‘A Time Called You’ Time Travel, Explained: How Does The Tape Recorder Initiate Time Travel?


From the fiction that we have read and watched over the years, we have broadly seen time travel treated in two different ways. One is where the butterfly effect is taken extremely seriously. We believe it started with Ray Bradbury’s short story, A Sound of Thunder, where a tiny misstep in the past ended up altering the entire history of the world to date. Then there is the second theory, that time doesn’t flow in a single line but is a mass of interconnected threads that stay on the same path. This means that even if a few threads are disconnected or connected to each other in the middle due to some interference, it won’t affect the overall scheme of things, and what has to happen will happen, albeit with some changes. Basically, the route may change, but destiny doesn’t.

The time travel in A Time Called You adapts a mix of these two concepts. There is definitely a change in the destinies of many of the characters, but the end result is the same: Si Heon and Jun Hee meeting again and being with each other. The second part of our conclusion that they do end up together is based on the assumption that their meeting at the end of the episode has to mean something. In case it doesn’t, we will go with the butterfly effect theory, but if it does, we stand by our combination theory. In the case of the latter, it has been extensively discussed why Si Heon followed Jun Hee at the end of the series. Did he feel like he had met someone he was looking for, or was it the hand of fate that pushed him in that direction, or was there no reason at all except that he knew he had to?

Our point is that the fates of these people may have changed, but the memories of what had once been, even though erased, still affect them. When discussing any part of this show, we cannot help but ask questions related to cosmic logic and justice because we haven’t been able to see this as science fiction at all. The time travel in A Time Called You was not engineered as a scientific marvel but as some sort of magic made of strong feelings. The tape recorder being in certain places at certain times demanded huge sacrifices from the people around it. The tape recorder and the cassette had feelings attached to them. In Gyu and Si Heon had given it to Min Ju for her birthday, and it was all In Gyu’s planning due to his love for her. That gift had meant a lot to Min Ju because of everything she had been going through at that time, and these boys were the only ones who had shown her friendship and affection. Therefore, it was already a very important object.

As for the cassette, when Min Ju had given it to Si Heon, she had been in love with him, so there was that, not to mention how this whole thing had broken In Gyu’s heart. If any of the three ever saw the recorder, it wouldn’t be just as a device that played songs but as something that had given each of them some scars and a story. But the biggest sacrifice that this device demanded was the death of Si Heon on that flight and, subsequently, Yeon Jun’s body. Si Heon had gotten on the flight despite knowing what would happen because if he didn’t, the recorder would never reach Jun Hee, and the entire love story would come undone because they would have never met. This was the ultimate value of the tape recorder—a love story across time—and perhaps that is what gave it the power it had.

There is another reason we are calling it magic and not science fiction in A Time Called You. If it had been science fiction, nobody could have fixed the recorder after Chan Young broke it. There was no way the apparatus of time travel could be replicated by a repair technician. But if it was magic, all that needed to happen was for it to be put back together, and the magic would work again.

There is another thought that we have here. If the recorder was the transmitter of the magic, maybe Yeon Jun was the receiver. And by Yeon Jun, we mean the man before he became a host for Si Heon. After all, Yeon Jun’s only purpose in A Time Called You was to let Si Heon live in his body after the death of his girlfriend. None of the magic of the recorder would have worked if Yeon Jun had not been there. On that note, even Min Ju must have been a receiver in the past, just as Yeon Jun was in the present.

There was a point where the chaos of the tape recorder successfully created the love story. Si Heon and Jun Hee were together, but Yeon Jun and Min Ju were dead. In a lot of ways, at least for Min Ju, it was not either of their responsibility to think about her, but they did. The tape recorder had worked so far because of the love and the sacrifices it demanded. But at that moment, it all came undone when Jun Hee was ready to sacrifice love itself to do the right thing.

When the tape recorder was destroyed, the entire narrative it had woven also disappeared from people’s memories. It was as if the story that the recorder was playing no longer existed. But just because you can’t hear a song or a story again doesn’t mean that you forget it or the effect it had on you. Min Ju did not remember Jun Hee, but she applied her words to her life. Additionally, if she hadn’t learned to love herself, she wouldn’t have seen In Gyu for what he was to her and been with him later on. It is funny to think that, for the love of Jun Hee and Si Heon, the recorder destroyed the possible story of Min Ju and In Gyu. Maybe it was a way of keeping the cosmic balance in place. However, Si Heon and Jun Hee may also not remember each other, but they couldn’t help being drawn to the other person when they met them after so many years. It was as if the story didn’t exist anymore, but the love did, and the music played that day on the bus re-established that for them. All the obstacles caused by questions of right and wrong, or the method of time travel, could not get in the way of true love, which just sought to be good.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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