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Starting off with a complicated premise, Your Lie In April came out of the gate with a sense of purpose. While much of the show is focused on teenagers playing classical music, it uses that as a starting point to tell a very universal story. While many of the characters go through difficult trials, the message to take away from Your Lie In April is that it is not your circumstances that define who you are, but the actions you chose to take after.
Minor spoilers below.
One thing to point out is that all of our main characters are in their third year of middle school. While this is the norm when it comes to anime, especially a show in the slice-of-life genre, the setting is used to its full advantage. It’s at this point in childhood development where we slowly discover who we are and who we wish to become. In Japan, it’s at this point in the education system where they must decide which high school to attend (if they choose to at all), which very much affects their future aspirations. This only helps to strengthen the theme of the story, especially in the second half of the show.
At the beginning of the series, Kousei Arima is a person who dislikes playing the piano, bringing up bad memories that eventually causes him to not hear the notes he’s playing. As time passes, his passion for playing sprouts again, influenced by both his friends as well as his rivals. The change is very gradual, getting to a point where he discovers why he wants to play piano by the show’s midpoint, using the rest of the story to develop who he is outside of music. This important change is brought on by two important people in his life.
Throughout much of the first half of the show, we see flashbacks to when Kousei’s mother, Saki Arima, was alive, and the impact that she made. As she became terminally ill, she becomes more demanding of Arima’s talents, pushing him to be “perfect”. As such, he wins every competition for his mother, being labelled by others as “The Human Metronome”. We see that the judges admire his talents while the audience dehumanizes him, but all Arima wanted was for his mother to acknowledge how well he performed, only to be disappointed by her pointing out his faults.
Then, we have Kaori Miyazono, a very eccentric violinist. When Kousei hears her play for the first time at a competition, it is clear that she is playing the piece all wrong, putting her own creative spin on a classical work. This not only mesmerizes him, but the crowd that’s attending as well. She is panned critically by the judges, but is loved by the audience. Kaori is also someone who is terminally ill, but she still lives her life as normal as possible, not allowing it to affect who she is. The only time where it breaks her down is after she’s been in the hospital for an extended amount of time and is unable to play her violin.
Both Kaori and Saki share very similar traits. They are important women in Arima’s life, talented musicians, and are critically sick. What truly makes them different however is how they choose to react to being sick. Saki, while having Kousei’s best interest at heart, acts negatively and pushes her son to his limits. By giving in to anger and uncertainty, she has allowed the illness to define who she is. Kaori, on the other hand, refuses for it to take over her life, and plays her herself.
Due to the negative influence of his mother, Arima had no drive to play the piano. However, with Kaori’s influence, he felt a sense of freedom when it came to playing, which is what creativity is all about. Creating something isn’t just about doing it the “right” way, but having the artist put every bit of their soul into it. A piece of music can be perfectly crafted on paper, but if there is no heart or personality put into it, then it only feels hallow.
And this theme stems out into the show’s various side characters. Tsubaki, a close friend of Arima’s, struggles to come to terms that she can’t always be there for her friend. When two piano rivals hear of Arima’s return to the piano, their reaction is to work hard and see who is truly better. Every single character in this show is trying to prove themselves, and the grading of their success is by how passionate they are to reach their goals.
Your Lie In April is driven by its wide cast of characters, each trying to overcome their past. Whether they are successful in this depends on them with how they choose to see life. It’s a very character driven anime, filled with triumph, defeat, laughter, and tragedy. There is a good amount of melodrama and is relatively predictable in the second half, which is typical for a show like this. It’s an anime that understands its message, and refuses to hold its punches when driving it home.
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