Your Lie in April

Your Lie in April

Your Lie in April anime cover art featuring Tsubaki, Kaori, Kousei, and Watari
Your Lie in April Cover Art

Overview

Your Lie in April is a 2014 drama anime about music, specifically how lifelong bonds can be formed through the playing of and listening to music. However, despite what it looks like on the surface, this anime is not about music itself, but rather about the characters who are developed through it.

Without first checking my database of other anime I’ve seen, I’m going to go ahead and claim that Your Lie in April is the best anime of 2014 (upon further inspection I may find this to be false). With that claim in mind, I’ll be using most of this review to explain why exactly that is.

However, as some of you may know, my favorite part of most anime are the characters, so much of what makes this series so good will be found in the “Characters” section. Good characters can carry an anime, and bad characters can drag one down, but we still need to take a look at the other pieces that make up the whole.

Two important pieces of an anime are the OP and ED (opening and ending). This is specifically referring to the opening and ending animations and songs that play each episode. While you may not think these are important because they’re not actually part of the story, you’d be wrong.

The OP of an anime is really what sets the stage even before we get to the actual content of the series. By watching an OP, we can become familiar with both the tone of the series and the characters who will be featured in it. Luckily for Your Lie in April, both OPs are great.

EDs are just as important, however. They come after the content of an episode, so they aren’t used to introduce us to things about the anime, but rather reinforce things we’ve learned. For a drama such as this, a good ED often reinforces what we felt while watching the episode. Again, this was successful for Your Lie in April.

Between the OP and ED comes the primary focus, the actual content of the anime. I’ll say now that the story told over the course of this series is probably a 10/10 if I were to just rate it alone, so what exactly happens?

Kaori Miyazono from the anime Your Lie in April
Kaori Miyazono

To make this summary short, I’ll just give a loose rundown of the plot and major events. Our protagonist is a music nerd who was forced to play piano by his mother. After her death, approximately two years before the start of the series, he quit playing and is no longer able to “hear the sound of his own music.”

He’s then introduced to a girl who’s also a musician, but has a crush on one of his best friends. She then asks him to play with her for a competition and is amazed by both her musical style and sense of pride in her music. Needless to say he develops romantic feelings for said girl.

For the rest of the anime it’s basically just the protagonist and this girl he likes playing music together and continuously pushing each other to “go even further beyond” in the words of Goku from Dragon Ball. However, the musical girl is a sickly child and this causes our protagonist to have some flashbacks of his mother in her final days, causing him to relapse.

Some other stuff happens and the anime ends on a happy, yet bittersweet note which I’ll be discussing in more detail later on in this review. So now that you know the basic summary of the anime, what things did it specifically do right or wrong?

This might sound counterintuitive, but I found that the worst part of the anime were the music performance scenes, despite it being a “music anime.” I recognize that some of this may be my own bias, but let me explain my reasoning before you leave an angry comment.

The music scenes took far too long, and I felt this detracted from the experience of watching the anime. In some cases, the performances were around 15 of the 24 minute episodes, and yet we typically heard the same portion of whatever song was being played on repeat that entire time.

Sure, you can make the argument that they’re good songs, but even if classical music is your thing, I don’t see how listening to a two-minute excerpt of a song on repeat for 15 minutes is interesting. Also, since the music scenes were typically in competition form, the characters often commented on how good or bad someone’s playing was.

However, as the casual music listener I am, I couldn’t tell the difference and so had to simply go by what the supporting cast said. This is essentially the “music anime” version of that background or supporting character in a shounen anime who commentates the entire fight we’re watching; it’s not a good thing.

So now that I’ve explained something I think could have been improved upon, what part did Your Lie in April succeed at masterfully? The placement of the climax. Remember, this is a drama, so the climax is the most emotional part of the anime.

To help explain how Your Lie in April’s climax was so good, let me use another drama as an example, Violet Evergarden. Although Violet Evergarden is a 10/10, the climax came too early in the series; episode 10/13. This means that while there was action in the final three episodes, the emotion had already peaked.

Your Lie in April, on the other hand, had the peak emotional scenes in episodes 21 and 22, the final two episodes of the series. This means that it ended strong, which is extremely important because you never want your viewers to forget how your drama ended.

Characters

Kousei Arima is the protagonist of the series. He’s a pianist who was forced to learn how to play by his mother who became increasingly ill and abusive as time went on, until she ultimately died when Kousei was 12 years old. This is what led to him giving up on piano for two years.

While he’s not the most popular or happy kid, he does have two best friends who would do anything for him, and for whom he would do anything. These are Tsubaki and Watari who we’ll get to in just a bit.

When he meets Kaori, his life changes forever as she teaches him that life, and music, are all about having fun and giving it your all. While she was the primary influence on his life, he was also helped along the way by all the other people he met whether he knows it or not.

He has his best friends, his rivals, his teacher, his student, everyone helps Kousei out along the way in one form or another. In a lot of ways Kousei reminds me of Rei Kiriyama from March comes in like a lion.

Tsubaki Sawabe is Kousei’s childhood friend who acts like his older sister. She’s the star of the school softball team and is generally viewed as not being girly due to her being into sports and her generally confrontational attitude. However, despite this, we learn that she actually has a crush on Kousei.

For a majority of the series Kousei doesn’t know this, and he just views Tsubaki as his friend and surrogate family member, but we can’t really blame him because even Tsubaki didn’t realize it herself. And, even after she does, she still tries to deny it by saying that Kousei is like her younger brother.

While at one point in time I probably wouldn’t have liked Tsubaki’s character much, she reminded me of Sayaka Miki from Madoka Magica, a character who I’ve come to appreciate over the years. She’s in love with someone who she can’t be with, and she destroys herself by trying to make everyone around her happy instead.

Ryouta Watari is the character who I have the least to say about out of the five I’m going to be going over. He’s the playboy of the school as well as the star of the soccer team. Despite that, he’s one of Kousei’s best friends and doesn’t see him as some music nerd like you might expect from his character type.

What I found interesting about Watari was that although he’s the star of a sports team, the only girl he doesn’t seem interested in is Tsubaki, the star of another sports team. These two characters would typically be paired up if this series followed the common trope.

Instead, Watari is mainly interested in Kaori, but he knows that Kousei is too and he recognizes that Kousei and Kaori have a special bond which he wouldn’t be able to replace. There were times when I didn’t like Watari, but overall he seems like he would be a good friend to have.

Now we move on to the main attraction of the anime, Kaori Miyazono. Kaori is a violinist who tends to play songs the way she wants to play them instead of playing them by the score as the original composer intended. Because of this, she doesn’t do well in competitions, but she has fun so it doesn’t matter to her.

Her main goal in playing music is so that everyone who watches her perform will never forget witnessing her on the stage. This may seem narcissistic, but the way she explains it makes a lot of sense. Why else would you play music on a stage in front of people other than to make them remember your performance?

Unfortunately, Kaori is plagued by medical issues and misses a lot of school because of it. When she falls ill during the second half of the series, the “low point” is reached for both her and Kousei’s characters, with them both believing they’ll have to give up music for good.

However, thanks to her inspiring Kousei, Kousei returns the favor and inspires Kaori by telling her she needs to get better so they can play music together again. Because of this, Kaori decides to undergo a risky operation to potentially lengthen her life, something she had all but given up on before.

Nagi Aiza from the anime Your Lie in April
Nagi Aiza

Now that I’ve covered the four main characters, I wanted to cover just one supporting character, Nagi Aiza. In the past I accepted that I have a particular “type” when it comes to anime characters, and it often involves a ponytail, but more recently I’ve accepted that there’s another type of character I like in a different way.

Nagi has helped me come to the understanding that preteen female characters are the ones I identify with and enjoy watching the most. However, there’s a catch. If a series is just all characters like that, then they aren’t special. I need a series with one standout girl who fits that criteria, and for Your Lie in April it’s Nagi.

In many ways she’s like Mayoi Hachikuji from the Monogatari series, or Hinata Kawamoto from March comes in like a lion. These girls all serve multiple purposes as I’ve explained about Mayoi in the past, most recently in my Ranking the Monogatari Girls post.

Nagi is a pianist who is the younger sister of one of Kousei’s rivals, Takeshi Aiza. She originally intends to sabotage Kousei in order to make her brother look better, but she actually ends up becoming his student and friend instead.

On one hand, she’s his student and serves as a younger sister to him. Through this relationship, he’s able to have responsibility of another person which teaches him life lessons while he’s teaching her piano lessons. On the other hand, she’s a friend he can rely on.

She’s not an older sister type in the same way that Mayoi is for Koyomi, Tsubaki is already Kousei’s older sister character, but she still serves some of the same purpose by being his friend. When talking about one of their problems, they often help out the other incidentally simply because they’re both so similar.

There’s just something about the relationship between characters like these that I enjoy watching. Mayoi and Koyomi, Hinata and Rei, Nagi and Kousei, and any others I’m forgetting right now.

Conclusion

Before I get to the conclusion of this review, I want to discuss the conclusion of the anime and how I’ve felt since finishing it. I mentioned before that the ending was happy, yet bittersweet, and this is all because of a single character, Kaori.

Kaori dies in the end of the anime. Now, going in I had my suspicions, and around episode six there was an offhand comment by some background characters about her having a lot of pills which only solidified my suspicion, but the way it happens and the lead-up to it are what make her death truly devastating.

We knew that Kaori was seriously ill with an unknown disease for a while leading up to her death, but the anime always gave the impression that there was a little bit of hope, just a slight chance that she’d make a recovery and get to play with Kousei again.

In the final two episodes, as Kousei is going to give a performance at a competition, Kaori is going into surgery to potentially prolong her life. We know know this is a risky surgery as does she and Kousei, but there’s still hope. Even after Kousei gives his performance and he says, “goodbye” while crying, we hope that Kaori is alright.

But the next scene afterwards is of Kousei and Kaori’s parents standing in the graveyard alone after her funeral. They then hand him a letter that Kaori wrote to him before going into surgery, and it appears that he goes a significant amount of time before opening it.

Now, before getting to the contents of the letter, let me say that this scene of Kousei and Kaori’s parents in the graveyard was the climax of the anime. This was the time that, if you hadn’t cried yet, you would cry during (I didn’t cry).

What made this scene so powerful was how realistically it captured death. We don’t see Kaori slowly getting worse and worse until she eventually dies. We saw her go through the worst of it and come out the other side ready to keep on living.

And yet, she dies off-screen during the surgery that could have saved her life. The girl who we’ve come to know and love over the past 21 episodes is suddenly gone without so much as a “goodbye.” One scene she’s there, the next we’ll never see her again.

Now, some anime you could say might leave the same feeling if the characters end up going their separate ways like they do in Samurai Champloo, but we can imagine that one day they all meet up again as friends. For Kaori and Kousei, however, that’s never going to happen. Their story is over and can’t ever resume.

Now, in the letter that Kaori wrote to Kousei she professed her love for him, as she should because we as the viewers could tell that they liked each other, but it’s kind of too late. She’s already gone. She also asks if he’ll remember her now that she’s gone, just like how she wanted everyone watching her perform to remember her music.

While it was heavily hinted at before, this just reinforces the notion that the reason Kaori wanted people to remember her music was because she didn’t want to be forgotten after she died. After all, she knew she wasn’t going to be around for much longer.

Finally, we learn the meaning behind the title of the anime from Kaori’s letter. The lie in April was hers. She lied when she said she was interested in Watari. In reality she was interested in Kousei all along and just didn’t know how else to be introduced to him.

As the first Spring without Kaori comes around, the rest of the characters continue on with their daily lives without her.

In the end I gave this anime a 9/10. It could have easily been a 10 if some of the scenes were done better, but overall I’d say it’s about as close to a 10 as an anime can get without officially crossing the line.

If you enjoyed this review, let me know in the comments down below and give the little heart button below this post a click. If you didn’t like it, leave a comment to let me know why and maybe I can make some improvements for the future.

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The first OP for Your Lie in April is available here.

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