Your Lie In April has been getting a lot of commotion in the otaku community, known by many as the anime of 2016 that will guarantee to make you cry. Once I heard this I had assumed that the show was the cliché slice-of-life/romance type of series, solely relying on watered-down plot and straw characters stuffed with no personality. However, my view drastically changed as I got through each episode and I can say with confidence that Your Lie In April does not fall into the common traps for its genre. In fact, the show goes way beyond what normal romance anime typically accomplish and displays how our relationships with our significant other should be.
The beginning of the show introduces eighth grade protagonist Kousei Arima, a world-renown pianist, and doesn’t hesitate to slam the audience with snippets of his dark past. We learn from the start that the tragic death of his mother has stolen his ability to hear his own piano playing for some strange reason and is left in a horrible depression, withdrawing from his passions and staying away from music performance.
Rarely does a romance anime ever start on such a depressing note as Your Lie In April did and cleverly implements this for the purpose of character development. Instead of giving the audience a lovesick puppy with total infatuation, we are handed a broken middle school boy with a difficult past, which makes for a much more interesting story. Kousei’s growth as a person is apparent throughout the series because of this rough beginning and really fleshes out the character more than anything.
Developments occur inside of Kousei when, in the middle of his sorrow, female protagonist Kaori Miyazono appears on the scene, and his eyes are filled with new color. Passionately blowing her melodica in the park, Kousei meets her while on his way to a “double date” (a set up by his best friend to have him attend a violin competition and kindle his passion of music again) and everything takes off from there.
As their relationship grows over the course of the anime, Kaori becomes the anchor of support for our main character and she is the beacon of light in his dark depression. She pushes Kousei harder and harder than anyone else, forcing him to join her as an accompanist for violin-piano duets and encouraging him towards competitions for only pianists. This works to help him overcome the issues that he has with his mother and look towards the future instead of the past. Kaori is seen as a foil character, a supporting person whose very presence contrasts the main protagonist, and we as an audience learn more about Kosei than we would have without her.
And if this didn’t already prove how much Your Lie In April cares about its characters, the creators placed fine touches that many otakus would normally miss on their first time watching the show. Throughout season one (episodes 1-13), it becomes obvious that Kousei is symbol of struggle, and the girl of his dreams contrasts that by symbolizing purpose and peace. However, once season two begins, it’s almost like an imaginary switch goes off and the two immediately flip-flop personalities. This threw me for a loop at first, and initially made no sense, but once I reached the end of the anime I finally understood the intention behind it.
The animation of Your Lie In April competes well with other current shows airing and has an interesting mix of different shades of color. Bright, vibrant scenery when the situations reflect this tone and depressing black and blues when characters are struggling internally with themselves. An interesting addition to the show that is not noticed by many is that the distinctive blond and white skin on Kaori Miyazono slowly change in a darker shade as certain tragic complications occur (I won’t go any further to avoid spoiler territory). This shows that the animators of Your Lie In April really paid careful attention to the smaller details and I enjoyed that a lot!
Given that Your Lie In April is under the music genre, the piano selections shine the brightest especially when Kousei steps up to play. Pieces composed by Fryderyk Chopin, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Fritz Kreisler are a majority of the show’s soundtrack doesn’t hurt the show as expected. Each song is unique in its own right, sounds different than another and lends a specific purpose which makes me have little to no criticism over the music.
One particular piece that made a profound impact on the plot was Liebesleid or “Love’s Sorrow” from Kreisler. Performed by Kousei in a music competition where his emotions ran wild, flowing aimlessly at the hurt he experienced as a child, really showed the struggle that still affected his present and allowed the audience to connect with him.
Something else worth mentioning is the large amount of symbolism present in this show, which I took gladly given that I am an English person at heart. Characters representing ideas as a while was very common in Your Lie In April and small, seemingly insignificant references actually connected all together in the big picture (again I cannot explain what these are without giving away spoilers).
Despite how brilliantly created Your Lie In April was, there were one major issues that immediately caught my attention. The complaint would be the lack of knowledge that the audience receives about Ryōta Watari, Kousei’s childhood friend. It can be argued that the boy’s only purpose was to give Kousei a “rival in love” and challenge his own self-esteem, but I believe that these are simply excuses to not flesh out every character, whether main or supporting. This left a gaping hole into the significance of Kousei’s past, and always gave me the sinking notion that something was missing.
Most importantly, Your Lie In April exemplifies the perfect example of Biblical love, which is counter-cultural to the world that we live in. When watching the anime, I noticed that Kousei and Kaori’s relationship together was completely selfless and never selfish. We are told instinctively that love is having a partner with a supermodel body, a lot of money, and performing amazing sex, but our two protagonists are never concerned with those things.
In fact, the book of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul lays the definition of love in relation to what Jesus Christ did in his sacrifice for the sin of the world, and I believe that these qualities extend to romantic relationships as well, especially Kousei and Kaori’s.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)
When taking a look at the love Kousei and Kaori have for each other, it is easy to see all of these present. Kaori needed patience while she was supporting Kousei and waiting for him to overcome his trials and kindness came naturally between the two of them. The two never envied another couple for what they had or presently their relationship loudly among others. Kousei and Kaori’s love never dishonored another person and in the midst of someone else getting hurt on their own accord the two worked to fix the issue. Kousei was never selfish in his pursuit of Kaori and vice verses, and the two never kept a record of each other’s wrongs, even during the times when they were at their worst.
And if you watch the entire show, you will easily find instances where Kousei and Kaori’s relationship display the rest of the qualities of love. These two are diamonds in the rough, going against everything that their culture tells them about romance, and show love similar to what Jesus Christ showed mankind.
Overall, Your Lie In April was a romance anime that I will never forget; it will always be a show that I point to when looking at my personal dating relationships in the future. From the near flawless characterization, smooth animation, beautiful music, and inclusion of Biblical themes, Your Lie In April was a joyous ride that I will be taking again soon! And once you get to the end, due to certain unavoidable circumstances and experiencing the relationship between Kousei and Kaori, I agree with the community that you are almost guaranteed to ball your eyes out the whole way through.