I'd heard that this was an improvement on the bad conclusion of the otherwise good TV series. I was misinformed. The animation's impeccable, but I hated the story.
This franchise comprises:
- TV series eps.1-8 (2013) = good
- TV series eps.9-12 (2013) = a mess
- Prequel 0th episode (2014 OVA) = perfectly okay, actually
- I'll Be Here: Kako-hen (2015 movie) = just a compilation of the TV series, so I haven't watched it
- I'll be Here: Mirai-Hen (2015 movie) = this sequel, set a year later
What happened at the end of the TV series was that people were dead, alive, possibly dead, dead-but-alive, in a dream world, dead again and then finally alive. Hurrah! (That's both Kanbara and Kuriyama, by the way.) All of this was happening on scriptwriter whim. In the end it's a happy ending, but how it had happened was dramatically meaningless and so I didn't care.
What happens in this movie is that the TV show's final arse-pull apparently gave Kuriyama amnesia. I don't know why. It just did. That's of a piece with everything in those last few episodes, anyway. Kanbara is thus lying to Kuriyama, pretending that they're strangers and that nothing in the TV series ever happened. He wants to give her the normal life she'd never had. He wants her to believe she's just an ordinary girl with nothing to do with him. He thinks this will make her happy, even though:
(a) she saw him bursting into tears on seeing her and she clearly still has some memories that are struggling to get out. She knows he's lying. She repeatedly tries to talk to him. She tries to go to Literature Club meetings.
(b) she has poisonous blood that can kill people and be formed into magic demon-killing swords. She's also capable of leaping thirty feet into the air if you surprise her. Girls notice things like that.
(c) she's being hunted by black magical slime monsters, possibly because of her history and cursed blood lineage.
(d) anyone can see that she's desperately unhappy
(e) they're the show's Official Couple and clearly destined to end up together.
I should declare a personal prejudice. I personally find memory loss tragic, which I think I got from the Doctor Who novelisation of The War Games. This will have coloured my reaction since, as far as I can tell, people generally seem to like this film. Personally, though, I couldn't stomach it. Everything Kanbara said and did was so stupid that I wanted him dead. He's torturing Kuriyama. Every single argument he makes gets demolished in-story, usually by Kuriyama herself. I simply couldn't buy his actions. How could anyone watch a friend going through that and keep refusing to help them? Admittedly this seems to be the film's main theme, with Hiroomi getting a minor B-plot that's reflecting the Kuriyama-Kanbara one. However to me its questions feel so obvious and one-sided that I see no earthly point in plodding through them. What next, films with the theme of "water is wet" or "don't stick rusty nails in your eyes"?
That would be true even without the supernatural angle. However if you've got a character whose blood can kill and is being hunted by demons, then not telling her what she is is going to get someone killed.
Theoretically there are other things worth discussing in the story, but for me they were being drowned out. Kanbara's idiocy breaks the film. I was simply rejecting the plot. Occasionally I'd laugh at a bit of comedy, e.g. Kanbara catching Kuriyama, but then within sixty seconds my suspension of disbelief would have broken again.
It's beautifully animated. Both the TV show and these films are by Kyoto Animation, so it's a visual masterclass. Look at the body language, the non-visual storytelling and the expressiveness of... well, everyone, but especially the two leads. On that level, it's a work of art. Its story. though. I think is terrible. Popular opinion seems to see it as a sequel that improves on the original, or at least those last few episodes, but for me it's fundamentally dead. I can see that Kanbara's completely sincere in what he's doing and tortured by it. I can appreciate the quality that KyoAni's pouring into this flawed story. I'm charmed by the ending. However as a film, it's bollocks.