Well, I liked it better than Robert seems to have. But it WAS formulaic (in an anti-Hollywood way), basically "The Commitments" or "Hula Girl" with classical music. As was the case in "The Commitments," Hisaishi used real musicians to good effect in some of the key roles.
I do disagree with Robert about Hisaishi's visual story telling choices. It may not have been terribly original for MOST of the picture, but the opening scene was very inventive. Perhaps Robert was disappointed that Hisaishi didn't maintain that level of novelty throughout the movie. I actually liked the music better than some of Hisaishi's scores for Miyazaki movies.
On a completely Nihon eiga geek note, are we sure this was shot in 2001? I've seen a number of these actors (Yoshihiko Hakamada, Tomokazu Miura, Reiko Kusamura and Yoji Tanaka) in much earlier films, and they all looked too young in this one for them to be the ages they would have been in 2001. If it was, they should bottle whatever it is that keeps them young.