I actually had a chance to view this about six months earlier, but the capsule description seemed a bit uncertain and I’m not a fan of music shows. I find they are in the area of sports shows, where we end up focusing too much on the performance and the show loses something about the people. But then I heard that this was a really romantic series, the best in the past few years. On Free Comic Book Day, one of the offerings was a manga sampler, of which the first chapter of this tale was shown. Well, with all these promotions, I had to see it.
The show is “Your Lie in April”, known in Japan as “Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso” (“April is Your Lie”) and tells the story of piano prodigy Kousei Arima (glasses up there). He dominated the world of piano competitions and became famous among child musicians. His mother, who was also his instructor, was a very tough taskmaster. She died and he had a mental breakdown while performing at a piano recital at the age of eleven. As a result, he was/is no longer able to hear the sound of his piano even though his hearing is perfectly fine, and he completely disappeared from the scene.
Two years (or so) later, Kousei hasn’t touched his piano and he views the world in monotone, without any flair or color (in a real sense, he is Suguru Misato from “Mahoromatic”, except the house is a tad cleaner). He has resigned himself to living out his life with his good friends, Tsubaki Sawabi (lower right) and Watari Ryota (upper left), until, one day, a girl changes everything. Kaori Miyazono (hand out), a pretty, free-spirited violinist whose playing style reflects her personality, helps Kousei return to the music world and reveals to him that music should be free and open, unlike the structured and rigid style Kousei was used to. The series covers these struggles as they play out over a year. Oh, and keep in mind that everyone is 14 or so.
For me, I had a huge amount of problems with it. Nothing deal-breaking, but it cut into my enjoyment of things. The first was the eyes. This show has an inordinate amount of extreme close ups of the eyes and they seem off to me. Whether they are too big or designed in an unusual manner or glint and reflect in a strange way, it just never sat well with me. The second is that this was the wettest show I have even seen and I watched “Free!” I mean, these people cry at the drop of a hat and they cry! Also, when they play the piano or the violin or the flutophone, they sweat like it’s 45C outside. It just waterfalls off of them to the point you wonder why they don’t leave puddles. The third was the music.
My knowledge of classical music is as thin as my understanding of Portuguese. I know of whom they speak (Mozart, Chopin, J. S. Bach), but I do not know how they sound or should sound. So when Aiza (a rival of Arima) pounds out Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 12 on the Steinway, I do not know what it is to sound like. Is this what the composer wanted, or is this an interpretation by the artist? How do I know if it is a good performance? There is a depth and timbre to it, but is it faithful? And I don’t want to be one of those types that goes, “Well, it’s classical, so it was good.”
The last aspect was the story itself. It is a 22-episode run, but I wonder if they could have trimmed things to 14 or so? There are a lot of flashback and instant replays and going over the same territory again and again until you question if they intentionally tried to pad things out. I know we want to understand what he or she or them or those guys over there is going through so we can comprehend the struggles of his/her/their transformation, but was it needed to that degree and scope? And he’s not the only one to reflect in the past and why things may have gone wrong; it seems everyone get a shot at it and numerous shots at it. I feel that there was a real something for this show that you don’t normally see, but it got bogged under too much information. And keep in mind that what works for a manga does not necessarily work for an anime.
It’s not a terrible series. It’s just that the components do not work as effectively as they could and things got telegraphed way too soon. I was able to figure out almost everything by Episode Four and had it confirmed by Episode Eight, so I get to float along for the last 14 segments. And keep in mind I’m not the crispest cracker on the shelves, so some folks may have doped it out much sooner than I did. I cannot tell you the meaning behind the title, as that is the keystone element for the show. Also, for such young people, there is a real depth to them, as though they were a bit older than they are. They have insights that people their age are normally not aware of and come off as mature beyond their years, which, I assume, come from having the instrument beating into you (and for Arima, that is an actual statement, not literal). I would suggest you try it out and see if it works for you. It was not as well-constructed as I would hope it to be, but it did make me alter how I view music-based animes, and that is something. Oh, the ending leaves the door open for another season, but it could easily conclude where we stand.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Something is wrong with the eyes)
Plot 8 (Good retelling of a standard idea)
Pacing 7 (Moves along consistently)
Effectiveness 7 (Over reliance on too many flashbacks)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (Got a bit too overwrought for me)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Who are you playing for?