I did not like I’ve Always Liked You. To put it bluntly, this 1-hour and 3-minute long movie is shallow, generic, and all-around meaningless. Its sole purpose is to showcase the moments of high love confessions, in ways that are neither clever nor original. Just like many other stories in the genre of romance, I’ve Always Liked You uses these confession as a sort of “payoff”, yet it doesn’t offer up any kind of worthwhile setup for them. The characters are also unmemorable and lack any compelling motivations or adversities. While the animation and music are of an acceptable quality, from a narrative standpoint this film is plain mediocre. But let’s dig a little deeper than that, shall we?
First let’s take a look at the characters and the respective narratives they fit into. The main plot centers around Natsuki and Yu, the token childhood friends that actually DO end up together. Yu is the nice guy that’s always been there for Natsuki, he’s kinda cute and that’s about all there is to his character (all the characters are about this shallow by the way). Natsuki is just a loveable tomboy who’s shy about her feelings like everyone else in this movie, and for some reason wears sweatpants under her school uniform. At the beginning of the film, she confesses to Yu and then quickly retracts that confession, playing it off as “just practice” for the person she’s really in love with. Then the entire movie passes before she comes back to him and confesses for real. Leading right up to that moment was a bunch of still-frame flashbacks to their childhood, showing all the times that Yu had been considerate to Natsuki, serving as evidence to why Natsuki likes him in the first place. It’s pretty shallow because they never actually show a genuine, written out moment between the two for portraying how and why they feel the way that they do. I’d liken it to watching a slideshow at a wedding for people you barely know. Oh boy, it’s the bride and groom as children moving up to the point that they’re at now, except I don’t really know who they are and wasn’t there personally for these moments so this doesn’t really affect me at all. *makes fart noise with tongue*
Next there’s Akari and Souta, the cute purple haired girl and the guy who falls in love with her for solely superficial reasons. It’s that sort of “love at first sight” catch-22, where it’s really not meaningful at all if they actually fell love at the sight of each other, because that makes their relationship based off looks and not personality. There is a bit of reason beyond that very base level of affection, as Akari does have a moment of appreciation for the act of kindness she witnessed Souta perform slyly on a train. In Souta’s mind however, it’s basically a matter of “I like her, how can I make her mine?”. Of course, it sounds a lot more innocent coming from him, but by the time he finally works up the courage to ask her out he comes off as borderline misogynistic. The nicest way to put it would be that he has a very “traditional” mindset, and he basically demands her to make lunches for him every day because that’s what good girlfriends do…ugghh.
As for Miou and Haruki, they secretly like each other and nothing happens.
Finally, there’s Koyuki, and he’s in love with Natsuki as well. This white-haired shy-boy asks her out to a HoneyWorks concert and then needlessly walks her home after it’s over. He ends up not being able to control himself and hugs her under the soft glow of a street lamp, illuminating them in the night for all the neighbors to see. They didn’t really do anything inappropriate, but Yu comes barging out anyway and takes Natsuki away from Koyuki. Natsuki cries but quickly gets over it by the next morning and that’s about it.
Overall, this film is wholeheartedly hollow and unoriginal in terms of both plot and characters. There’s virtually no conflict, and these downright privileged students have nothing to overcome but a very basic sense of nervousness. There is not one single hurdle put in front of these characters that prove to be even the tiniest bit difficult, and they lack any significant flaws that could hinder them. Without having to go through any remotely serious strife, what makes their achievements important, or anything they do in life compelling? And the only answer I can come up with is: nothing. This story is a very simple answer to a very simple question: If you like someone, summon the courage to tell them your feelings. And then everything will be fine because it turns out they like you too. While it might be entertaining to watch cute high school students to go through the motions of romance, there is absolutely nothing consequential to learn from this particular experience. And that’s a shame because it actually looks quite pretty.