Friends were holding a sleepover at my place. It was anime night. We watched this movie after most of the guests went home early. We totally regretted not watching this earlier. Nothing could top it, and we had to end anime night on that note.
The set pieces and character designs are fantastic; the characters reminded me of Japanese woodblock prints against the saturated textures and lighting effects of the background. There is no question about the animation itself: the movement is fluid and the physics are very convincing—and at some points convincing in a way we wish it wouldn't. But it's the composition of the story elements that won me over— the interweaving of personal stories, symbols, and clever timing of the leaps to coincide with specific events rather than jumping to arbitrary points in time makes a movie that fully immerses the viewer and gives a satisfying performance. The sometimes overused theme of "normal kid growing up juxtaposed against incredible happenings" is given a great run with a surprising twist that I doubt anyone in the audience would have guessed, and even the handwave time mechanics are no problem for the viewer's suspense of disbelief.
Both voice casts are equally powerful and the acting nearly brought me to tears, even despite some translation kinks like rhymes (though names were handled pretty well in the dub). The emotion, the attitude of the voice, even the crying was spot on. You can relate to all the characters, especially the main character since we've all had to make big decisions in our lives. Most, if not all of us would use the time leap ability to do exactly what the main character did, and if I'm spoiling, it's not because I'm revealing any plot; it's because you all know exactly what will happen, because you all have thought of it before. The music is another thing altogether. It pairs like wine and cheese with the mood of the movie. the vocal solo wells you up. The solo piano tugs your heartstrings.
This movie is a triumph of cinema and animation. The MC sold me the DVD so he could buy the special edition. This DVD will be filed right in between Ghibli and FLCL.
"If only I had known, we could have planned ahead... this would have been SO much better!" my friend lamented after realizing how many people missed out on such an awesome finish to anime night.
The rest of us are likewise.