Anime Review: Your lie in April

This show had a pretty quick turnaround from my first impressions post earlier last week, but I got a little caught up in it and couldn’t stop watching. It reminded me of Kids on the Slope from time to time as well as shows like Clannad, Anohana and Angel Beats. I didn’t necessarily go into this show with high expectations, but I knew the show was loved by many. I just didn’t yet know why.

Warning! Major spoiler ahead!

Music accompanies the path of the human metronome, the prodigious pianist Kousei Arima. But after the passing of his mother, Saki Arima, Kousei falls into a downward spiral, rendering him unable to hear the sound of his own piano.

Two years later, Kousei still avoids the piano, leaving behind his admirers and rivals, and lives a colorless life alongside his friends Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. However, everything changes when he meets a beautiful violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who stirs up his world and sets him on a journey to face music again.

Based on the manga series of the same name, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso approaches the story of Kousei’s recovery as he discovers that music is more than playing each note perfectly, and a single melody can bring in the fresh spring air of April.

[Written by MAL Rewrite]

The early episodes of this series are fairly lighthearted while the main focus is on Kousei’s recovery as a musician. We’re first introduced to his childhood friends Tsubaki and Watari. Shortly after he encounters Kaori who they’re trying to help set up with Watari. When they first encounter, Kousei hears her playing a melodica and tries to take a picture. Right as he takes it however a gust of wind lifts her skirt, forever cementing their angry tsundere-like relationship. Oddly enough though, Kaori makes it her mission to help Kousei become a musician again as it seems he was pretty famous two years ago before he stopped playing. We get a few hints early on that Tsubaki is jealous of Kaori’s relationship with Kousei, and of Kousei’s jealousy towards Watari’s relationship with Kaori. And anime being as anime is, these feelings are rarely if ever properly expressed — though I will say this show does a much better job than many others.

Along the way, we’re also introduced to a series of interesting side characters all with some kind of connection to Kousei and the piano. We have Takeshi Aiza, who’s aim was always to catch up and surpass Kousei, his hero, on the piano since watching him play at a young age. We’re also introduced to Emi Igawa, who like Takeshi, was inspired at a young age by Kousei to become a musician. There’s also subtle evidence she has a crush on him. Next we have Hiroko Seto, a famous pianist and Kousei’s mother’s close friend from college. She eventually mentors Kousei once he picks the piano back up. Finally we have the younger sister of Takeshi, Nagi Aiza, a young girl, (a year younger than Kousei, but this anime shows crazy character differences in age) who is mentored by Kousei at Hiroko’s request. They perform a duet together at a school festival to the dismay of Takeshi, but it gives Nagi a great deal of growth as a musician. There are a few other prominent side characters as well, but I feel they’re slightly less central to the plot.

Unfortunately, love and music aren’t the only driving forces of this series as we discover that Kaori has some form of chronic illness. She plays it off initially as being anemic and hitting her head, but over time it’s revealed to be much more serious. Fans have speculated she had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but the show never actually names it. Kousei is one of the first characters to realize the severity of Kaori’s illness, and she eventually confirms it. This realization, as well as the similarities leading to his mother’s death, send Kousei into depression. He’s constantly haunted by flashbacks of his mother and her abusive teaching methods, and we eventually learn that his last words to her were saying that she should just die already… (No wonder this kid has such a complex surrounding the piano)

It’s also around this time that both Kousei and Tsubaki realize their true feelings. Kousei realizes his love for Kaori first, and so sets the way for a relapse of depression if she dies like his mother. Tsubaki on the other hand doesn’t realize her feelings until Kousei talks about leaving home to become a famous musician. She’s devastated to learn that the boy she always considered her kid brother will no longer be by her side. What we end up with is a sad parallel where nobody seems to get what they want.

Eventually Tsubaki confronts Kousei about both of their loves, telling him that Kaori likes Takeshi so Kousei has no choice but to love her… before kicking him and running away. Likewise, just as Kousei openly admits his feelings for Kaori, she has a medical emergency before he has a chance to tell her. Moments later, Kousei witnesses a car hit the black cat he and Kaori were so fond of, and races it to a vet for treatment. However it was too late for the cat.. and for Kaori, as she’s sent to the ICU. As Kousei begins to shut down again, he starts to wonder if the piano only brings him pain. Their next encounter is just before his next competition when she informs him that it’s the same day she’ll be undergoing surgery. He goes into the competition a pale, uncomposed mess. He cries at the piano. It’s doubtful he’ll even plan… until Tsubaki sneezes in the audience, waking him from his trance. He plays a beautiful but sorrowful performance, one that is eventually met with a phantom of Kaori playing the violin in a parade of colors. They finally play their last duet.

The next scene is Kaori’s funeral, and her parents give Kousei a letter from her:

Dear Arima Kousei,
It feels weird writing a letter to someone you were just with…
You’re the worst.
Indecisive. Gullible. Twit.
The first time I ever saw you perform, I was 5 years old. It was at a recital for the piano school I was going to. This awkward, clumsy kid came onto the stage and accidentally hit the piano stool with his butt. It was too funny. He turned to the piano that was way too big for him and the moment he played that first note, I was drawn in.
The sound was beautiful, like a 24-colour palette. The melodies danced.
The girl next to me started crying. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
And even so, you gave up the piano. Even though it totally changed other people’s lives. You’re the worst. Indecisive. Gullible. Twit.
(Cut to Kaori as a kid, telling her parents she’s giving up piano for violin because she wants Kousei to play for her.)
When I found out we were in the same middle school, I was ecstatic. But how would I ever come to talk to you? Maybe I’d hang out at the lunch concession. Instead, I just watched you from afar.
I mean. After all. You all seemed to get along so well. There wasn’t really any space in there for someone like me.
When I was a kid, I had to have an operation and I started having to be at the hospital for regular check-ups. In the first year of middle school, I collapsed and I was admitted over and over. With every visit, I was there for longer and longer. Really, I didn’t get to class much in middle school, I spent more time at the hospital. And I knew something was wrong with my body.
One night, I saw my parents crying in the waiting room and I knew that my time was running out.
That’s when I ran away.
I didn’t want to bring my regrets with me to heaven, so I stopped holding back from what the things I always wanted to do.
I wasn’t scared anymore to get contact lenses.
I ate what I wanted instead of always worrying about my weight.
And I took the music with all its high and mighty directives and played it the way I wanted.
And then I told a lie. Just one.
I lied and said that I, Miyazono Kaori, liked Watari Ryouta.
And that lie brought you to me.
Please apologize to Watari for me… though I’m sure he’s forgotten me by now
I think I need someone more wholehearted and earnest than him.
I think we’d be fine as friends though.
And please apologize to Tsubaki for me too.
I want for there to be no hard feelings. And there was one thing I could never ask of her, to ask her directly to introduce the two of us.
I don’t think she would’ve had an answer for me.
After all, she was in love with you.
We all knew that.
I think the only people who didn’t know were you and her.
That underhanded lie brought me to you didn’t work out the way I had imagined.
It was darker.
And meaner.
And denser.
And more stubborn.
And more perverted.
And softer.
And more masculine.
And sweet.
Remember that bridge we jumped off? The water was so cool and refreshing.
Racing each other alongside the train. I really thought I could win.
The moon we saw from the music room that night, like a delicious-looking bun.
Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with you as we rode on that bike together. Then falling out time. We’re awful singers.
At the school at night. I’m still sure there was something there.
The falling snow, just like cherry blossoms.
It’s strange to be a musician, but then to have your heart so filled by something that comes from off-stage
They’re unforgettable scenes to me. But they’re such little things. It’s weird, isn’t it?
What do you think?
Do you think I made it into anyone’s heart like that?
I wonder if I made it into yours.
I wonder if you’ll still remember me.
If you forget me, I’ll just come back and..
No, I don’t want to start over.
Please don’t forget me.
Promise me you won’t forget me.
I’m glad it was you.
I hope this reaches you, Arima Kousei.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I’m sorry we couldn’t eat all those canelés.
I’m sorry I hit you so much.
I’m sorry I was so selfish.
Over a million times sorry.
Thank you for everything.
Miyazono Kaori

Sorry for including the whole thing, but I feel like it was the most touching way to end the series. It’s a little off from the one in the anime, but considering it’s half the last episode I couldn’t bring myself to keep watching over and over. Legit had me tearing when she finally told him she loved him. Honestly considering how much emotion is packed into this series I’m surprised I didn’t cry more. After Kousei finishes reading the letter, Tsubaki is there to comfort him as the show ends. They wrapped it up beautifully with finesse.

Review:

Plot: 5/5

There was never really a point in the plot where I felt something was missing, and the story flowed well the entire time. We’re introduced to a series of devices that make abstract concepts more relatable as well. Some such as synethesia, or the overlapping of sense, explain the emotion behind the music using colors, smells, or even tastes. Others such as projection are used to reveal the past. Examples of this include Kousei’s interactions with a black cat in which he’s reminded of his mother, or even when he sees his mother in her usual place. Another important element are the characters’ self-identities. Kousei constantly questions his, asking if he’s anything more than a pianist, eventually defining himself as many things including a voyeur, substitute, baggage handler, and accompanist. We also see this question from a variety of other characters as well. Tsubaki for instance wonders who she is in relation to Kousei quite often. These subtle additions to the story are a significant part of what make it so fascinating and relatable. Do I wish certain things about the show were different? Of course I do. My heart still feels like it’s breaking because of Kaori’s death. But it was a somewhat unexpected ending that made the show stronger than it would’ve been otherwise.

Art: 5/5

This was a no-brainer. The anime industry in general could learn a thing or two from this show, but I suppose it’s to be expected from A-1 Studios. Honestly though the art in this series was a few steps above the rest. Sure there are more beautifully done anime, but they are few and far between — and usually produced by the same people.

Let me put it this way. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear classical music without this show in mind ever again. Same thing happened with Cowboy Bebop and Jazz. I’ll be imagining the cherry blossom petals raining down, or the snow turning into an iridescent frenzy. It will probably bring both happy reminiscence and stabbing pain at the same time. And oddly enough I’m looking forward to it.

Sound: 5/5

See Art above. No kidding, we’re talking some of the best in classical music, so this is a no-brainer as well. Even the voice acting was great so no complaints there either. The variation of playing styles was actually one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show as I wasn’t actually aware some of them were even possible. I’m not really a music buff, so I was fairly shocked to learn just how much emotion could be packed into dead and bland songs I’ve heard a million times. Stunning.

Enjoyment: 5/5

Your lie in April isn’t your typical show. I would put it up there with Miyazaki films for its ability to tell a story in a somewhat unique way. The color, the sound, the allusions, the subtleness, the character flaws, etc etc. all did their parts magnificently. If I had to describe this show in one word it would be bittersweet. However this isn’t a show that should be defined through words, but through music.

Your lie in April

Receives a solid 5/5

So what did you think of the review? Are these longer ones better or worse than the short ones? I definitely like writing them, but they’re probably a bit of a drag to read huh?

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