2014 was a great year for anime in general, with various of titles making it above an Overall Score of 8/10
and a very few actually hitting a closer 9/10. The fan-favourite "No Game No Life" made its debut last year and
blew minds with just a few simple yet complex games while introducing perhaps the Loli of all time (hurray for Shiro!!!), the critically appraised "Death Parade" also made its entrance to the scene last year and through a intuitive and human-like story-telling managed to live up to the hype and didn't disappoint (both Madhouse...I wonder why?) and even the hyped and famed "Tokyo Ghoul" hit the TV (or computer) screens last year with a fairly original story and a hefty amount of blood...
But by far the most interesting (IMHO) and orthodox show was the one who showed up last at the end of the year of 2014 and ended just shy of april this very year (oh the irony...).
I am of course talking about Your Lie in April! :D
Before I go on, there will NOT be any spoilers unless you consider a slight overview of the characters and the premise taken from MAL as spoilers, should you want to watch the show afterwards. There's also a TL;DR-card, just one ahead of the final card. :)
Let's start off with
I know, I know. This show has been taken up several times on Vingle.net and I'm no exception. So, I'll just do the standard formula and see where we go.
"Piano prodigy Arima Kousei dominated the competition and all child musicians knew his name. But after his mother, who was also his instructor, passed away, he had a mental breakdown while performing at a recital that resulted in him no longer being able to hear the sound of his piano even though his hearing was perfectly fine. Even two years later, Kousei hasn't touched the piano and views the world in monotone, and without any flair or color. He was content at living out his life with his good friends Tsubaki and Watari until, one day, a girl changed everything. Miyazono Kaori is a pretty, free spirited violinist whose playing style reflects her personality. Kaori helps Kousei return to the music world and show that it should be free and mold breaking unlike the structured and rigid style Kousei was used to."
- MyAnimeList.net (Mangahelpers)
The premise alone should entice something original, since not alot of shows have "Music" as their actual primary genre.
But nonetheless, this is what the premise looks like.
(so far so good...)
The story is set in a typical high school setting, but the story doesn't revolve entirely around the high school and what comes with it, meaning that the story should be able to be played out in 1999 and still maintain its story and quality (this shows flexibility).
Nonetheless, we get to follow the recovery of a fallen musical prodigy and how his friends help him along the way.
And so, we get to see how Kousei faces his past and his regrets, see him break down only to rise up again even stronger and see that life is more to it than whatever we do everyday. And somehow, this is all expressed beautifully through music and the interactions between Kousei and his closest friends and his musical rivals. This plot is not to the point of a very original story, but it's close if there was any. The progression (or pace) is damn near perfect and really makes a build-up worth it when the climax is reached.
The story itself is divided into two parts (1-13ish, 13ish-22) and we gradually see Kousei's more vulnerable side which the hauntings of the piano and his mother are greatly emphasized. These events are triggered with his interactions with the world around him and get to see just how bad and severe his situation really is, putting Kousei in a up-climb battle and we get to see his friends reactions (especially Kaori's) when he breaks down and puts up a mask to say he's okay.
This is where the series does great. It sets a definitive goal; getting over his guilt and shows just why he needs to get out of the situation and play the piano once more. And Kaori herself comes up with the solution and forces it upon him, letting us see him recover step-by-step.
Meanwhile, at a much slower pace that goes through the entire show, Kousei's past and his connections with his friends are gradually explained and explored. And at the end of the series, our characters reasons and actions stem deep from a connected past, masterfully presented and carefully executed.
And also, the reason for the Title itself ;)
Let's take a look at
Let's be honest here. It's as close as it gets to a generic piece of art but still is so far away from it. It's simply beautiful. And there's those little details that somehow manage to stand out even more compared to any other show. You can SEE their lips, the clothes and enviroment are dynamic and there's a greater fluidity to the overall animation of the characters. It's almost as if they laid the ground-work like they would do with any other generic show but spent equally if not MORE time on those small details and more interactions.
But even though it is beautiful as hell to watch outside the sequenses of play, it is during the plays where Shigatsu really shines.
I've always believed that if any animation is capable of showing off a character's true emotions directly to us and we can comprehend them, then the animation is pure as gold. Well, EVERYTIME the piano is being played (despite who's playing it), we don't only hear sounds, we see their emotions and feel them with our hearts.
So, A-1 Pictures actually managed to pull off something incredible for a change (shots fired).
They also play around with the white-balance (or gray-scale), quite a bit.
When connecting back to Kousei's regrets and past, a more monotone filter is added to show us how he personally feel towards these memories. There's not even a handful of shows that manages to pull that off and they did it. Simply astonishing and heartfelt to watch (oh, side-note; and every note being played with the fingers on the piano are correct. Meaning that what you see could as well be reality)
There is, however, a drawback. Comedic add-ons are a great way to convey a characters reaction towards someones action, words or a certain event. Don't get me wrong, it can be down-right hilarious and timed perfectly to add a happy tone to the scene, but sometimes, it crashes down right into a scene where add-ons really shouldn't be there...so, excellent timing with the addons in general and at certain times can be executed very wrong timed.
A show with Music inside its specified genre should at least handle this part quite easily, right? Well, it went above and beyond.
The show has two OPs, with the first being "Hikaru Nara" by Goose House. It's easily one of the best OPs ever made as the animation seemlessly intergrate along with the chosen song. It's a quite happy song and gets you more than ready to the show with a smile on your face. Oh, and OP1 contains a hidden message (not gonna spoil it here, YouTube it). OP2, however, is a bit more calmer and simpler, but great to say the least. The song "Nanairo Symphony" reflects the shows core purpose wonderfully and leaves you humming the song even after the open-credits end.
The OSTs in the anime have a focus towards the play with the piano, but uses different effects and pace to accomidate and compliment the scene in question. Having a synth, violin and guitar as their complimentary music towards the piano, Shigatsu really knows how to make a happy song and a more mellow song just by changing the notes and degree of pitch.
Even so, the piano's sound can several times be heard with a distortion and lowering (or hightening) the effects.
Now, I had to make a small segment for the scenes when they play the classical music for itself. The scenes
where we see our musicians play "professionally", we don't hear them play the piano. We see their hearts play their stories and reasons and we feel what they want to convey. Sure, even in the anime, it looks like that. The audience is taken aback from the performances and as the voice-over talks over their feelings, the way they play the piano itself and their thoughts and reactions to it...the music can alone show us their emotions.
Our main protagonists Kosei & Kaori show us that music is more than just listening and enjoying it.
They play music as a way to express their feelings and even their memories. The motivations that lies
beneath our characters are expertly brought out, using not only ordinary conversation to ensure character development but the music as well. I feel like most character development in the emotions- and reasons-department was handled mostly by the musical plays. The growth of maturnity of the characters as well as any other character development happens outside the stage. This is necessarily not a bad thing, on the contrary, it's a good one. Limiting the real-heavy stuff to be expressed through music really gave it a serious tone to it, one that we basically need to both watch and listen in order to fully understand the development that goes on.
Kosei's rivals (if he even considers them as rivals) have their motivations for playing music well-executed and well-motivated. We get to see how they came to be aspiring musicians through the plays of a younger Kosei.
The other characters in the story...don't really have that in-depth emotional charater development like the musicians have, but it's good enough.
What makes this show stand apart from the rest of the genre (IMHO) is how our characters see Kousei compared to how he actually is. Even better, their reactions and interactions with each other give us a new perspective into how Kousei really feels. And those who've come to realize in just how deep of a mess he really is (especially Kaori), the future interactions are altered, leaving everybody a reason to be at his side and eventually, him being there for theirs.
So, what were my own personal reactions?
Shocked, awed and inspired. And buckets full of tears XD
This show doesn't require you to be emotionally invested in its story, characters, art and sound.
It does fantastic on those parts and will tear you up when it wants you to tear up.
However, if on your first time view of it was emotionally invested into the show (like me) then the reward is an experience that follows you outside the show and into your own real life. I had it easy to connect and fully understand the feelings, emotions, motivations and reasons behind every single character and at that part, the crucial point from where you understand the emotions and really feeling them starts to overlap and create a incredible unique experience.
Go in with whatever expectations you have. They'll be erased once the first episode ends and meet them again when the last episode is over.
TL;DR & Details
+ Good if not near-perfect pacing
+ Incredible backstory
+ Heartbreaking & simply beautiful ending
+ Truly shines in the musical plays
+ Expresses the emotions of the characters really well
+ Great general art-style
+ Good portrayals of the characters and setting
- The comedic add-ons can be distracting at times but helpful at other times
+ Using music to truly express our musicians feelings and emotions
+ OP and ED are great, especially OP1
+ The overall music outside the stage works with the situation really well
+ Actually got me interested into classical music :)
+ Amazingly lovable characters
+ Motivations and feelings through the several musicians are great
+ Character development is outstanding
+/- Side character's motives are less explored but good enough.
+ Interactions and reactions between characters are amazing
+ Gives overall perspective
+ Being emotionally invested really pays off
+ Bring tissues
Romance?: Well, da!
Gore & Blood?: There are some, but it is not focused and more like nosebleeds
Comedic Add-ons?: Yes, good and bad of 'em
Feel-warning?: Want a ticket on the feel-train to the Feelippines, and while you're at it, wanna stop by Feeladelphia and get yourself a feel-burger with extra feels and feels on the side? Go for the diet-feels, you're gonna need it...
Fan-service?: None whatsoever (please correct me in the comments if there ARE any...)
Favourite Episode?: Episode 10
I started watching this show, expecting something good. What I got, was something more. What I got, was something truly beautiful, incredible and life-changing. This is my own personal favourite anime of all time, and it's gonna be a bitch to rewatch (nearly succeeded in doing that once...)
Now, this Card is a part of my own series where I put up more anime-related posts such as discussing, analyzing and showing you parts of Anime that makes an Anime an Anime! Every topic from the technical aspects, core elements and even entire shows are collected there so make sure you check out and follow "Why anime?" collection for more posts about and around anime! :D
Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the topic or suggest one! :D
And if you want to leave a direct feedback, you're more than welcome to message me :)
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'til next time!