High school romance animes seem to be done many ways and are more creative than HoneyWorks’ Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita (I’ve Always Liked You). Even ones that follow certain formulas at least have interesting characters or twists to the romance story norm. After digging into the background of how and why this anime was made, it’s pretty clear that it was only made to publicize and sell more albums for the band HoneyWorks.
HoneyWorks is a band collaborative that includes not only composers and musicians, but illustrators as well to promote their group. They often write, produce, illustrate, and create songs with elaborate stories that continue from song to song. Said songs would then be made into music videos where detailed illustrations and manga panels would tell the story of the song. In partnership with Vocaloid GUMI, he would provide the vocals in these series of songs.
It is called “The Kokuhaku Jikkō Iinkai ~Renai Series~” Project. They would produce three albums centering around these love story songs. The first is titled the same as the anime film, the second “Boku Ja Dame Desu Ka?,” and “Naru Sono Shunkan O (The Moment I Fell In Love).”
With all this background information being said, it’s easy to see why this ended up not working as an anime film. It instead works better as a series of music videos like intended.
The Anime Doesn’t Add Anything New Or Original
I’ve Always Liked You does a good job of animating realistically what it looks like to watch high school crushes form, stir, and lay dormant till they can’t much longer. It’s like watching an anime of how real high schoolers deal with crushes, and how annoying it is watching them how they deal with it. That is what it felt like to watch I’ve Always Liked You. Which isn’t too strange considering the director has more strengths in directing teen fantasy stories with some romance, compared to pure shoujo.
Director Tetsuya Yanagisawa was the director of the popular ecchi highschool rom-com High School DxD series. Although his strengths seem to come from animes that have both high school and fantasy embedded into the story (Kannazuki no Miko, Kenzen Robo Daimidaler, Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance), the romance tends to be a minor concept. Whereas I’ve Always Liked You is a pure high school romance story. This could be why the film falls flat.
It all begins with the Natsuki Enomoto confessing her feelings to her childhood friend Yu Setoguchi. When Natsuki is greeted with silence after the confession, she recovers by saying she was just kidding. Natsuki saves herself by saying she just practising on him for when she confesses to her “real” crush. On top of that, were introduced to two other naive love stories.
Souta Mochizuki has had a crush on Akari Hayasaka, who isn’t crushing on anyone, for two years and can’t gather to courage to tell her his feelings either. Lastly, the Miou Aida and Haruki Serizawa hang out with each other, and both like each other romantically, but both are too shy to confess their feelings either.
Three Stories Equals A Film Right?
You can see how irritating this is in the start. Each of these couples are based off different songs that tell their stories separately. As separate music videos, they come off more charming and sweet. But when you mix all three stories to make this anime film, it’s just very irritating to see these clueless teens not confronting their feelings. Yoshimi Narita is the scriptwriter and has only written on a handful of series in a career. Narita has the most experience writing for fantasy animes targeted towards children, which doesn’t seem to work for a teen drama.
How Dare You Wear A Dress!!
To prove this point, let’s delve into the journey of Natsuki’s love story. Natsuki decides to go to a concert (to wouldn’t you know it, a HoneyWorks concert) with another male classmate that has been crushing on her for quite a while. Her crush, Setoguchi, happens to catch her before she leaves. He notices she is wearing a proper dress without where sweatpants underneath like she normally does. Setoguchi points this out and gets jealous about it immediately.
It’s so bizarre and kind of controlling how upset he gets at Natsuki for not wearing sweatpants under her dress. She can wear whatever she wants! Natsuki even says she just wants to be dressed up to see her favorite band. It’s not like she’s planning on showing the goods to her classmate male friend.
Couples Come in Three + Basic Art
At least the childhood friend story and one-sided love story go somewhere towards the end. The story with Aida and Serizawa leaves on such a vague note. That’s the love story where both the guy and the girl like each other but just aren’t admitting it to each other. It’s hard to call it one of the main love stories of the film because it’s more a background story. It’s as if their side characters rather than main ones. If you took out their love story and just had them as the friend characters, it wouldn’t change anything.
The characters for this story are more two-dimensional than the illustrations used for the music videos. At least in those music videos, the art had beyond more detail, heart, and reliability compared to the anime adaption. The animation studio did only this film and a sequel that released in Japan on December 17, 2016.
The art is basic and not unique compared to the music videos. Maki Fujii is the Chief Animation Director and Character Designer for the film. Fuji happened to work with Yanagisawa on other shows together like I My Me! Strawberry Eggs and the three other shows I listed that Yanagisawa directed on. This could be why she was hired.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to see why this anime wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. If I were a dedicated fan of the HoneyWorks band, I would expect a lot more of a film adaption to their musical works than what was made in the end.
It’s More Generic Than Typical Shoujo
The only thing that is keeping these teenagers from confessing to each other is their own fear. Obviously, this tends to be true to life with most teen crushes. Sometimes there are reasons why they can’t confess. Examples can include their friends with their crushes sibling, making it awkward or are worried that they aren’t good enough because of status, appearances, or tastes.
The characters here are either afraid of ruining the current relationship they have, or they are too cowardly to do so. It’s a teenage curse really. Not to mention the romances are the only driving storyline. It makes the whole movie a “well they/won’t they” train wreck.
This movie is probably made more for the HoneyWorks fanbase who are more familiar with the characters and these plot-lines. For newcomers like myself, if it doesn’t have interesting characters or unique art. It makes it hard for me to get invested into these weak love stories. It did, however, get me interested in HoneyWorks’ music than this movie. You would think that transitioning from web videos to tv animation would inspire the creators to enhance the quality of the film and make it more cinematic. Instead, it managed to take a step back then step forward.
I’ve Always Liked You is the most vanilla, bland, shallow, two-dimensional crush-centered anime movie out there. It only works in music video form rather than a hour-long anime film.