WARNING: This anime will make you shred tears faster than Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers shreds epic notes on his guitar. Make sure you have a box of tissues at the ready.
Oh and also…here be spoilers matey, so click away if you haven’t seen Your Lie in April yet.
Your Lie in April is about Kousei Arima, a child prodigy at piano who, after the passing of his mother, goes through a mental breakdown and lost the ability to hear the music when he plays. Now at 14 years-old, Kousei crosses path with a young violinist named Kaori Miyazono, who tries in her own way to encourage Kousei to get back behind the piano.
What follows is a heart wrenching story.
Your Lie in April oozes emotion through music, animation, story arc and character development. Colour plays a huge part in the anime, starting with bleak and muted colours whilst divulging into Kousei’s sad past. However, from the moment he meets Kaori, our free spirited violinist, all of that changes. We are introduced to incredibly bright, vibrant colours at the very second Kaori is first on screen. It’s a visual representation of how love affects our view of the world and the power it can give us during the moments in life where we have lost all hope.
Your Lie in April is A-1 Pictures production, the same anime production company behind Blue Exorcist and Sword Art Online, so the show features the company’s trademark gorgeous, lavishly detailed artwork. Once you see the shine on the piano’s and the beautiful visuals that match the classical musical performances you’ll be collecting your jaw from the floor.
From the first episode we are shown that Kousei’s inability to hear his own music is down to the mental trauma he suffers from the death of his mother. It was his mother who wanted him to be a master of the piano, sending him down a mental battle with himself. In the opening half of the anime his mother is portrayed to be, well to put it bluntly, a dick. Forcing Kousei to sit at the piano until he mastered each and every song the exact same way the masters wrote it. Not allowed to eat, leave the house, or have a life of his own until he played the songs with perfection. Later on in the show we get an inkling into his mother’s past and what she was like before facing a deadly disease that had her fighting a losing battle.
At several moments throughout the series, we hear how Kousei’s music sounds to him as he fights through the depths of the deep sea fighting on to try and hear the music. How his performances quickly go from a beautiful classical score to an off-key muted sound. As the series progresses and he gains more control, the visuals change to reflect his emotional state. This creates a finale of stunning images to go along with the incredible music being made from Kousei’s fingertips at the piano.
With Kousei’s relationship with his mother the centre focal point, Your Lie in April is packed with other stories that give it the depth needed to emotionally invest in each character. Kousei’s best friend is Tsubaki, a childhood friend who discovers she has feelings for him. Kousei, of course, develops romantic feelings towards Kaori, which causes a slight problem as she is involved with his other best friend, Ryouta.
We also get a supporting cast that consists of two fellow pianists where we are provided with a short backstory on the impact Kousei’s transformation had on them growing up. The skill Kousei once processed put a tremendous amount of pressure on the other young musicians around him. All of them go through the stress of having to play the perfect song in every performance in order to pass the college entrance exam. A single misplaced note could jeopardise their entire future.
The way these music competitions are presented is where the show packs itself with suspense. During each performance, the audience not only explores what dark alleys occupy Kousei’s mind, but we also get the viewpoints of the judges, audience members and regular cast of characters. If you’re not a classical music genius, these elements help provide you with an understanding of what exactly Kousei is doing wrong, another technique that has you sweating for Kousei.
When he was a child prodigy and under the influence of his mother’s strict teaching, Kousei would play a piece exactly as it is written on the score with other performers and teachers alike referring to him as “the human metronome.” This makes the anime a ‘coming of age’ type story, as much like the audience, Kousei is becoming a person that is completely new to himself.
Kousei’s style of playing is completely juxtaposed to the way Kaori plays her violin. She strives to make each piece her own to appeal more to the hearts of the audience. It is later in the anime we discover why she does this. This is when you need to grab for that box of tissues that you have on standby.
When you strip Your Lie in April to the bare bone, it is an anime that explores the affects of terminal illness, not only on the person that is going through it but also on the people around that person. It explores the different ways people face life knowing they are about to die.
Before being diagnosed, Kousei’s mother never wished for her son to be a pianist, not wanting him to face the stress of putting himself through competitive performances. Even when he showed interest and a gifted ability, she reluctantly began to teach him. However, this all changed once she became ill. She became a harsh task-mistress, demanding perfection in every note he played. She even went to the extend of beating him with a cane should he become unfocused.
It was the fear of death that made her like this. Not wanting to abandon her son unprepared for the adult world. It was that same fear that made her bring her son to tears every night and destroyed him emotionally, something that he would go through for the rest of his life.
The way Kaori reacted to the news of her impending death was the complete opposite. Instead of trying to provide for others, she decides to spend her limited time in what can be seen as a selfish way. Growing up as a shy and withdrawn girl, her illness gave her a reason to come out of her shell and be the person she wants to be no matter if people liked it or not. What’s she got to lose right? She’s not afraid to break the rules in a music competition where praise is brought upon the person who plays each note exactly how it is ‘supposed’ to be played.
However, much like Kousei’s mother, what drives her motifs and her new adopted persona is the fear of death. She wants to have people remember her when she’s gone. She wants to touch the heart of the people around her. Her performances are packed with emotion. Her aim to save Kousei from the depths of loneliness and guilt, to bring back the former child protegee that once inspired her with his music. If she did that, then he’ll never be able to forgive her.
Being at the side of both of these people going through terminal illnesses, the emotional effect they have on Kousei couldn’t be any more different. Kousei truly believed that his piano playing could truly save his mother. This love for her made him accept the harsh treatment and beatings she gave to him. In a dark twist, when he got the courage to stand up to her, they became his final words to his mother. Thus sending him down a long and dark journey of mental breakdowns and his mothers voice haunting him every time he played.
Poetically, whilst it’s his mother’s decline and passing that breaks him, it is Kaoiri’s that fixes him. Her love of life and a battle against a future that is out of her hands is what inspires Kousei to return to the person he once was. A person who could look out on life and smile. A person who could now listen to music and see the beauty in every note.
Kaori will forever be remembered in Kousei’s heart. When he is at the piano it is her voice he now hears, reflecting the beauty of her soul into each note he plays.