Highs: Great characters; beautiful animation; doesn't rush anything
Lows: Weak lead seiyuu; inconsistent plot elements
This is not a science fiction movie. That might sound weird about a film that mentions time travel in the title, but trust me, it isn’t. Oh sure, it has sci-fi elements to it, but it’s really a slice-of-life character piece more than anything. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I love the main character in this movie. She’s just a regular girl doing regular girl things, like messing up in class and playing catch with her friends after school. And when she learns she has the ability to alter the past, does she use it to play the stock market, or win the lottery? No; she avoids embarrassing incidents at school and makes sure she scores the last pudding in the fridge before her sister takes it. It’s such a teenager thing to do and I love it.
Eventually of course the alterations she keeps making to the past start to have unintended consequences that cause problems for other people, which she then attempts to fix. Again, I love this. It shows not only true character growth, but what kind of person she is inside – a caring individual who doesn’t want to hurt anybody even if it means things don’t go so well for her. The other mundane things are also really great: the routine she goes through every day is never glossed over and there’s a lot of attention to detail on the part of the filmmakers. And some of the history-correction scenes were played really well. The whole thing kind of reminds me of Groundhog Day if Bill Murray’s character had complete control over his situation.
The animation is also gorgeous and fluid. There is some garishly obvious CGI during the time travel sequences, but it serves to give the whole thing a very trippy effect that I think they were going for (and if they weren’t, they got lucky because it works really well).
All that being said, there are a couple of glaring flaws in the film which bring its overall score down, the first of which being the voice acting. Most of the cast was all right, but the lead seiyuu Naka Riisa is in her first major role and it shows. Most of the time she does okay, but in the emotional scenes (particularly when she has to cry), I don’t buy her at all – and there are quite a few of those. It really kills a lot of the tension when instead of feeling for the character I’m curling my lip at the voice acting.
Another thing that really pulled me out was the Aunt character, who Makoto goes to for advice and seems to know everything about what’s going on, when she should be acting like the girl is crazy. It makes it feel like we’re watching the sequel to a movie we never saw or even heard about. I looked it up later, and it turns out that’s exactly what we’re watching. I didn’t graduate film school, but repeatedly referencing something your audience won’t understand doesn’t sound like a solid plan.
Finally, there’s the time travel itself. It works great as a story element, but near the end when they start throwing a bunch of plot twists in there – which are cool and unexpected, I’ll grant them that – the time travel becomes a plot element and the whole things just sort of falls apart. All of the rules the movie has thus far established for time travel get thrown out the window and we’re left with Dr. Who’s Timey-Wimey Ball. Again, this really pulled me out of what otherwise would have been a very intense final twenty minutes.
Those things are however mere annoyances and not enough to ruin the movie. The main character alone and her personal struggles, relationships and ultimate growth and maturity are what make this movie truly enjoyable and definitely worth a watch.