This week’s forthcoming Weekly Geeky Question is all about one of my favorite movies, Summer Time Machine Blues. The question that is coming, like some of the previous ones, plums the depths of my geekiness in a way that makes me feel compelled to write a “pre-post”. In this case, it’s to give a fairly clear plot breakdown of the film,
The purpose of the article is not to review the movie, I’ve done that elsewhere, including here. But rather, I just want to give a fairly detailed plot breakdown of the movie, because I know most people will never have seen it, and and the answer I’ll soon be posting won’t really make a lot of sense if you don’t know this film.
So, for anyone interested, here is a Spoiler-filled point by point overview of what happens in Summer Time Machine Blues, directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro.
The movie is about five nerdy college students who are all part of the local Sci-Fi club, but don’t actually read Sci-Fi. They are friends with the Photography Club, made up entirely of two girls, who have to share club space. It all starts on a swelteringly hot summer day, where the five boys are playing a game of baseball (with their pet dog evening up the sides), while one of the girls, Ito, takes their photos. After the game, they head off to the public baths to clean up, making sure to turn off their remote control air conditioner before they go.
At the baths, one of the boys, Niimi, gets violently upset when someone steals his bottle of Vidal Sassoon shampoo. Afterwards, another boy, Komoto, slips away to buy movie tickets at an old science fiction theatre…he plans on asking the other girl, Haruka, out on a date.
Another boy, Koizumi, who is a compulsive collector, steals a bit statue of a cartoon character from a local shop and adds it to the eclectic collection in their clubhouse. The local Caretaker, an eccentric older fellow, has a bizarre conversation with the other three boys, seeming to reference all sorts of things they know nothing about. The four boys (all of them except Komoto) arrive back at the Clubhouse at the same time.
After one of the abrupt edits, Komoto also arrives back to find that seemingly all the others (including the two girls) are waiting for him to do some sort of embarrassing dance with his wash basin. Komoto has no idea what they are talking about but before he can find out, a crazy accident takes place that results in the remote control for the air conditioner being broken after a bottle of coke spills all over it.
The next day everyone is in despair as without the remote control, the air conditioner cannot be turned on. The group tries to get their faculty advisor, an assistant science professor known as Hose, to fix it, but he ends up breaking it instead.
Komoto tries to ask Haruka out but she’s reluctant, believing him to have a girlfriend for reasons that he can’t understand.
After unsuccessful efforts to cool down, the group return to their Clubhouse to find a stranger inside. He flees in embarrassment, but he has left behind something that resembles a Time Machine! Believing it to be a prank, they place one of their own, Soga, onto the machine and send him off. Everyone is shocked when it works, and Soga returns to the previous day and sees his earlier self playing baseball before he returns. A closer look at photos taken by Ito prove that Soga was there twice, once playing baseball, and once watching the group from the Clubhouse.
They debate about what to do and eventually decide to return to the previous day in order to rescue their remote control before it is destroyed. Three boys go: Niimi, Koizumi and Ishimatsu. Getting caught up in the excitement of it all, they start to follow their previous selves to the Public Bath.
Meanwhile, the mysterious stranger, named Tamura but nicknamed Mushroom because of his haircut, returns and reveals himself to be a member of the Sci-Fi Club in 2030, who also don’t know where the time machine came from. Like Soga, he experimented with it, and found himself in 2005. As the machine is currently not there, Tamura goes on a tour of the past with Komoto, Soga, Haruka and Ito.
They walk to the movie theatre, and Tamura reveals that his mother was a student at the same university. The group get into a conversation with the owner of the theatre about the implications of changing history. Hose happens along and proceeds to deliver a lecture on the subject (which is his area of study), revealing that if the past were to change, it would have devastating and destructive impact on the present.
The students go into panic and race back to the Clubhouse, fearing what will happen to the present if the remote control is saved, only to find that the machine has been returned without their three friends, and instead with a note inviting them to come along and join their fun.
Komoto and Soga return to the previous day to stop history from changing and to bring everyone back, but this is seen by Hose who comes to realize that the Time Machine is real. Komoto and Soga find Ishimatsu and Koizumi (who has stolen the same statue again, but earlier this time) and send them back home while they try to undo the damage.
Niimi, meanwhile, is at the Public Bath, watching his previous self. Komoto returns the statue and gets Niimi, but not before Niimi first takes the shampoo bottle from his previous self, intending to save it, but in reality becoming the thief who stole it.
In a misguided attempt to save the remote, Soga covers it with clear tape. While he does, he is surprised when Ishimatsu and Koizumi return, this time with Tamura, wanting to help. The Caretaker happens along and sees the time machine. The group quickly get rid of it by sending Soga back in time 99 years (the machine’s maximum distance), while the others make up excuses with the Caretaker, having the conversation that ultimately explains the strange encounter they had earlier.
While Soga is gone, Komoto tries to call him, inadvertently leaving a confusing message on the phone of Soga from the previous day.
After the Caretaker is gone, Komoto and Niimi meet the others at the Clubhouse, only to realize that the remote control is missing! Just then, Soga returns, having gone back to a point in history where the area was a swamp. His strange appearance created a local legend of a kappa (a demon or imp) in the area. Soga was carrying the remote when he almost drowned in the swamp, and unfortunately lost it in chaos.
Komoto tries to get the broken remote from the next day to replace the one that’s been lost, but is annoyed to learn that Hose has destroyed it. He returns to the previous day, and Tamura gets the idea to go into the future and get his remote. They still have the same air conditioner (though it is soon to be replaced) so he goes to the Christmas ahead of his current day and gets it from himself, who is waiting.
The remote is now back in place, ready to be destroyed by the Coke. The group congratulate themselves on a job well done and start to head back home, just as their previous selves return from the baths. Everyone leaves except for Komoto, who falls off the crowded machine during the rush to leave.
The arriving group believes that he is their Komoto, and are suspicious of his quick change of clothes. Soga has the message the Komoto left on his phone, and it’s ambiguous enough to make them believe that Komoto has a secret girlfriend. They refuse to let him leave, and insist he do a “naked dance” as punishment, with the girls watching.
Finally, Komoto distracts them by acting like he really does have a girlfriend, and nearly escapes, but his previous self from that day arrives just then and Komoto is forced to hide in a locker. Komoto ends up hiding in the locker all day, waiting to come out until after he shows up from the past to get the remote from Hose. When the others return on the machine, they are surprised to discover that Komoto came home “the long way around”.
All is well except that the remote is still broken. Just then, their dog Kecha, who is always digging holes, turns up having dug up the remote control after it was lost in the swamp 99 years ago. Thanks to the tape that Soga put on it, it still works (and lives to become the one that Tamura is still using 25 years later!) The group enjoy the cool air.
Tamura leaves to go back home, while the others ponder what has happened to them. Hose takes notes of what the Time Machine looks like, hoping to someday become the man who invented it. Komoto and Ito realize that Tamura left his camera behind, and note that it’s the same type that Haruka owns. Tamura then shows up and takes the camera back, revealing that it belonged to his mother. Komoto and Ito decide not to tell Haruka that she seems to be Tamura’s mother, and Ito notes to Komoto’s dismay that they do know the name of Tamura’s father (as Tamura is his family name).
Komoto and Haruka confirm their date (since she now knows that his “girlfriend” was a misunderstanding), although Komoto is conflicted over what he believes to be their lack of a future together.
As the group go forward with their day, Komoto wonders whether it’s possible to change his name.