Retro Review: All About Lily Chou Chou

BY JOHN CARTER JR

There are few pieces of media I could write endlessly about, and Shunji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou-Chou is one of those rare pieces. The intense story follows two friends, Hoshino and Yuichi, as they change as people throughout their experience, natural development, and interactions involving groupthink/peer pressure. 

This film is boiling with tragedy and how that tragedy fuels the lives of the individuals impacted. The main focus of the film is the dynamic between the protagonist and the antagonist and is the story of how people change, why they do, and how that can affect others.

The protagonist Yuichi is a kid who is deeply dedicated to the fandom of his favorite music idol, Lily. He is on forums about her, he collects CDs, he wants a poster of her, and he especially wants to go to a concert of hers. The course film is leading up to the concert and Yuichi’s journey to get there. The conflicts that happen in between are all the product of two factors in particular, the darkness that develops in the youths presented and the light that emerges in the end. 

The development and real plot line of the story really starts to kick off after the accident that happens to Shusuke. Shusuke is originally a friend of Yuichi but soon after having an experience bordering life and death he becomes a more evil version of himself and regresses in all of his positive qualities. `

To attribute the majority of this film’s themes to one simple life-or-death scenario would be very accurate while also a stretch. Shusuke becomes a monster toward his former friend, he coerces Yuichi into doing things for him, his gang of friends assault a girl, and he makes it his goal to torment the people around him. This could be an example of how life and death experiences may tragically affect people in the real world. That is the changing of their perspectives on life and thereafter, in the event of their survival from such experiences. How sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time traumatic experiences, life and death or otherwise, can negatively impact the course of people’s lives. It is this shift in dynamic that confronted the protagonist in the ways in which he usually acted. It challenged his complacent status quo as a bystander.  

There are many ways to interpret the conversations sparked by this film whether that be rape culture, toxic masculinity, peer pressure, and so on. However the conversations that this film opens need more examination, especially concerning how the protagonist and antagonist of this film represents a dichotomy of the same person. In that it represents the dichotomy of the human spectrum for moral acts and ethics. The main protagonist often finds himself in positions in which he feels or becomes a bystander. There are plenty of moments throughout the film in which he could have stepped in and stopped something and doesn’t change until the breaking point.

It’s sad and ironic how the breaking point was the concert for Yuichi at the end of the film, this being the moment when he kills Shusuke. It’s the feather breaking the camel’s back moment. Not being able to see Lily while Shusuke was, as a viewer this was rage inducing but you could also see where the protagonist was. What this film shows is the capacity for human neglect and for hurt, it shows what people can become if they change and what they become if they don’t, in this case however it only represents the worst outcomes for abandoning identity and complacency.

I give this film an 8/10 for its conversation starting topics and intense storytelling.

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