SHIGATSU WA KIMI NO USO (YOUR LIE IN APRIL)
I would like to present this review in two parts. The first part would be a review in itself, the second part would be an opinion based general discussion—extremely prejudiced, extremely predisposed, extremely coloured, extremely biased. The second part would be my personal take on the anime—the songs, the mysteries, the moments, the lights, and the lie that was made in April.
“The Autumn I was eleven……….I could no longer play the piano”—Kousei Arima
The story follows the trails of Kousei Arima, as he journeys through a stormy sea of emotions, pain and revelations. Waves and tides of emotions crash all around him. A prodigy of classical music from birth, Arima was the youngest champion of the Seikei championship. His world loses all colour when past the traumtic of the death of his mother, he loses all ability to play the piano when eleven. His inability to hear notes strangles his breath. Like a drowning man he gasps for the sound of the notes. It was in that pensive, disconcerting moment that two of his closest childhood friends come to help him. Tsubaki Sawabe and Watari Ryouta embrace him with all their might—to save him, and in turn, their friendship. A beautiful flower bloomed in the midst of the winter winds. A true friendship of lifetime. But that is just the prelude. On his fourteenth spring, the monochromatic world of Kousei Arima vibrates with an aurora of lights once again. Under a rain of cherry flowers, Miyazono Kaori -“Extremely violent, leaves the worst first impression” – appears and makes Kousei fall head over heels for her. She pulls him out, from that labyrinth of depression and fear. “Everyone is afraid to go up on the stage”—empowered by this mantra, she frees Kousei out of his own prison of music scores. Music is freedom. Music liberates the soul. But that music must resonate from within. That was the magic of Kaori Miyazono, the lie behind the success of Kousei Arima.
“You pick it up again…and you sit before that score. Ones who think ‘I’ll be darned if I do this’ or ‘Why don’t you play it?’ That’s how you create the most beautiful lie of all”—Kaori Miyazono
The story was beautiful, romantic and melodramatic. Not a single episode passed without some emotional development. It is paced beautifully, smooth as a butter, consistent like the steady trot of a jersey pony, true like the daily rise and set of the Sun. The emotions, simply put, are omnipresent. Being a tragic story, it’s unsurprising that the salsa of those emotions were mellowed with a slight taste of bitterness and sorrow. Every second revealed the mental state of the characters. Their fights, their struggles, their hopes, their dreams, all were resonating beautifully at the canvas of the storyline. Sometimes it was sweet, sometimes it was sad, sometimes it was outright bitter, and sometimes bittersweet. Though I’m not saying that the story was not without its fault—there were instances where the drama seemed too forced. But the good far outweighed the bad. An extremely well paced story, I promise whether you like romance or not, this story will engross you. When Kaori and Arima fought; when Tsubaki cried and suffered the burns of jealousy; when Arima landed in the stage of self-understanding and the foundation of happiness and truth on the base of the sorrow; when transcendental love rose beyond the borders of place, time and even life, you will find yourself strangled by a story which demands your complete attention. In life and in death, this anime is one which will reinstall your faith in the power of love, and music.
The characterization was perhaps the weakest point of the anime. There were many side characters who just came in and went, with little to no impact on the flow of the story. Let me bring to light the two main side characters to the story. Aiza Takeshi and Egawa Emi—the main rivals of our protagonists. And ironically, beyond a couple of performances—which disillusioned Arima a bit—they had very little role to play. In this respect, it is unfair to not mentioned the little known OVA prequel to the anime. Named Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso: Moments. Watching it is highly advisable to learn more about the character development and tying a few loose ends.
Even the character development of Kaori was delayed till the very end. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it created one of the most impactful endings that I have ever seen. But on the other hand, it did not make a good cause for the whole series. I would have preferred more meaningful roles of the side characters, especially Takeshi as a greater rival.
Perhaps more prominent roles were of those of Aiza Nagi (Christina), the little sister of Takeshi, and Kashiwagi Nao, the friend who stood by Tsubaki in times of her great need. Nagi came to Arima as an enemy—one who sees Arima as a stumbling block in the way of her brother’s success. She entered guns blazing—as an apprentice of Arima—only to be quickly enticed by the sorrow and pain in Arima’s music, and hate turns to admiration—to the point where she becomes indecisive and confused on who to cheer on in a competition. In the end she and her beloved Arima-sensei mystifies the audience in a splendid piano duet.
Nao was a classmate of Tsubaki, but she proved to be a true friend. Dejected from romance herself, she is depicted as a clever and wise little girl. She maintains a poker face while giving wise advise to Tsubaki, often reaching in the deep seabeds of her persona—showing more understanding of Tsubaki’s heart than Tsubaki herself. With past and identity shrouded in mystery, she is perhaps the only side character who left a lingering impression.
There’s Hiroko Sato, a friend of Kousei’s mother, and the one who found the talent of piano in Kousei. She is like a motherly figure to Kousei, and loves and cares about him like a mother would for her own child, to the point where she knows that “just like Nagi saw herself in you, you have been seeing yourself in Nagi, haven’t you……Kousei?”. Torn apart in two parts by guilt of ruining Kousei’s childhood and her arid affection for him—one that is never satisfied—she was one of the true supporters of Arima in times of his greatest depression. Even among the main characters, Watari Ryouta had very little effect on the overall storyline. It may seem unfair that I am criticising the character development so, but since the anime was so exceptional in most of the other metrics, it is perhaps a bit anti-climatic that the character development remained rather mediocre.
The art of the anime is exceptional. As is customary of A1 pictures, the animation is one of the most colourful, vibrant, realistic and lively ones among recent anime. There has been minute attention spawn to every detail of the drawing. Take a look, for example to this picture, where the field-net is reflected on the glasses of Arima.
Is it not exquisite? The colours of the buildings; of the trees; of the sky; the transition of that vibrant mid-sky blue into persian in the offing; the reflection of the lights in the raining cherry blossoms; to the gentle glow of the fireflies—Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso is an anime of both music and colours. From the natural ruffle and bounce in Kaori’s skirt the first time Arima met her to the most detailed hues and palettes painted on the river by the setting Sun, there was no stone unturned in making the animation stand out. I really liked how the animators drew the vigorous and tiring movements of our young musicians on stage—playing to be recognised by the audience. And I also appreciate the obvious efforts given to accurately depict the shadows in the animation. I think it is fair to conclude that the animation is definitely one of the strongest feature in this anime.
I don’t consider myself to be sufficiently qualified to be talking about the music. I liked the first opening and the second ending, but the OST was the elephant in the room. The OST’s trumped everything I knew. The amount of detail I found in the music can not be explained by words. There is a glowing, cocooning effect—the music just engulfs you. Every sound, every beat, every strum in the piano carried forward the emotions that the story portrayed. When Kousei was anxious, the piano was fast, and shaky. When Kousei was happy, the piano radiated and glowed in a grin. When Emi was angry, the piano howled and cried. “Hibike(Let it ring), watashi no(my) piano” it emanated. When Tsubaki was pumped, the piano sounded eager and faithful. It is rare that you find music dictating the mood of the story in such a manner. Other than that, the sound is accurate enough to correctly depict the footsteps and the chain of the bicycles—it is that detailed.
I present a list of the pieces that were played in the anime
Beethoven:- Kreutzer Violin Sonata no. 9 (Kaori Towa Hall)
Camille Saint-Saёns:- Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso (Kaori Kousei Duet)
Frédéric Chopin:- Eťude Op. 25 No. 5 (Kousei, Competition)
Frédéric Chopin:- Eťude Op. 10 No. 4 (Takeshi, Competition)
Frédéric Chopin:- Le Vent d’hiver (Emi, Competition)
Fritz Kreisler:- Leibsleid (Love’s Joy) and Leibsfreud (Love’s Sorrow), Rachmaninoff’s piano arrangement
Frédéric Chopin:- Eťude Op. 10 No. 12 (Takeshi, Gala)
Frédéric Chopin:- Ballad 1 in G minor, no. 23
Mozart:- Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars
The voice acting was on an equal height. It correctly depicted each and every mood. Kaori’s voice sounded cheery and powerful when she was happy, and grew pale and weak when she suffered. Arima’s voice was anxious when he was drowning in the deepest despair, and free when music showed him the path to freedom.
An anime of love, hope, depression and friendship; Shigatsu wa Kimi No Uso left a deep mark on me. I am sure that it will influence my future outlook a lot. I do not consider myself to be a fan of drama, but this anime moved me strongly. In the end, I am sure this was only an anime about how “There was a boy I met in April. I cried and vomited, and struggled so hard it seemed unseemly. But onstage I shone like a star and my life seemed a gorgeous rendition of melody. I made a promise with the boy. He said ‘let’s perform again together’. That’s why I want to struggle as much as I can, struggle, struggle, like there is no tomorrow. Because I am one of them.”…….”You gave me this desire to cling to the time I spent with you, but we all needed someone to kiss us goodbye” A path to a perfect lie.
This is where the usual review ends. What follows are some highly fuzzy, highly opinion based viewpoints. It’s not an addendum, reading it is entirely based on personal jurisdiction. Oh! And there’s nothing but spoilers here. I have tried to guess and discuss what went inside the minds of the characters through the course of the story.
“You exist inside Spring” this was perhaps Kousei’s best inference about Kaori. It is ironic, how the brief meeting of Kousei and Kaori did not even last one year. Like the winter gale in the Cornish coasts, Kaori stormed in his life, and left—but not before turning it upside down. Kousei’s memories of his childhood was rather fuzzy. “The autumn I was eleven, I could no longer play the piano. It was my mother’s dream to raise me to become a world-class pianist. My mother ran a music school and I took lessons from her.” That was all the Kousei remembered of his mother two years after her death. His mother drilled him hard until he could play each piece perfectly. But after she left, his reason to play piano was taken away form him. Upon her departure, he could no longer answer—”why” should he play the piano anymore. I believe at this point, Kousei was in a classic death spiral with no end. He was running away from the everything that he ever knew—he was running away from the piano.
As we see the story progress, we see the development in Kousei’s mind. In his mind, Kaori’s description changes from, “She likes my best friend, and I am the yuujin A….the substitute” to “She is like a roller coaster. Crying, laughing, she’s got me at her beck and call. Just by being around, she transformed my monotone world into a colourful one.”
“Just seeing the same sky as you makes familiar scenery look different. I swing between hope and despair at your slightest gesture, and my heart starts to play a melody. What kind of feeling is this again? What do they call this kind of feeling? I think it’s probably called, being loved”
The childhood pain and depression that froze Kousei’s heart thawed in the warmth of Kaori. And finally, breaking out of that prison of depression, and fear, he played, to the freedom of music, realising his true feelings……….and beyond. He was madly in love, with Kaori and with the music. The video tries to capture the first moments when his feelings spread their wings. I felt this to be one of the best parts of the whole anime.
Let’s turn around and look at another person in this musical trigraph of fate. Tsubaki, who treats Kousei like “a hopeless kid brother” hates music with every fabric of her body. To her, music is only a device that takes Kousei away from her. Torn between childish friendship and adolescent love, she yearns to share in the burden and pain that Kousei bears. While Kaori stood outside Kousei miasma and reached out her hands to reach her, Tsubaki was the one who stood by him, inside that darkness. A boy ” who is next door neighbour.” She wishes that Kousei would not stay trapped in that cage of time—in his childhood. What she does not realize is the only one who was trapped was herself. She wishes that “time would just stand still”. She refuses to look beyond the memory of her own childhood and what she does not realise is that she herself is
“I’m the only one who’s frozen in time”.
“He is a boy smaller than me, who lost his mother at a young age, who I can’t help doting on…..And the one I wish would get back on his feet. The boy I took for granted would always be by my side. The boy I want to be by my side forever.”
But even she hears the soft footsteps of realisation. With Tsubaki facing her true feelings and confessing her love to Kousei, time starts to flow again.
When I discussed character development (or the lack of) in the previous section, I was merely stating from a professional standpoint. I, as a reviewer had to point out a few things, that was all. But the truth behind the truth is that the three characters that DID get character development, broke all bounds. The amount of emotions that flew through the scenes and the coloured daigas surpassed all that I knew. It was beautiful; brilliant.
Everything about Arima was changed by that colour. “Reset” Kaori had said. Indeed, one could argue that whole of Arima’s life reset in a single year, by a single woman, by a single performance, and by a single “lie”. The Lie in April……