Tsutsui’s 1965 time travel novel has inspired at least three features and one television
series, but each one is substantially different. That seems oddly appropriate,
given the space-time continuum issues involved. While Mamoru Hosoda’s anime
film is the most acclaimed, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s original 1983 adaptation is a
sentimental favorite, largely thanks to former idol Tomoyo Harada. She is a
teenager rather than a little girl and it would be a vast overstatement to call
her a conqueror, but her earnestness perfectly suits the nostalgic charm of
Obayashi’s The Little Girl Who Conquered
which screens as part of the Japan Society retrospective: Pop! Goes Cinema: Kadokawa Films and 1980s Japan.
is Onomichi in the early 1980s, so Kazuko Yoshiyama and her friends still have
class on Saturday mornings. Traditionally, it is a day of service, which is why
Yoshiyama was cleaning the chemistry lab. Unfortunately, a weird lavender
smelling concoction knocks her unconscious before her two loyal guy pals, Kazuo
Fukamachi and Goro Horikawa arrive to help.
good news is her fainting spell gets her out of gym. The bad news is she starts
repeating fragments of the next two days, sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (but not to such an absurd
degree)—and oh what fraught days they are, featuring earthquakes, fires,
collapsing roof tiles, and teen angst.
the special effects look hopelessly dated, but Obayashi conveys a wonderfully
vivid and wistful sense of Onomichi’s seaside hills and winding pathways. You
can practically smell the lavender, which plays a significant role in the
narrative. It starts to feel like the home you never knew but always missed.
her feature debut, former idol (and coincidentally the star of the early 1980s Sailor Suit and Machine Gun TV series) Tomoyo
Harada is just terrific as Yoshiyama. She portrays the time-jumping teen with
tremendous sensitivity and pluck, yet she also coveys the girl’s stubbornness
and even a little flakiness. Likewise, Toshinori Omi is shockingly poignant as
the torch-carrying Horikawa. Poor Ryôichi Takayanagi often gets dissed for his
awkward stiffness as Fukamachi, but you could argue it is perfectly justifiable—even
necessary—within the film’s dramatic context.
is intoxicatingly bittersweet, similar in spirit to Peggy Sue Got Married (which it pre-dates by several years, unlike Goodbye Mr. Loser), except everything
does not work out so neatly perfect. Still, it is hard to beat its eighties
nostalgia goodness, right down to the inclusion of the music video for Harada’s
theme song before the closing credit. Incredibly sweet but still a lot of high
school genre fun, The Little Girl Who
Conquered Time is very highly recommended when it screens this Tuesday
(12/13) at the Japan Society, as part of their ongoing Kadokawa retrospective.
Labels: Japan Society, Japanese Cinema, Kadokawa, Nobuhiko Obayashi, Time Travel Films