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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) Part 1: The Original Novel

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shōjo) is an SF youth novel by TSUTSUI Yasutaka first published as a series in 1965 in Chūgaku sannen course, with the later of the 7 installments published in Kōichi course. Both are educational magazines published by Gakushū kenkyū-sha, intended for 3rd year middle school and 1st year high school students respectively. This is partially true for the West as well, but in Japan in particular, same way as with manga, youth publications are often aimed at a particular gender readership and there are shōnen shōsetsu (novels for boys) and shōjo shōsetsu (novels for girls). But despite the female protagonist, because of the nature of the publication it was part of, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a general youth SF novel rather than a shōjo shōsetsu.

The story was later collected in book form in 1967 by publisher Tsurushobō. The illustrations for the series publication by ISHII Naoru were replaced with new ones by TANI Toshihiko. In 1976 the novel was re-released by publisher Kadokawa bunko, with new illustrations again by TANI. There were more rereleases from different publishers after that but this article is based on and the illustrations are taken from the 1976 version. To this day, TSUTSUI’s original story has repeatedly been adapted for TV and the big screen and it’s the only Japanese novel that has had four movie adaptations since 1980, the first in 1983 and the last one in 2010. It’s a true classic that transcends the ages.1 http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/時をかける少女

In the West, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time became known thanks to the 2006 anime adaptation by director HOSODA Mamoru which saw an English version in the same year. TSUTSUI’s novel has also been available in English translation since 2011, translated by David James Karashima and published by Alma Books.2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Leapt_Through_Time Not many people in the Western hemisphere know this but The Girl Who Leapt Through Time also served as a major influence for the scenario of the 1997 hit game Final Fantasy VII, as writer NOJIMA Kazushige told Famitsū in an interview in their 2012 May 31 issue.

Spoiler warning! It is highly recommended that you read the novel before this analysis. The anime’s story is different as it expands on and modernizes the original story but some key plot developments are the same as in the novel so if you plan to watch the anime, do so before you continue reading this article.


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Saturday the 15th – After the last lesson on that day, a science class, Kazuko and her two close friends Kazuo and Gorō are assigned cleaning duties by their teacher FUKUSHIMA. Kazuko hears someone in the lab room and finds traces of someone mixing a medicine. She looks for him behind a screen, but he is gone. (Chapter 1: The Black Shadow in the Science Classroom)

Before she can read the label of a broken bottle left behind by the ominous shadow, Kazuko faints. She is found by her friends and brought to the sick room. The remaining teacher FUKUSHIMA attests she’s anemic. When she wakes up, Kazuko tells FUKUSHIMA about what happened. But no traces remain in the lab. Kazuko mentions the medicine smelled like lavender. (Chapter 2: The Scent of Lavender)Compare with movie

2 to 3 days later – Kazuko’s body feels different, somewhat light. She lacks confidence, feels like she is about to start something outrageous. (Chapter 3: Rumbling of the Earth and Shaking)Compare with movie

Tuesday the 18th – Kazuko can’t sleep at night as her thoughts still revolve around the incident on Saturday. A quake occurs. Later there is a fire near Gorō’s house. Kazuko goes out to check if he’s save. Meets Kazuo and Gorō, the fire is extinguished. Back in bed when she finally sleeps at 3 o’clock she has a nightmare about the fire and the ominous shadow from the lab. (Chapter 3)Compare with movie

Wednesday the 19th – The next day she is late for school. She meets Gorō’s, they talk about the fire last night. When they cross the street as the light turns green, a truck approaches and threatens to run them over. (Chapter 3)

Thoughts are running through Kazuko’s head as she’s about to die. She wishes she hadn’t gotten up this morning. (Chapter 4: Between Dream and Reality)Compare with movie

1st time leap occurs.

Back one day

Tuesday the 18th – Kazuko is back in her bed. Was it all a dream? At school she tells Kazuo about the earthquake and fire but he doesn’t remember. Gorō doesn’t know about any fire either. Kazuo says it must have been a dream. (Chapter 4)

Kazuko is called to the blackboard to solve a math equation she already knows but which is new to her classmate Mariko. She struggled the first time but solved it with ease this time. Kazuko asks Mariko what day it is. She now realizes it is not Wednesday but Tuesday again. (Chapter 5: The Problem I Solved Yesterday)

Kazuko needs to talk to someone about what is happening to her and visits Kazuo at his house. Gorō is there already. As Kazuko’s story sounds unbelievable Gorō is convinced she is mentally ill. (Chapter 6: Crazy Tuesday) Kazuo wants to give her claims a chance and convinces Gorō to wait until the night to confirm if Kazuko says the truth. (Chapter 7: Wait Until Tonight!)

At night, Kazuko is already prepared and arrives for the fire early. (Chapter 7) When it breaks out the two boys are convinced. They talk about the power until the fire is extinguished. Back in bed Kazuko ponders who else she could talk to until she falls asleep. (Chapter 8: He Wore Pajamas)Compare with movie

Wednesday the 19th – When Kazuko wakes up she remembers about the truck and realizes she forgot to warn Gorō. (Chapter 8) She waits for Gorō at the cross-walk and manages to prevent him getting run over by the truck. (Chapter 9: That Moment, the Reckless Truck…)

They decide to talk to their science teacher FUKUSHIMA about Kazuko’s power. (Chapter 10: Someone to Confide in) He believes them (Chapter 11: To Leap Through Time) and suggests that the incident on Saturday might be linked to Kazuko’s new found power. He thinks she needs to use her power to go back to that point in time. When Kazuko and the boys leave, FUKUSHIMA comes running to warn them about a collapsing steel-frame. Kazuko thinks she’s going to be buried by it. (Chapter 12: To That Place, 4 Days Ago)Compare with movie

2nd time leap occurs

At night – Kazuko is alone all of a sudden. It might be Monday evening or Tuesday night before dawn. Does she exist two times right now? She walks back to her house to confirm. (Chapter 13: Wandering Around the City Streets At Night) Her bed is empty, she feels relieved. She needs to get inside unnoticed, wishes strongly to be inside. (Chapter 14: The Journey to the Day Before, Or the One Before That One)Compare with movie

3rd time leap occurs

Saturday the 15th – Kazuko was able to use her power consciously and teleported inside. Confirms date and time. It’s Saturday morning, 10:30, during third period. She rushes off to school. (Chapter 14) There is a big fuzz because Kazuko disappeared from her seat in class. After the attention dies down the day repeats as before. Kazuko gets into the lab early to wait for the shadow. (Chapter 15: Back To Where It Started) She finds out who the shadow really is (Chapter 16: Who Is the Intruder?) and learns he is a visitor from the future. He stops time to so they won’t be interrupted as he explains everything. (Chapter 17: The Boy Who Came From The Future, Chapter 18: The Year 2660, Chapter 19: An Unexpected Confession, Chapter 20: The People in the Future and the People Nowadays, Chapter 21: His Name Was Ken Sogoru)

Then he has to take Kazuko’s memory away again because she must not know about the future. But he promises to come back one day, assuming a new identity. (Chapter 22: The Deleted Memory)Compare with movie

Tuesday the 18th – No fire occurs. (Chapter 23: The Person I Will Meet Someday)

Wednesday the 19th – Kazuko and Gorō aren’t late and don’t get nearly run over by the truck. (Chapter 23)


Gorō, FUKUSHIMA-sensei, Kazuo, Kazuko (left to right)

Gorō, FUKUSHIMA-sensei, Kazuo, Kazuko (left to right)

YOSHIYAMA Kazuko3 In her name, the part kazu which she shares with Kazuo is spelt with the character 和 meaning peaceful, which is typical for female names containing the word kazu. – The protagonist of the story, appears in all chapters. Third year middle school student, same as the intended readership. 15 years old, female. Her outer appearance is not described in the novel text but from TANI’s illustrations we can tell she wears her hair short and is taller than Gorō but slightly shorter than Kazuo.

She seems most concerned with wanting to be normal and not stand out or be talked about. Thus the power she acquired is mostly a burden to her, she doesn’t want to be special or have this power if it means she is the only one to have it.

Plays basketball.4 Chapter 3

According to Gorō she is overly motherly in her behavior. She in turn blames him for her coming late again because she tries to save him from dying in the traffic accident.

She is frequently petrified or close to tears because of the difficult situations she finds herself in. She also doubts her chances when confronting the dark shadow alone because she thinks she “is just a girl”. But she turns out fine on her own.Compare with movie

FUKAMACHI Kazuo5 In his name, the part kazu which he shares with Kazuko is spelt with the character 一 meaning one, as in the first, which is typical for male names containing the word kazu. – Kazuko’s classmate and close friend. Appears in chapters 1-8, 10-12, 15, 17-23. Described as lean and tall. Good in school. Visionary, dreamy, often lost in thought, you don’t know what is going on inside him.

Apparently less bothered by Kazuko mothering him and Gorō. Rational thinking attentive observer. Tries to evaluate the facts before forming judgment. Trusts Kazuko despite doubts and resolves to test her claims before dismissing them. Proves to be more reliable than Gorō despite his introverted attitude.

When Kazuko comes to visit on her second run of the 18th, he spots her from his room through the window and calls her, inviting her into his room. Gorō is there with him.

Kazuko notices he has feminine hands.Compare with movie

ASAKURA Gorō – Kazuko’s classmate and close friend. Appears in chapters 1-12, 15 and 23. Described as stout and energetic. 20 cm shorter than Kazuo. Good in school, hardworking but also impulsive, even reckless. Gets red in the face a lot.

Feels mothered by Kazuko ordering them around, which annoys him. Brings Kazuko’s school bag when they’ve finished cleaning. Quick to assume bad things about Kazuko. When they can’t find her in the science classroom, he assumes that she might be slacking off and chatting with another female student. When Kazuko tells him that his house will nearly catch fire he assumes her to be mentally ill and intends to phone a lunatic asylum to get help for her. Jumping to conclusions.

When he finds her lying on the floor he screams like a girl, thinking she’s dead.

Blames the teacher for Kazuko fainting, it’s too much work for such a small group of people.

Once convinced he becomes very supportive and even calls the power a gift.Compare with movie

FUKUSHIMA-sensei – Kazuko’s science teacher. Appears in chapters 1-2, 10-12 and 23. Assigns her and the two boys to cleaning duties and is present to provide medical assistance after Kazuko fainted and the boys carried her to the sick room.

He takes people seriously: When Kazuko and Gorō are late for class he at first makes fun of them for coming late as a couple but when he sees their faces he understands something serious has happened and refrains from making more jokes about the situation. When the three friends confide in him about Kazuko’s circumstances he is surprisingly easy convinced.

He has a scientific interest in unexplainable cases like this and tells them about more incidents of teleportation and time leaps that supposedly happened in America. He believes that cases like Kazuko’s can move science forward as there need to be unexplainable phenomenon to learn new things.

With his rational thinking and scientific approach he appears like an older version of Kazuo. He also concludes that the earlier encounter with the shadow is likely connected and that Kazuko needs to confront the shadow. And he comes up with a method to make her use her power again by fooling her into thinking that her life is in danger.Compare with movie

KOMATSU-sensei – Appears in chapters 5 and 15. Kazuko’s math teacher who let’s her solve a math problem in front of the class. Since she traveled back in time she already solved it once and repeats it with ease, which impresses her teacher KOMATSU.Compare with movie

KAMIYA Mariko – Kazuko’s female classmate who often takes the seat next to her. Appears in chapters 5, 9-10 and 15. Tells Kazuko that it is Tuesday, not Wednesday, after the first time leap. Makes assumptions about Kazuko liking Kazuo, comments on Kazuko waiting on Gorō. Jealous of Kazuko’s close friendship with the two boys. Throws a fit when Kazuko disappears from the seat next to her and later re-enters the classroom.Compare with movie
Ken Sogoru – Kazuo’s real identity. Time traveler from the future who became trapped in our time. Gives an impression of genuine maturity6 Chapter 17 and is highly mentally developed despite his young age, 11. Likes older women. Professor of pharmacy and inventor of the time traveling medicine. Falls in love with Kazuko and tells her everything about what really happened and about the future, because he feels she deserves it after what she has gone through.Compare with movie
Kazuko’s mother and younger sisters – Appear in chapters 3-4 and 7.Compare with movie

Kazuo’s parents – Father mentioned in chapters 6. He told Kazuko various things about lavender when he showed the plant to her in his green house. Mother mentioned in chapter 8. She bought Kazuo new pajamas. Really an old childless couple. Chosen by Ken because of their green house and because they didn’t have a child of their own.Compare with movie

Onlookers and neighbors – Appear in chapters 3, 8 and 10. Talk about the fire and accident.Compare with movie

Classmates – Appear in chapters 4, 9-10 and 15.Compare with movie

Shin-chan – A young man from the neighborhood, living at the rice store. Comes out of the public bath and discovers the fire in chapter 8.Compare with movie

Police – Appear in chapters 3 and 10 because of the fire and traffic accident. Mentioned in chapter 7: Kazuko is reluctant to alarm people of the fire because Gorō might think she set it herself. Then the police would arrest her as an arsonist. Mentioned again in chapter 13: Wandering at night she fears being picked up by the police as a runaway girl. Later in the chapter when she arrives at her home, unable to get inside she thinks people must assume her to be a thief trying to break into her own home. But no police car in sight.Compare with movie


The lab room

Medicine – Smells of lavender, which rhymes with calendar, i.e. an object symbolizing time. Even just smelling it will give you the ability to leap through time. Effect wears off with time.

Invented by Ken Sogoru in the year 2660 based on other drugs that enabled special powers like teleportation. Lavender is a necessary ingredient to make time travel work.Compare with movie

Mother’s perfume – The first time Kazuko smelled lavender was by some perfume she got from her mother. The scent reminds her of her mother for that reason. Mother symbol for first memory.Compare with movie

Geta – Traditional Japanese wooden shoes Kazuko puts on when she goes out to check on Gorō’s house during the fire.Compare with movie

Pajamas and nemaki – Kazuo used to wear Japanese style nightclothes called nemaki but since he had gotten too big for them, his mother bought him pajamas7 Chapter 8. Symbol of growing up. Nemaki becomes proof that Kazuo wasn’t out at night meeting Kazuko during the fire he doesn’t remember. She claims he wore pajamas but then he didn’t yet have any he could have worn8 Chapter 5. Nightly encounter denied, Kazuko appears a liar which hurts her feelings. Symbol of growing up key element in shared experience at night, which becomes undone by time leap but is repeated and then the pajamas become proof of Kazuko having experienced this before.Compare with movie

Kazuko’s note – Used to document school lessons and to write exercises. After her first time leap the already solved math problem has disappeared and the page is „as pale as Kazuko’s face“.

Since every time Kazuko travels back in time whatever she wrote down after the point in time she arrives at disappears, she frequently uses it to confirm the current date in later chapters. The disappearing text symbolizes the undone history that is lost by Kazuko’s time leaps but which is yet remembered.Compare with movie

Places and sceneries

After school – Piano playing, empty rooms with few remaining students. Chapter 1, recurring in chapter 15.

The lab room – Stuffed with tools, hardly usable, more of a storeroom. The scientific instruments scare many of the girls but not Kazuko. The door to the hallway is locked, only way in and out is through the science classroom. Chapter 1-2, recurring in chapter 15-20.Compare with movie

Kazuko’s house – Seemingly only inhabited by females: Kazuko, her mother, her sisters, father never present or even mentioned. Loud with her sisters‘ chatter, or uneasy during the earthquake.Compare with movie

Kazuko’s room – Morning light entering through the laced curtains, Kazuko save in her bed, wearing a neglige. Kazuko can’t stand the darkness so she leaves a night light on at all times.Compare with movie

Kazuko’s house and room dominated by feminine markers, the house itself seems to be female gendered.

Kazuo’s house – Built in Western style. Has a green house, symbolizes a practical and technical approach to growing things. Kazuo’s mother not mentioned in scenes set in his house. Father remembered as having told Kazuko about lavender being of European origin once. Kazuko goes there to meet Kazuo and Gorō.Compare with movie

Kazuo’s house male dominated, male gendered.

Gorō’s house – His parents have a store for kitchen commodities. Nearly catches fire after the earthquake in chapters 3 and 8.Compare with movie

The fire

Public bathhouse – After the earthquake a fire breaks out in the bathhouse kitchen, in chapters 3 and 8.

Crowded street at night – Chapter 3, recurring chapter 8. Something happens, people talk about it.

Empty streets at night – Chapter 13. All alone in the cold darkness. Safe from rumor yet always haunted by the possibility to be seen and be misunderstood as a criminal.

Traffic accident – A truck driver fell asleep while driving. He hits a trash can and sends it flying through the air, hitting a salarayman. A young housewife is hit and thrown into the air. The truck crashes into a show window, the glass breaks. An injured man is crawling out of the store, blood all over his body. Female customers cry for help. A scenery of terror which Kazuko and Gorō only barely escaped.Compare with movie

Ken Sogoru’s future – Class struggle, inequality. Poor people had to settle on other planets, rich people remained on earth and advanced technology. Education gets more and more extensive, and people more and more specialized, unable to cope with social realities at large. People graduate late (around age 38 at the earliest, sometimes even at age 50), marry late (after they turned 40), get less and less children. Overpopulation is reversed, mankind in danger of going extinct. Countered by rapid acceleration of education, teaching kids in their sleep. Slow maturing is reversed, Ken can become a professor at age 11. The year 2660.Compare with movie

Major plot points

The strange power – Kazuko notices something is different with her when she feels unusually light and volatile, as if she were about to start something. When she uses her power she becomes light to the point of floating then suddenly disappears and reappears elsewhere. Teleportation.

She only actually uses it three times. The first two times she has little control over it and needs to believe herself in mortal danger to trigger the power.Compare with movie

Experiencing the same events again – After her first time leap Kazuko experiences the same day and the same events again. When she eats dinner with her family and they say the exact same things again, her feelings are expressed by her thinking: “This is almost as if they were staging a theater play!”9 Chapter 7

Whereas everyone else is doing the same things again, Kazuko breaks her routine. She doesn’t repeat her school exercises as she still remembers them and can do everything again easily. Instead she changes her actions to avoid bad things that happened to her previously.Compare with movie

Guilt and Blame – In chapter 7 Kazuko feels guilty for telling Gorō about the future which must have shocked him. But she is hardly responsible for things she didn’t cause herself but only remembers to have happened (and are about to happen again), yet she is blamed by the ones who don’t remember. This feeling of guilt is maintained throughout the story as she repeatedly imagines herself getting accused of being a criminal: an arsonist, a runaway or a break and enterer.

Gorō also blames the teacher for assigning too much work to too few people. Kazuko blames Gorō for making her late.Compare with movie

The paradox – The same person cannot exist twice at the same time. So when Kazuko leaps back in time her other self already present disappears. She confirms this when she walks back to her home at night in chapter 13 and finds her room empty. She also disappears from the classroom on Saturday when she leaps back to that day and arrives at her house.Compare with movie

String of calamities – Earthquake, fire, insomnia, late for school, run over by truck. The unfortunate events are connected by causal chains and associations in Kazuko’s perception. Earthquake causes fire, fire causes commotion and inability to sleep. Lack of sleep causes oversleeping and being late, that in turn causes carelessness.

The truck driver is also tired and falls asleep while driving. The truck makes the ground shake, like a quake (the first calamity in the causal chain is remembered, the chain coming full circle). In front of Gorō’s eyes the truck’s plump body is shaking and moving forward with fierce momentum.10 Chapter 9 It’s like a satirical mirror of Gorō’s own shortcomings, grotesquely exaggerating his bodily build and his impulsive personality. Sleeping when one shouldn’t, oversleeping in Gorō’s case and while driving in the truck driver’s case, the final calamity paints Gorō both as the partly responsible victim and as the model for the entity that almost kills both him and Kazuko.

When they survive the accident, the scene they see shows their possible future: The male worker is only hit indirectly, knocked out. The young housewife takes the full brunt and flies into the air. The shop assistant covered with blood, it is a bloody war to earn money. The screaming voices of the female customers, somewhat trapped and hidden even when they’re going out to shop.Compare with movie

The nightmare – Even before the quake Kazuko can’t sleep because her mind is hung up on the earlier incident on Saturday. After returning from Gorō’s house she is even less sleepy.

When she finally sleeps at 3 o’clock she has a dream in which the fire becomes the backdrop for another appearance by the ominous shadow but then changes into a twisted view of the lab.Compare with movie

Memories – In chapter 2 Kazuko identifies the scent of the medicine as lavender and remembers that her mother had a lavender perfume. But she also feels that there is another important thing to be remembered she cannot quite recall then. Later when she visits Kazuo’s house in chapter 6 she remembers that Kazuo’s father had shown her lavender once in his green house. This provides a clue linking Kazuo to the dark shadow.

Kazuko thinks she has known Kazuo since elementary school but he really only spent the last month with her and Gorō. Everything she remembers of him before that point was fabricated memories Ken planted in people’s heads using mass hypnosis. Once he leaves he takes these memories away again.

What Ken tells Kazuko about himself and the future, he has to erase from her memory also. Knowing details about the future and about coming wars will cause her distress and make her the target of evil people trying to manipulate her.Compare with movie

Comparison of present and future – The present: students in a school setting. The future: development of the educational system and its social implications. Childless adults. Ken Sogoru, the child that almost wasn’t born. FUKAMACHI Kazuo, the child that only exists in fabricated memory.Compare with movie

Time traveling mechanics – Kazuko uses time leaps to change past events. Yet Ken Sogoru tells her history cannot be changed. Contradiction/plot hole or lie by Ken, who doesn’t want his future and personality formed by circumstances be endangered by Kazuko possibly changing history? If plot hole, is the real nature of Kazuko’s fading power to remember a history that was revised?Compare with movie

  1. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/時をかける少女 []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Leapt_Through_Time []
  3. In her name, the part kazu which she shares with Kazuo is spelt with the character 和 meaning peaceful, which is typical for female names containing the word kazu. []
  4. Chapter 3 []
  5. In his name, the part kazu which he shares with Kazuko is spelt with the character 一 meaning one, as in the first, which is typical for male names containing the word kazu. []
  6. Chapter 17 []
  7. Chapter 8 []
  8. Chapter 5 []
  9. Chapter 7 []
  10. Chapter 9 []
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