The next step on this (not really) perilous journey into the (not really) unknown has veered off into the Anime stylings of Art Director Nizo Yamomoto, with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Tonight's review will be slightly shorter than yesterday's, simply because I got a bit carried away talking about The Big Lebowski, and I am also hoping for an earlier night tonight!
There is a future that we can't wait for. What would you do if you could 'leap' backward through time? When tomboyish 17 year old Makoto Konno gains this ability after an accident in her high school chemistry lab, she immediately sets about improving her grades and preventing personal mishaps. Before long, however, she realizes that even innocuous changes can have terrible consequences. Changing the past is not as simple as it seems, and eventually Makoto will have to rely on her new powers to shape the future for herself and her friends. Featuring brilliant character design by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Neon Genesis Evangelion) and stunning art direction by long time Studio Ghibli. Nizo Yamamoto's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a feast for the eyes as well as the heart.
For those that have been hesitant in regards to anime, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a perfect place to start. Rather than bombard the viewer with hundreds of weird creatures and/or robots at once, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has a very measured pace and is set entirely in a normal contemporary world. True, the main plot device is time travel (leading to the hilarious line "I think you'll find that most girls start to time leap when they reach your age"), but this is dealt in a fairly simple Groundhog Day style. At it's core, the film is about two young best friends who fall in love over the repetition of a single day.
As anime, this film is absolutely gorgeous. Although a lot of the animation is rough around the edges, the detail of the world in which the film takes place is staggering when compared to western 2D animation. The director, Mamoru Hosoda, really allows time for this world to breathe, often employing a very minimalistic approach to sound design, and not being afraid to have characters be quiet for an extended period of time. In fact, the unquestionable highlight of the film takes place when, due to various plot reasons, time literally stops and Hosoda gives his focus to what would otherwise be insignificant details, such as traffic lights, pieces of rubbish floating down the street, and birds frozen in flight high above the city. These types of moments occur in accompaniment to Kiyoshi Yoshida's subtle, yet effective soundtrack that often consists almost entirely of a solitary piano.
In short, whilst the animation is lacking, and the story has been done before, the art direction and soundtrack combined with some beautiful character moments, elevate this above the standard anime fare, and is a perfect first step into this style of film.
Voice-Acting / Animation: 6.5
Art Direction: 9.5
Overall: 8.5 (not an average)