What They Say :
In 2010 pharmaceutical researcher Kazuko Yoshiyama (Narumi Yasuda) is injured in a car accident. Her daughter Akari (Riisa Naka) uses Kazuko s newly completed time-travel potion to leap back in search of a mystery man from her mother’s past… but misjudges the date and arrives two years late, in the year 1974. There, she enlists the help of reluctant student filmmaker Ryota (Akiyoshi Nakao), in a race against time to find a man that nobody remembers.
As there is only one track, by default it was in Japanese 5.1. I will admit though that it was a pretty solid release despite the one track, it was clear and concise, and worked well with no desertion between audio and subtitle track. It linked in very well, and as this was a live-action, it had a good mixture of audio effects combined with music and dialogue, with no problems interfacing. Solid release.
The video is done in widescreen effect, giving it the feel of old school Japanese horror movies despite the content being definitely more down the tearjerker route. The movie flowed you very well with no distortion effects and it fitted perfectly along with the audio. My one niggle though was that there was a few times in the movie when there weren’t any subtitles to go with the signs and in some case, during the notes that Akari was reading through in Japanese. Rechecking, there was only the option to turn subtitles on and off and nothing specific so not sure if this was rectified in the main release and to be fair, it isn’t a huge problem as you can gather the idea what is going on, but it’s just a minor niggle to a good release which would have been perfect otherwise.
No packaging was brought with this test disc.
The menu is quite original, when the main menu comes up, from the bottom left, you get a clock spinning with images from the movie, on the top right you get a still clock with play feature, scene selection, bonus features, and selecting English subtitles on/off. When selecting the clock hand moves and flashes through like the watch changing the time (12 selections, main menu – all with pictures). Quite original and moves very smoothly with a bit of dramatic lag as it moves but makes it feel more movie like.
Sadly disappointed with the extras, especially as it’s a live action of The Girl Who Leapt Before Time – all there is are two trailers, and a 17 minutes ‘abridged’ movie in the form of a clip package.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’d reviewed the anime film version of Toki o Kakeru Shoujo which I definitely enjoyed and gave it a B+, so when I received the live-action version of the same movie, I was a little skeptical, especially considering all the fear about Hollywood and what they plan or indeed have already done with anime in their live action versions. However, I will confess that I have seen a few Japanese Live Actions, and whilst some are middling like Sailor Moon, some are really good, like Death Note and Great Teacher Onizuka. I’m happy to say that Time Traveller is in the latter category.
We are introduced to our two main characters early on, Dr Yoshiyama, a rather eccentric female doctor who seems obsessed with her research, and her daughter Akari who has just celebrated getting into college. After her last day at school, the good doctor meets with an old friend Goro who hands her an interesting photograph which stuns her. Stuns her so much that she doesn’t see an incoming car…
Akari takes a turn for the shocked as she continuously visits her unconscious mother, in between Goro telling her stories about the past – this all leads into a momentary recovery for Yoshiyama, who tells her daughter before collapsing again about why she has been so busy and eccentric, mentioning a man named Kazuo Fukumachi, who was the boy on the photo – she tells Akari that she has made a potion that can make her travel to the past. She gives her the date (Sat April 1972) – Akari is obviously skeptical but follows her mothers wishes and sneaks into school, and takes the potion. At first, she thinks it was the ramblings of a delirious woman, but when she wonders if the day was actually 1974, the world literally turns. After some rather silly CGI, Akari falls from the heavens and literally lands on top of a guy, who unsurprisingly, is rather confused. She realizes she has travelled to the past, then has to prove to the guy she did come from the future before trying to wonder what is going on. We are introduced to him, Ryota Mizorogi, an amateur film maker, and after some convincing, he helps her out as they decide to try and find this Kazuo guy by trying to find Akari’s mother when she was young.
A lot happens, as well as a lot of parallels that occur in the movie, as even the smallest thing that was mentioned in the future has some relevance to the past. Fun little moments like learning that Ryota’s neighbor would become a big star in the future, to the more serious like Akari meeting her father when he was a child as Ryota’s cameraman real delves into conflict in her, especially near the end of the movie when a token comment from Goro just after the crash actually has much more shocking implications involving Ryota and Akari’s relationship. Also, it’s really touching when we get to see daughter talking to her mother as a young woman, when she was much calmer, yet does seem to know something about the mysterious Kazuo, even though she can’t put her finger on it…and she isn’t sure why.
The crux of the story is revealed after using a lot of old coins that her mother saved up (again, a minor point at the start is a main reason why they managed to get the help they needed), Akari and Ryota get an ad in the papers, which is actually found by Kazuo. Only not the Kazuo in the present…the Kazuo of the future. It’s a surprising twist which despite it’s potential to be silly and cheesy is actually played quite seriously. Kazuo – his real name Ken Soul – actually came from the future, and was the creator of the potion in question. Whilst in development, he time travelled to 1972 by accident, so had to live there whilst making another potion. Whilst there, he fell in love with Yoshiyama (who smelt the potion and temporarily gained time travel powers) but was forced to erase her memory, but through the years and her heart, Yoshiyama remembered and created the potion herself. Before he can erase Akari’s memory though, she has to say goodbye to Ryota who is leaving to go to Akita. He says goodbye and hands him the film he had made with his friends to her, before suddenly Akari remembers what Goro told her – and the tragedy that hits. I won’t spoil what happens, but Akari has a real tough decision and it’s a surprise on what does happen which let’s put it this way, it WASN’T the ending I was expecting.
I will confess there are a few plot holes and moments in it which did let it down – the reason Yoshiyama was able to remember the promise with Kazuo was just because it was deep inside of her heart, and also the promise itself was anti-climatic as he does return to say his goodbyes once more – before again erasing her memory. Also, the CGI effects were a bit silly to say the least – it was only for one small point in the movie but considering what happens after that it definitely seems a bit silly.
Overall however, it was a very good re-telling of the story, especially as it goes on its own route rather than being a straight retelling of the anime or the novel. All the little things that lead to the conclusion, a casual story from Goro about his trip to Arita and how he missed the trip (Akari actually sees him on that day in the past, which causes her rush to find Ryota), and it’s definitely a very surprising finale. The fact she gets to speak with her mother and father when she was young, and actually gets her father in the present to help her play the mysterious film she got after her memory was wiped – well, it was a tearjerker end to say the least. The cast itself is a good bunch, Akari being the glue that holds everything. At first she seems to be a stereotypical energetic girl with a rather eccentric mother, but she is willing to do anything to help her, even if it seems literally out of this world. The male lead, Ryota, is a strange one as well – willing to accept what Akari says when she drops out of nowhere, but is a strong male character, one who is sympathetic as he begins to fall in love with Akari, fun when being with his friends, and of course the unsettling tragedy that both Akari and the viewer both realize when you now realize the signifance of the stories told earlier in the movie. Even Kazuo, you realize is quite tragic, he is never happy at what he has to do and abide by the rules, to make sure Akari can’t change the past, or removing the memories of her. It makes the movie quite an experience and one that you can enjoy even without seeing the animated movie or reading the novel as overall, despite a little bit of over the topness at the start, it’s a well thought out, well planned movie with great characters, intriguing plot and a surprising finale act.
The Time Traveller should not be viewed as another version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and should be just viewed as a movie on it’s own. People who did or didn’t see the animated film will appreciate it for what it is, a well told story with fun yet tragic characters with a lot of backbone. There are a few silly moments from actors and setting alike, but all the little things that add up to the big picture really build up for you and it’s just so good at how well told the story is. For a live action film, whilst different from the animation, it’s one of the best live action versions out there. Very recommended.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Two trailers, video clip package
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 2nd May 2011
Running Time: 114 minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.