Director: Masaaki Taniguchi
Writer: Tomoe Kanno, Yasutaka Tsutsui
Cast: Riisa Naka, Akiyoshi Nakao, Narumi Yasuda, Masanobu Katsumura, Kanji Ishimaru, Munetaka Aoki, Anna Ishibashi, Shota Chiyo, Tokio Emoto, Mayu Kitaki, Yuya Matsushita, Toshiya Toyama, Maya Okano
Running Time: 122 min.
Akari is former high school student about to head off into college, when her mother gets into a semi-coma after being in the path of a car. Akari’s mom was viewing a photo of herself in junior high paired with a mysterious man. She asks Akari to visit him in the 70s and meet him to fulfill a “promise”. Akari discovers a mysterious liquid which allows her to do just that, and she “leaps” 35+ years in the past. There, she encounters a amateur student film director who she works with to find the man from her mother’s past.
I’m commenting on this pic from the perspective of the original English in the UK-only Yasutaka Tsutsui novel, and the 2006 anime film from Mamoru Hosoda. Time Traveller is more tied into the former story, and less so the latter story, even though they’re both adaptations of the same source material. I enjoyed the novel’s surprisingly dark sci-fi tone coupled with its overall optimism, and so I felt ready to see what they could do with a “sequel”. I’d say the anime is the definitive adaptation, even though there have been many live-action versions of the book in Japan. Nonetheless, the 2010 movie works in its own right, if you’re willing to accept its preference towards atmosphere and realism, rather than fantasy.
The only gripe I have is that you’re thrown a bit of a curveball in assuming that it’s about discovering how Akari’s parents got together, when it’s really about her parents’ friends’ social scene. Not to mention that I’m not entirely fond of movies which feature subplots about making movies, as I’ve already had my fill of that for the next decade, after Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. But if you have any connection to that era, and are in the mood for a bit of nostalgia, then Time Traveller does a damn good job rebuilding the setting from scratch. The clothes look like they’re right out of The Street Fighter and Three’s Company; the Spartan lifestyles resulting from the energy crisis of the 70s are properly observed; and the posters look like they came from Quentin Tarantino’s basement.
The story itself is quiet and off-beat, with few real moments of tension until near the end. The supporting characters take a while to grow on you, but the actors show a lot of enthusiasm for their roles, and don’t try to ham it up, in spite of the rampant kitsch camp they were exposed to on a regular basis. The actual sci-fi aspect of the film does not come into play often, but it works when it does-and logically so. The negative is that time can’t be changed for the better, like it was in the anime film. Well, to be more precise, it’s denied from changing for the better, for the sake of continuity with the present. However, Akari is able to grow and appreciate life, even if she’s a bit fuzzy on the details why by the end. So I’d say Time Traveller works as an enjoyable coming-of-age story, even if it does not incorporate the wish-fulfillment of its predecessors.
Ningen’s Rating: 7/10