Story = A-
Video = A+
Audio = B+
When 17-year-old Makoto Konno gains the ability to, quite literally, "leap" backwards through time, she immediately sets about improving her grades and preventing personal mishaps. However, she soon realises that changing the past isn't as simple as it seems, and eventually, will have to rely on her new powers to shape the future of herself and her friends. (Source: ANN)
This is a spectacular character-driven drama and is probably one of the -- if not the best movie I have seen all year (that being 2007).
Part of what makes this movie so easy and enjoyable to watch is that, unlike most time travel stories, it doesn't have the characters traveling across great spans of time or trying to alter world history. The time travel involves leaping back hours, or at most a few days in order for Makoto to make her own life easier so she can do things like sleep in without being late for class, or allowing her to ace tests easily, or avoid awkward social situations. And because the story focuses on short-term time travel and simple every-day events, it is much more believable and easier to relate to. That simplicity also allows the movie to focus fully on the characters and their actions and relationships without having to be distracted by a grandiose plotline. All of this simple, believable, character-driven drama gives the story plenty of emotional range, with both fun (and funny) moments, as well as moments that are dramatically intense.
The animation is simple but the movement of the characters are detailed and extremely realistic. It ranks right up there with the best of studio Ghibli in terms of animating the most minute details of a character's life in order to add depth and realism (which makes sense since some Ghibli staff was involved in making this movie). The artwork is simple with fluid and soft line work that adds to the relaxed easy-going tone of the movie.
That's not to say that the movie is perfect, as it does have a few flaws that distract from its tone. The most significant flaw is that it deviates from that simple every-day storyline in order to give an explanation for the time travel. Personally, I would have been happy if it would have been something like the movie Groundhog Day, where they never really explain why she is able to travel through time since that is not as important as what she does with the ability and how it changes her. But as it is, the movie does add an extra layer of complexity to the plot by bringing in another time-traveler, and as a result makes for an awkward sci-fi shift in tone.
And this issue is compounded all the more because the events that follow are confusing and at times self-contradictory. Plus there are plot threads that are never fully explained (i.e., what exactly is the significance of that painting for the people of the future?). But personally I was able to mentally work my way around these flaws, because the successes of the movie still far outweigh its shortcomings.
One thing that people may be confused about is Makoto's aunt, whom Makoto goes to for advice. The story never explains who this aunt is or why she is so knowledgeable about time travel. As it turns out, this movie is actually a sequel to a live action movie from 1983, which is in turn based on a novel. This anime movie takes place 20 years after that original movie, and the aunt is supposed to be the main character from that live action movie. You don't need to see the original film to appreciate this anime version, but understanding where her character comes from does help alleviate some confusion.
So in summary, this movie is just incredible and even with its flaws ranks right up there with 5 CM Per Second as one of my top picks of 2007. Highly recommended for all audiences.