Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time Travel Movies Involving Japan (Final Countdown, Zipang, Returner, Girl Who Leapt Through Time)

A story involving time travel is a pretty common science fiction plot line in both print and in the movies or TV.  Common in Star Trek and it even appeared in shows like Heroes.  Some of my most favourite time travel movies would be My Science Project, the original Time Machine in the 1950s, the low budget sci fi western Time Rider, Terminator, Back to the Future, Time After Time, The Final Countdown, and the Japanese movies Returner and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.  I think these types of shows are hard to do as you need to blend both a period film / characters and have them interact with modern / future characters.
Zero Fighter   mikemac29 / Flickr

http://tokyoexcess.blogspot.ca/p/my-sf-writing.html


Out of these films, there happen to be three that involve Japan in some way.  There is also an anime series called Zipang, based on a long running manga, that is quite good.  I'll tie Zipang in with The Final Countdown.  This is a nice contrast as it is kind of like comparing Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima to see two points of view.

The Final Countdown (1980)
This has to be the grand daddy of military science fiction time travel movies.  When I first saw this in the theater as an impressionable youth I probably would have run out to join the US Navy except for the fact that I'm Canadian.  This film is both good SF and a fine Navy recruiting film.  I think the navy pulled out the stops to support it.

Basically, the nuclear powered super carrier, the Nimitz, travels back in time via a weird time storm.  The end up back in the Pacific a few days before Dec. 7th, 1941.  The story then evolves around what they should do next when they realize they have enough firepower to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor and sink the entire Japanese fleet too.  Catch this if you like aircraft carriers, F-14 Tomcats, Japanese Zeroes, and are a history buff of the what if!  How would an F-14 dogfight a Zero?  You'll find out.

Zipang
Well, the Japanese couldn't be outdone by the Final Countdown so mangaka, Kaiji Kawaguchi, wrote and illustrated the long running manga Zipang.  In his story, the Japanese Aegis missile destroyer Mirai goes back in time via a weird time storm.  They show up in WWII during the Battle of Guadalcanal where they must decide if they should interfere with history.  Just their one little ship also has enough firepower in Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles to sink all the US Carriers and severely cripple the US fleet.

In this show, the senior officers must deal with both a militant Japan, their own modern code of ethics as the "Japanese Self-Defence Force," and American ally who isn't an ally in the current time frame.  There are some great scenes in this series.  There is a major ship versus Dauntless diver bomber scene and an engagement with the USS Wasp, a US Carrier.  Another recommended viewing for science fiction time travel fans and history buffs.  What would Sea Sparrows and a CIWS do to a dive bomber attack? 

Returner
Finally, a full science fiction film that even involves aliens!  This 2002 film did not have a high budget and had limited CG effects, but it was really well done.  Good fight scenes and a great story made this a must watch for me.

The premise of this film involves our female heroine going back in time to prevent a misunderstanding from happening that will end with Earth losing a brutal war against aliens.  I don't want to tell you any more as you should get the full meal deal from seeing this show.  Well worth a watch again for me too!  I love the ending on this one.

Samurai Commando: Mission 1549
This is a 2005 film where an experiment goes wrong and a modern Japanese army unit is accidentally sent back in time.  The commander goes local and decides to set himself up with his nice high tech toys in feudal Japan.  Like Apocalypse Now, another unit is sent back to bring them back.  Shades of Timerider too in this movie.  You get to see tanks drive through cavalry so how bad can it be?

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
They made the animated movie first, then there was another remake as a live action film.  I think the anime version of the story is better, the the live action one had its moments.  Also, if you enjoy time travel and anime, try out the series Stein's Gate too. I previously blogged about Stein's Gate and Anime set in Akihabara here.

In The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, a school girl aquires the ability to time travel in a mysterious accident in a school lab.  It all makes sense later and the story develops with her exploring her new powers and solving the mystery behind them.  This is a nice character driven story about high school kids being friends and not violent (other than accidents).  A very enjoyable time travel story.

This movie is quite different from the animated movie other than the very similar time travel premise.  It is basically a whole new story.  Entertaining if you can find it and there are parts of this movie I really like.

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