I keep telling myself, “Sarah, you have to actually wait until Your Lie In April is finished airing before you write a review of it. What if the ending is not as good as the rest of the show has been?”
Well, I am here to tell you: I don’t care how it ends, and this anime is amazing and epic and incredible and you should go watch it right this second. It is THAT GOOD. Suffer with me each week for six long days waiting until the next episode comes out each time, you won’t regret it!
I might be a little biased. See, Your Lie In April is a show about music, which is certainly one of my big passions in life. It revolves around a third-year middle school student, Kousei Arima. Kousei grew up as a child prodigy pianist, entering and winning every music competition he attended. That is, until his mother died. After the loss of his mother, he suddenly found himself unable to play the piano. He couldn’t hear the notes he played, although his hearing was otherwise seemingly fine. His nerves wrecked him so much on stage that he could no longer play recitals or competitions, and decided that he didn’t want to have anything to do with the piano anymore, and he quit.
Then, a few years later, he met Kaori Miyazono. Beautiful, vivacious, free-spirited Kaori. Daughter of a baker, she has flowy blonde hair and blue eyes, and is a downright crazy violinist who either inspires awe or rage in her listeners with no in-between. To Kousei, who was known as the “human metronome” in his youth for his ability to play the music exactly as the composer had written it in the score, she was the complete opposite and only played with the goal of making the music her own and creating an incredible experience. She truly is is the yin to his yang, even though she’s busy chasing after Kousei’s handsome and sports-minded best friend Watari.
Kaori, coyly realizing who Kousei is and his fragile relationship with music, starts to push him. She demands that he play as her accompanist at a competition, even though he’s a complete mess and has no idea where to even begin not only playing as an accompanist instead of the main star, but just in general after his extended piano-hiatus. After some initial misfires, a lot of tense practice sessions, some major unloading of baggage around his mother’s death, and for once actually meeting all these kids he competed against for years who hated and admired him that he was oblivious to, Kousei rediscovers his love for music, his mother, and learns to love Kaori. Moreover, he learns even more important lessons about sharing his gifts for the sake of others when he takes on a student, loses and finds himself repeatedly when a friend falls ill, and finds renewed purpose in why he plays the piano.
There are a lot of reasons to love this show. First of all, the animation is really beautiful, definitely something special. The colors are excellent, and there’s a slight but not overpowering watercolor feel to the animation that makes it unique and interesting without being distracting. The story is SO well written, I’m actually gonna get to the characters and story below. My hands down favorite thing about Your Lie In April is the music, though. I honestly thought it would be kind of boring to watch a show about piano recitals and such, but man! I could not have been more wrong! Every time a character plays a concert or rectial (there are several) the music is INCREDIBLE! Off the charts amazing.
The music is presented as a sort of journey or voyage, usually accompanied by an internal monologue or the character’s thoughts about what is happening. For example, Kousei at one point plays at a piano competition. During Kousei’s piece, we can hear audience member’s thoughts about how his playing is slightly stiff and clunky, and their thoughts about how he must be nervous. Then, Kousei loses his ability to hear the notes and starts kind of mashing on the keys and increasing his tempo. Not only does the playing become more lively and louder and more colorful, but his audience of pianists and teachers are also tuned in on this and remark on every change in his playing style. Kousei struggles, and we see from his perspective that it’s practically as though he’s playing the piano underwater and can only hear a faint “thunk” from each key as it goes down as the music becomes more chaotic and he frantically mashes in an attempt to hear. He sees visions of his dead mother haunting him during his recital as he sweats and tries to keep it together. Who knew a piano recital could be so epic?!
I admit that I am particularly drawn to this story because of my background as a child musician. I, not unlike Kousei, studied music in my youth and for better or worse subjected myself to recitals and competitions from middle school through college. I feel like the writers got this story right on so many levels in terms of what happens in this kind of lifestyle. Not only do you run into the same kids again and again and watch them evolve and change at every event, there’s also a fair amount of bitching and bantering between teachers and “tells” of newcomers on who is studying with who. There’s a great deal of pressure from parents and teachers alike on their students- as well as the pressure students put on themselves- and some kids become absolutely ruined by it.
Just like Kaori, I also at one memorable competition ended up with a pianist who completely botched the accompaniment. Even though I did what I could to smooth it over on my end, it wrecked my overall scorecard and I lost to competitors less competent than myself. However, unlike Kaori, I could not comfort myself with finding my own purpose in the music at that time, and I put my instrument away after that competition, never to pick it up again. And yet, here I am, almost ten years later, finding myself drawn to music like a june bug that can’t resist the glow of a porch light, once again making feeble attempts to prepare for a recital as a vocalist instead of a flautist like in my youth. But this time around, I have found it so liberating this time around to just create music for the sake of creating something beautiful, and something that I do for myself, and hopefully something I can do for others to create a memorable performance at some point. And I watch and listen to kids applying for music school that sing frantically and nervously before my lessons, as they sweat bullets and try to soar like baby eagles getting shoved out of a nest. Just listening to them is stressful.
The characters in Your Lie In April are really special. Kousei is unique and intricate, but at the same time you get the idea that he thinks he’s a really simple guy. He’s a bit clueless, sure, but he practically carries the weight of the world on his shoulders every day. At the same time, Kaori is clearly carrying a heavy burden, and maybe that’s why she’s so free-spirited and spunky. She loves to have fun and laugh, but for as bright and as light as she is there is a seriously intense dark side that she keeps tightly wrapped up. The way that Kaori and Kousei interact is really special- she’s always pushing him, and almost seems to have fun manipulating him. But at the same time, Kousei learns so much from everything he’s pushed into by her, and when they spend time together it’s just so precious. It’s not really that romantic, but it’s so clear that they are more than friends. The lack of definition in their relationship is practically appropriate, I suppose.
One thing I will tell you: if you love the music in this series, don’t bother looking up the actual pieces. One day, after feeling particularly inspired by a Chopin Kousei had played on the show, I looked it up on YouTube and was sorely disappointed with the results! They lacked the intensity and charisma of the arrangements on the show’s soundtrack, and some of the pieces are transposed into a different key so the entire thing sounds different and more applicable to the character’s emotions. I am planning to track down the soundtrack so I can listen to the amazing music anytime. One thing is for sure: this show is a must-watch and has risen into my list of top 10 favorite animes of all time.