High school romance may be one of the most common themes in anime, but the new film Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita (I’ve Loved You For a Long Time) comes to us with a new and unusual production history.
The film, which opened April 23 in Japan, started life as a series of Vocaloid songs about young love by group HoneyWorks, which consists not only of composers using Vocaloid software, but illustrators and video producers.
That combination led to HoneyWorks’ songs expanding beyond the musical realm into short films, light novels and, ultimately, this film, directed by Tetsuya Yanagisawa (Destiny of the Shrine Maiden, High School DxD).
But despite its unique production history, Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita is about as cliched a high school romance anime as you can find.
The film’s protagonists are a group of high school friends centered around Natsuki and Yu, a will-they-won’t-they pair of childhood friends. The film begins when Natsuki confesses her love to Yu but then wimps out, calling it “confession practice.” The two proceed to become a “practice couple,” but with hints from Yu that the feeling might actually be mutual.
Other characters include the guy who’s been in love with a girl since the first day of school but doesn’t have the courage to talk to her, the two friends who are meant for each other but can’t bring themselves to go for it, and, of course, the mysterious hunk who threatens to add some serious triangulation to Natsuki and Yu’s budding romance. Oh, and don’t forget the elder brother, who doles out sage advice about living without regret.
If there were any cliches this film didn’t hit, it’s only because of its hour-long runtime.
My poor impression of Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita may be due to the timing of its release: it comes out right on the heels of Dōkyūsei, another high school-set romance. Dōkyūsei, while it trod much the same time-honored tropes as this film, presented them in a fresh new way, with its unusual animation and music creating an entirely unique atmosphere.
But try as I might, I can’t think of anything that makes Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita stand out in the vast ocean of high school romances. The direction, character designs, animation and screenwriting all fall flat, making the only interesting thing about Zutto Mae Kara Suki Deshita its production history. HoneyWorks completists may feel the need to check this out, but for everyone else, these tropes have been done better elsewhere.
Matt Schley is Otaku USA’s man in Japan and e-News editor. He was definitely the only male in the theater for this one.