Time to catch up on a diverse quartet of recent Blu-ray releases that are definitely worth your time. This time around we take a look at Mamoru Hosoda's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in a deluxe Blu-ray edition from FUNimation, Michael Felsher's Just Desserts in a stand-alone Blu-ray from Synapse Films, Jeremy Saulnier's critically acclaimed Green Room from Lionsgate Home Video, and finally Norwegian disaster flick The Wave from Magnolia Pictures.
Mamoru Hosoda is a ScreenAnarchy favorite and a definite contender for the next great Japanese animator to take up the mantle of anime king that Miyazaki keeps threatening to leave vacant. His last several features have all been critical and fan successes, and it is with the release of his latest film, The Boy and the Beast, that anime superlabel FUNimation has decided to create a special collection dedicated to his work. The first release in the line is the 2006 adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, a favorite that has been long unavailable on Blu-ray in the US.
As I mentioned above, we are great fans of Hosoda, so it's no surprise that we published a review of the film from James Maruyama back in 2007:
Konno Makoto (voiced with great enthusiasm and likability by Naka Riisa) is your typical Japanese high school student who deals with typical teen problems at school and home. Her best friends include brainy hunk Tsuda Kousuke (Itakura Mitsutaka) and happy-go-lucky transfer stuent Mamiya Chiaki (Ishida Takuya). As with the novel and previous movies, Makoto's world is suddenly turned upside down as she develops the ability to traverse backwards in time (in this case, through a "time leaping" device hidden within a walnut shell).
What is unique about this movie (and what sets it apart from the previous adaptations) is the exploration of the ramifications of Makoto's "time leaping" powers. Whereas before in the novel and movies, heroine Yoshiyama Kazuko/Yoshikawa Tomoko was able to time travel with no real consequence or impact on those around her, the heroine here sees the impact that her powers have on others.
"The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" (a much better title than the often used "The Girl Who Conquered/Traversed Time") is a wonderfully touching, funny and captivating movie. Those who have seen the previous adaptations will particularly find this movie a treat.
As someone who isn't familiar with the book or any of the live-action adaptations, including one by Hausu director, Obayashi Nobuhiko, it is interesting to hear just how much more insight Hosoda's version brings to the screen. All of Hosoda's work deals with protagonists struggling to make life changing decisions, it is a consistent theme throughout his oeuvre. This precedent was set in this film, his feature debut, as Makoto struggles to decide what course to take when she is given power beyond anything she could've previously imagined. In Summer Wars, similar decision making is central to the plot as characters must decide where their alliances are. Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast also use the thematic device of split allegiances to delve into the human repercussions that free will can have.
To say that Hosoda goes above and beyond what is required of a storyteller, esepcially in the anime world, would be an understatement. I'm no great anime connoisseur, but I always look forward to his films the same way that I look forward to new projects from Miyazaki or the late Kon Satoshi. The fact that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was his debut feature – after several shorts and episodes of anime serials – is astounding to me as it shows a firm grasp of the potential that feature storytelling provides. Hosoda is the true heir to Miyazaki's throne, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was released once before on US Blu-ray by Bandai, but that edition has been out of print and commanding crazy second-hand prices for several years. Thankfully, FUNimation has acquired the title and rereleased it on these shores at a decent price point with an identical set of special features to go along with the feature. The image and audio quality of the disc are both excellent, with the image providing a crystal clear presentation of the film as Hosoda intends it to be seen. In terms of the original audio, I have watched both the Japanese presentation and English dub and they are quite good with effective surround separation and a focus on the all important dialogue. No complaints here.
The disc-based extras are quite fun, as they were the first time around with Bandai's disc. We get a subtitled director's commentary, a complete storyboard version of the film with a separate commentary, and a music video along with some film premiere footage. All of this material was present on the original Blu-ray as well as the Korean DVD set reviewed my our anime guru, Ard Vijn, back in 2007. You can refer to his review for further details.
All of the above material is present on the deluxe and regular Blu-ray edition from FUNimation. Exclusive to the deluxe Blu-ray release is a translucent slipcover as seen in the above image as well as a 48-page booklet featuring an extended conversation with Hosoda, and his producers Watanabe Takashi and Saito Yuichiro, accompanied by a ton of production and concept art. Now, whether this is worth the upgrade is completely up to you. I'm a massive fan of written extras in booklets, so this appeals to me, but the upgrade cost is fairly steep, so your mileage may vary.
I love this film, and the extras are definitely worthwhile to me, so while the cost disparity between the regular version and the deluxe edition is pretty significant, I'm still going to give this a recommendation.