Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nostalgia and "Toki wo Kakeru Shojo"

Toki wo Kakeru Shojo - The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Talking about nostalgia, I would like to discuss one topic that really interested me when I attended the "Cool Japan" Conference at MIT.

On the first day of the conference they screened "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki wo Kakeru Shojo, or TokiKake)" and its director Mamoru Hosoda was present to discuss this film (interesting that he has connection to Miyazaki, because I thought the style looked similar).

Unfortunately, I made the fatal mistake of not going to the screening (I hadn't heard about TokiKake), and Hosoda was at the conference only for the screening, but I heard Ian Condry, the conference organizer, discuss his interview with Hosoda during one panel discussion.

Toki wo Kakeru Shojo is based on a juvenile SciFi novel by Tsutsui Yasutaka from the 60's, and it was cinematized in 1983 by Nobuhiko Obayashi (I saw his "Tenkousei" and I liked it a lot—even went to Onomichi where this movie was shot, an old beautiful seaside town).

The future plays an important part in "Toki wo Kakeru Shojo". When this movie came out, Hosoda was probably in high school, and back then, the future meant the 21st century. We are now in the 21st century, and the "future" didn't turn out anything like what was imagined back then. When Hosoda saw the movie, the world was a hopeful place. Man had reached the moon, and science and technology promised a bright future. Despite the Cold War, people were hopeful that we would eradicate wars and medical advances looked like we would find cures for terminal diseases sooner or later. And this world view was reflected in the original story.

But Hosoda wondered how such views would be received by today's young people. We are no longer sure what the future holds. So the first thing for Hosoda to do was to rethink the whole premise of the story in the context of the present and think about what would touch young people's hearts today.

Revivals of the old hit movies and TV shows are all too common these days, and I assumed that it was all commercialism—appealing to both the nostalgia generation as well as the young audience who never saw the original—and I didn't think very highly of such practices. I took it as a sign of a lack of creativity, and seeing that many of the directors of such derivative works are of my generation, I felt a bit shamed. Yet, I also felt an unexplainable attraction to them. Hosoda's explanation finally opened my eyes—my generation is in a sense obsessed with revisiting the past and looking back into the present to fill the gap between the what we had expected for the future back then and what we ended up with.

I'm so curious as to how Hosoda answered his own questions. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie someday.


Clarissa said...


I got here through your comment in my blog. Thanks for telling me about your project. I think it's terrific! Also, based on this post here, I was wondering if you're a member of AMRC-L--if not, you probably should be! More info here:
There are lots of Moto Hagio fans on the ML.

Nancy said...

Thanks a lot for your encouraging words, Clarissa, and for introducing me to this group! While we've been throwing ourselves into putting this blog together, it's also been interesting checking out all the other manga-related writing out there. The consensus is that a lot more of the classic-era manga really needs some good English translation--especially Hagio, whose work is so complex and unique.