For sheer visual beauty, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” rivals any animated film of the last few years; it’s meticulously designed, yet it also has breath in it. I liked looking at the movie even when I couldn’t quite follow it.
Following it is the trick: This slice of Japanese animation delves into a “Matrix”-like realm of reality.
Our heroine is Makoto, a plucky adolescent for whom punctuality is a perpetual challenge. One day she discovers an unexpected ability to jump through time. By running hard and taking a flying leap, she can hitch herself back in time and change events.
This comes in handy on days when her younger sibling has beaten her to the last serving of pudding in the fridge. But when Makoto avoids a lethal accident involving her faulty bike and a train, she begins to realize the awesome power her trick could have.
The time-tripping eventually involves the two boys Makoto plays baseball with, one (or possibly both) of whom might be developing a crush on her. The movie gets a fine sense of a summer that seems to drag on pleasantly in an aimless way.
Director Mamoru Hosoda, previously known in the anime world for a couple of “Digimon” movies, creates that summery world to great effect. The time-bending stuff is fun too, especially in a sequence when Makoto wanders around a city that has become completely frozen in time.
I couldn’t swear to always being able to follow the story, which made the movie less engaging to me than the average Pixar cartoon. Japanese anime usually has that effect on me.
“The Girl Who Leapt” is based on a novel published in Japan in 1965, and has been adapted for film and TV a few times. This movie is apparently a sequel to the original story. It also has an eerie resemblance at times to “Donnie Darko,” especially in the gravity of trying to go back and change something that will have serious consequences for the characters. If you like that mood, you might like this film too.