Welcome all, to a new Afro Talks Anime. What do you mean why has it been so long? I don’t have to explain myself to the likes on you! Jokes aside, I will freely admit that I’ve been bad for watching anime for about half a year now. The nice thing about English shows is that I can watch them in the background and still understand what’s going on. But getting back into anime over the past couple weeks, I’m reminded about how much I love it. This next one is one I started back in January of 2016 (yeah, sorry about that). Although I binge-watched the last third or so recently, even if I hadn’t gotten out of anime for a while, this is a tough one to watch a lot of at a time. It’s emotional as heck from episode one, it rips out your heart and throws it in the trash. I broke up episodes last year by watching happier stuff in between, even now I’ve started Yowamushi Pedal, a comedic series about cycling, to help ease the pain. It’s one that I really suggest you watch, and as such I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free. I know I said you should watch ERASED, and stuck a lot of spoilers in there, but that one was hard to talk about without spoilers. If you’re only going to watch one, I’ll still suggest ERASED, but that doesn’t mean that this anime is any less amazing. My friends, I give you Your Lie in April.
Like I said, this review is going to be pretty short and as spoiler-free as I can. Partly because I want you to watch it, and partly because when it takes a year to watch an anime, parts can get a bit fuzzy. But even without spoilers, I can tell you that this anime is sad as heck. Your Lie in April follows Kōsei, a thirteen-year-old prodigy of classical piano who was able to play extremely meticulously and precisely. Two years before the start of the series, his mother died of a terminal illness. Originally a kind woman, she turned cruel and cold-hearted upon learning of Kōsei’s talent and her illness. She forced Kōsei to practice non-stop, hoping to leave her mark on the world once she passed. After her death, the young Kōsei breaks down in tears at a recital, and drops out of the world of music. The trauma makes him unable to hear the piano, despite having no actual hearing problems. For the next two years he doesn’t touch the piano or make acquaintance with his fellow pianists from his younger days, instead living out a normal life with his highly athletic friends, Tsubaki and Watari. That is, until he meets Kaori.
Kaori is a cheerful, energetic violinist, who plays pieces of music to her own style. Her refusal to adhere to the way a piece was composed causes her to perform poorly at competitions, despite her often being the most talented violinist. Upon hearing one of her performances, Kōsei feels himself beginning to be pulled back into the world of classical music, a pull made even stronger by the eccentric Kaori dragging him in. She asks him to be her accompanist, a request he tentatively accepts. At first, he plays with little effort, despite being unable to hear the piano and having not played for two years, his talent still shines through, precisely hitting the keys he cannot hear the sound of. Soon into playing however, he begins to break down. He starts to hear the piano, but it sounds like he is playing underwater. His old wounds begin to open up, and his playing turns into a mess. Fear and sadness overwhelm him, and he cannot continue any further.
And this is where Your Lie in April really shines, the emotion and the characters. When someone cries, and I’m sure it averages out to more than one person crying per episode, you can really feel it. I can just about guarantee that watching this will make you sad, but that’s also one of the main reasons to watch. Emotional conflicts are handled so well, they truly make you feel for the characters. This is strengthened by the characters’ interactions, which make you fall in love with them. When they hurt, you’re probably going to hurt too. You’re going to hurt for them, and you’re going to hurt with them.
But sadness isn’t the only emotion at play in Your Lie in April. Unsurprisingly, Kōsei is soon able to play the piano again. And when he does, you feel happy. Meeting Kaori, getting back into music, they heal the wounds that had been developing all his life. He can finally play for the love of music and friendship, a love that his mother gave to him before her illness turned her cruel. Your Lie in April isn’t a roller coaster of emotions, far from it. Yes, there is a lot of sadness and a lot of happiness. Yes, there may be sadness and happiness in a single episode. It’s not a roller coaster of ups and downs though, the happiness and the sadness play perfectly off of each other. If I were to make an analogy, I’d say it was a pond of happiness and sadness. Both are there, but neither one is overpowering. Some parts of the pond may be more full of happiness, and some more full of happiness. But each time you have one, you have the other. When you’re in a happy part, you feel the sadness to remind you of the difficulty the characters are facing. When you’re in a sad part, you feel the happiness to remember that all is not lost. There may be waves of one emotion sometimes, but the other is always there to keep you settled. Your Lie in April makes you laugh and cry at the same time, and it’s wonderful.
Despite how much I loved watching Your Lie in April, I do have a few beefs with it. Firstly, there’s some stuff going on with characters faces that just looked weird to me, and I never got used to. Characters’ eyes can be ridiculously large at times, looking more goofy than cute. Tears are giant too, with giant globs streaming down people’s faces. In a show where people cry this much, I really found it off putting. Finally, Kōsei’s glasses are really distracting. The frame is pretty thick, and seems to appear the same thickness no matter how far away the camera is. That means that when the camera is far back, his frames appear gigantic and crowd out the rest of his face. On the flip side of the coin, the arms of his glasses become invisible when he’s sitting in profile at the piano, so the audience can see his eyes. I found this incredibly weird-looking and distracting throughout the series, and really wish he just had smaller frames to accomplish the same task. Ages are weird too, even though the series mostly follows people between the ages of eleven and fourteen, the eleven-year-olds look like they’re about eight or nine. I understand that Kōsei has to appeared he’s matured in the two years since his mother’s passing, but things just end up looking off-place and goofy.
On the story side of things, I felt that Your Lie in April went way too in depth with some of the side characters. Overall, I was glad that we got to see what was happening with Tsubaki and Watari, and the other piano prodigies that Kōsei left behind two years before. However, I just wish those stories were tuned back a bit. The series as a whole is about Kōsei and Kaori, and while the other character’s stories do build on their relationship in the beginning, as the series goes on those stories start to overwhelm the main story a bit. Lastly, and this is the thing that probably bothered me most about the series, is when Kōsei begins teaching a younger child to play piano. This might be a bit spoilery as it happens pretty late, about three-quarters of the way through the series, but I don’t really think it is. Not a heck of a lot happens, and what does happen is pretty common across many stories and can be seen a mile away. If I were to guess, I’d say that this part was put in to show that Kōsei had overcome his trauma, enough not only to play but to teach. However, we could already see that. He’d slowly been getting stronger throughout the series, and that strength could be seen and heard in his playing. Additionally, he begins teaching during a pretty intense part in the series, and it feels like the show just stops until his student’s recital. We do see more of how he’s grown, and how he’s allowed his student to grow, but this arc lasts about three episodes of a twenty-two episode series. It kills the momentum to needlessly hammer in a point we already understand.
Before I go, I’m going to turn this over to some of my colleagues to give their quick thoughts, as Your Lie in April is beloved by a few people here at RUL. The next Afro Talks Anime will likely be about a show called Yowamushi Pedal. Yowamushi Pedal is a cycling anime that I started fervently watching just under a week ago after I finished Your Lie in April, and I’m really enjoying it. As a sports anime a lot of it is intense showdowns, but it has a lot of fun goofiness to it as well. Believe me, after the emotional beating I got from Your Lie in April, I needed some fun goofiness. I don’t know how spoilery I’ll get, but if you’re worried, be sure to check it out before the next Afro Talks Anime.
Your Lie in April is not subtle about the direction the story is taking by any stretch of the imagination. A few episodes in the audience is let in on a secret that changes everything. Even with some serious advanced warning, my feels were punched so hard, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on my couch at the end of the series. I’m not sure I’ve ever been as emotionally invested in any cast of characters as I was with Your Lie in April. I was happy with them. I was sad with them. I desperately wanted to eat canales with them one last time. The art style was as captivating and beautiful as the story. The musical score was stellar and included (10 points to Gryffindor!) my favorite piano concerto. I still listen to the soundtrack on a regular basis. Sit back with a box of tissues and enjoy a wonderful anime series.
Final Score: 9.OHJESUSCHRISTAREYOUREALLYDOINGTHISTOME/10
Everything’s already been said that I could say myself, so I’m going to contribute with a very strong recommendation on watching this. Heck, 9/10 RULers recommend it! (That last one is Gary. Man, heckin’ Gary. Why did I even ask? Cold hearted, I’m telling you.)
Have you seen Your Lie in April? What are your thoughts on it? Be sure to tell us in our forums!