Your Lie in April Review

1+1=2, but you don’t have much of an equation if the plus sign is missing and you certainly can’t get to a sum greater than the two addends that way. So it is with Your Lie in April [A-1 Pictures, 2014-2015], without question the most persistently frustrating, yet fascinating, show I have ever watched. Equally capable of presenting an etheral, emotional episode or an outright maddening one, KimiUso (an abbreviation for the show’s Japanese title, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) is a show of brilliant gems sadly lacking the links necessary to completely finish the equation. But, in the final review, those jewels are still worth something on their own, even if their settings can’t quite match their brilliance. So, my final verdict for Your Lie in April is a 7/10 (Ongoing Rankings). Your Lie in April

Favorite Episodes: Episode 10 Episode 16 Episode 22 All Episode Notes

When I look back on Your Lie in April in the future, when I’m scanning through my ranking pages for a recommendation or wasting time on Hummingbird looking for something to rewatch, I think the first thing that I’ll probably remember is just that it was a very beautiful show. Of course, that by itself isn’t all that remarkable. There are plenty of visually (and aurally) stunning anime productions, including a number I’d rank ahead of KimiUso. However, what KimiUso has that many of those other shows don’t is a unique tie between the decadence of its aesthetics, the nature of its story, and the themes the show was trying to speak.

If there was one enduring message I felt KimiUso was trying to communicate, it was not to forget the connections that bind us all together, that make us human. In essence, it’s a pretty simple message, but filtered through the wildly variant and emotionally vivid perspectives of newly minted teens it becomes more complex—not in the final statement, but in the path to get there. Is it needlessly complex? Most certainly and in fact that unnecessary complexity turned out to be one of the show’s major weaknesses. However, the winding nature of KimiUso‘s narrative led us down a path littered with some truly fantastic destinations.

Your Lie in April

I’ve talked about “moments shows” before—shows built around certain transcendent moments strong enough to validate tolerating or even slogging through lesser material—but KimiUso doesn’t exactly fit my mental conception of a “moments show.” Rather, I think it’s more appropriate to label it a “scenic show,” as we’re guided from one internally compelling scene to another beautiful self-contained scene. It’s like watching a slideshow of gorgeous landscape photographs, where each picture is incredibly beautiful on its own, but have little seeming connection to each other.

So it often was with KimiUso. Individual scenes, without relation to the surrounding context outside of their own narrative line, were pitched in lovely tones, executing character moments and thoroughly impressive visuals with aplomb and confidence. Perhaps the best example I can recall of this is episode 17’s sensitive scene of Tsubaki playing basketball alone while talking to Kashiwagi about Kousei. Divorced from the other storylines occurring at the time, that scene was a fantastic moment for Tsubaki, accompanied by strong cinematography and direction. It was one of the defining scenes for my viewer relationship with Tsubaki as a character, one of the critical moments in her journey to the throne of Best Girl. And KimiUso lives on scenes like this—for all characters and throughout the entire show. It’s not quite right to call them set pieces because they bump up against each other with such frequency, but their abundance (whatever you want to call them) makes KimiUso constantly engaging.

Your Lie in April

Unfortunately, the downside to such a wealth of what would have been episode climaxes in other shows, is that the assorted narrative threads of KimiUso tangle with each other and, at times, damage the effect of what ought to have been poignant moments. The great weakness of KimiUso‘s tendency to go at every scene with 110% effort is in an equalizing effect on the significance of individual characters’ stories. There is no prioritizing (except in rare, important exceptions—but we’ll get to that in a second) in KimiUso‘s method of storytelling and this causes problems as teenage angst gets juxtaposed against heavier topics with equal weight given to each. The viewer then, is called upon to negotiate the dissonance that such unfitting balance causes—personally, the mental gymnastics ended up leaving me feeling as if the smaller conflicts had been (unintentionally) trivialized.

In the end, this essentially stems from KimiUso trying to do far too much at the same time. Love stories and terminal illness and depression and trauma and the fear of the future and theories on music all exist together, often weaving in and out of single episodes in a way that ends up not saying anything of much value about any of them. It’s a frustrating phenomenon, given an almost comic parallel in the show’s (mis)use of horridly-timed humor to interrupt its dramatic moments. Again, the problem is one of significance. Are we to give the jokes the same emotional weight as the drama? The show seems to imply as much, making the constant shift between comedy and drama (or even drama in different emotional registers) exhausting and frustrating.

Your Lie in April

But, for all that, I found KimiUso impossible to fully set aside. Some of it was due to the strength of the individual scenes, which had the tendency to endear the characters to me while simultaneously frustrating me with the unfair way I felt the show treated their stories. More than that, though, was the anticipation of something amazing. As a former musician and performer myself, I’m well aware of the power performed music can have on both the musician and on the audience. If KimiUso did one thing perfectly, it was capturing that power in the two cathartic, powerful performances of episodes 10 and 22.

These episodes, particularly 10 (which I consider the finest episode of any anime I watch in 2014 that wasn’t from a show called Hunter x Hunter), are KimiUso at its very best. Liberated from the distractions of other storylines and other characters, they dive deep into Kousei’s soul and present the portrait of an artist, a child, and a pianist as he is. All the aesthetic and narrative and emotional power KimiUso possesses concentrates in these episodes and use all of its strengths to explode in a glory of sound, sight, and feeling. Do such episodes justify wading through the oft frustrating waters of the intervening episodes?

Your Lie in April

Honestly, I couldn’t say. KimiUso has garnered indifferent, positive, and intensely negative reactions for its portrayal of Kousei’s trauma in the early part of the show, as well as varying reactions for its generally melodramatic presentation of a volatile stage of a young man’s life. For my part, sweeping drama has always attracted me and the musical power of the performances and the respective journeys of the side-characters (whose arcs I usually found more interesting than the main story) made the trek worth it. And it is, as I say, a very beautiful show.

RECOMMENDATION:

As with many such shows in its range, Your Lie in April is a genre recommendation. If you’re a fan of dramas, music, romance, and overblown emotions, Your Lie in April is likely to appeal to all of those likes. While it’s certainly hampered by a lack of focus, the show’s highest highs are incredible feats of aesthetic achievement and emotional resonance.

Reasons to Watch:

  • An indulgently pretty aesthetic strengthened by consistent production from A-1 Pictures.
  • Several of the side-characters (Tsubaki, Nagi, Emi) add a lot of emotional depth to the show and have compelling narratives on their own.
  • Beautiful musical performances.
  • An ultimately hopeful ending that challenge the audience to consider their own relationships with the people around them.
  • Oh, and Koharu-chan, one of the most ridiculously adorkable anime kids I’ve ever seen.

Your Lie in April

11 thoughts on “Your Lie in April Review

  1. For a show that emphasizes human connections and relationships to have a lack of strong links between ‘pictures’, its contrasting.

    Beautiful anime for sure. Could be over-dramatic to some, but I think its worthwhile, too, to walk alongside for its precious core messages, pleasing aesthetics, and powerful performances.

    If only I can deal with the sadness in the show, but that’s just me. I do not think KimiUso will be as emotionally powerful without it.

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    • If people can get through the first few episodes (the topic of that editorial way back), then I think the rest of the show is pretty easy, if occasionally frustrating, to get through.

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  2. Though I’ve said much week by week, I don’t know what to say overall about KimiUso. When it was good, it was very good. But when it was bad, it was very bad. I’m glad I stuck with it, but sometimes I think I did only because commiserating with the community here and on CR during the bad parts made them bearable enough to hang around and see what happened next.

    I’m dang glad I stuck with it, because overall and in the end it delivered in spades… but after reflecting for a few days (since the finale) what I’m really going to miss is the passionate community that this show inspired. To quote (or more likely mangle, since I’m too lazy to track it down) something you wrote a couple of weeks back… “It’ll be a long time before we see another show so interesting to rant about”.

    In my mid season review, I tentatively tagged it as a 3/5 (solidly above average), but it the end I rate it 3.5/5 (solidly above average, but falling short of the heights).

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    • Yeah, KimiUso was definitely an interesting show in how consistently inconsistent it was. Overall, I definitely like it more than I was irritated by it, but there’s still plenty of annoying things that I’ll remember for a while.

      But it was, as you say, always interesting to complain about, so hey for that!

      It was great having you in the comments every week & I certainly hope to see you in the comments section in the future!

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  3. ANN posted its end-of season review for this show yesterday, and a lot of it sounded like it could’ve come straight out of this blog and our comments:

    “Tsubaki in particular lends a great deal of life to the show”

    “The relationship between Kousei and Kaori is honestly a bit less strong, and can sometimes lean too heavily on the show’s somewhat tortured dialogue.”

    “When nearly every scene is portrayed at maximum emotional volume, the subtleties that make the truly important moments stand out can be lost.”

    “The show’s humor is just plain bad – repetitive slapstick and overplayed silly faces that almost always inspire a wince instead of a chuckle.”

    Still gave it a B+ overall, though, which I think is about right.

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  4. Personally, I feel that there is too much focus on the “trauma” Kousei experienced at the hands of his mother. Coming from an East Asian culture, I don’t see it as abuse or what-not. My parents had high expectations of my siblings and I, and it wasn’t unusual to be caned when we did particularly badly for a test. I still remember being afraid to let my parents know I’d gotten 70 (out of hundred) for the Chinese equivalent of a spelling test in primary school (the American equivalent would be elementary school, if I’m not wrong) for fear of being caned. But even then, we were only ever caned on our palms, where the skin is thicker, and we all knew that it was our punishment for not having done better, when we could have and should have done our best. (Which, in the case of the spelling test, was a 90 at least since it only required memorization and anything less than that meant we weren’t working hard enough.) In my society, such punishment was common, especially for the more Chinese families – my friends and I had spoken about it before, though it’s somewhat of a taboo subject owing to its personal nature. Therefore, though I can see how, from a Western mindset, Kousei’s mother was wrong to be so harsh/tough on her child, based on my experiences, and the norms that exist in my society, I don’t believe she was wrong to behave so. (I’m assuming that the Japanese culture is similar to mine in that sense, lol)

    Saki aside, well, Kaori is a teenager, a fact I think many forget when they criticized her behavior. How many would expect a 14 year old to behave in a responsible, mature and sensitive manner? She did what she did the only way she knew how, by cajoling and threatening Kousei in turn, to get him to play the piano again. Admittedly, her motives were selfish (as the last episode explained), but I think Kaori recognized that Kousei was a musician. Maybe I’m projecting, as someone who is deeply interested in music, and a pianist, but I believe Kousei lived and breathed music. For me, it’s not just that I truly enjoy playing the piano, but also that I can’t not play it. It’s not a choice: without fail, I think about it everyday and can easily loose myself in it for hours when I practice. So for Kousei to not play the piano for years is, as the show put it, living without colour. Music, and more specifically the piano, is life. Tsubaki recognized that, though she gave up hope. So did Kaori, and she did her best to push Kousei into living the life he was meant to. Teenagers can be cruel to each other at that age, when they’re dealing with wanting to fit in and wanting to be selfish. Bearing in mind that they’re teenagers, the slapstick humour could easily be forgiven as indulgence of their childishness, and many of their actions are not as malicious as some people see it. At least, that’s how I viewed it.

    I think I’m not being very coherent here, but basically I just wanted to say that it’s not necessarily wrong, how Saki or Kaori treated Kousei. There has to be an awareness of the circumstances of these characters and the culture. I think people project their own experiences onto this anime overly much, which is not to say that that’s wrong, because we all bring with us our experiences and biases when we consume media, but engaging with the media on its own terms is lacking. Though i do recognise that i come from a unique position of growing up in an East Asian society.

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