Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a great fucking movie.

If it were a Studio Ghibli production, it would tour film festivals the world over, win near-universal acclaim, be dubbed in English with a somewhat confused but amiable all-star cast, be released by Disney in a few hundred theaters, get nominated for an Academy Award, and become a perennially solid-seller on DVD for years afterwards.

Sadly, although director Mamoru Hosoda spent quite a few years at Studio Ghibli (being the initial director for Howl's Moving Castle before leaving for unpublicized "creative differences"), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time isn't a Ghibli production.

Which is a shame, since the film draws comparisons with some of Studio Ghibli's best. It's warm, exquisitely designed, utterly charming, and wholly entertaining. Its characters and setting are distinctly Japanese, but the simply-told story, with its smattering of magic realism and otherworldly conceits, are told in the universal language of great filmmaking. It represents what is best about not just anime, but animation in general. The expressiveness and humanism of each of the characters escape the usual cartoon trappings, despite the implausible (and sometimes confusing) twists and turns of the story, and cut straight through to the bone, just like Miyazaki's towering flights of fancy or anything by, say, Brad Bird. It's the one shining example of the kind of brilliance anime can achieve once in a while, unrestrained by tight budgets, obnoxious merchandising tie-ins, or callow, puerile violence and sex.

This is a film that speaks to audiences of all ages, of surprising emotional depth and courage. It deserves and begs to be seen alongside the best animated films of the decade, which may sound like I'm "overhyping" this thing a bit, but "hype" in the context of anime is so pitiful that its honestly laughable. "Hype" is the multimedia blitz before the release of big-ticket blockbusters like Spider Man 3, or universal critical acclaim of No Country For Old Men. "Hype" isn't some asshole or two on the internet telling you that a destined-to-rot-in-obscurity animated film from Japan is really, really great.

But, once again, this is not a Ghibli production. And what's worse, the US distribution rights have been snatched up by Bandai Entertainment. Yeuchh.

Bandai's only experience in theatrical animation has been releasing the confusing Mobile Suit Gundam features into a single-digit number of theaters for a week, and aiding the once struggling Viz in their release of Jin-Roh to a then-unreceptive-to-anime moviegoing public. Which means, basically, we're going to see a lot of ads for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in low-read industry publications like Newtype, a bare-bones DVD release in most stores, and a SUPER-DELUXE-SPECIAL-LIMITED-EDITION for only $49.99 MSRP that includes the movie, a bonus disc with maybe one or two bonus features, and some totally useless tchochke inside a box the size of the Ark of the Covenant!

Fuck that. I know that nobody of any real importance reads blogs that aren't either written by famous people or ones plastered with ads, but on the off chance somebody, somewhere, of some importance regarding the US release of this film stumbles across this: Don't screw up. Don't cheap out. This is an important film, not because it contains some kind of socio-political message, but because this is an emotionally honest, captivating, artistically enchanting film that offers the kind of warmth and intelligence that most big-budget animated features from the world over curiously lack. Get this film into festivals. Get this into as many theaters as possible. Get a professional, well-known English dub commissioned. Don't be afraid, come Oscar-season, to publicize the hell out of this movie to get an Academy Award nomination. Partner with a bigger company to distribute it theatrically. Don't be worried about the usual consensus that the hoi polloi seems to discern towards anime; allow them to be surprised by this little film's heart and character.

Please, please: don't fuck up.


Jesse said...

Actually, Bandai did get a fairly good release for the Escaflowne movie a few years back. They at least got it out in Vancouver, which I hope will also be the case with this film.

Danita said...

Although I've never seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I hope Bandai doesn't kill it for me. I admit, Escaflowne was a good dubbed movie from Bandai.