Floating in on the wind like a late-summer dandelion comes "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time," an enchanting 2006 Japanese anime feature that touches down at the Brattle for the next week. Part of the shoujo genre of gently fantastic romantic dramas about and for young teenage girls, it's also funny and creative enough to charm parents, brothers, cousins, and anyone else looking for an openhearted fable.
Loosely based on a 1965 novel that has already served as a source for countless live-action movies, TV shows, and manga series, "Girl" follows Makoto Konno (voiced by Riisa Naka), a tomboyish Tokyo high schooler who accidentally discovers she has the power to rewind time. (A mysterious clockwork walnut is involved; I'll say no more.) The title is no misnomer; to spin the dial back a few minutes or a day, Makoto has to rev time's engine by running at top speed or leaping out windows, to the bafflement of her classmates.
At first she uses her new powers to
The film's real journey is emotional, of course - a girl's adolescent transition from having boys as friends to seeing them as something more (and still having them as friends). Makoto, Chiaki, and the kind, hunky Kousuke (Mitsutaka Itakura) have to renegotiate the rules of their little gang and still be able to play baseball after school. The movie honors that bond even as the plot turns increasingly (and pleasingly) toward romantic science fiction in the final act.
What makes "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" such an unexpected treat is the contemplative pace and painterly visuals. White cumulus clouds pile up in the backgrounds of scenes, and the buzz of locusts drifts through the humid air, intertwining with sleepy Bach preludes on the soundtrack. Director Mamoru Hosoda roots the story in a specific neighborhood at a specific season before he starts uprooting his heroine's sense of time. Instead of the usual manic anime approach, the film is rich and observant in the manner of the great Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away") and his Studio Ghibli colleagues Isao Takahata ("Only Yesterday") and Yoshifumi Kondou ("Whisper of the Heart").
There's more than a touch of the 1998 German arthouse hit "Run, Lola, Run," too, in poor Makoto's races against a maddeningly playful clock. "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" is about learning to juggle chance and accept fate, and, yes, the process is exhausting. If you're lucky, though, you may come to that graceful place where time stands utterly still. When this movie gets there, our breath stops too.