This month, as it is April, I decided to take part of a rewatch for the anime Your Lie in April (四月は君の嘘). For anyone who is unfamiliar with the /r/anime subreddit on Reddit (or for any who simply don’t frequent it), they do regular rewatches of anime. It’s essentially a way for a bunch of people who have or have not seen a particular anime to watch a single episode per day and participate in a discussion as if it’s airing for the first time. Spoilers beyond that day’s episode are typically not allowed and it’s a great way for fans and first timers to interact over old anime. Now, you probably put two and two together and know that at this point I should be roughly halfway through the rewatch. And that would be the case if I could keep myself from cheating; alas, I could not. I finished it in mere days. I’m both ashamed and unashamed of that. I loved it and now I’m going to write about it. Spoilers ahead.
This actually isn’t the first time I’ve watched this anime. If you have taken time to go through my completed list, you would have seen an entry for this one and a score of 8/10. But this is the first time I’ve rewatched it and I learned some interesting things as I was doing so. One thing I learned is that this anime might be better suited to people who have watched a lot of anime (this was one of the first anime I ever watched). Another thing I learned is just how subjective scoring can be based on a variety of factors, such as how much anime you’ve seen and what’s happening in your life at the time; that is very likely why many people who watch anime avoid scoring it all together. Animated Andy wrote a really strong argument for not constraining anime to scores that you can read here.
If I haven’t made it obvious already, after this rewatch, the score I wanted to give to Your Lie in April changed. I felt like I understood what it was trying to convey a lot better now vs when I originally watched it back at the beginning of my anime journey. Many of the subtleties and storytelling techniques were originally lost on me. I remembered that it was tough to watch the first time around due to a lot of what this anime explores; now, having a little more experience under my belt, that feeling has changed. It was still tough to watch, but in many ways it felt more like bittersweet metamorphosis or painfully beautiful chaos.
Throughout the entire series we see our main protagonist, Kousei Arima, experience a lot of confusing and painful grief. We see the love of his mother manifest itself in emotionally and physically abusive ways due to desperation; compounded on top of this is the judgement of outsiders who are looking into a small public piece of his home life. We see the hard work and perseverance of a small child who just wants to see his mother get better, either not understanding or ignoring the fact that her disease is terminal. Ultimately, we see the music that he was using as his tool to heal his mother betray him by letting his mother die and then abandoning him, leaving him unable to hear the notes he tries to play. We see the story of someone who is pushed to his limits. Unable to play, Kousei abandons the piano.
Then, beautiful chaos herself is introduced in the form of Kaori Miyazono, a violin player in need of an accompanist. She’s unhinged and strikingly beautiful, giving Kousei his first glimpse of emotional music and the colors that it creates. Unlike Kousei’s almost robotic devotion to the score, Kaori’s violin playing breaks all the rules, taking a piece molded by musical titans like Bach and Chopin and making them her own. It isn’t always well received, particularly by long time judges in the musical competition scene. It’s seen as arrogance and the other vulgar desires of youth on display in a mockery of tradition. Kousei can’t help but be drawn to it.
Kaori and Kousei take the stage for all to see. Kaori wants to remind him what it’s like to play for an audience; she wants him to remember that everything, even the silence before they begin, belongs to him when he’s on stage. But soon, old childhood trauma sets in and Kousei loses the sound of the piano, drowning in a pool that he cannot escape. His playing becomes erratic, unrecognizable as music. He then does the unthinkable and stops playing. When he doesn’t continue, Kaori stops as well, ending her advancement in the competition (stopping for any reason is immediate disqualification). Patiently, she draws him back in, and they start again from the beginning. What unfolds is one of the most beautiful pieces at the competition, and the crowd falls in love with them. Kaori then collapses on stage; they will not be performing together ever again.
I did a lot of digging around to see what possible diseases that Kaori Miyazono could have had since it was not addressed directly in the show. My own personal opinion is that she most likely had something called Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA or FA) paired with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. FA is a genetic disease typically affecting kids between the ages of 5 and 15 that makes it difficult for those affected to walk; eventually, it causes loss of sensation in both the arms and the legs, something that was clearly on display from Kaori when they showed her unable to carry herself or hold a violin bow. The only thing that we never saw was a third typical symptom of FA, impaired speech.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is when a portion of the heart becomes thickened without an obvious reason; when that happens, the heart is much less effective at pumping blood and can lead to things like shortness of breath, fainting and even heart failure. This is also shown to us through many of Kaori’s fainting spells or when Kousei arrives at the hospital and finds her in the middle of what appears to be a heart attack.
It’s almost too much for Kousei to handle. Once again, music seemed to be taking away the things he loved the most. Kaori had been a huge influence on his life, carefully bringing him back to his piano playing and showing him it’s importance. Just when he was becoming comfortable with it again, the woman who had given him such an incredible gift was fighting for her life just like his mother had years before.
Whether he likes it or not, music is deeply written into Kousei’s DNA. All of his important growth takes place behind a piano. He discovers it has the ability to communicate much more than the notes written on the pages in front of him. It digs deep into his soul, unleashing his innermost desires and weaving them into his playing. It gives him an opportunity to express his frustration and fears, as well as his happiness. Probably most importantly, it guides him through his most painful goodbyes.
First, Kousei had to say his final farewell to his mother. She hadn’t been a perfect mother by any means. Her desperate desire to leave him with a skill that he could use to support himself when she was gone drove her to the edge of what could be called acceptable parenting. She was physically and emotionally abusive. The long term trauma that it left with Kousei ultimately held him back from playing the piano for several years. It wasn’t until he played a piano piece that reminded him of his mother that he was unable to unlock the good memories and see with clearer senses exactly who she was and what she was trying to do. Finally, the mother that had haunted him in the corners of his imagination was banished, and the loving mother who wanted a long and happy life for her child broke through.
His second goodbye was destined to be Kaori. While he did inspire her to attempt risky life extending surgery, it wasn’t meant to be. His final goodbye to her takes place while he’s on stage in a competition. Here, his imagination sweeps him off stage to an isolated place where he and Kaori can play together one final time. Everything that she had inspired in him comes welling up in an emotional duet that elicits playing from him that stuns the audience, leaving them breathless. It’s a final performance worthy of a masterpiece anime.
In death, Kaori leaves Kousei one final letter to read. Eventually, he musters the courage to open it and see what’s inside. What he discovers is the story of someone who has loved him for practically all her life. Kousei inspired Kaori to pick up the violin when she was very young, just so she could one day play with Kousei as her accompanist. It details the thoughts of a girl who was desperate to stand out and get his attention, living boldly when she discovers her life is ending soon. She had a dream and she made it happen, all to inspire the one she loved to return to music and bring them together, even if only for a short while.
I’ve covered two of the stories that exist in this anime, but that isn’t even close to the entire story. There are at least six other characters who experience meaningful arcs. Each character is a thread that weaves together into the beautiful tapestry that is Your Lie in April.
I said at the beginning that my score had changed with my matured tastes. Originally, I gave this story an 8/10 because, while I liked the core arcs, a lot of the growth felt stunted and drawn out for no reason (why are they purposefully getting in the way of good music?!). I wasn’t accustomed to the slow and meaningful burn that anime likes to display in many of it’s dramas. With this rewatch, I was able to appreciate what I was being shown. There was a lot of thought that went into the growth of these characters. With my new appreciation, I gave it a higher score. I’m sure there are many people who can and do find flaws with this anime, but I am not one of them. I feel that each and every rise and fall is earned and well placed; it isn’t always comfortable or easy to watch, but it’s beautiful to see it all come together in the end. If any part of what you just read interests you in the slightest, please, give this anime a chance. Let it reach you.