Here I am, once again reviewing an anime that has been pretty polarizing as of last year.
So, if you don’t know, I’m a massive geek when it comes to music. I played in band from 6th grade until my senior year of high school. Through all of the awkward moments and sunburns after marching band, I really developed a taste for classical music. I love the more renowned composers like Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel (not so much Bach). I also love Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin and am even a huge fan of recent composers like Eric Whitacre (I know he’s technically not classical). This is also why I do a majority of the reviews and lists on music here at AI. Do you know what I also enjoy? Romances if they’re done correctly. Since Your Lie in April is a classical music-based romance, I can’t say that I wasn’t intrigued. However, for whatever reason, I avoided it until about a month ago. The Spark Notes version of the plot is that their are three 14 year-old middle school students (Kousei Arima, Tsubaki Sawabe, and Ryouta Watari) who befriend another 14 year-old who happens to be a violinist named Kaori Miyazono. The story basically follows the four main characters on their final year of middle school, highlighted by Kousei and Kaori’s recitals since their both musicians. I should mention that Kousei is a piano prodigy that is well known among the music community.
Thereafter, music is played, romances blossom, and tears fall in spades. When I first saw this show pop up in the fall lineup for 2014, I thought it had huge amounts of potential. Since another romance/music anime, Nodame Cantabile, was so well-received in the anime community, I thought Your Lie in April had a fairly decent chance of garnering the same amount of praise. Fortunately, the show delivered in most aspects. Although school-based romances have been greatly overproduced in anime, the musical aspect of this show’s plot kept me interested from the get-go. Luckily, the show didn’t disappoint in terms of music, for I believe it to be the series’ strongest asset. The series does a great job at illustrating just how stressful and important music is to a lot of the cast. Although music itself isn’t the source for a lot of the drama of the series, it is where a lot of the stress stems from–if that makes any sense; it doesn’t create the drama itself, it creates situations where drama is formed.
The music choice within the show is absolutely amazing. They play many Chopin pieces and a few Rachmaninoff pieces which made me giddy with joy. Also, music served as sort of the glue that held the characters together. It was a fantastic source of tension while also holding everything together which I thought was clever. Speaking of characters, the character interactions were also fairly realistic, more so than I thought they would be. They served as some comic relief when it was needed, but also drove home the more dramatic scenes of the series. The humor used was also pretty decent. However, I do have issues with the actual cast. While I had no real complaints about the side cast, the main cast was really underwhelming and angering at some points. Not only are a few of them stereotypical and rather dry (Kyouta and Tsubaki), but Kaori and especially Kousei made me want to kill them at some points with how irrational they were. Their interactions were fine, but it was their physical actions that made me want to kill them.
In spite of this, where the show does well again is in their development. 3 of the 4 main cast members develop significantly and noticeably over the course of the series and it isn’t rushed or forced; it feels quite natural. I find it funny that another weak point in the series is in its romance aspect. I feel like this has to do with the characters, themselves and the actions they take. While the romance doesn’t feel forced necessarily, it feels inauthentic and oddly one-sided at most points. Lastly, where this show slips up is in some of its dramatic portions. For those who don’t know or those who want reassurance that their opinions are correct, THIS SERIES IS A MELODRAMA! The series gets about half of the drama correct. It hits you in all the right spots while feeling genuine and integral to the development of a character. The other half feels so incredibly forced that it is hard to feel for the characters. Characters seem to cry at the drop of a hat in this series which, even though it may sound funny, makes it significantly harder to pick which dramatic portions are actually important to the plot and which are inserted into the show with the sole purpose of drawing a reaction from the audience.
The characters in this series are tough to cover. Most can be summed up in a few phrases at the beginning of the series, but the they develop to be way more complex by the end. Kousei is a shy and quiet music student that was freakishly talented at the piano before some debacle including his late mother. He is alright at some points, but really pissed me off at others. Though he has been through a lot of shit, what defines him is how pessimistic he is. Though his past does explain why he is the way he is, I feel that he is overly so and gives up stupidly easily. He has a tendency to make bleak situations worse and increasingly complicated when it could be solved relatively easily.
However, his overall demeanor does change by the endgame. Kaori is Kousei’s foil and love interest. While also being a musician, she is remarkably outgoing and basically doesn’t give a fuck about what others think about her. Though this makes her more enjoyable to watch, a lot of her actions when it comes to Kousei don’t make a lot of sense and it bothered me. Sure it’s explained way later why she is the way she is, but yeah…spoilers. As for Tsubaki and Kyouta, they’re pretty run-of-the-mill in terms of personality. Tsubaki completes the love triangle with her tsundere attitude. She also plays the big sister role since she’s known Kousei since forever. I would like to mention that she gets developed significantly throughout the series which is great (and I think she was the best character in the series). Kyouta is the resident chick magnet and semi-pervert/best friend of Kousei. He is also the captain of the soccer team. He receives the least amount of development of the main four.
Now, the actions, no matter how irrational they may seem, do make sense considering that the main cast consists for hormonal adolescents. But, that doesn’t mean that some of the more irrational actions that they take won’t piss off a viewer or two. On a different note, I actually liked the side cast for this series. For the most part, they were more enjoyable to watch than most of the main cast even though they were much less developed. The series also does a good job of implementing them throughout the series. The side cast not only aid in developing the main cast, but they also are a result of the main casts’ past actions. They show how the main cast has effected everybody in their lives and it’s a nice touch.
Your Lie in April was produced by A-1 pictures. A-1 has been known to do some really good stuff in the past and this series was no exception. The art itself is a bit unique in it’s own way. It’s brighter than a lot over other anime which was a nice touch and the backgrounds were remarkably detailed. The animation for most scenes didn’t have to be amazing and it fared just fine for the series it was. However, it was apparent to me where they skimped a little bit in terms of the animation budget. But this can all be forgiven with the near-perfect animation of the musical performances themselves. I’ve never thought of A-1 as ‘incredible’ in terms of animation outside of Sword Art Online, but these scenes rival their best work.
The amount of tact and care put into the facial expressions and bodily actions is to be admired. The fluidity of the instruments themselves was absolutely breath-taking, especially considering how fast they were moving. It seriously is some of the best animation I’ve seen. Speaking of instruments, the overall soundtrack to this series was…well, decent at best. The background music was nice and fitting, but nothing extraordinary. Both OPs and EDs were also pretty good; they weren’t the best ever, but they definitely aren’t completely worth skipping. HOWEVER! The music played within the series for the recitals and such was spectacular. Like I mentioned, there were a lot of Chopin and Rachmaninoff piano pieces which were just complete ear-candy. I would re-watch this series just to see the beautifully animated musical scenes with their equally beautiful musical accompaniments.
I’ve seen people all over comment boards on the internet praise this series for being the best drama to ever grace anime. I have also seen people tear it to shreds for trying too hard and for failing at what it was attempting to do. Is this series complete shit or is it as good as everyone says? My verdict is as such: Yeah. It’s pretty good. This series really does a lot of things correctly, despite what people may tell you. It puts a new twist on an old and reused trope which is a solid foundation to have. Where this series truly shines is in the musical aspect of the series. Not only does the music do a quality job of driving the plot, but it also serves as the glue that holds the whole story together.
Not to mention, the musical score within the series is flawless and the animation for the recital scenes can be unbelievably good at times. Your Lie in April also does character development better than a lot of other shows. The main cast–or most of them–grows considerably over the course of the series and it truly is a spectacle to see. And here’s something I forgot to mention: the show has a rather good conclusion. The ending is well-written and it really pulls at your heart strings. Your Lie in April certainly isn’t perfect, however. Though the ending is great, a lot of things are left inadequately explained for a majority of the series. Sure, they get wrapped up in the end, but it’s not until the very end that the viewer is told why certain things unfolded the way they did. Which takes me to the main cast. While the main cast receives brilliant development over the course of the show, they themselves are lackluster. A lot of their actions are unrealistic and don’t make a ton of sense. Although this makes sense considering how old the main cast is, it makes for some either seriously awkward or angering moments which could turn some viewers off.
The drama in this series is also hit-or-miss. Although some scenes do a phenomenal job at conveying raw emotion and what is at stake for the characters, other portions are just there to instill unneeded and forced drama. Nevertheless, the series did successfully tug at my emotions at several parts. To sum it up in a few less words, Your Lie in April is a musical romance series that nailed the music aspect, but stumbled over the romance aspect at times. It also just degraded into one big melodrama at points which was completely unnecessary. But I definitely can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it.
Overall, I can recommend this series to most people, specifically those who love music. Although it isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it is worthy of most peoples’ time. The musical scenes truly are amazing even if the characters really grind on my gears sometimes. However, if you don’t like dramas, don’t watch this because that is all this series is.
Should You Watch: Yes
Until next time, keep watching anime!