I had enjoyed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the 2006 animated version by filmmaker Mamoru Hosada, and no, this is not the live action version of the same story. Instead, this flim just continues to expand upon the universe of TGWLTT, making it the third titular character who had done just that. The original novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui had its protagonist Kasuko Yoshiyama going back through time accidentally and the discovery of romance with a time traveller. That version of the story has already been made into a number of films and drama series. Then comes Hosada's animated film version, which has a story centered around Kasuko's niece Makota Konno, who had for the most parts, used her limited powers for very trivial, hilarious reasons.
For this year's life action film Time Traveller, with the subtitle The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the protagonist is Kasuko's own daughter Akari (starring the same actress Riisa Naka who had voiced Makota Konno in the recent animated film), who gets sent on a mission by her mom, now Professor Kasuko (Narumi Yasuda), who had perfected a time travelling liquid to fulfil one last promise, but had met with an accident and fallen into a coma. Akari's mission is to go back to the year 1972 and to look for a certain Kazuo Fukamachi (Kanji Ishimaru), to deliver a message that only he would understand. But in true ditzy fashion, Akari got the year mixed up and arrives in 1974, two years late, and needing the help of filmmaker Ryota (Akiyoshi Nakao) whom she had literally fallen onto, for help.
Much of the story then centres on the mystery of how Kazuo doesn't seem to register on the radar of the community and neither on various official records, and worse of all, not even mom Kasuko, a teenager then (played by Anna Ishibashi), can recollect who this person is. Of course for audience in the know of the first story/film/manga, then this will come to no surprise, and part of the fun is to see how Akari can figure this out, and also her predicament of being in the wrong year to begin with, together with comical moments given that she has her handbag of modern day thingamajigs, and at times being particularly cloy in character.
Like in true Back to the Future style, the deliberate non-revelation of Akari's father before she jumps through time also provides some narrative tension, as the sweet 18 years old girl inevitably gets attracted to Ryota and perhaps his friend the cameraman Gotetsu (Munetaka Aoki) as well, with feelings suggested to be probably mutual, and hence one heck of a headache if you think about existentialism issues or the paradox of time with any time travel film. It can be a cruel process, and the main narrative arc here that deals with Akari's budding romance, is nothing short of an emotional sledgehammer that highlights the cruelty that is from time travelling, and it's not just plain never seeing the person again at their current age, but rather not being allowed to significantly influence historical events that makes it an extremely bittersweet film by the time the end credits come along. The note is sombre that live carries on, regardless of the many pitfalls that we experience and consider wanting to give up.
Unlike the anime, there's only one major leap here and the special effects are quite surprisingly kitsch, and at times raw even. The trick here for time travel is to down a vial of liquid, then wish hard. I suppose the magic with animation is that one can design just about almost anything, but with a film that has to utilize special effects, then there would be some constraints that will naturally be imposed, and the expectations that comes along with the using of SFX. Otherwise, its production values in creating the 70s era is excellent, despite knowing some shots were made relatively tight to avoid backgrounds giving the non-aligned time elements away.
Ultimately, I believe this to be a filmmaker's story, since it had the characters involve themselves with filmmaking, and dealt with how film itself can be an important imprint to lost memories, where images captured on film, if preserved properly, can probably last for posterity. It captures sight and sound forgotten, and helps jog memories of a time bygone, transmitting emotions even through the sheer power of imagery, even though it may be incomprehensible but to some. It has the same spirit as Be Kind Rewind, but done in a more powerful and emotional manner. For this reaffirmation, Time Traveller scores big time, and I wonder if we will have more stories from this TGWLTT universe.