Anime Review: Your Lie In April

Music is an emotional and universal experience. Its reach can be far and wide, has the power to bring people together, or it can inspire. Music gives us what we need in each moment. And just like music has the power to affect us in a meaningful way, so does meeting the right kind of people who will prove to be significant to us in some way, big or small. For piano prodigy Kousei Arima, music is the key to facing his personal demons and healing himself with the help of a fellow musician who brings back color into his life and a renewed passion for the piano.

Your Lie in April is the emotional journey of Kousei Arima, a gifted young pianist who suffers a mental breakdown during a piano performance and can no longer hear the music he’s playing. Two years later, Kousei has given up on playing the piano and lives his life in monotony and devoid of any real passion. This eventually changes when Kousei meets Kaori Miyazono, an unconventional violinist who becomes the catalyst for pushing him to take up piano playing once again.

The anime tackles plenty of serious issues and themes within the 22-episode show. Among the topics covered are death, domestic abuse, healing, forgiveness, and the importance of living and pursuing your passion. The biggest focus of the story is Kousei’s relationship to his mother. Through Kousei’s childhood flashbacks, we learn about his complicated relationship to his mother and the personal trauma associated with her, a trauma he has to learn to let go of in order to freely pursue the instrument and music he once loved.

At first it’s easy to believe Kousei’s mother is a terrible woman based on the flashbacks you see in the first few episodes. Despite being sick and wheelchair bound, Kousei’s mom is a harsh, demanding, and physically abusive woman when she teaches and oversees her son’s piano playing. The first impulse is to condemn Kousei’s mom as a woman who needs to be restrained and have Kousei taken into protective child services. It’s only in later episodes you discover Kousei’s mom actually really loves her son and is quite reluctant at first to teach her son how to play the piano when he shows interest in the instrument. What causes Kousei’s mother to change from a kind and gentle woman to the unrelenting and abusive person she becomes is fear. By falling gravely ill and slowly dying, Kousei’s mom becomes fearful of leaving her son behind without any real support. Knowing her son is talented at the piano, she becomes determined to the point of obsession to ensure her son utilizes his talent as a piano player by training him to become the best at what he does. For Kousei’s mom, the path to his success is the piano. However, her fear is what leads Kousei to resent and become fearful of the very thing that’s supposed to secure his future.

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I feel the first half of the show is strongest with the focus being on Kousei’s relationship to his mother and how he works through getting over the ghost of his past in order to move forward. The complex emotions raging inside of Kousei makes it extremely difficult to dismiss his mother as a terrible woman who got what she deserved by dying. The relationship itself is very layered, like an onion, and each part has to be unraveled one coil at a time to fully understand how their relationship ended up the way it did and why Kousei can’t completely hate his mother either. This doesn’t excuse any of Kousei’s mother’s actions at all, which culminates into Kousei’s mental breakdown as a kid, but you do understand the reason behind her actions, as misguided and poorly handled as it was. The biggest triumph is watching Kousei overcome the mental blocks in his path to finally be able to step into and become the piano prodigy he’s always meant to become. As for the second half of the show, it kind of stumbles toward the end.

The second half focuses more on Kousei’s relationship to Kaori and the impact she has on his life when she bursts into it. Where Kousei’s mom represents a past filled with pain and trauma that held him back from reaching his full potential as an individual, Kaori represents a future filled with infinite possibilities and a path towards healing and moving forward into a life he truly wants to live. The show emphasizes how these two females in his life are very important to his growth and personal transformation in very different ways and it wouldn’t be possible without having neither of them. With that said, I do have my own issues with the character Kaori.

Kaori is an optimistic, in-your-face, energetic force of nature that literally shakes Kousei up and knocks him over the head. She’s loud, sometimes selfish, and marches to the tune of her own song. She has a zeal for life that’s intoxicating, which is why Kousei easily gets sucked into her orbit. As much as she’s the catalyst in Kousei’s life to wake him up and do better for himself, I really couldn’t find much to like about Kaori in general. I found Kaori mostly annoying and superficial. It seemed a little baffling to me why Kousei would find Kaori so attractive when she lacked real substance as a person. The other female character I found to be much more interesting is Kousei’s childhood friend Tsubaki Sawabe. While Tsubaki can also be just as loud and a little bossy with Kousei, like Kaori, I think Tsubaki has more to her personality than what she often shows to everyone in school. She also has known Kousei the longest and it makes their friendship as kids in flashback scenes a joy to watch. This leads me to why I didn’t like the second half of the show as much––a forced love triangle subplot between Kousei, Kaori, and Tsubaki.

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The love triangle isn’t all that developed. Half the time I feel there isn’t any uncertainty when it came to who Kousei preferred romantically. There’s no real sense of Kousei being conflicted over his feelings for either girl. Much of the conflict over feelings lies heavily on Tsubaki, who stays in denial about her feelings for Kousei until she eventually does work through her denial to finally come to a place of acceptance for being in love with Kousei. The episode where Tsubaki is working out what her feelings truly are for Kousei is the one part about the love triangle subplot I actually did like. Tsubaki’s emotions and conflict are really accessible and you really understand what she’s going through. It’s not easy to admit to yourself you’re in love with your best friend when you’re also painfully aware he may be in love with someone else. Other than that, the love triangle really seemed more one-sided and even after Tsubaki does confess to Kousei about her feelings for him. Not much time is really given on Kousei’s part to truly process what his feelings are for Tsubaki. He’s certainly surprised by her admission, but then he quickly moves back to focusing on Kaori and never really addresses his best friend’s confession ever again. It’s dropped as if it never happened as the series starts to conclude. This part really annoyed me and it only proved how the love triangle is just a useless tack on subplot that has no business being there. A romance can still unfold in a series without making it more complicated by adding a third person into the mix, especially if it’s just left sort of unresolved.

Despite some of the major flaws this anime has, there’s still a lot to like. The series does give you an appreciation for classical music and the use of color and sound to convey each musician’s internal thoughts and emotions, especially Kousei’s, makes this anime a pleasant viewing experience. Kousei’s personal growth from being crippled by his past trauma to emerging out of it stronger and wiser than before is where the anime shines brightest. If you’re wondering, like I did, why the title of this anime is called Your Lie In April, this finally gets answered in the final episode in the most endearing and bittersweet way. Give this anime a shot when you feel like watching a show filled with beautiful animation, soothing musical pieces, and watching someone overcome their personal issues to become who they’re meant to be.

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Reviewer Rating: 8.0/10

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2 thoughts on “Anime Review: Your Lie In April

  1. It’s a totally heartbreaking experience and yet there’s a lot of hope in this series. I really enjoyed watching it through and watching the characters evolve. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yeah, it’s a sad but uplifting anime overall. I really enjoyed watching it too even though I did find the half between Kousei and Kaori a bit flat towards the end.

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