The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女)
Author: Yasutaka Tsutsui, David Karashima (Translator)
Published: 1967 (Japanese), 9 May 2011 (English)
Company: Kadokawa Shoten (Japanese), Alma Books (English)
Language: Japanese (Original), English (Translated)
I thought I would take a look at a softer science fiction novel today, and that is what The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is, soft science fiction. Well, the first half of the novel is, anyways. I suppose I should talk about the two halves of this book before I get too far ahead of myself.
The book is divided into two different stories: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of. Chances are most people are familiar with the main story given the amount of adaptations it has received over the years, including a 2006 animated film produced by the wonderful people of MADHOUSE*. In comparison, the secondary story has received little attention and has fallen by the wayside. Even if you look up the title on Wikipedia, it only talks about the main story and does not even mention the second one.
The main story focuses on Kazuko, a thirteen year old girl, who is cleaning her middle school science lab with her classmates Kazuo and Goro. She is finishing up when she breaks a mysterious jar, which has a faint lavender-like scent, and faints. She later discovers that she has the ability to “time leap” and “teleported” herself 4 days into the past. The secondary story focuses on a young girl named Masako, who is trying to discover the root of her fear of heights and her discomfort around Prajna masks and overcome them. The second story is shorter than the first and is not connected to the first story.
I was very surprised to discover the original publication date because both pieces felt contemporary and relatable, despite the lack of any mention of modern technology or references to modern cultural events. Any references to time circle around the characters themselves and their own history, not to the time of the culture they are living in. The language of both stories allowed me to slip easily into their universes and place the characters into an environment that I was familiar with, letting my own mind fill in the details of what was happening in the background.
Earlier I said the main story is soft science fiction. What I mean by that is that while there are conventions of science fiction in the story, like teleportation and time travel, they are not discussed in great details and do not receive heavy amounts of focus. The character interaction and the storytelling take precedence over the science fiction elements. Keeping in mind the original date of the work, there likely was not a lot of consensus in the community on how teleportation and time travel worked and what it meant, the rules, and the limitations of those literary devices. The reader is just left to fill in these missing pieces of information in their own minds. With the science fiction taking a back seat, it does not feel like lazy writing, nor is it awkward for the reader.
If you take away the science fiction from this, what does that leave the reader with? Both stories have moments of budding romance, drama surrounding uncertainty and confusion (with the ability to “time leap” or trying to figure out what it is about a simple mask that causes absolute fear in a person), and brief moments about the harshness of life. With the book reaching only a total of 200 pages, the reader moves through the events of both stories at such a fast pace that the moments of drama, the romance, and the harshness of reality do not become tiresome or dull.
I enjoyed both stories, despite their extreme shortness. However, I really wished that the first story was longer and that there was some sort of connective thread between the two stories. I would have accepted Masako being nothing but a classmate of Kazuko who the reader is briefly introduced to in the first story. Otherwise the two stories seemed out of placed by being placed in the same book together. This would be a great quick read for when you are in the mood for something simple, fluffy, and whimsical.
Have you read this book before? Did anything jump up at you that I may have missed? Leave a comment below! Also I want to remind everyone that starting next week, I will be doing Canvember, celebrating Canadian literature and other things Canadian. I’d love it if a couple of people wanted to join up in this project.
Hope everyone had a great pre-Halloween weekend and have a great rest of the week.
* Should I mention that I am a fan of (Japanese) anime & MADHOUSE produces some amazing works!