The Dimension Travelers

Director: Kazuya Konaka
Year: 1998
Duration: 92 minutes

Based on a novel by Tako Mayumura, this film feels as if it is trying much too hard to squash all of the book’s contents into a small box and the result is a confusing mishmash that never really comes together or makes much sense. The director needed to slow down and flesh out some of the many jumps in time and geography that take place because they simply become a blur after a while and leave your head spinning like a top. Still, this is light sci-fi malarkey that engages the viewer on a television show level due to the pleasing performances of its two main actresses. Underneath the narrative and slight special effects, one senses that the director is attempting to say something mildly serious but little of this ever surfaces.

The film initially looks to be another exploration into the world of girls at school and the baggage of cliques and status that they carry around with them until it swooshes off into an entirely different direction. Midori (Chiharu Niiyama – “Juon – The Grudge 2” and “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah”) pretends to be part of a group of four female friends but in truth can’t stand their sniping ways and would like nothing better than to shoot them, but in high school we need all the allies we can get. She lives in New Town – a collection of faceless apartment buildings – and one day she spots a new girl moving into the complex. Her first sighting of Mayumi (Yasue Sato – “Bounce Ko Gals”) is nearly otherworldly as the sun catches her in a way that makes this long-necked swan like creature seem magical and translucent. It turns out that they are in the same class and Midori soon becomes so fascinated by this girl that she begins to ignore her friends. Midori is also in love with Yamazawa (Masaaki Takari), a boy who seems to show little interest in her. Then the strangeness begins.
Mayumi explains that she is a dimension traveler and is able to jump between different worlds. She came to this world when her other world was facing destruction from a nuclear satellite that was about to crash back – in fact every world she has lived in has eventually been destroyed. After having her head hit by a falling book, Midori too begins shifting between dimensions as well and wakes to find that she has gone into another dimension where she has been committed to a mental institution and Yamazawa is in the room next door. She is then suddenly back in her own world again but begins this jumping around without even trying to do so - and in one world she and Mayumi are freedom fighters against the oppression of the government. This back and forth shifting continues until it seems as if these dimensions are beginning to collide and become intermixed and their current world is in danger of being destroyed.
In the end, one is never entirely sure whether what they have viewed is to be taken at face value or whether it might be a dream after Midori was struck by the book ala The Wizard of Oz – or perhaps the “real” part of the film is with Midori in an asylum and everything else is simply her insane imaginings. This last option has a dark echo to it that I appreciate and would at least tie the film together. Chiharu Niiyama appears to be quite the idol with numerous fan sites loaded with pictures devoted to her. Yasue Sato who entered into the collective film consciousness with her quirky steps across the gym floor in the opening of “Bounce Ko Gals” has been nearly absent from the film scene since these two movies though she has also released some music and been in some TV shows. Other credits of hers that I can find is a film called “Yes,I am Mr. Moumantai” (1999)an apparent Japanese-Hong Kong collaboration that also stars Francis Ng and Sammo Hung and she is in the 2004 film “Ultraman Nexus”.

My rating for this film: 5.5