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Anime Review | Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

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Music is a special thing.  It has a unique and mysterious method of expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions, in ways that the written or spoken word cannot.  The concept of what makes music so mystifying and expressive has been an enigma almost; so indescribable and borderline illogical, in fact, that depicting it and its relevance to the lives of the people who play and hear music is a delicate and herculean task that is rarely accomplished effectively.  Or, at least, in a way that conveys a deeper, more emotional theme.

Because, the thing is, when music is featured in an anime, it’s usually presented as more of a side thing that’s added to a show to spice up the initial premise a bit (i.e. K-On and Kids on the Slope) and, more often than not, it’s the characters and their interactions that solely expresses how they feel about, say, a certain situation or a thought, and the “music” part is just there to kinda prevent the viewers from being bored from what would otherwise have been a talk-a-thon moment, which is fine and creative and all, but music is so much more than that.

Thankfully, the show in question actually utilizes the concept of conveying one’s character through the music they play impressively and relies on how music is represented for characterization.

 

 

At least, for the most part, anyway.

What’s up everyone, my name is Ken, and today I am actually using the “Reviews” part of my name to good use by actually GIVING you a review of one of the hotter shows of the Winter 2015 season:  Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, or, for the sake of simplification, KimiUso(no, I do not use the english title).

EXPOSITION:

Your Lie in April, or Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso for you pretentious teens out there, is a manga adaptation of a Kodansha shonen ,written by Naoshi Arakawa.  It ran from October 9, 2014, to March 19, 2015, which kinda detracts from the whole “April” thing, but I digress.  DIrected by Kyouhei Ishiguro and with music by Masaru Yokoyama, it has been produced by A-1 Pictures (same company that gave us stuff like Black Butler, Blue Exorcist, OreImo, ALdnoah Zero, and Sword Art Online, among many other things) and had 22 episodes under its title.

Now, you guys might notice some differences in this review.  I’ve decided to make a couple of changes here and there to accommodate the wide variety of reviews that I have made and will make in the future.  I’m combining the story-and-character analysis together, as well as the animation-and-sound one.  

Furthermore, I am dropping my scoring system, as I feel that numbers wouldn’t really encapsulate my points and would only provide an absolute that I don’t want to put in the first place.  Instead, I am using the standard American grading system, as it is more generalized and would be entirely subjective at how you perceive a “high mark” should be.

Are we good?

Alrighty, without further fanfare, let’s allons-y into the musical meandering of mixed melancholy that is KimiUso. 

Story & Characters:

If you guys want a short summary for this show, check out my first impressions on the show, as it is essentially the same freaking plot summation.

……or I can just copy+paste it here?

Kousei Arima was hailed as a prodigy during his younger years and dominated musical competitions across Japan and even at some foreign recitals. He became a popular child musician, considered one of the best of his time, and is basically on par with the best orchestral instrumentalists in the country.  After his mother, who was also his instructor, passed away, he had a mental breakdown while performing at a piano recital at the age of eleven. As a result, he is no longer able to hear the sound of his piano even though his hearing is perfectly fine, meaning that he doesn’t feel any motivation to play the piano again.
Two years later, Kousei hasn’t touched the piano and views the world in monotone, without any flair or color. He has resigned himself to living out his life with his good friends, Tsubaki and Watari, until, one day, Kaori Miyazono, a pretty, free-spirited violinist whose playing style reflects her personality, helps Kousei return to the music world and shows that it should be free and mold-breaking.

Ok, to keep the fanboys in check, I’m gonna start with the positives first.  And there are A LOT of positives with KimiUso.

…and it’s not just this kid.

First, the concept of music was done quite well, in my opinion.

Now, I’m not just talking about GRANDIOSE EXPOSITION TAIMUUUU when the characters are on-stage, playing Chopin or Beethoven or whatever style of classical music they perform.  I meant that you can actually NOTICE their emotions with how they play.  Whether it be light and melodious, or rough and inconsistent, or just straight-up YOLO mode, characters express themselves through their music and their performances.  Sure, those changes may be subtle, and it may take a while to notice, but you will, and when you do, I’m sure you’ll be impressed at how music can be a conduit for an individual’s thoughts.

Another amazing thing is that music was represented in different ways throughout the show.  By using music as a theme for characterization, we see the pain and suffering that our main protagonist experienced as a child, and the inner turmoil that he now carries like a burden throughout his life.  We see characters who were inspired by music to develop into astounding performers who devote time and energy for a single dream.  We see people who despise music because, all through their lives, music has taken people away from them.  The characterization that this show creates all from music is just amazing and actually works in favor of the story.

The theme of acceptance and healing was also implemented by the show in an effective, but straightforward manner.  The abuse that Arima experienced as a child at the hands of his mother and the chains that hold him back in the present because of his guilt were portrayed beautifully and without any sugar-coating whatsoever.  This kind of theme is really sensitive to talk about, much less illustrate in an anime properly, but KimiUso presents the theme without any hodgepodge or fanfare:  just the simple, cold reality that abuse happens and moving on is not an easy odyssey.  The way he learns to break free from his past, accept the current challenges presented to him, and move on to the future through the people who help him and through music was just amazingly presented and truly speaks volumes about how your past does not define you as a person.

OOOOKAAAAAY, ENOUGH OF THE SOFT AND FLUFFY STUFF.NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE COLD, HARD CRITICISM.

hehe.

Let’s start with the first-half.  Specifically, Arima.

While his development was evident throughout his arc (his struggle to cope with his traumatizing past was well-played) and the way they expressed that through how he played was brilliant, it was only supposed to be a one-time thing.  But, once you recreate the same scenario again WITHOUT ANY CHANGE IN DILEMMA WHATSOEVER, then there must be a problem.  The scene where he relates his burden akin to being deep underwater, where little to no light passes through, where nothing he plays can be heard, was brilliant imagery.  Unfortunately, as good as it was,it cannot work twice in a row; at that point it becomes repetitive and loses its impact.  Granted, his problem was resolved by the end of the second one, but they could’ve at least changed the imagery a little, because it greatly diminishes the emotional strength of that scene when the viewers are all like, “wait…he’s underwater again……wtf????”.

blub blub blub blub blub.

Now let’s move on to the second-half, shall we?

In a nutshell, the second-half of the show was not as flourished as the first-half.  One of the reasons why this is so is because of how the show slowly reverted into a regular, generic slice-of-life.  There was no central conflict anymore (now that Arima’s mommy-issues have been resolved, and Kaori’s condition was not made to be serious enough initially), and all the characters ever did now was meander around the place with not much development to be had.  The only source of tension was the discovery of Kaori’s illness, but even then the show constantly creates moments of climatic conflict within the end of an episode, and then does not follow-up in the next episode, causing the impact of whatever conflict happened to deteriorate (think Angel Beats).  Given at how conflict-oriented the first-half was, this is a disappointment.

This doesn’t count as conflict btw.

But wait, there’s more.

Cry me a river, sonny.

Character development, while being done effectively for Arima (for the most part), was not done as well for everyone else (excluding Kaori).  A good example would be Takeshi and Emi, who had a bit of an introduction as to their characters during their respective performances, and you would think that these two would be featured at least a bit more prominently as the series goes.  Well, they don’t really get any development beyond that.  Instead what you get in the second-half is a new character whose plight is too insubstantial as compared to the other two for us to actually care about.  Any of the two could’ve helped Arima like what the new character did, but they did not opt for that.  They invest some time onto the two piano players, being strong rivals for our main protagonist, but their development was shunned and left to die on the second-half, due to lack of character interaction.  The same can be said about Watari and Tsubaki:  although they had their moments of potential development, they were discarded in favour of the more important ArimaXKaori, which is fine and all, but what isn’t fine is that they invested effort in developing these characters, only to abandon them for the more relevant interaction.

Character interaction, however, as a whole, is above average, as you feel a sense of connection between the main protagonists of the show, especially with the aforementioned two main characters.  Where the other characters fail to provide enough relevance to the show, these two lovebirds make up for it by being such a solid portrayal of a connection made through music.

 

 

 

 

I had a lot to say, didn’t I?

 

Animation and Sound:

Alrighty, since my “story and character” analysis was hella long, Imma keep this one short and to the point as much as I can.

  • Character designs:  pretty good.

  • Very scenic backgrounds and depictions.

Just look at that popsicle and how pretty it is.

Someone say “I like trains”.

  • Subtle changes = Attention to detail (i.e. Kaori’s change in hair and skin complexion when she was ill)

  • Animation for concert/performances:  10/10

Whoops, wrong show.

  • Vivid colors that reflect the light-hearted tone of the show.

Now, for the music part of the show:

  • Scenic music.

 

  • OSTs fit the tone well.

 

  • Subtle changes in the tempo/tone of the music reflects characters’ current emotional state.

 

  • Amplifies the sad and happy moments alike tenfold.

 

  • Good to listen to on their own.

 

  • OP and ED themes are the best things about this show’s music.  Especially the OP themes.  ESPECIALLY the first one.

There we go.  That should balance out my “Story & Character” rant.

Afterword:

I really wanted KimiUso to be perfect in every way possible, and to be fair, it had a lot of things going for it.  It had a nice premise, followed by an interesting and well-executed first-half.  It manages to implement music in a way that allows it to act as a catalyst for our characters to express themselves creatively, making for a unique brand of characterization.  The soundtrack was amazing, to say the least, and both OP and ED themes were immaculate and amazing to listen to on their own.  The animation is top-notch and shines not only in the concert/performance scenes, but also in those simple, day-to-day moments.

Unfortunately, its faults are glaringly obvious, especially during the second-half of the show, where they try to justify useless meandering with suspense that lead to nowhere until the end of the show a la Death Note.  Some of the characters were prone to underdevelopment, while some were just kinda left hanging in the middle of the development stage.  The show also seemed to have devolved into a generic slice-of-life with musical elements to it during the second-half, although fortunately it didn’t last that long.  These things, unfortunately, really detract from the impact the show made during its first-half and really affected how I enjoyed the show, as there were times were I wished the episode would just end because of how boring it became sometimes.

However, the ending made up for the flaws by being such a solid and definitive end to the show.  Besides ramping up the already majestic animation to a scale of 11, we finally see the climatic build-up from the second-half of the series unleashed in one astounding performance.  Almost everything was well-done with the final episode:  the animation, the soundtrack, the character development that we finally see for Kaori, the amalgamation of both Arima and Kaori’s emotions and thoughts for each other, and the way that the story ended all made the second-half worth to tread through.  Of course, I can talk about the flaws that no doubt exist in the last episode, but I’m willing to overlook them just because of how fantastic the ending was executed.

And so, after much deliberation,I award Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso with a grade of:

A- (2)

With this, I leave it to your jurisdiction if you decide to ultimately watch the show in question or not.

Overall, despite its glaring faults, KimiUso is a wholesome series that brings new things to the table while being amusing and thought-provoking at the same time, and you would be doing yourself a favor by watching this show, even if just for that ending.

In the end, what the show provides is an enriching take on the music genre that manages to please the auditory and visual senses, while being thought-provoking and sensitive at the same time.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is available, at the release of this review, for legal streaming over at Crunchyroll, where all the episodes are available for subscribers and non-subscribers alike, although applying for a subscription to unlock all the latest anime content earlier is always a good thing to do, so please go do that if you wish to do so.

As per usual, leave a comment down below pertaining to your thoughts on this review, on the show itself, or if you would like me to review anything.  And, speaking of liking, give the review a thumbs-up if you enjoyed it.

Guitar Hero is coming back

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