This review contains spoilers for the film. Go and watch it and then report back! It’ll only take an hour!
I think it’s fair to say that Japan is often times not the best at telling complete love stories. We get a decent amount of anime with romantic tones every year, but often times they fall prey to the same traps and tropes that most romance anime often do. I’ve Always Liked You manages to break those molds and that is what makes this film so impressive.
The story centers around a group of high school students, all of which possess hidden feelings of love that they are too afraid to share. Our main girl Natsuki is in love with her childhood friend Yu and starts off the film by almost successfully confessing her feelings to him, only to pull back due to fear. She plays it off as practice for her eventual confession of love to the person she likes, and enlists Yu to help her practice her confession of love.
Despite Natsuki’s intense feelings of love towards Yu, she is fairly dense to how others feel about her and what some things mean in the context of relationships. The prime example of this is her blind enthusiasm in accompanying Ayase to a concert of an artist that they both like. It had been established that Ayase liked Natsuki, and when he asks her to join him for the concert, it’s plain to everyone but her that this would, and should, be considered a date. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go quite as planned for her and she ends the night in tears.
My favorite part of the film was the dynamic between Mochizuki and Akari. I found myself relating with Mochizuki in his timidness and conflicting emotions surrounding his desire to confess to Hikari and the potential dangers of doing so. His decision to fight his fear and confess to Akari was the highlight of the film, in my opinion. Akari was absolutely adorable, every appearance on her part presenting me with another opportunity to fall even more in love with her. Her reaction in the scene featuring the bed-head stole my heart. The confession scene between the two was fantastic! I loved that his confession reflected his nervousness and that even though he may have been a little over-zealous, Akari responded in the best way possible.
There were several issues that I did have with the film, though minor in scope. The first is about how they go about showing the confession between Aida and Haruki. They show a sequence of images over the duration of the credits depicting several interactions between the two that seems to culminate in them getting together. I didn’t find it terribly well done as it was hard to follow at times and took the entire six minutes of the credits to tell. A simple 30 second clip would have been a much more enjoyable and satisfying conclusion to their story.
The second and final complain that I have is something that a lot of anime films suffer from, and that is time. My opinion is that this film could have used another ten to fifteen minutes to fully flesh out some more of the side characters and story threads that go with them. We get hints that Yu’s sister likes Ayase, but we never get to know why or how things turn out between the two. The aforementioned Aida and Haruki confession could have been more fully realized with a little more time. These things don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the film could have been with those few extra minutes.
The art of this film was fantastic. There was some great contrast in colors that helped set the tone of the scenes, and the set pieces themselves were very well drawn. The animation was fluid and, save for some questionable looking running, well animated.
The music in the film was awesome. HoneyWorks did most of it, save for the OP which was done by CHiCO and Sphere, and it fit the feel of the film quite well.
The fact that we get two full love stories that go slightly beyond the confession, all within 64 minutes of I’ve Always Liked You, is nothing short of impressive. In that time they made me care about the characters, allowed me time to form opinions on how I wanted things to turn out, and I received what I would classify as a more than satisfactory conclusion.
If you enjoy the romance genre or are looking for something with solid characters and a solid story to watch, I’ve Always Loved You is absolutely worth your time!
TL;DR: Solid storytelling and characters allows I’ve Always Loved You to break the norms of the romance genre and produce a wonderful film about adolescent love.
Recommended Audiences: All ages. There is nothing that should cause concern for anyone in this film.
Natsuki practices and practices, and after a slight hiccup, she manages to convey her feelings for a 4/5!
Studio: Qualia Animation
Director: Tetsuya Yanagisawa
Episode Count: 1
Languages: Japanese with English subtitles
Genre(s): Drama, Romance, School, Slice of Life