The award winning The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is ‘a feast for the eyes as well as the heart’, as the DVD blurb claims. Wonderful animation, brilliantly drawn characters and backdrops, time travel, action, lots of touching and funny parts- what’s not to like?
Makoto is a school girl who, after an accident, discovers that she can travel in time. The first part of the film deals with her discovery of this and using it to her own gain- correcting minor mistakes and mishaps in her past. She never comes close to joining the dark side with such power, but finds that her changes however small can have a greater and harmful effect for the future/present and her friends. However, there is another leaper and her leaps are limited, and soon her choices become extremely important.
This much adapted version of the Japanese novel (there has been other series and movies since the novel was written in the sixties) is one of the best, perfectly suited to the medium and today’s generation. There are questions raised about power, friendship, choice, and love, but the film never becomes preachy or sentimental. One of the best anime of the year.
As Always, feel free to leave your comments on the movie- where does it rank in your recent anime list?
Origin: Spirits Of The Past is another film which deals with humanity’s obsession with technology, and our even more recent obsession with trying to save the world from environmental collapse. Fewer, if any films have dealt with this theme in such a beautiful manner- the art alone is enough to make you recycle your car and plant a few trees in the hope that you are doing something good. The main problem here is that while the film is gorgeous too watch, and frequently will leave you in awe at the scale and beauty of the animation- the story doesn’t back up the sights as well as it should.
Countless films, even in anime, deal with Mother Nature striking back at the human race. Origins is no different- set in a distant future where humans live in the shells of forgotten cities, surrounded by miles of forests which they cannot enter as the trees are genetically engineered freaks full of strange beasts. Of course, our hero- a boy Agito enters one of these forbidden zones and awakens the spirits of the past. He meets Toola, a girl who has been asleep for 300 years and whose mission it is to restore earth to a place of harmony between man and nature. Also awoken is Shunack, a soldier who also wants to restore Earth, but his view of Earth is monstrous, and he will use extreme force to get what he wants. The trees fear the end of both species, and Agito is stuck in the middle.
There are some excellent scenes here- particularly the opening sequence and some other action pieces. Aside from the visuals, the music is haunting and toucing, adding greatly to the emotion of the film- doing the job that the script should. The story may be too muddled for those not used to anime, but for veterans it is standard fare. The voice acting is ok, though the fact that there are no big Western names may let down fans. Overall, one of the best looking animated films ever with a story that is perfectly watchable, but doesn’t live up to the breathtaking artwork.
I have no doubt that the first time most westerners watch this they will feel confused afterwards. I’m pretty sure that the first time they see it they will think the animation was excellent, at least for its time. Maybe some will know they have just seen something special. Akira is probably the most famous Japanese animated movie, manga or anime, and is surely the most influential. It may not be an exaggeration to say it is one of the most influential movies of any kind ever, as many films, animated and not, have taken elements directly from it.
I won’t try to summarise the plot, i’m not sure if i can make it sound comprehensible, but it involves biker gangs, friendship, overpowering technology, and the apocalypse. The plot is confusing at times, especially for western audiences who had simply not experienced anything quite like this before, and the frantic pace and quick direction only make everything seem more chaotic (as if that wasn’t the point to some degree), but the more times you watch it, the more you will see this is not a flaw. The animation is some of the best ever seen, the vision of Neo-Tokyo is stunning, and the last half hour is mind-blowing. Some parts are quite touching too, without becoming overly sappy, as we watch Tesuo’s struggle, and the multitude of themes are well worth thinking about…
This 2 disc edition offers two versions of the film, one with better sound, updated translation etc, though other features are sparse especaially when considering what a huge film this was.
As always, feel free to comment on the move- is this the epitome of Japanese animation?