The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Konno Makoto is a normal high school girl who has a bad day and ends up about to be killed by a train when she suddenly leaps back in time a few minutes to avoid the accident. Once she realizes she can literally leap through time at will, she begins using the ability to improve her life in small ways. But she learns the misfortune she’s denying herself is forced on others, and there’s a number on her arm that is counting down. Her ability only makes her life and relationships more complicated, though not necessarily for the worse…

When all’s said and done, Makoto’s trails and tribulations present a pretty good case for why having the power to change the past is not a power any person should ever possess. Humans love to look back on their choices and wonder what coulda woulda shoulda. But we have enough trouble making the choices we make, without having the opportunity to go back and constantly alter them. To be blunt, a power like that would turn us into perfectionists, and even if time travel is possible, perfection is not. Yet we wouldn’t stop trying to grasp it, and it would consume us. When you can go back and change things, you’ll never stop.

That’s why we’re glad TokiKake sets certain limits to the scope of Makoto’s powers. She doesn’t try to go back to change world history, or even Japanese history, just her own history. And while she starts out goofing off, it turns out she had a finite number of leaps, most of which she squandered. In fact, her most important leaps are her first (which saves her life), and her last (which gives Chiaki his one leap back). Let’s not harbor any illusions: if she had unlimited leaps, she probably wouldn’t stop tweaking events, so it’s a good thing she ran out. In the end, she did the right things at the right time, and everything will be fine.

Anyway, we really got a kick out of this film. It fully immersed us in its lush and detailed world – one so much like ours, but where time leaping is possible – and made us care about that world and the people in it. The ordinary, clumsy Makoto’s epic ordeal is punctuated by moments of deep regret and longing, balanced with profound contentment and joy. She takes a lot of hard licks and learns hard lessons, most important of all, that “time waits for no man” (or in her case, girl); leaping back only leaves one further behind time’s unrelenting pace.

Rating: 4

Sword Art Online – 02

After a month, over a fifth of SAO players are dead, many of them beginners. Diabel, a self-proclaimed knight, calls for a meeting to deal with Illfang, the boss of the first level. The players form teams, with Kirito pairing up with a mysterious hooded girl named Asuna. A beginner named Kibaou demands all Beta testers apologize and offer reparations for allowing the 2,000 newbies to die, but another player, Egil, tells him the Betas provided help in the form of a guidebook, which includes info on Illfang.

The next day, Diabel leads the force to the boss room and they battle Illfang and his sentinals. Diabel is killed trying to take out the boss on his own, and Asuna and Kirito finish what he starts. Kirito gets a rare item – a cloak, and other players accuse him of being a cheating Beta, or ‘Beater’. He releases Asuna from his party and moves on to the second level.

With players dropping left and right and no progress being made, they decide to join forces and coordinate their efforts, and it nets them results. Kirito seems content to stay on the periphery – both of the original meeting held by Diabel and the battle – but in the heat of said battle, he becomes the focal point, and ultimately the slayer of the first boss. He had help from his new…well, not quite friend, yet, but his temporary partner Asuna, who walks quietly and carries a quick sword.

We liked Kirito and Asuna’s very subtle interacitons, starting with his sidling up to her at the meeting and ending with her unexpected airheaded comment about Kirito’s name being right in front of her nose the whole time. We also didn’t mind Diabel, someone who tried to be a real hero and ended up inspiring Kirito to rise to the occasion; or Egil, who tells the hot-headed Kibaou to cool his jets when it comes to dividing the players. Finally, Kirito makes a conscious choice to embrace the reputation he’s earned, and to stop hiding in the background. Now it’s not just about surviving, but winning…and getting butter for his dry bread.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kokoro Connect – 02

Aoki, Inaba, Yui, Iori and Taichi continue switching bodies randomly, until they are confronted by a mysterious entity named Heartseed who temporarily controls their teacher Mr. Go in order to explain the situation and their role. He warns them to keep it a secret and go on with their lives and let him observe until he’s satisfied, and he won’t tolerate insolence. The club sets ground rules and goes through a week of switching, making too many mistakes, while Iori wonders if the switching is a detriment to their identities.

The first episode of Kokoro Connect felt a bit distant, as if we were watching it from keyhole. We had five kids who started switching bodies, but we didn’t have any explanation, so it seemed random. Well, this episode feels more like the second half of the first; it cracks open the door just a crack so we can grab a chip with little tongs, but doesn’t quite let us in yet. A supernatural being walks into their clubroom and lays it all out – at least everything he deems they need to know to fulfill their “task.” This Heartseed fellow is thoroughly emotionally detached, and when the likes of karate expert Yui offers a rebuttal to his proclamations, he swiftly neutralizes her. The club has no choice but to go along with him for now, because they can’t stop him.

This episode also did a much better job connecting us with the club members’ emotional plight in the midst of this new normal. Never knowing when you’ll switch, who you’ll switch with, and for how long…this can wear on people, especially high schoolers who don’t quite know who they are anyway. There’s some mention of practical difficulties like going to the bathroom when in the opposite sex’s body, but more important than maintaining the secret is maintaining their personalities. As Iori eloquently puts it (when in Aoki): souls can’t be seen or touched, so humans identify one another by their physical appearance. If that’s constantly in flux, what does that mean for their identities? Can their souls survive that strain? They’re nice meaty questions that we hope get’s explored as the series progresses.

Rating: 6 (Good)

The Lion King

When we were ten years old and the Lion King came out, we thought it was the best Disney film we’ve ever seen; surpassing Aladdin the year before. From the gorgeous visuals, engrossing score, and toe-tapping songs, and relatively straightforward, strong story about redemption, duty, and family, it seemingly had everything we could possibly want in a movie. Plus, LIONS. The Lion King came out in theatres eighteen years ago. We hadn’t laid eyes on it for thirteen, until we broke out the VHS videocassette and gave it a watch to see if it was as good as we remember.

It is, and we’re not just saying that with our eyes glossed over with nostalgia; it’s a great little film. One thing we didn’t know way back when was how short it was – just 88 minutes, or three-quarters of your typical Miyazaki flick. But it uses those 88 minutes very efficiently. It never lags, and when it seems like it’s about to, we’re treated to another song. The songs themselves are just as fun and addictive as they were when we were kids; and we still remembered many of the lyrics. How couldn’t we; this is a film we must’ve seen dozens of times in our youth. The film is full of clever dialogue and plenty of rapid-fire, droll repartee among the adult characters. Mufasa , Zazu, Scar, Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki’s voice work is top-notch.

Watching The Lion King all grown up, we gained a fresh sympathy for Scar, even if the film gives him none; he just happened to be born after his bigger, stronger brother, and a pride doesn’t need two males, so he’s just out of place in the world. It’s not surprising he’d seek solace consorting with hyenas, who seem like a lot of fun. Even when he’s pretending to show genuine concern when warning Mufasa that Simba’s in the gorge, he sells it so well we believe it. As for young Simba, well, he’s much more of a spoiled little shit than we remember. He kinda had to exile himself till he grew up anyway; there’s no such thing as a cub king. The Lion King has aged specacularly, representing the apex of non-Pixar Disney feature films.

Rating: 4