I'm literally over a year late, but, why not?
I just watched the movie. As a good engineer (for better or for worse) I needed to know what had happened at the end of the movie. So I went to the internet and looked for answers. At first, as always, I just assumed everything they say is correct, but then the ideas sank in, and I made my own conclusions, which evidently lack complete information, since the film itself doesn't let you see things I'd need to confirm my interpretation. But here it goes:
Here are the theories I'd like to debunk:
- Chiaki convinced the aunt to take care of the painting.
- Chiaki couldn't have gone to the future anytime he wanted.
- Makoto is the aunt, grown up.
- Chiaki wouldn't actually see Makoto in the future.
To do this, we need some basis. Here are some ideas that many people don't consider.
Chiaki never said he had travelled through time both ways. All he says regarding his leaps is that he knew that the painting had records during the period in which the movie is set. Secondly, he stated clearly that "tomorrow" he would return to the future. Here we have a problem, because this might have two reasons.
- The first one is that when the count reaches zero, the leaps end (literally physically end) and the user of the time travel goes back to the first jump, since for all we know he was forced to return until he reached 0.
- The second one is that in the future they found out that he revealed the secret of time traveling, and he would be forced to return. It is a wild guess, but completely stopping time and now just jumping, as he saw at the crossroads, doesn't seem something that may be done with the charges. That would have meant that Chiaki had one charge to avoid the crash as well as to stop time, which doesn't sound logical, yet is a possibility.
Some people actually mentioned that Makoto didn't see herself in the past. This means that she can't be the aunt given the fact that the logical conclusion from before is that there can't be two of the same person in one reality.
We get an interesting scene that most commenters overlook, which is the one of the jump at the lake. Makoto went back in time and returned! Even a child screamed that he saw the girl disappear and reappear. (Although circumstantial, it supports the point.) This leads up to the idea that for every time travel you do, as we might relate with the movie Inception, at the end of the physical jump, the traveling ends.
Now to the point.
"Chiaki convinced the aunt to take care of the painting."
This can't be true given that Chiaki can't bend the story. For this to be possible, he would have had to convince Witch to take care of the painting. This means that he went to a time before Makoto and did this. He would then have had to return a few years later to convince Makoto to do this. This implies that he went back, returned, back again, and returned. Finally, if history can't be modified, the moment he returned to his time would have reset whatever he did with the aunt. Therefore, that couldn't have happened.
"Chiaki couldn't have gone to the future anytime he wanted."
At the crossroads we get that he would be forced to return to the future. He would be forced. In practical terms, that gives him an "extra" one-way leap. Why else would he worry so much about his forced return? He actually contradicts himself by stating at the crossroads that we would be gone by tomorrow and, during the same stop, saying that he could no longer go back to his time. Here we have to decide which statement is true since they are mutually exclusive if Chiaki never lied. The way I see it, he could jump to the future. (He would be forced back to the future due to the end of the leaps/count 0.)
"Chiaki could have gone to the future anytime he wanted."
Same argument as above, except for the final point.
"Makoto is the aunt, grown up."
Simple and without using a reference to the picture: no double person per reality.
"Chiaki wouldn't actually see Makoto in the future."
I bet this is the one every-fucking-one is waiting to read. Feeling romantic? Well, you're lucky. I can't believe so many persons overlooked this tiny little detail: Makoto has all her jumps restored. Well, that sound great, and this is why this is probably true! First of all, jumps all the way before the books fell on her. Let's say we get a 50/50 of having the device giving her the full count again. Second point: Chiaki gives Makoto time-travelling advice. Sounds promising to me.
Now, this is going to get complicated, but try to follow me, even though I might be wrong. The way Chiaki would go to the future would be by going even further into the past. As confusing as it may sound, going back in time would take him back to the future. Follow this thread, backwards now: the end of the movie, the beginning of the movie, the moment Chiaki leapt into the movie's time, Chiaki's original time. Therefore if he jumps back enough to go to the moment before he went back in time, he'd be back in the future! Time traveling actually goes one way here.
Now, if we want to extrapolate, we find that Chiaki used a hell of a ton of jumps to get to the movie's time. He would have needed to jump from the stratosphere to get to that time, as I see it. He jumped bit by bit until he hit the right time. That explains his single leap left at the end. The way we followed the reasoning here, taking the idea that he could time travel and was stuck when his count hit 0, he would have been able to go back enough to get another time-travelling device.
Being still in the same reality, his jump would eventually end and would find Makoto there. If this doesn't sound good enough for you and believe that Chiaki is not evil, he would go back to the future, get leaps, and go back to Makoto on his timeline, while Makoto on her timeline would eventually see his jump's end and find him again.
In the end, the movie might actually be talking about creating parallel realities, which diverge with every jump, as well as there being separate realities for each person who leaps. The way you take these arguments, which I believe are most of the relevant ones, may lead to take different conclusions.
Either way, I believe that Chiaki got scared or something and dropped the device. The whole thing happened and the guy got stuck in time. Having different leap counts for each person, Makoto returned when he still had count 1. She jumped far enough to get her full count, too. Finally, Chiaki is an asshole for jumping back in time knowing he could have seen the painting, movie-time. Apparently he did disappear, but will eventually end his leap and reappear in Makoto's reality. And she will hate him for being a jerk who instead of waiting for the restoration to be finished, preferred to go to his no-river-no-nature-not-many-people-without-blue-sky time.