I am producing a brand new show called Anime Streaming Showcase (or A.S.S. for short). I take a look at the massive amount of anime scattered among the internet across various streaming site and say if it’s worthwhile. Is it binge-worthy, should you add it to your queue, or should you hide it and bury it?
♫♪ The web is alive with the sound of music….and teenage angst!♪♫
Music, that’s the subject of the latest episode of Anime Streaming Showcase where I take at look at 2015’s Your Lie in April. A hit a couple of years ago, does this series hit all the right notes, or simply get booed off the stage?
Your Lie in April is Kousei Arima’s redemption story, a story of trauma and overcoming past horrors and mental blocks that prevented him from his passion of playing piano. But at first glance, you wouldn’t think that given its character design and colorful look. Don’t dismiss it though, as Your Lie in April is series that demands your attention while watching, and hides a dark and potentially depressing series of events in its 22-episode length.
Kousei’s a musical genius, and was winning awards and accomplishments at while other kids his age were only beginning to grasp the simpler details. But that fame and talent came at a price, as his home life was less than homely. A privileged mommy’s boy, Kousei was demanded to be the best, and worked tirelessly to try and prove his worth. His mother passed at a young age, and he moved to live with his childhood friend Tsubaki Sawabe. She encourages him to take back up piano, as she knows he loves it, and she loves hearing his play too, but is reserved in doing so, given his past. Introduce a couple more characters, mainly Kaori Miyazono, and you have a cast that hits most of the standard archetypes from a series like this. Tsubaki is the all-too familiar girl next door, while Kaori is the mysterious, same-skilled musical prodigy as Kousei, and you have a recipe for drama, love triangles (or in some instances with Your Lie in April, “love polygon”), and teenagers acting a tad out of their normal emotional and maturity level.
The average age between most of the cast is 15, but you could think these kids are late-college aged with their actions and confessions of love. It’s not a deterrent, just a comment on the semi-unbelievability of an otherwise grounded and familiar world. At least Kousei and Kaori’s motivations and drive are valid, given Japan’s landscape of intensely competitive upbringings. It’s no secret how much pressure is pushed on the youth in Japan in regards to academics and extracurricular activities. Kousei’s mother might have went overboard, but in the context of the country, it’s not uncommon. Stage moms and dads exist in the US too, so it’s not an entirely insular idea only to Japan, but it’s important to understand the veracity it has there. But the bulk of Your Lie in April is in the music and its showcasing, Kousei’s drive, and his friend’s hard work to get him back to doing what he so desperately once loved.
Unfortunately, the pacing of Your Lie in April could be a turnoff for a number of viewers, as some episodes will devote an entire episode to a single piece of music, interspersed with a monologue about a revelation a character’s had. These episodes are not bad, but as a whole (especially when watched in a marathon session) you can carefully see the extra bits drawing out a bit too much. That doesn’t mean the series is a drag most of the time, but some scenes could have been shortened or cut to lessen the gaps in between the really great and poignant moments. Additionally, Your Lie in April is expecting a bit from its audience in terms of knowing particular pieces and how they “should” be played. Early on in the series Kaori is playing an accompaniment piece, and while it sounds incredibly fine and unique to me, the judges of said performance are outraged she’s going a bit off book. Luckily there’s that good ol’ exposition from the judges and crowds to help us understand that this “free spirit” is “doing it wrong”.
Angst, depression, trust, betrayal: all the teenage tropes we’ve come to expect are present in Your Lie in April, undercut with scenes that border on brutal, then almost immediately “cheered up” with offbeat comedy. Now it won’t be the first time I’ll say this, and it won’t be the last, I’m sure, but comedy is an entirely different beast than American or even European comedy. A lot of Japanese comedy is based on puns, wordplay, and reactionary or specific dialects of the language. It simply doesn’t translate into another language, so oftentimes the licensor, when bringing it over, will adapt the jokes or comedy to better match the country. Your Lie in April’s dubbing is certainly well done and each actor brings life to each, but the comedic bits fall flat ninety percent of the time.
But on the other hand, the dramatic moments, as heavy handed or perhaps dreary as they may be, are excellent. Confessions, heartbreaks, monologues; they’re all expertly handled and voiced, really helping believe in these characters and wanting them to get what they desire. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cynical person, and whenever I’m hearing teens confess love to one another, my eyes roll so hard I can see my brain, but this show allows us to think “maybe some teens are a bit more mature than others and are ready for segments of adult life“?
Your Lie in April was the show of 2015 that everyone was enjoying, and I’m happy I got to experience what the hype was about. I didn’t necessarily match the same levels, and I do think that Your Lie in April has some pacing and characters issues, but the dubbing and overall story was engrossing and captivating. And no, I did not weep and sob like I know some did when the credits rolled; again, cynical! Available in dubbed or subbed on Netflix, or subbed only on Hulu and Crunchyroll, nearly every avenue carries Your Lie in April, so there’s no excuse to pass it by should you need a good, heartfelt, grounded drama.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!