There is a rare breed of show that exists.
I would almost go as far as to say that this particular breed is endangered because of
how few of them we see coming out every year. It’s a kind of series that only appears
once in a great while. Its entrance may be subtle, but its overall
performance becomes anything but. It’s a kind of show that I long for, one that I always
hope will appear, like magic, and dazzle us even if its time before us is fleeting and we must once again suffer the long wait for another series like it. Today, I am going to be talking about a series
that at this point is a year old. And it took me this long to get to it because, as I mentioned,
the time between shows like this is long, and I’ve always preferred to survive as
long as I can before once again beginning that slog, so I’ve held off for a while.
But I’ve known for a while that I would be getting to it, so now is as good of a time
as any. Ladies, gentlemen and others, my name is Arkada and welcome to Glass Reflection today we are looking at the visually stunning 2015 series from A-1 Pictures, Your Lie In April.
Let’s Jam. Once upon a time there was a pianist, a child
pianist, by the name of Kousei Arima. Considered a prodigy by some and an emotionless robot
by others, he was taught by his sickly and abusive mother to play the piano and to always
play it as written, with no passion, no emotion. So he played, he played and played thinking
that it would make her happy and thereby get better, until we reach the tragic part of
his backstory, when she died. The death of his mother drove our prodigy Kousei into a
traumatic shell that he could not break out of, and he more or less abandoned the piano
and music for good. Until one faithful day when he is introduced to a girl by his friend
Tsubaki. That girl is Kaori Miyazono, a beautiful violinist who performs music with a fiery
passion, but also with the grace of an angel. Despite showing a romantic interest in his
best friend, Kaori takes a particular liking to Kousei, lovingly referring to him as Friend
A as almost a continual reminder of their relationship status. But it’s with her insistent
and constant prodding that breaks Kousei out of his shell, and helps him to recover from
his childhood trauma and once again perform the piano in a way that could move mountains.
The drama that the series is known for is this loving combination of humour, conflict,
and of course heaping amounts of tragedy as the story about these few years of the characters’
middle school lives are told. The drama is the highlight, as the series has this way
of keeping you on the edge of your seat…at least when it doesn’t have you curled up
in the fetal position sobbing uncontrollably. We get to see a wonderful depiction of not
just music and musical performances, but just life in general as we watch this clash between
the socially awkward boy and the much more brash and carefree girl, showing us ranges
in their personalities both on and off the stage. And this constant drama and decent
pacing keeps us interested throughout the show.
The romance of the series though is not generally my cup of tea and the key romance plot is
a love triangle between Kousei and the two female leads Tsubaki and Kaori. While there
are many people who can get enjoyment out of watching a developing love triangle, historically
it’s always something that’s depressed me personally as I rarely see it end well.
Even in the best of cases I always feel like a love triangle will inevitably end in sadness
for at least one character. The traditional romantic relationship, you see, only involves
two people. So at the end of the day, it’s like the series is playing a game of musical
chairs and there’s only two chairs left. The music keeps playing and playing and as
it does you start to think about the possibilities of what will happen if these two, or those
two, are the ones left at the end and you start to make a mental note of which you prefer.
But every time you think the music is about to stop and you’ll know who has it, it just
picks up again with another verse, so by the time the music finally does end and the characters
are seated, you are left wondering if this was actually want you wanted.
And speaking of music, despite that being what this series is all about, I never felt
like I really learned anything about music while watching the show. The series doesn’t
show us how music is played, rather it prefers to just play us the music without giving us
the details of how it’s being performed or how that performance was properly conceived.
Looking at Kousei’s performances as an example, yes we may see him practice on a song for
hours on end, day and night, but we don’t see the development or his mental process
on how he learns to play the music any differently or better over time. Early on we see a competition
where everyone is required to play the same piece, but the show never tries to give reasoning
or explanation on how a performer can stand out from both their fellow competitors and
also from what’s written on the page. So if you are not extremely musically inclined
and aren’t gifted enough to be able to just tell the difference by listening to the music,
then you have to take the show’s word for it when those other characters created specifically
for this purpose, explain how good a piece is and how the characters are playing them.
As such, those aspects of the show are told through dialogue laid on top of the show’s
score, leading to some of the major characterization of our performers being told more than shown.
To me, the show almost feels like it’s suffering from the same problems that Kousei as a character
was suffering. It’s telling this drama in an almost textbook manner, not that there
is a textbook for such things, but so much of it feels like it’s just there for the
sake of it and it feels like it’s missing that particular something to make the story
truly stand out. If this were a performance, I would say that as Kousei initially did,
this drama played out only what was on the page. I didn’t feel like there was enough
to make it differentiate itself from other well-told dramas. Like those performances
though, most people might not pick up on all this, and in fact it might even be better
for the sake of your own enjoyment of the series to not even try to notice this fact.
It’s actually quite easy to get into this mood of enjoying the series, because even
if at times it feels like it’s been constructed rather than organically grown, I have to admit
that it was done so wonderfully in many ways. How the series goes over the feelings of loss
and depression, how it can affect people and mentally change their perspective is brilliant.
Then, when the show is not trying to portray those dark and suffocating atmospheres, it’s
able to display this sense of splendour in not just its music but also in the everyday
lives of its characters. The visuals of the show help this greatly.
Your Lie in April is an example of just how spectacular animation can be at times. Watching
it is an absolute visual pleasure. It has this kind of eclectic style that grabs your
attention and holds it there. The colours have such a wide palette that can range from
beautiful bright ones to sorrowful dark tones when the need arises. There is this careful
attention to detail, from the attire, to how the characters hold themselves when under
stress, to the fact that these characters actually have proper lips (which is admittedly
a weird thing to bring up), and also of course the other very plot specific details that
become more relevant as the series progresses. Sure, the show also has this much less detailed
art style that it switches too for comedy purposes, that and also for one particular
character’s face at all times. But while it can occasionally be jarring, it and the
vast majority of problems, even with the story, get swept away under this whirlwind of colour,
this frantic and wild torrent of emotion, this runaway train of passion and sorrow that
just captures you, for but a brief moment before letting you go almost as swiftly as
it arrived and leaves you reeling from what you just experienced.
The performances of the classical music pieces are brilliant. Even if you don’t understand
any of their significances, the series is still able to make you care about them enough
to get you caught up in the aforementioned typhoon of feelings. If I was to criticize
the music, there is very little that I can actually touch on. I’m not a music major
or anything and most of the time I can place myself squarely in the position of not knowing
much about music and musical performances beyond the very basic high school level and
definitely nothing competitive. That said however, in terms of original music for the
show, I was actually hoping for a bit more. Sure like I mentioned, its classical score
was amazing and performed as such, but when I look back and try to think about what original
tracks really stuck out to me, I can only think of a scant number. This is a problem
not with the show really, but with my own expectations I suppose, as previously most
of the romance dramas that I have watched have always had this one track, this one song
that when played on its own outside of the context of watching the show, makes me recall
all of the emotions from my original watching of the series instantly. Your Lie in April
didn’t really have one of those for me. There is this one piano track that will be
remembered in my head, as a really great and stand out track from the series, but over
the course of the show I felt it was played far too often to be able to bring up any specific
emotions and there was no singular moment it was used that had enough emotion behind
it to make that moment stand out against the others. The show preferred to space out its
emotion rather than let it well up for that kind of thing, which is of course perfectly
fine, it’s just my own expectations brought disappointment.
What I wasn’t disappointed in though was the dub. I have a particular habit of mine
when watching a show for the first time, to decide whether or not I prefer the sub or
dub of a series when I have both options available to me. Usually I will watch the first episode
dubbed, and the second episode with subs. I do it in this order because if I happen
to hit a dub that really just doesn’t seem to fit well, I can quickly swap over to sub
without too much trouble or as I sometimes like to call it, voice whiplash. With this
series though, it wasn’t until about episode 10 or 11 that I remembered, oh right I haven’t
watched an episode subbed yet, because I was enjoying the dub so much. Now that said, from
that point on I completed the series in Sub because I did want to see the ending in the
same way many others have from when the show was first airing, but when I did that switch
from dub to sub it really surprised me just how similar the English voices were to the
Japanese counterparts. It’s more than just another dub, or just
something slapped on to help the series sell to a wider English audience, and I could tell
that there was still an immense level of passion on the side of the English ADR team. The actors
were well-casted and the director had them perform so well. It was just great.
It probably won’t be anywhere near enough to convince dub haters or sub purists to convert,
but if you are like me and do enjoy a well-produced dub, this is most certainly one of them.
Lastly I would just like too quickly mention that the show’s first opening, a song titled
Hikaru Nara by Goose House is amazing. In fact Goose House in general is amazing and
you should check them out, but I was just really disappointed when I couldn’t hear
this opening anymore after the first half of the show. The second opening as also really
good, but I just really attached to the Goose House track. Anyways.
Your Lie in April is a fabulous show. The story it tells about this musician, and those
who are affected by him, overcoming all of their own kinds of grief and hardships is
astounding to watch. It’s not a flawless masterpiece by any means, and I would have
loved to see more out of the supporting characters, for example, than what we got. Perhaps it
would have been much better if it was a full 26 episodes instead of just 22, but hey, like
the music that the characters perform there are ups and downs and not everything will
be exactly to your taste. But if you enjoy the kind of show that this is, I guarantee
that you will find this worth your while. Even if the story and characters don’t end
up grabbing you as much as they have grabbed others, the spectacle of the whole thing from
the music to the brilliant animation is worth the price of admission.
As such, I gladly present Your Lie in April, with the recommendation to Buy It. As with
most shows that go beyond simply watching it, this series is at times like a piece of
art, and should you have the ability to, you should proudly display it on your shelf.
While it is an Aniplex release here in North America and they are expensive, for those
who can afford to, the Blu-Ray release of this series is worth having as it makes the
experience all the greater. That said however, it is also available for streaming in multiple
locations such as Crunchyroll (if you don’t mind the sub) and Netflix if you are looking
for the dub. Netflix had the sub as well of course, but I’m just presenting you with
your options. For alternate anime recommendations, I cannot
let you walk away without mentioning a series called Nodame Cantabile, a similar musical
series with a much more lighthearted feel to it. It’s a whimsical series with a rather
gruff and stiff musician who comes into contact with a much more bubbly and carefree pianist,
and together their relationship is one worth experiencing if you have yet to. Second recommendation
for those not musically inclined goes to AnoHana, a drama about a group of characters who like
Kousei need to confront their pasts and face the sometimes depressing reality before them.
If you are looking for another series that’ll make you cry your eyes out, this’ll be it.
So hopefully between those you should find something to your liking.
And that’s it from me. Please subscribe if you liked the video, follow me on Twitter
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Marc Robichaud for donating already. You guys are awesome! And until next time, stay frosty!