It's a charming adaption of a manga/anime I like a lot. There's a lot to enjoy here, especially from the lead actresses, Ayami Nakajo and Erina Mano. It feels right. However it goes a bit lazy and rubbish for the finale.
Nino Arisugawa, aka. Alice, is more than a bit odd. She's got almost no self-awareness, she's bad at listening to people and she's capable of doing things like bowing on the floor in a crowded school corrridor. Fortunately, though, she's also a nice, happy weirdo. When she was young, she knew two music-making boys, Momo and Yuzu. They both departed, but they're both stuck in her head, especially Momo. As a result, she's spent the intervening six years trying to sing loud enough to bring Momo back to her... and that's literal, not metaphorical.
What she doesn't know is that both Momo and Yuzu have become part of the professional music world. They also haven't been able to forgot her, although this affected them in different ways. Yuzu's the songwriter and lead guitarist for a band called "in NO hurry to shout" (with exactly that capitalisation), but everything he writes has always been for the Alice in his head and he's in a slump right now. He's done very well so far, but he's still attending high school. The band's released CDs and appeared on TV, but they've never done a live gig.
Momo, conversely, is a full-time professional who'll write in any genre that'll make him money. He wants to repay his father's debts.
I loved Ayami Nakajo as Alice, which is crucial since that's the key role. She's perfect in her oddness. She's on-target in being off. She made me laugh immediately on reuniting with Yuzu, for instance. She has no sense of personal space, she's tall and you get the sense that she doesn't do normal human reactions. I even sort of bought her singing. Alice in the manga, you see, has an extraordinary voice that can fascinate professional musicians and bring the entire school to a standstill. That's a challenge for an actress. The anime met it head-on by turning her into this shrieking, screeching thing that sometimes goes out of control. It's extreme, but it worked for me. This film, on the other hand, is understandably less brave. It's harder to ignore realism in live-action. The film's Alice has a pretty normal singing voice and never goes berserk. It's a weaker portrayal, frankly... but that was probably inevitable, while Ayami Nakajo's so perfect in the role that I didn't mind at all.
Of the others, Erina Mano is excellent as Miou, the girl who both loves and (painfully) understands Yuzu. Seeing her in the crowd at the end was the best bit of the film's finale. The boys are less impressive, but they're still pretty decent and I liked Jun Shison's line in suppressed emotion. (He's playing a blander, less abrasive Yuzu than the anime's, though.) Even the child actors in the flashbacks are good.
The film's strongest scenes, for me, are the ones between rivals. Alice and Miou end up spending a lot of time together, as the oblivious Alice asks for singing lessons from the other girl in a Yuzu love triangle. Miou thinks Alice is off her nut, but says "yes". Meanwhile Momo and Yuzu unwittingly get to know each other as professional musicians, with one particularly charming scene where they're just playing guitars and jamming together.
Most of the film is very likeable. I was enjoying it enormously... but unfortunately the last act goes downhill. Alice gets oddly sidelined as the film becomes more about the boys and their hang-ups. All she has to do is decide which boy she likes, although this is complicated by the fact that Alice doesn't really see "like" and "love" like everyone else. Yuzu's story is fine, but I was unsatisfied with Momo's. It feels unearned. The film doesn't really try to sell his change of heart, or to hide his plot role. He's dressed as this overdone spiky-haired Death Note cliche, which in itself announces his predestined place in the plot and the love triangle.
After that, Momo gives a gratuitous ultimatum that feels like a scriptwriter getting lazy. It's particularly frustrating because it's presenting the "Momo vs. Yuzu" choice in musical terms, but this just invites the third option of singing for both of them. Obviously we're not meant to be thinking that, but you'd still have had a far more truthful and interesting scene had the dialogue been aware of that option while also showing that there's also something else on Momo and Yuzu's minds. Alice runs off. Miou delivers a heavy-handed speech to underline stuff we already knew. Alice then goes awol for a Hollywood Resolution Scene when she's about to be doing a live stage show, which is very Alice but made me want to throttle her. (What she says is good. Her timing can sod off and die. Besides, wouldn't it have been stronger to reply to his ultimatum by demonstrating her choice through her actions, getting up on that stage and singing the hell out of it?)
Despite what I'm seeing as problems, though, it's still a normal movie finale. The film as a whole is still fresh and charming. I still like the cast, while the script's doing a pretty impressive job of adapting a long-running manga without feeling squashed. (Until the finale, anyway, and even there the problem isn't the pacing.) The manga's on seventeen volumes so far, by the way, and counting. I think it's a strong story (even in this abbreviated form), with interesting characters and a different way for every main character's music to have been "anonymous noise".
If you don't mind a rather lumpen finale, I'd recommend this. I prefer the anime, but this live-action film has its own strengths too.