Music can change lives. This is the thesis at the core of Your Lie in April, a series which examines the ways in which music inspires and expresses those who perform as well as those in the audience. A stunning combination of emotional resonance, beautiful animation and fantastic sound design, Your Lie in April demonstrates the transformative power of music within the lives of a boy and a girl as they learn to come to terms with themselves and and the loss of the ones they love.
Piano prodigy Kousei Arima lost the ability to hear the sounds of the piano after the death of his mother, giving up the piano for good and living a life in monotone. One day in April this all changes when Kousei sees violinist Kaori Miyazono performing under the cherry blossoms. Inspired by Kaori’s free-spirited playing, Kousei finds his life beginning to take on colour again as he is spurred on to confront his lingering grief towards his mother and begins to fall in love with the violinist.
“I met the girl under the full-bloomed cherry blossoms, and my fate has begun to change”
How Was It?
A World Full of Colour
The quality level A-1 Pictures has achieved in Your Lie in April is nothing short of stunning, maintaining a consistently high quality level of key animation throughout the entire series. I found the character designs to be clean and memorable, and the backgrounds used are beautiful. The cinematography on display is fantastic and adds a lot of flair to the show, shining through particularly well during the performance scenes which are wonderfully animated and make excellent use of symbolism to portray the emotions of the performer.
I particularly enjoyed A-1's use of colour to accent the action. For example in the very first episode, when the world is seen from Kousei’s perspective the colours are muted but after meeting Kaori everything instantly becomes more vibrant. This continues throughout the series and is helpful in vividly underscoring the changing perspectives of our two main characters.
The Story is a Thematic Success
Your Lie in April tells a story that is not particularly inventive or unique, but makes for it with excellent execution that nails its core themes. Love, both of the romantic and parental sort, is ever present as a motivator for the characters and the story satisfyingly portrays how people can affect and inspire each other in the simplest of ways to become the best versions of themselves. Your Lie in April achieves an amazing sense of thematic symmetry, accentuated with the use of music and cinematography. I found it impressive when scenes would call back to earlier moments in subtle yet meaningful ways which really helped to accentuate the emotional payoff the series provides.
The power of music is ever present over the course of the show and is used as a window into the personality of each character. Kaori’s energetic performance of the Kreutzer Sonata by Beethoven perfectly showcases her spirited personality, while Emi’s performance of Chopin’s Étude Op. 25, No. 11 “Winter Wind” underscores her restlessness and discontent. While the series isn’t afraid to directly state a character’s thoughts, I found the performances added another dramatic layer which allowed me to connect in a fuller sense with each of the characters.
Coping with death also factors significantly in to the show with the portrayal of how perspectives of death affects both those dying and those left behind. The show’s portrayal of death itself is impressively nuanced, portraying its point in a manner that is impactful without unnecessarily dramaticizing dying itself, allowing for a powerful take on this element which I found to be meaningful and tastefully handled.
I found Kousei’s development as person was instantly relatable and compelling to watch as he grows from a tentative and melancholy boy to an assured and confident musician. Kousei’s experience in coming to terms with his relationships with both his dead mother and Kaori really resonated with me, allowing me to empathize with his feelings when portrayed through soliloquy and in his performances. While his thoughts are often quite dramatic and frequently portrayed to a point that could be seen as heavy-handedness, within the context of how a 14 year old might internally dramaticize their first love I did not find this unrealistic. I enjoyed Your Lie in April’s portrayal of Kousei’s development into a young man from his perspective, making it even more emotionally resonant as we saw him grow.
The Sound of Music
While it may not seem surprising that a show about music might excel in this category, Your Lie in April has wonderful sound design that perfectly complements the on-screen events and makes the series that much more memorable. The original soundtrack features a wide variety of memorable tunes which are truly noteworthy because of how much they add to the emotional resonance of key scenes while underscoring the action on screen.
The performances featured in Your Lie in April were highlights for me as emotionally climactic moments within the show. Fans of classical music will find plenty to love here as a good variety of famous pieces are played including the work of Chopin, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, but everyone else will find plenty to like as well. While I don’t have a background in classical music, the show’s explanations were extremely helpful in explaining the musical subtleties to the uninitiated. These performances are amazingly directed and add a great deal of dramatic flavour to the songs, plus you may learn a thing or two about classical music by watching like I did!
Comedy and Tone
Your Lie in April tries to intersperse comedy between the scenes of emotional intensity and while these scenes allow viewers to catch their breath, they occasionally missed the mark. Slapstick comedy is the primary means by which this is attempted, but this aspect could have been handled better due to the occasionally jarring nature of these tonal shifts. While I personally still found them funny, I can understand why some viewers have been put off by them.
Kousei is frequently subjected to physical beat downs from his friends for laughs but these scenes they are neatly segregated so it was clear to me when the show intended to play something off humorously versus making an emotional point. This is important considering the context of the show as we witness several instances of child abuse, but the scenes of slapstick comedy are used as metaphor and the show makes it clear the scenes are much more exaggerated in presentation compared to the actual events. In addition, these scenes also highlight Kousei’s personal growth because he frequently retaliates verbally as he becomes more confident over the duration of the show. The comedy may not be for everyone and could have been executed better, but I find it difficult to say I didn’t enjoy it overall.
“Do you think you’ll be able to forget?”
Your Lie in April succeeds incredibly as a thematic performance, portraying a emotionally resonant story to its audience. Combining just the right amount of distinctive style and thematic substance, much like a great performance its audience is left to contemplate the range of emotions delivered. There is plenty to take away from Your Lie in April, whether it be having confidence in oneself, the inspirational impact of music or coming to terms with death and the series is able to portray this with a high degree of excellence. While I can appreciate that the dramatics and emotional pathos present may not appeal to a select few, there is no question that I will remember Your Lie in April as an example of what can be created when the best of the visual, musical and thematic elements of anime come together to deliver a top-tier production.
Your Lie in April is adapted from Naoshi Arakawa’s award winning manga and is directed by Kyohei Ishiguro. Produced by A-1 Pictures, the series is licensed for distribution by Aniplex of America and is currently available on Crunchyroll.
Date of Airing : October 2014 - March 2015
Director: Kyohei Ishiguro
Licensor: Aniplex of America
Studio: A-1 Pictures