This is the basic premise of the anime The Girl who Leapt Through Time, a story of a girl (Makoto) who suddenly finds herself with the ability to “leap” through time.
This anime takes a slightly different approach from some other time-travel stories, in that it’s less about the actual traveling through time aspect (or how it’s done specifically), and more about the consequences of having such an ability, and how it can affect the people around you – as well as yourself.
This is an amazingly detailed and thought-provoking anime – so much so, that it could just as easily have been a live-action film (although the larger budget needed for that would probably have precluded it being made in the first place, so let’s be glad it was made as an anime).
Makoto is a pretty normal high school student – a teenager – and even when she gains the ability to “leap” through time, she still acts like one. Think about it – what would you do if you suddenly found you could jump through time as a teenager?
- Spend all of your money? Go back in time and get it all over again.
- Don’t like what’s for dinner? Jump back to yesterday when you had your favorite dish.
- Do bad on a test? Jump back after getting the answers back and do it again.
This is precisely what Makoto does – at first – when she gains the titular ability. However, after a while she starts meddling in other people’s lives – trying to help them out. She’s not malicious or spiteful, she genuinely wants to help her friends and classmates, and she tries to use her power (and her Groundhog Day-like power to know how things will turn out) to make things better for them.
Unfortunately, she’s not very good at it, and she also comes to realize that there are limits on her power – making a perfect day for herself is easy, but trying to make things come out perfectly for everyone you know is much, much harder. Many times she screws things up terribly, and has to jump back in time just to un-do things.
Eventually, she thinks she’s gotten things as good as they can get (more or less), but that’s when she discovers another limit on her time-leaping powers… as well as a personal consequence of her use of those powers that is maybe a bit more than she can bear.
The animation is great – as befits an animated feature-length film – and at no time do things look stereotypically “anime” or cutesy for the sake of being cute. There are a few moments of CG animation cut in, which looks… jarring, to say the least; but these scenes are kind of supposed to be jarring, so it isn’t totally out of place.
The soundtrack to this anime is, quite simply, incredible – subtle and wistful at times, it really helps set the mood. There’s no pop or J-pop music in this soundtrack – instead, most of the music is classical or just subtle, atmospheric instrumental.
In the end, The Girl who Leapt through Time is an absolutely fantastic anime – no, scratch that… it is an absolutely fantastic movie (which just happens to be animated), and one that I think anyone would enjoy. Although it involves time travel, it is not sci-fi or anything; just a solid, timeless, classic, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heart-wrenching story.
I highly recommend it.