The Girl who Leapt Through Time (Toki o Kakeru Shōjo)

The Girl who Leapt Through Time (Toki o Kakeru Shōjo) 2006

Before moving to Madhouse, Mamoru Hosoda worked a lot in franchises like Dragonball Z, One Piece and Digimon but for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time he created a loose sequel to the novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui (who is also the author of one of my favs, Paprika).

In many ways The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is tonally quite different however, being far less surreal for one. Instead, this film mixes time-travel, romance, comedy and school drama really well – using its science-fiction elements to serve the character development.

I think most folks recognise this as the ‘breakout’ film for Mamoru and fans will certainly know he went on to direct a whole lot of other top notch movies but what I find most interesting from a reviewing standpoint is that it’s also the beginning of a three-film partnership between Mamoru and Satoko Okudera, who wrote this adaption.

To me, her work seems to be a really important factor in this mid-late 2000s period of his filmography and the progression of personal stakes and great dialogue seemed key to how I always respond to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Together, Okudera and Mamoru really put Makoto through the emotional wringer as she tries to ‘time-leap’ her way out of trouble, most of which she brings upon herself during the course of battling through the ups and downs of young love.

As a minor note, something I noticed that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (and many anime film and series) does so well is romanticise the Japanese summer, especially with the giant cloud/blue-sky/cicada scenes that I seem to enjoy. And I know I’ve added mostly production context here instead of discussing the meat of the film itself, so I apologise but basically to finish, I really enjoy this movie and I think most folks would find the characters compelling and the storyline engaging, and of course, it’s full of beautiful visuals too.

5 Stars

Wolf Children (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki)

Wolf Children (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki) 2012

Another blockbuster from Mamoru Hosoda, though it’s far deeper into tear-jerker territory than his previous film, Summer Wars. But soon after that movie’s success Hosoda left Madhouse to create Studio Chizu, and Wolf Children was the first feature made by his new studio.

My anticipation was pretty high for this film in the lead up (much like it had been with Summer Wars) and while it’s just as beautiful (and just as fraught with drama) it’s not an action film, though there’s more than enough tension mixed in with the romance and magic. The film also has a slice of life feel at times – all great things!

As is my way with these write-ups, I try not to offer too much in the way of plot but in its simplest form – this is the story of a single mother fighting to keep her family together. Hana is a good lead, determined, very human. And she faces some pretty hard times, not in the least of which being that her children are shape-shifters. (And of course, quite adorable too). Other times it is prejudice that she has to deal with or the terror of the natural world but obviously her own doubts too.

The story is wide enough to focus on both her and the kids’ storylines individually, as Wolf Children does span a few years but not in such a way that you feel like ‘I missed something here’ and so by the end it does feel a little like a saga. Regular Hosoda collaborator Satoko Okudera wrote the screenplay here and I think that’s a big part of why the film works too.

I actually hadn’t realised when I first saw it that the character design was by Sadamoto Yoshiyuki, though it will feel far closer to his work on The Girl who Leapt Through Time as opposed to Neon Genesis. But that’s more of a side note, I guess – so I’ll wrap it up now and just say that if you’ve missed this drama I think it’s definitely worth watching.

4 Stars

Summer Wars (Samā Wōzu)

Summer Wars (Samā Wōzu) 2009

One of my favourite things about this film (which is suddenly ten years old!) is that it manages to tell a really compelling family drama at the same time as its external ‘plot-based’ action storyline.

Of course, the two do intersect but it’s always impressive to me that Hosoda found time in the film to charactarise a good portion of such a massive cast. And maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, considering the budget and talent behind it – I remember some of the hype leading up to its release actually. No doubt that after the success of The Girl who Leapt through Time Madhouse was happy to give Hosoda and writer Satoko Okudera a fair bit of leeway 🙂

There’s a lot going on with our team of ordinary heroes (math-nerd!) trying to take out a rogue AI that wreaks havoc in the real world via the internet, including redemption arcs, first love, jealousy, death, defiance and comedy – in a way, it’s very much a family movie, since it never stretches beyond the bounds of the PG rating, as much as it’s a science-fiction film. And like most big budget anime films, the art is beautiful and vivid – especially setting of the Jinnouchi estate itself.

Although, part of the fun upon watching Summer Wars after its release can be seeing how accurate some of the predictions from the writing team were about the near-future – though what I tend to think of most when I put the film on now, is the way that while action and fighting feature in the final battle, part of that struggle is actually played out via a game of Hanafuda, which enabled the film to not only channel Yu-Gi-Oh etc but also to tie it in with the traditional aspects of the Jinnouchi family.

As with almost all Mamoru Hosoda films, there’s a couple of parts where you might tear up and a few good laughs as well, great pacing and plenty of surprises too.

5 Stars