Anime-style escapism in its purest form...
This classic Japanese animé title is immediately recognisable and we couldn’t wait to see how the original text would differ from the animated version. The slenderness of the novella caused a slight ripple of apprehension – would this fail to live up to expectations?
We first meet Kazuko on a Saturday after classes have finished for the day. After staying behind to clean the science lab with her two friends, Kazuo and Goro; Kazuko inadvertently interrupts a mysterious individual who has been doing something with chemicals. A smashed test tube knocked over in haste, releases a curiously familiar, sweet scent that causes Kazuko to faint to the floor. Deliciously, on waking, Kazuko discovers that she has time-leaping and teleportation powers and is convinced it is linked somehow to that chemical smell from the lab. The inventiveness of a mere smell somehow enabling such an extraordinary physical response is so astonishing that its ludicrousness almost makes it credible. The calm reassurance from a Science teacher that such things happen flies in the face of the preconception that scientists are closed off to the inexplicable, preferring to deal in absolutes or quantifiable truths. Whilst the existence of a boy who is more man than child and the ingenuity of a future educational system that is both extremely complex and yet so simply defined is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Perhaps, inexplicably, we were expecting something more substantial, more literary in nature; but this is not what Tsutsui delivers in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. The dialogue is precariously minimalistic, offering up only clipped sentences, monosyllabic responses and a never-ending array of questions; and of course, this style of writing will not be to everyone’s tastes. Undeniably though, it is this simplicity that underlines Tsutsui’s genius. It a story centred around a fifteen-year-old girl full of self-doubt, self-consciousness and the unsophisticated perceptions and observations of a girl on the cusp of womanhood; what could rely her personality, her true character more than rendering the narrative itself as she would tell it?
Nothing quite prepared us for the patent fact that the novella is surprisingly short, nor with the seeming incongruity of depth and cerebral involvement demanded within its few pages. We suspect that our knowledge of the animé film will have contributed to our understanding and imagining of the story; however, that the bare bones of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is capable of tapping into our imaginations is astonishing and guaranteed to leave even the hardest of hearts with a smile on their lips.
We also like that there is an additional short story tagged on at the end: The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of. Our only bugbear concerns the oddly chosen book cover, which is of a grown woman’s head, when Kazuko is a young teenage girl.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012