Story: Kazuko Yoshiyama (Narumi Yasuda) works on a formula that would make time travel possible. When she is finally successful, her daughter Akari (Riisa Naka) surprises her with the fact that she qualified for studying biology. On her way home, Kazuko suddenly remembers something from her past that seemed to have been erased from her memory completely. In shock, she stands in the middle of the street and then gets hit by a car. For days, Kazuko lies unconsciously in a hospital and Akari worries a lot. As soon as the scientist gains consciousness again, she asks her daughter to get a fluid from her laboratory and use it to time travel to the year 1972, where she is supposed to deliver her first true love an important message from her. Akari meets her wish, but mixes up the dates and therefore ends up in the year 1974. There, she meets the young man Ryota (Akiyoshi Nakao), who wants to become a director and shoots a no-budget science fiction movie with his fellow students. Akari manages to convince him that she comes from the future and he allows her to stay at his place. Together, the two of them try to find the mysterious man she is supposed to deliver the message to by means of a picture which her mother took with her first love. However, he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. At the school he was supposed to be at nobody knows him, and despite the fact that they are in the picture together, even Akari's young mother does not recognize him. Akari runs out of options but she keeps trying to find the man.
Review: I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this sci-fi romantic drama based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel. After all, there had already been a highly praised anime version called "The Girl Who Lept Through Time" from 2006. Maybe, therefore I expected a live-action adaptation of this version. But in this respect and in many others, the movie manages to surprise both positively and negatively. On the one hand, the movie is based on the novel, but focuses on another plotline, on the other hand, it is not the cheesy romance story that you might have feared. The end result is thus rather mature and by no means as tacky as you would have expected. Nevertheless, the movie lacks something really special or rather the spark that sets either the plot or the characters apart from similar movies. This leads to the fact that you will be disappointed at the end of the movie, after all.
A negative aspect to mention is the acting performance at the beginning. Narumi Yasuda plays the protagonist's mother in a very strange unworldly fashion, which you might expect from an anime, but here it just seems tacky and superficial. In addition, her character does not fit the alter ego in the past. Also, the protagonist Riisa Naka sometimes overacts too much and misses the target. The male cast gets their job done a little bit better, even if you have to point out that all characters would have needed a little bit more depth. If this had been all to criticize, you might be able to forgive these weaknesses, but unfortunately, the directing mostly seems more fitting for a TV show. Even if this gets better in the course of the movie, the numerous close-ups and other camera shots paired with the subpar soundtrack make it impossible to mistake all this as quality cinema. Nevertheless, the direction cannot exactly be called a disaster, either.
Since the movie focuses mostly on the characters, it is strange, though, that they remain flat throughout the entire movie. In general, the plot develops rather slowly and especially in the middle there is basically nothing happening and you have to ask yourself whether you are dealing with a science-fiction picture, a romance or a dramatic movie. The answer clearly is that we are dealing with a romantic drama, in which the romance is subtlety woven into as a common thread. This is quite pleasant because the plot could easily have been turned into a ridiculous teeny romance flick. However, the surprising seriousness of the story cannot be fully supported by anything within the movie. The science-fiction parts are scattered in there rather randomly and you even quickly forget about it as soon as you are thrown into the 70s. And once you are reminded of this aspect again through a deus ex machina, this part of the plot feels completely out of place.
As expected, Akari meets some of her relatives in the past. Her search for the man she is supposed to deliver a message to from her mother, proves to be more problematic than expected, though. Her solution is a friendship to a film student, which leads to some nice moments, but not so much between the two of them, but rather through some interesting scenes between the director and his friends shooting the no-budget flick. But it is a big problem that there is no chemistry between the two main characters. Even if the relationship was not supposed to serve as a real love story, anyway - for which you have to applaud the movie -, the friendship portrayed here is too superficial. Through the film student and some coincidences, Akari does manage to find a way to contact the mysterious man, though. The problem, however, is that everything Akira does - even ending up in the wrong year - has to be forced into a final conclusion.
The ending is compelled to be bittersweet, although more melancholic than you probably would have expected. But that is exactly what makes "Time Traveller" even more irritating. It is not clear, which kind of tone director Masaaki Taniguchi wants to strike with his work. Somber, sad, hopeful, happy - all these sentiments are crammed into a movie which cannot become the sum of its parts. Especially because the individual parts are not connected logically or in any other way. The slow pacing makes us ask ourselves where Akira's journey is supposed to lead to and most of all, at what point we'll finally get there. With its ending "Time Traveller" might manage to make up for some of its weaknesses, but at the same time we get the impression that you would have needed a more coherent piece of work to really affect us deeply even more. You might give the movie a chance as a mature romantic drama with the 70s setting in Japan as a unique feature, but you should not really expect a good movie here.