This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
So, there’s this girl, right, who leaps through time.
That, however, sort of sells this lovely anime a little short, doesn’t it? There’s a girl, Makoto (Riisa Naka) who is in most respects an ordinary teenage girl, who goes to school and plays baseball with her male best friends, the dependable Kousuke and more flighty Chiaki. So far so normal, until one day while riding her bike Makoto’s brakes fail and contrive to engineer an unfortunate train / flesh interface that by rights should have killed her, if she hadn’t discovered the ability to jump back in time to that morning.
On discovering this handy skill, at least after a short period of understandable shock and surprise, she uses these powers to, well, enjoy herself, mainly. Seeking to avoid pain and embarrassment to herself and her friends she attempts to engineer a better day for them all.
As is usually the case when meddling with this sort of thing, changing one small event may lead to many unanticipated changes elsewhere that continually seem to hamper her efforts to make everyone happy, although I should point out that this is all changing in a rather low-key way.
Indeed, the whole time travelling gimmick is little more than a hook to hang what is for the most part a melancholy exploration of friendships, love and missed opportunities as the dynamics of the main trio’s friendship changes in various ways for various reasons. The take home message appears to be that even if you could head back in time, you can’t stop it marching right back on again.
So, while admittedly I’ve not seen an awful lot of animes lately, this is is not only one of the best I’ve seen lately but the best I’ve seen at all. The characters are all utterly charming, and the film has an endearing sense of understatement, eschewing any ludicrous excess. Indeed, one of Makoto’s main reasons for returning in time was to stop her sister stealing her pudding. THe characters feel very real and restrained, apart from an understandable but ill-advised ramping up of cheese and saccharine at the very end of the film to attempt to give a dramatic emotional punch that feels out of keeping with the rest of the film.
If it has a flaw, it’s actually the time-traveling itself. When it’s the inexplicable McGuffin it’s fine, but the explanations for it is something of a stretch and rather dull to have explict’d to you. For me at least, there’s enough goodwill built in the hour-twenty-odds before that to excuse the last ten, however.
So I’d heartily recommend this film, if not for the touching story, very human story that underlines how very far away Pixar are from actually being great storytellers rather than great pixel-pushers with snappy jokes, then for the absolutely beautiful animation and particularly the gorgeous backdrops that litter this film in an almost embarrassing way. Another winner from Madhouse, the studio responsible for the sublime Metropolis, the affecting Perfect Blue and the laughable Wicked City. Fuck, they blew up Mayart’s plane.