“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” (novella) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2011, Alma)
Original: Japanese (時をかける少女), 1967
Translated by David Karashima, 2011
Synopsis: Kazuko was tending to the cleaning of the high school’s chemistry lab one evening after school with her two male friends, Kazuo and Goro. While he two boys were away, Kauko herself returned to the room to discover someone else in the room. As she confronts the shadowy stranger, they dash away only to leave a broken vial smelling of lavender, from which she passes out. When she goes to bed that night, she experiences an earthquake and a fire near Goro’s home, a sequence of events that she finds ruining her entire night; regardless, the next day she awakes late to meet Goro, who’s also late, to cross the road to school… where a truck is sure to hit and kill them.
Kazuko awakens yet again displaced. At school, she finds that she knows the same math problem on the board and that she doesn’t have her notes from the previous days as she she seems to have skipped back in time somehow. She tells her two friend of her bizarre experience in addition to predicting the earthquake and fire. When both occur, the trust crystallizes in Kazuko, but the reason and implications of the newfound power they entrust to one of their teachers. Through a brief trial, Kazuko begins to learn of the power, extent, and origins of her power to transport herself though time and space.
Analysis: To start this analysis like a mediocre high-school essay: Regret can be defined as “a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors” (Wiki). Stop and think about your own regrets of what could have been, of what you didn’t do but could have realistically done…
…errrrrr, this may take a while for some…
Now, consider one of your earliest regrets…
…again, this may take some time…
You may find yourself back in the position of your high-school self. What were those regrets? Was a specific guy or gal? Do you now wish that you had professed your love instead of being too shy? Do you wish you had said “yes” rather than than “no”?
Here, in terms of grammar, we enter the realm of unreal past, or the third conditional, which can be stated, again, in typical high-school prose: The third conditional can be defined [here, using passive voice, which can peeve writing teachers] as a “pattern used to refer to hypothetical situations in a past time frame”. Such as conditional could be: If I had asked her to the prom, she may have said yes; or, If I had gone to that party, I would have met Susie So-and-so.
Originally, this story was serialized in 1965 but only published in its full form in 1967; thus, when he first published the story when we was about 31 years old. So, the story was written just after the author passed his own thirtieth birthday. It’s possible he may have had his own regrets when writing “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”: What if he could have professed his love to that girl? What if he had known of the impending disaster? What if he had stopped his crossing of the street at that exact moment? The list of what-ifs is endless when speculating upon speculation.
In the end, the story feels like a flight of imagination based on the pangs of regret from “What if I could…” or “What if I had…” tied in teenage love.
Review: With a few exceptions, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is one of Yasutaka’s earliest published works (aside from the untranslated “4.8 Billion Delusions” (1965; translation: Google) and “Tokaido War” (1965; translation: Google); thus, it seems that “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” solidified Yasutaka’s career in field of writing. Here, I hesitate to use path into the realm of literature only because the story doesn’t have much of a literary ring to it, as if it’s a wooden bell. I would hate to dog on YA-lit, but this story has short blocky sentences in both narration and dialogue, especially the dialogue, which is either dumped in brief spurts (albeit, more naturally) or profuse expositions (á la so-called infodumps). In the end, it may have a lasting cultural significance or teenage relevance to it in Japan, but the translated version of which remains wooden and stereotypically YA: blocky text, high-school focus, and puppy love.