Time Travel Girl centers on Mari Hayase, a middle school student, whose scientist father has been missing for three years. One day Mari comes into contact with a strange book and the pendant her father gave her starts to glow. Suddenly Mari has traveled back in time to 17th century England!
One thing to keep in mind with Time Travel Girl is that it is an educational anime. Yep, it’s made to teach its viewers, specifically about scientists who made discoveries involving magnets and electricity. So the show isn’t as concerned with the art and animation which means the animation is kind of…wobbly. This may sound like a weird way to describe it but if you’ve seen the show you’ll understand. The art isn’t bad by any means but it is most certainly average. The same can be said for the sound. I know the show had a soundtrack but most of the time it was just fitting music but nothing really stood out. The opening and ending are similar. While I enjoyed both of them I doubt I’ll ever look them up again after finishing the show. Where Time Travel Girl really shines is in its story and, most importantly, the scientists.
As previously mentioned the show stars Mari Hayase. Mari is the oldest daughter of a scientist father and a patisserie mother. Despite being great at cooking, Mari isn’t the best at science. This doesn’t prevent her from being insanely curious and a good learner which is good considering how much time she spends in the past with scientists. Joining Mari is her best friend Waka Mizuki and Shun Mizuki. Waka gets much better grades than Mari but is just as ditzy as her friend. Shun, Waka’s older brother, is in high school and one day aims to become a doctor. He gets dragged into the time travel business because Mari’s father left him the strange book that is responsible for sending Mari into the past. Other characters include Mari’s father Eiji Hayase and business man Joe Mikage, who is looking for Eiji.
Throughout the time traveling adventures, Mari meets many scientists from William Gilbert to Thomas Edison. One of the most memorable scientists for me is Benjamin Franklin. If you were unaware Benjamin Franklin was something of a womanizer and this was a trait the show strangely chose to keep. Knowing this it is easy to understand why, when middle school aged Mari shows up at his house, his first reaction is to hit on her. Even as Mari turns him down, Benjamin Franklin will continue to try and persuade her. Sure, it’s creepy, but the fact that it’s perfectly within Benjamin Franklin’s character makes it an interesting addition. Beyond this the show also chooses to incorporate slaves into Benjamin Franklin’s episode. Because the enslaving of Africans and other blacks is not part of Japanese history it doesn’t tend to come up during anime. However Time Travel Girl tackles it without a second glance during its third episode. Mari doesn’t even understand the concept of slavery and questions how Benjamin doesn’t seem concerned with them at all. I enjoyed this look at American history and the way modern day values clashed with the values of Benjamin Franklin’s time.
As many interesting concepts as Benjamin Franklin’s episode had, he is not my favorite of the eight scientists we meet. My favorite is Michael Faraday. Faraday’s story focused on doing what you are passionate about regardless of any skills you may be lacking. Faraday himself lived for science but was terrible at math. The people of his time questioned how he could be a scientist without math skills but Faraday was unfazed by their criticisms. He focused on experiments, which allowed him to gather results without math, and became a successful scientist. Overall his arc was both fun while also containing a message to do what you love without being afraid.
So far I’ve described a show where a girl goes back in time and meets scientists but is this really interesting? In my opinion, yeah it is. The time travel plot is interlaced with Mari’s father, Eiji. Eiji is a scientist whose been missing for three years. In fact he went missing while working on a project funding by Joe Mikage. Mikage believes Eiji to be hiding something and so he begins looking into Eiji’s lab, where Mari and her friends have taken up residence.
I’m not going to go into too many details about the story aspect though because it was surprisingly interesting for a kids show and featured a rather fascinating final showdown between Eiji and Mikage. What really matters about Time Travel Girl is just how enjoyable watching it is. This show is fun. Not only do you learn about science while watching but it’s packed with comedy and a mildly compelling story. Sure it isn’t going to win any awards but it definitely has the ability to sneakily teach kids and still be entertaining when you’re an adult.
This is why, average or not, Time Travel Girl is a show I really recommend trying out. If you like slice-of-life, science, or mystery elements with your show and are prepared to sacrifice deep character development, Time Travel Girl proves to be a fun show worth your time.