published by DC/CMX Manga
Review by Ed Sizemore
The Girl Who Runs Through Time Books 1 & 2
original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui; manga by Gaku Tsugano; adapted by Sheldon Drzka; DC / CMX Manga, $9.99 US
Although relatively unknown in the US, Yasutaka Tsutsui is a highly acclaimed science fiction writer in Japan. Anime fans may best know him as the author of Paprika, which Satoshi Kon adapted into an animated film of the same name.
In 1965, Tsutsui began serialization of his novel Toki O Kakeru Shojo (The Girl Who Runs Through Time). This novel would be adapted into a theatrical movie twice, a TV miniseries, and a TV movie, and it served as the inspiration for the anime film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Unfortunately, the novel has never been translated into English, so I can’t speak to the faithfulness of the manga I’m about to review.
CMX’s The Girl Who Runs Through Time appears to be a direct adaptation of Tsutsui’s novel, from the summaries of the book I could find online. The plot is an intriguing take on time travel.
After an incident in the science lab, high school student Kazuko Yoshiyama discovers she has the ability to go back in time. At first, Kazuko doesn’t realize she has this power and finds herself transported to the past after longing to see her deceased grandmother. She later uses her ability to help a friend avoid an accident that originally stopped him from competing in a kendo match. However, preventing her friend’s accident causes a greater one to happen, and Kazuko realizes the terrible consequences that can happen when someone alters the past.
The story is a wonderful blend of shojo and science fiction. Tsugano creates a manga that has a timeless feel to it, which seems appropriate since it involves time travel. These characters and events could take place any time in the last fifty years. This timelessness makes it easy to identify with and become emotionally attached to the characters.
Kazuko is a very likeable, if a little generic, lead character. She’s a good student, a dutiful daughter, and a caring friend. The first chapter made her particularly sympathetic to me. Her close relationship with her grandmother reminded me of my own relationship with my maternal grandfather. Plus, she is honestly trying to do what she believes is best for her friends and family. Unfortunately, some of her actions have unforseen and tragic consequences. She feels genuinely guilty about the accident that results from saving her friend and strives to make the best out of the situation.
If the story has a shojo feel to it, by contrast, the page designs are very shonen. This actually works well for the story, since it keeps the emotions subdued, which is more in line with Kazuko’s personality. The freeform page layouts found in shojo might have added an element of frivolousness to this quiet and personal story. The art isn’t perfect. I would prefer more details in the faces, and occasionally, the figures seem stiff. However, in general, the art is nice and works effectively.
My only complaint with this two-book series is the few moments of gratuitous fanservice. There is a bonus story at the end of volume one that takes place at the beach with the requisite revealing bathing suits. It serves no purpose other than to let us see Kazuko and her younger sister in bikinis.
Overall, The Girl who Runs Through Time is a gentle tale about one incredible summer in Kazuko’s life. It’s a testament to Tsutsui’s writing ability that he’s able to make time travel feel as natural as Kazuko going to school each day. This is a solid coming-of-age story with a sci-fi twist that adds poignancy to the events.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
original story by Yasutaka Tsutsui; manga by Ranmaru Kotone; translated by Satsuki Yamashita; Bandai Entertainment, $10.99 US
Bandai’s The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is an adaptation of the anime of the same name. The anime was inspired by Tsutsui’s novel and serves as an unofficial sequel to the book.
Kotone’s manga takes place several years after the events of The Girl Who Runs Through Time. In this story, high school student Makoto Konno discovers she can travel back in time when she avoids a fatal train accident by a temporal jump back. She then plays around with her newfound powers, enjoying the ability to correct her mistakes with a just a small step back in time. Like Kazuko, Makoto learns there is a price for altering the past. Thankfully, none of the consequences for her are as serious.
In general, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is much lighter in tone than Tsutsui’s original story. Makoto takes much smaller steps in time than Kazuko. Usually, Makoto simply relives the same day, avoiding all the mistakes and misfortunes she encountered the first time around. She mostly uses her power to avoid choosing between competing options. She can live the same day multiple times, doing everything she wanted but couldn’t fit into a normal 24 hours.
Makoto is also a likeable lead. She is energetic and optimistic. She’s a bit of a tomboy and enjoys playing catch with her closest friends, both male. She comes across as a typical contemporary teen girl simply caught up in the joys of youth.
The story flows well until you get to the last chapter; there, the narration falls apart. In truth, I didn’t understand the ending the first time I read it. I had to go back and re-read it much more slowly, filling in gaps by my own inferences in light of what I knew was going to happen.
The major problem is the ending doesn’t flow with the rest of the book. It feels like there are at least two chapters missing that are needed to tie all the parts together. I haven’t seen the anime, but based on reviews I’ve seen, this flaw was part of the anime also. It appears the filmmakers had more story than they had screen time, so scenes were cut from the script, and no additional rewriting was done to patch up the holes created in the narrative.
It’s a shame the manga choose to repeat the same mistake. Because of the rushed ending, the lessons Matoko learns feel forced. At only 190 pages, there is still room to create a much smoother transition and keep the manga to only one volume. This lack of editorial insight ruins what might have been a good story.
Kotone is an accomplished draftsman. The page layouts flow well. Kotone does a good job conveying all the range of emotions. It’s solid artwork, it just doesn’t stand out of the crowd.
You’re best off reading The Girl Who Runs Through Time and skipping The Girl Who Lept Through Time. Bandai’s manga is shallow and seems more designed to kill time than offer a good read. In attempting to update the story, they stripped away all that made Tsutsui’s novel beloved enough to endure over the years. Until the original story is available, Tsugano’s manga will serve as a good surrogate.