At its core, Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is really just a standard shoujo slice-of-life show. There’s the plucky, cheerful protagonist, there’s the myriad of possible romances just waiting to bloom, and of course there’s the lazy summer afternoons spent loafing around in idyllic Japanese suburbia. The closest analogue is most likely Ghibli’s own Whisper of the Heart.
The only noticeable differentiation from its counterparts is a time-traveling plot device introduced early in the show. Handled carelessly, this fantasy gimmick could have easily been a sour point (see: Junkers Come Here). However, TwKS is surprisingly clever about how it implements the time-travel into the story. Throughout the series, the ways that protagonist uses her new-found power make for some of the most delightful comedy that I’ve seen all year.
The humor blends seamlessly into the drama, whose main theme revolves around the slogan, “Time waits for no one” – certainly not a unique message, by any means. Fortunately, the excellent characters and sharp writing lend the movie a compelling sense of urgency that sets itself apart from similar works before it. Every minute of this movie feels immediate and precious, and as a result, the movie’s familiar message is unexpectedly powerful.
In the end, I loved Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo's story for its near-perfect mixture of drama and comedy; the movie is one of the funniest anime I've seen this year, but also happens to be one of the most poignant. Even as I laughed at the brilliant humor, I mourned the loss of the protagonist's happy childhood - a childhood which slowly but inevitably slipped away, leaving nothing but bittersweet memories.
Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo’s animation is, for the most part, extremely clean and fluid. The simple character designs resemble Ghibli’s (in a good way), and character movement is realistic and charming. There isn’t quite enough detail to the visuals to rival the upper echelon of anime movies, but for the most part the animation is more than serviceable. The only exception is the CGI used for the time-travel sequences. Although brief, the scenes are jarringly ugly; the protagonist’s character design looks completely out of place on the hideously colored background.
For the most part, the instrumental soundtrack does a good job of setting the mood of the show. For the most part, the songs are lazy and laidback, but there are a few nice dramatic tracks as well. Voice acting is competent all-around. In particular, the heroine's seiyuu deserves special mention – her upbeat, cheerful performance goes a long way toward making the character instantly likeable.
A common pitfall that many people (including myself) occasionally fall into is that anime characters must be well-developed for a show to work. If this was the case, then movies would almost never be good, because there is far less time to spend on character development in a two-hour production.
Unlike characters found in series (which for the most part are required to be multi-faceted and complex), movies call for a different kind of character. Essentially, they rely on characters that are likeable at face value. Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo is a wonderful example of this.
Like in Ghibli films, it’s somewhat difficult to explicitly state what makes the characters so appealing. In the end, I think TwKS’s are excellent not for what we know about them, but for their immediate actions. The characters move and talk in ways that are both familiar and unexpected. Rather than jerking like puppets to the script, they act naturally, intelligently and occasionally unpredictably.
In other words, they feel alive.
Seriously, how could anybody possibly dislike this film?
For strange, off-kilter movies like Paprika, I can fully appreciate that the show will have its fans and its detractors. However, for Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo, I can only gape in awe and disbelief at anyone who claims to dislike it. There is something so universally wonderful in Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo’s storyline that the very idea of not enjoying it is completely alien to me.
As a whole, this is a fantastic work, and is looking to be the crown jewel of a year that has already yielded several excellent anime. I’d recommend this not just to those who like slice-of-life, but to just about everyone who likes anime.
Makoto Konno is a somewhat foolish and tomboyish high school student who spends most of her time hanging out with her two male friends. Things change one day when she suddenly gains the ability to leap through time! At first, she uses her newfound ability to do things such as preventing her sister from stealing her dessert, cheating on a test, and singing Karaoke for 10 hours. However, the small alterations she makes to the timeline turn out to have unforeseen consequences that snowball into dramatic and lethal situations for her and those around her...