Ever since her mother died, Suzu Naitou’s lived her life in a haze. Always sad, distancing herself from her peers. Not living, merely existing. When she creates an account for the virtual world U, she regains the opportunity and her ability to sing, as she did with her mother. Her performances rapidly attract the attention of U’s five billion other users, elevating her to unseen success. After a dragon-like avatar invades one of her concerts, she and her tech-savvy friend launch an investigation to discover the identity of the mysterious user, and the dark secrets they hold in their heart.
Mostly an issue within the first act, though doesn’t fully evaporate thereafter, there isn’t a smooth drift to how scenes play out. It doesn’t make the film unwatchable or unintelligible, but events sometimes transition too quickly or conveniently, and it excuses some details with a hand-wave while ignoring others. Rather than telling a flowing narrative, it can seem like the film’s just checking off another item on a to-do right before glancing at its wristwatch.
The pivotal character and the first half of this movie’s Japanese namesake. However, I’m of the opinion that the film would’ve been better without them. It’s not that they’re a bad or uninteresting character, or even that Suzu lacks an adequate reason for associating with them, but their presence has to compete with a dozen other things the plot has going, before eclipsing them entirely, and the plot has some intriguing elements. Suzu’s entire arc is recovering the strength she lost after her mother’s death, and while they’re the catalyst for her growth, they’re an on-screen distraction to her entombed pain.
The Live Performance:
Suzu for the third act has to sing as her real self in U for a relatively mundane reason, but her performance is beautiful and stunning. If I were sucked into the film in any manner, I might’ve cried. The screenplay, the music, the art, it’s all just breathtaking. Gorgeous stuff. Arresting. I’m running out of adjectives. It’s a climax too good for the rest of the film.
There need to be more. The singing is to die for.
This movie suffers from the same core flaw as Mamoru Hosada’s previous film, Mirai, where it wants to do too much in too little screen time. Like I said, it has some clever ideas, but it’s as though the film didn’t know how to put those to picture, so it drafted a monster that likes beating people up. I’m so upset that I didn’t like this film that much, because all the marketing surrounding it is top-notch. It’s all so well-done, works of art on their own merit, and it’s impressive any of it was extracted from what’s a ropy production.