“One of Tsutsui’s best-known and most popular works in his native Japan, The Girl Who Leapt through Time is the story of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Kazuko, who accidentally discovers that she can leap back and forth in time. In her quest to uncover the identity of the mysterious figure that she believes to be responsible for her paranormal abilities, she’ll constantly have to push the boundaries of space and time, and challenge the notions of dream and reality.”
From the title and back cover one would never know this book is a collection of two novellas. It honestly also over dramatizes things a bit.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
The titular story is the big draw here, being somewhat famous due to inspiring a successful anime film of the same name (as well as several live action adaptations and spin offs).
I adore the anime and was interested to check out the source material. They’re a little closer than I expected since the anime stars the niece of the main character here. It’s as if they wanted to adapt the story but with the freedom to expand and change it so made it about someone else. If you’ve seen/read neither I’d recommend watching the anime first, as it achieves an unfolding sense of wonder that I think would be mitigated otherwise. The book raised some questions about the film, as a couple of details don’t quite gel with what I remember. I want to watch it again with this in mind.
It’s a very quick read, partially due to a functional, no-nonsense writing style. Not sure if it’s translation or the original text, but while not bad the style is a bit flat and the narrative would have benefitted from something more engaging. There’re also exposition dumps at times that are awkward. I liked the story overall though, and it was interesting to check out the anime’s inspiration. I think this is one of the rare cases where the adaptation far outdid the original though.
The Stuff that Nightmares are Made Of
The second story of this collection features a high school girl dealing with deep seated, seemingly irrational fear. This parallels with her younger brother, who’s ridiculed for being a coward and preferring to play with girls than boys. The core concept and the way everything plays out is fine, but it suffers even more from the plain writing style than the previous story and really needed a little flair to elevate the subject matter. There’s some troubling themes mixed in with the strong ones too.
I don’t have much more to say here because it’s not particularly good or bad and thus pretty unremarkable. It’s inclusion feels like padding because the first story was deemed too short to publish alone, especially since it’s not even acknowledged in any way in the title or description. Someone picking this up unaware would have no reason to believe the titular story wasn’t the full 170 pages, when it’s actually close to half that (97 pages of the 170).
Overall this is a mediocre collection that’s more interesting in theory than it is impressive in execution, with the presentation holding back a couple of strong story ideas. The titular story (and main attraction) is still quite decent, but if you’re only going to experience that story one way choose the anime.