All About Lily Chou-Chou


Original Title: リリイ・シュシュのすべて
Release Date:
 October 6, 2001
Director: Shunji Iwai
Screenplay: Shunji Iwai
Cast: Hayato Ichihara, Shugo Oshinari, Ayumi Ito, Yu Aoi, Tomohiro Kaku, Takao Osawa, Miwako Ichikawa

It’s been 15 years to the date (almost) since Shunji Iwai’s ode to disengaged youths that searched for meaningful connection in online forums. Since then? Iwai actually cemented his reputation as one of the most interesting filmmakers of his time, and launched -sorta- the careers of Hayato Ichihara, Shugo Oshinari and Yu Aoi; as well as introducing the music of Salyu alongside producer Takeshi Kobayashi, to create magic straight from The Ether.

I have no idea whether Iwai made a film that reflected the times that we lived in at the turn of the Y2K hysteria, which I actually don’t remember as being as dark and hopeless; or whether he made a prediction on how the world’s technological advancements would create such a false concept of interconnectedness. We feel as close as ever with the development of telecommunications and the genesis of social media, yet we often don’t connect on a personal level with even the people that surround us on a day to day basis.

Because I’m alive, I found Lily.

We’ve seen the rise of fanatical craziness, fandom names and 24/7 surveillance of our favorites, as we claim a part of their selves for our personal consumption. We “meet” people online that share our interests, and communicate with them about the deep thoughts that cross our minds, as we forget those in our real lives. No, in real life, we ignore and bully each other, we hurt those whom we might be able to love, and do the impossible to drive ourselves away from others, deepening the distance among us. This is what All About Lily Chou-Chou is about, as we follow the unraveling of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds who grow isolated from each other and find solace in the mysterious and enigmatic Lily (Salyu).

We focus our attention on Yuichi (Ichihara) and Hoshino (Oshinari), two rather meek teenagers who suffer from bullying in different points in their lives, with Hoshino transferring to Yuichi’s school and eventually turning into one of the most despicable characters, as he not only does petty crime with the other boys he bullies; but eventually pushes them to record a girl, Kuno (Ito), while they rape her, to perhaps push her into teenage prostitution as Hoshino’s previously done with the vivacious Tsuda (Aoi). Any resemblance with real life events is just devastating, shot through the almost magical lens of Noboru Shinoda who, for years, created visual magic with Iwai; until the day of his passing in 2004, having collaborated only once more for Hana & Alice.

Shinoda manages to make the green rice fields an iconic element of the film, as well as the red gliders on the light blue skies as representation of the characters escaping their harsh reality and sense of freedom, set to Lily’s ethereal voice to tunes like Flightless Wings (飛べない翼, Tobenai Tsubasa) [MV] or Glide (グライド) [MV], which with simple lyrics states “I wanna be just like a melody, just like a simple sound, like in harmony. I wanna be just like the sky, just fly so far away, to another place,” capturing longing, emotion and teenage angst for millennials.

The aesthetic of the picture continues with the turn of the millennium style of BB Boards or online message forums as users communicate their admiration for their goddess, among them, the administrator of the site known as Philia and someone known as Blue Cat, revealed to be Yuichi and Hoshino sharing the pains of their world in an anonymous way; drilling that theme of isolation and teenage despair.

In other words, beautiful anguish.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Against all odds~ the film’s Official Website is still up and running in all its Y2K glory. :P

Regarding what other artists are similar to Lily? Let’s mention Faye Wong (whom Lily is based on), Shiina Ringo, Daiqing Tana and HAYA Band [YouTube][Xiami][CD Baby], Sa Dingding, Singer Sen, and perhaps, Jambinai. And I’ve recently gotten into Su Yunying.

And since I’m obsessive compulsive, I’ve spent hours looking for a HAYA Band link that is no longer up. LOL I’ll leave it on, just in case it goes public again.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

4 Responses

  1. Aron says:

    Really nice review! This film deeply affected me. The realism from the digital recording makes it all the more traumatic. I still cry each time I watch it. I thought it set a standard for 21st century film making that few have matched since.

    • amy says:

      Thank you! This is my first re-watch of the film since I got the DVD many years ago, so it’s like watching it with new eyes considering how bullying has become a central topic in the news for the last couple of years.

  1. October 2, 2016

    […] Bless my heart~ I’m the only one celebrating 15 years of Shunji Iwai’s All About Lily Chou Chou xD but if you are too, drop me a line! Tell me how much the film has affected your life~ As a celebration, I sat down for a re-watch and a brand new ‘more professional’ review. […]

  2. March 6, 2018

    […] del Ether, cuando en el 2001, Iwai estrena su obra más importante de los últimos 17 años: “All About Lily Chou Chou”. Esta película sigue la vida de un grupo de adolescentes hundidos en una soledad que solo pueden […]

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