Review: Your Lie in April


Not every anime is meant to have a deeper or sentimental message and of those that attempt to include one, the majority spectacularly fail in a haze of melodrama and tears. That is why Your Lie in April is so special. The show you are about to read about takes real and serious issues and creates 22 well paced episodes and a cast of interesting, often funny, though not always perfect characters.

Kaori plays the violin - so basically it's a set up.
Kaori plays the violin – so basically it’s a set up.

Background and plot

Kousei Arima was once the child prodigy of all child prodigies in the world of piano, dominating competitions on a national level and generally annoying all of his competitors with his brilliance. During one competition however, following the death of his slave driving mother he breaks down, losing the ability to hear the notes he plays, thus fading into the obscurity of middle school Japan, and the introvert character type that would be typically expected to follow.

This is Kousei. When he was 12 he was great at playing the piano - now he isn't.
This is Kousei. When he was 12 he was great at playing the piano – now he isn’t.

At the start of the show, Kousei is forcibly introduced to a girl that has a crush on his best friend Watari. This girl, Kaori Miyazono is a talented violinist with a knack for making other people happy as well as being very demanding on our dear Kousei.

There's a lot of screen time given to someone playing on this stage.
There’s a lot of screen time given to someone playing on this stage.

The story is split into two halves: the first, and best half, is Kousei coming out from the shadow of his mother, and learning to appreciate music again. The second half takes a turn for the feels and I think that’s all you need to know.

Characters

The story is told almost exclusively from Kousei’s point of view, which for the most part works really well in building tension as well as his relationships with other characters. Initial impressions of Kousei don’t bode for a particularly original character, as his past trauma leaves him cold, introverted and quite lonely. The point of the show though is to build Kousei into a character you can really sympathise with, whether your a fan of the introverted male lead or not. By the end of the first arc, not only are you on Kousei side, you’ve probably chosen him as your favourite character.

I know we've already had one of Kousei playing piano, but give me a break, the show is about him playing piano.
I know we’ve already had one of Kousei playing piano, but give me a break, the show is about him playing piano.

Kaori is slightly more difficult to like in as much as she is overtly supposed to be ‘the likeable character’. At the end of the show this is clearly not the case and it is obvious why she is so cheery in the early episodes. On the other hand though, you have to commend the writers for creating one of the most pleasant tsundere characters possible. This largely comes down to the fact that Kaori spends a lot of her time outside of the typical tsundere build. I realise at this stage I’m nitpicking, but one of the other reasons I wasn’t Kaori’s biggest fans is that she is undeniably hugely selfish, regardless of what’s going on, the way she treats Kousei is completely for her own needs and I don’t really think that’s fair – but then, I do understand.

Kaori is a lot of fun, just a little bit all over the place and very hard to gauge.
Kaori is a lot of fun, just a little bit all over the place and very hard to gauge.

Throughout the show there are probably six or seven key side characters that get developed to some degree: Tsubaki, Watari, Takeshi, Nagi, Saki, Kimi and Hiroko. For the sake of words I’m not going to talk about Watari, Nagi, Kimi or Hiroko.

Tsubaki is a fantastic character (fantastically acted by Ayane Sakura might I add) that unfortunately, for her at least, completes the worst part of the love triangle/square in Your Lie in April. From the beginning of the show she is portrayed as Kousei’s childhood friend, who probably would like their relationship to be a bit more than it is. The reason I really like Tsubaki is because the writers gave whole episodes (yes, more than one!) to developing her character even though she isn’t strictly integral to the story; we’re really given an insight into what motivates her and what her personality is like – it’s refreshing.

Everyone who plays an instrument wants to be as good as/impress Kousei.
Everyone who plays an instrument wants to be as good as/impress Kousei.

Takeshi and Kimi are largely similar characters, though more focus is given to Takeshi. Reference is constantly made back to him as someone who looked up to Kousei as a piano playing idol, someone he aspired to be. While his character is well placed and poignant in the first half of the show, his involvement past episode 12 is sporadic and feels vaguely pointless. Nonetheless, he does add to the best part of the show, so shouldn’t be overlooked.

Saki is Kousei’s mother. I don’t want to give too much away in terms of plot because it is the dynamic between Kousei and Saki that really makes the first half of the show what it is, and although she doesn’t have too much involvement, it is interesting how she develops and adds to the plot as the show goes forward.

Sound, artwork and animation

I read a review on MyAnimeList after watching Your Lie in April that said something to the effect off (I wouldn’t dare quote anyone directly -_-), for a show focused on music, the soundtrack for Your Lie April is mediocre and has no stand out tracks. Now I’m all for opinions and everything, but this person is wrong. And when I say wrong I mean completely, unequivocally, objectively wrong. If you don’t like classical music, which of course is your prerogative, Your Lie in April will give you something else which is equally as great – can we just take a moment to think about the first opening anyone? The backing tracks are poignant or fun when required and are entirely unforgettable.

Even if it's not particularly original it does have pretty moments.
Even if it’s not particularly original it does have pretty moments.

Artwork and animation are generally pretty good though there isn’t anything that particularly stands out (or maybe I was too preoccupied with the sound?). The art does take some getting used to in as much as it is ‘traditional’, but it is by no means bad work. In all honesty, a show about music doesn’t give itself many opportunities to show off fantastic animation, so I can forgive Your Lie in April for lacking in this department.

Favourite Episode

Episode 6: On the Way Home

If you haven’t noticed by now I’m a bit of a sucker for the underdog hence why I’ve gone for episode 6 as my favourite episode. It sets up some competition in the romance department, shows of Tsubaki as a really loveable character as well as letting us know that Kousei really is a nice guy. Great all round.

She might not be the best character, but nonetheless, I still thought Tsubaki was great.
She might not be the best character, but nonetheless, I still thought Tsubaki was great.

Favourite piece of music

Simply: Hikarunara by Goosehouse. If this isn’t the happiest and catchiest anime song you’ve heard then I’d like to know about them in the comments please. If you haven’t heard this already, I defy you not to put it on repeat.

Conclusion

I couldn’t help but love Your Lie in April, but that isn’t to say it’s perfect. If I was sat here reviewing the first 12 episodes I probably would say it was but sadly the second half does forget itself and suffers from some unfortunately clichés and badly thought out plot threads.

This isn't the only scene with two people on a bike.
This isn’t the only scene with two people on a bike.

That said Your Lie in April is a really fantastic show. The characters are great, the plot for the most part is well done (I really can’t emphasise how perfect the story was for the first 12 episodes) and the music is out of this world. Go and watch it now, or at least turn it on as background noise while you do something else.

9. 5/10 (graphic to follow – I know, your still waiting for Charlotte as well!)

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