traveller” is a film that is meticulously played and took its time to allow the characters to grow. I was really drawn into them which is why the final act truly worked for me. If you have seen the anime film, then you know how its premise ends, and this is very similar but executed in a different emotional way. This is a romantic drama that uses time travel as its backdrop. I am not one for romantic movies, but this film certainly hit the right spots as I felt every emotion and drama because of the superb acting and plot development.
Highly Recommended! [4 Out of 5 Stars]
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