The concept of time travel entertainingly re-emerges in both 1912 and contempo Japan in the delightful and moving sci-fi romancer “Tokyo Girl.” Helmer Kazuya Konaka seems to be losing the “we’ve seen all this before” battle during the initial setup, but the script belatedly comes alive and delivers winning twists to transcend the lackluster start. With a snappier intro, remake possibilities beckon. Soft February release around Japan’s independent theaters made little impact on local B.O., but pic may prosper on ancillary. Fests with an interest in commercial films will want to look at this potential crowdpleaser.
Petulant aspiring science-fiction writer Miho (Kaho) is introduced to Japanese literature professor Mr. Shiomi (Yoshimasa Kondo), who is courting the teenager’s widowed mom (Naomi Akimoto). Complaining that her mother is trying to replace her dead father, Miho runs off in a huff.
Too impatient to take the elevator, the teen takes the stairs and, in her haste, drops her cell phone down the stairwell. The phone plummets several flights and passes through a “2001: A Space Odyssey”-style time portal before unceremoniously landing on the head of Meiji-era aspiring young writer Tokijiro Miyata (Kazuma Sano).
Intrigued by the shiny device, Tokijiro takes the phone home. Once Miho returns to her own home, she tries calling her missing cell.
Thanks to a mystical reception boost provided by the moon in both time zones, Miho is able call Tokijiro in 1912. After some mystified prodding of buttons, Tokijiro is also able to respond, and, with neither realizing the other resides in a different era, they arrange to meet so Miho can retrieve her phone.
Naturally, the address Tokijiro provides no longer exists in contempo Japan. A couple conversations and Miho’s accurate prediction of the sinking of the Titanic transpire before both fully accept they are conversing across almost a century.
Toward the end of the yarn’s midsection, the decades-spanning romance starts to bloom and the pic fully comes alive as the pair go on a date. Using the phone (and daytime exposure to the moon) to talk, they order identical meals at a centennial-enduring Tokyo restaurant. A clever gift exchange successfully sets up pic’s third act.
Established characterizations mesh with plot mechanics to allow the pic to belatedly reach its potential. While nitpickers could push Mount Fuji through the story’s flaws, those who embrace the time-travel conceit will find the film emotionally satisfying overall.
The strong script is a textbook example of a well-conceived yarn elevating likable young thesps to rise above their limitations. Older thesps also provide a solid foundation.
Semi-regular franchise director Kazuya Konaka (“Ultraman,” anime “Black Jack”) offers workman-like helming; lensing is similarly functional. Other tech credits are pro.