UPDATE: These thoughts are based on the first few episodes of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. The series has since ended, and we’ve also gotten a [spoiler free review of the full series] up as well. Still read this though! its a much more detailed and in depth look at the criticisms levied against the series.
Its been a while since I’ve actually written my thoughts about something other than a Fairy Tail episode (and yes, the last two episodes and today’s will come soon, probably later tonight).
Today I want to talk about Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie In April), mostly due to the large amount of negativity surrounding it. As someone who’s not only suffered through a lot of the stuff that is brought forward and covered in this series, and as someone going through a rather stressful time myself, I think its important to offer another perspective on this series.
First and foremost, let me start by stating that I don’t dislike the series in question, and nor does it offend me. I quite enjoy it, actually, and a lot of what I see portrayed in this series is stuff I can not only empathize with, but relate to. Having said that though, I also understand why other people, especially people whose views and writing I respect (Guardian Enzo @ LiA, Kairi from RC) have been offended, disappointed and downright depressed by what they’ve seen.
The fact of the matter is that Shigatsu is series that’s ridden with faults and issues, and your enjoyment and mileage of the show will depend on how glaring those issues are to you.
If there’s one thing that I think we can all agree on first and foremost, its that Shigatsu wa Kimi No Uso is a very emotionally powerful show. It riles you up, it makes you feel some pretty strong things at certain points. That level of emotion is really hard to pull off.
I believe that the series is able to pull off these emotionally resonating moments because of really strong production values and direction. During these special moments, when the series really “sings”, its using every trick in the anime medium book to craft that experience. The music is superb, the visuals are outstanding, the angles, the closeups, the cuts between each frame, the different points of view, the slowing down and speeding up of the animation, the voice, and even the monologue all contribute to a real burst of emotion.
It was these moments, I think, that made the first episode such a great opener, and also led to many people having high hopes for this series. Of course, In some ways its these small moments of perfection, that tend to work against the series. Its what makes the flaws of the series so glaring and unpalatable.
The first flaw, and the one that I think is most clearly visible on the surface is the slap stick comedy aspect of the show. Why is the slap stick there? Why is comedy ever there in an emotional story like this? Obviously its simply to provide a change of pace. And I think its clearly evident that the slap stick here does do that, but I think it does it a bit too much.
The tonal shift, the artistic morph, the way the writing changes, is all very jarring. The artistic rendering of the characters goes from the elegant, water colorish feeling, to the very hard graphic, simplified chibi stuff we see whenever these comedy moments presents themselves. Its just visually painful, the hurt compounded by the sudden nature of how these things pop up and then tend to overstay their welcome.
The issue with slapstick, in general, is that its very exaggerated and even kind of mean. Its the absurdity of it all, that makes you laugh. The problem with Slapstick in a show like this, is that it tries to put an absurd, funny change of pace on really dark issues like childhood trauma, the pressure of having to perform, and even what it means to be a musician.
One of the most common issues, and one that I think Kairi from Random Curiosity puts best is the issue of how the slapstick presents bullying, and other similar behavior:
” There’s too much focus and literal artistic glorification on the very problematic issues about Arima’s trauma and his friends’ abusive behavior and I can’t take it anymore….”
She continues, perhaps even more on point with:
“I do want to say this though. I’m not upset about the fact that the anime is portraying abuse. I’m upset about the way it insists on glorifying it as a means toward Arima’s healing process”
There’s the issue right there, and the part where I think my interpretation of events differs a bit. See, I totally understand and can see where Kairi gets that impression (and it might even be the right impression perhaps)…. But.
But, for me, while I watched these last 5 episodes, I didn’t quite make the connection. In many ways, I think the jabs that the friends were making at one another were actually kind of playful, and not at all serious. The presentation of those moments, laced with the comedy’s exaggerated, cartoony moments, the blood and everything else, must make it seem a lot more direct and serious than it was intended.
Lets look at a specific case shall we; The fallout after the recital. The recital is the last straw that broke the camel’s back in a lot of cases. In the recital that was in episode 4, main female lead Kaori “forced” Kousei along with his two friends, to be her accompaniment. The reason this was obviously such a big deal was because Kousei has a childhood trauma, tied to losing his mother, which makes him unable to play the Piano.
The trauma is pretty seveare too, and the true extent of that is shown during the recital itself. Kousei not only is unable to hear the music he himself plays, but he also can’t read the music sheet, having the notes on there literally disappear from his vision. This is some very serious trauma, and something that would make your mind block out two of your five primary senses so selectively shows that.
Yet, despite all of that Kousei ends up going with Kaori, after a lot of trying to avoid the issue. He also ends up embarrasing himself, due to his trauma, and becomes unable to play. Yet, rather than keep going with him, Kaori stops mid performance, and tries to get him to join in with her. And he does, and they do a great job playing, a very unorthodox, off the walls performance that goes off well with the audience.
Of course, even though the audience loves it, and Kaori and Kousei are both able to save what is for all intents and purposes a pretty botched performance, Kaori still ends up failing the round. On top of that, near the end, she collapses too.
The collapsing bit is pretty important too, since it not only hints at the fact that Kaori might have some kind of terminal illness, but also leads into a joke that was sure to offend several people:
That moment, where Kaori ends up throwing a not so subtle jab at Kousei in her hospital room, saying that the reason she collapsed was because someone refused to play with her until the last moment, is by all intents and purposes a pretty tasteless joke. Its tasteless, its not even remotely nice, but I think its the kind of joke that you may encounter in real life.
There’s two interpretations to it:
The first is to take that entire notion as its presented.
“Man, Kaori is such an emotional black mailing “bitch” for bringing that up, and throwing it in Kousei’s face, despite the fact that he not only didn’t want to play with her to begin with, but was forced into it at the last moment, and ended up embarrasing himself for her anyway. On top of that, HE shouldn’t be feeling guilty about it, SHE should. What does he have to apologize for? He clearly warned her and was obviously in no state to do it….”
You kind of get the idea. I can definitely SEE how that connection was made, although my interpretation was slightly different:
“Hrm… I see what’s happening here. Kaori realizes that Kousei’s feeling guilty about the whole thing, and she probably feels guilty for dragging him into it too, and she’s deflecting the issue, in a really bad way, by calling more attention to it. She’s teasing him/making that angry “I’m a bitch” joke, and its totally… awkward.”
Its awkward for sure, but its also human. Its the whole: “Yeah man… Its totally your fault” kind of joking that happens between close friends. I personally like that to think that was the intent behind it. The fact that it was thrown in during a comedic moment, as a joke, with a totally different tone than a serious, straight moment, is what makes me think that the series does NOT want you to take it seriously.
And that’s the issue isn’t it? The series doesn’t want you to take the whole: “Yeah its totally your fault… haha” thing seriously, yet there’s no “haha” at the end. There’s no playfulness, and what’s put in place of it, is this weird, exaggerated, cartoony slapstick comedy sequence. Its something that doesn’t quite get the point across, obviously to most people.
Why it didn’t bother me, and why I kind of got that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, was because I’ve been in that sort of situation before, messed up for a friend, and had them deflect in a similar way and joke out of it.
Is that me projecting my own life experiences on to this show? Totally. It might be why this show appeals to me, and why I might be the target demographic that “gets” what the mangaka is trying to communicate.
Trying being the key word. There’s a lot of miscommunication, I think, going on here. Lets look at Kousei and his whole trauma thing next, as its clearly a major issue in this series.
There’s a lot of arguments on how exactly Kousei should deal with his trauma, and how his friends pushing him into things that “he clearly shouldn’t be doing” is being glorified by this series. A lot of people are offended, because they’ve obviously dealt with fear, trauma, depression themselves, and are horrified by how Kousei’s friends seem to be “pushing him” into things.
I think the more subtle thing, and the thing that the anime has so far failed to communicate, is that Kousei wants that pushing, maybe even needs it? The reason his friends are pushing him is because they know him and understand him.
As someone who dealt with a rather nasty bout of depression and Insomnia in high school, and went to therapy and even anti depressants, I can tell you, people deal with trauma in different ways. Therapy is something, for example, that doesn’t work for everyone. Medication can only help you if there’s chemical imbalances in your brain, and even then, there’s a lot of trial and error in getting the right one to work for you.
Some people try therapy, find it doesn’t work, and then external factors in their life just push them out of that depressive state. Its not for any one person to say how a certain person should deal with their trauma and depression. Yet many viewers are doing just that. They’re saying that Kousei needs to seek help, that he shouldn’t be forced into doing things by his friends, that his friends need to be more considerate e.t.c.
Yet, the story is clearly saying something very different. The anime is pointing out that what Kousei needs exactly, is to be pushed, to be dragged out of his painful depressive state, by his slightly dumb but well intentioned friends, and the self centered girl that he likes.
That’s the view and the theme that the series is presenting, and I’m not surprised that certain people find that painful, offensive, and downright depressing. But I don’t think its entirely incorrect, or wrong.
I say that, because as someone who suffered similar issues to what Kousei did, it was an external change in my environment that got me out of slump and downward spiral. I realize it, I empathize and more importantly I relate to what the anime is trying to say here.
Its saying that Kousei is starting to get out of his depressive rutt, because something in his life has changed. That change, is meeting Kaori, a girl that he finds beautiful and clearly has feelings for, but who also continues to defy his expectations and knock him out of how he views the world.
Its a pretty strong and powerful idea actually. One that truly speaks to me at least. That being said, its a pretty sad tragedy that the Anime is unable to communicate its central idea effectively, due to how jarring the comedy segments are.
But the problems don’t just end there. There’s another issue that really seems to pull you out of the experience; The overly dramatic philosophical monologues and dialogue.
Another problem with this story is that it tries a bit too hard to become a very thought provoking, philosophical drama about Middle school life. Its a commendable goal, but the fact that the characters in the show, who are clearly middle schoolers aged around 14, are contemplating such adult like concepts and speaking with such a rich vocabulary, makes the whole affair seem absurd for a different reason.
In many ways… The issue with the show is that its caught oscillating between two rather absurd extremes. There’s the comedic extreme, and then there’s the philosophical extreme. Not only are these both tonal opposites, but neither seem to really fit or can be seen as believable.
Again, this is where it really depends on how much the flaws of the show bother you on a personal level. As someone who always seemed to think melodramatically, and over think things as a young kid, I can again, totally relate to this. I can relate to it, but I also realize that I am in the very small minority here. In middle school myself, I was reading a lot of books and classic literature, and so my words and general thinking were pretty out there at the time.
The fact that Kousei keeps having these very thoughtful philosophical monologues, or the fact that a playboy jock like Ryouta talks about the beauty of unrequited love… Well, there’s something kind off about all of that for sure. Its moments like these where the series rather selfishly asks you to suspend your disbelief and just kind of… roll with it. Its quite the tall order, but if you’re one of those people that can follow it, you’ll find yourself enjoying the show a lot more.
The last thing that I’d like to discuss before I end this little ramble, is Kaori. Kaori is a female character a lot of viewers have really come to hate, and I for one… Don’t. The thing that annoys quite a few people about her, is what the show seems to be presenting her as.
I think Gaurdian Enzo over at Lost In America, puts it best:
“It appears what I feared about Kaori may well be true – she’s being cast as an ideal, a higher being to be admired by all (not least herself) and given a free pass for her dubious behavior and frankly shocking narcissism.”
First of all, lets just say that I do agree with Enzo’s rather objective analysis of Kaori. On top of that, we can add “emmotionally manipulative” and “selfish” to the list of negative attirbutes, especially given what she does to eventually get Kousei to accompany her to her concour recital. She ends up crying, after her rather confident declarations, and when her whole “I believe in us” spiel doesn’t end up working.
I think that very scene at least, shows how much her confidence and narcissism is a bit of a farce. Despite the fact that she thinks she should be confident and live life pushing forward, at the end of the day, Kaori is pretty emmotionally weak and as such, needs reassurance and support more so than most people. We saw something similar at the end of her first performance, when she did a pretty outrageous thing, and yet needed the reassurance from Kousei (someone she clearly respects) in order to not break down from the stress of it all. So yeah, she’s pretty needy and self centered, more insults to add to the pile XD
Despite all her flaws, however, Kaori as a character is definitely being idealized, and being given this whole: “Beacon of hope” role in the story. I think the reason for that has less to do with how perfect she is, and more do with how perfect she seems to be to Kousei. Its the classic “blind in love” scenario that many people with crushes/falling in love in middle school go through.
To them, the person’s flaws are hardly visible. To the person smitten like Kousei, a girl like Kaori would appear perfect. To Kousei’s friends, she would too, since its pretty obvious that Kaori is pretty two faced in terms of how she acts around those she wants to make an impression on, and those that she could care less about.
The big thing is that Kaori is able to be herself around Kousei, show both her pretty side and her ugly side. Its not surprising that Kousei’s amazement and wonder are what take center stage, rather than rational thought. The fact of the matter is that Kaori seems and feels perfect to Kousei, because of the weird enigma that she is. The way she’s both pretty, respectfully talented, and very much “Free” and doing things that she thought would be impossible. Its the things that he wishes he could do, and he sees Kaori doing that make her so special in his eyes.
Kaori’s odd approach to life, is obviously going to impress Kousei, as its something that’s outside of the way he views the world. What she does seems so… out there, so ridiculous, but when Kousei gets dragged into her world through sheer force, he enjoys it and loves it. It frees him and gets him out of his own life, which he’s clearly not a fan of.
Kaori is Kousei’s outlet into a world of fun and wonder, and his fascination with her makes a lot of sense as a result. Is she a great person? Would I personally want to hang out with her and be her friend? Hell No. I don’t think that’s the point though, the point is that she’s different, and she’s enthralling enough for Kousei, despite her myriad of flaws.
For a series that’s been characterized as immature and childish in its world view, I’d say that’s a pretty mature concept right there. If there’s one thing that I feel anime idealizes a lot, its the ultimate nice girl, the mythical perfect girl that’s both pretty, super nice, selfless and kind. These are qualities that only saint could have, and I have yet to see anyone that perfect in real life.
The fact that Kaori is a pretty darn flawed individual, much like Watari, and especially like Tsubaki (who I’d need another few dozen paragraphs to talk about) and is still likeable, is what makes this show so appealing to me.
At the end of the day, I think I find it sad that so many people are hating on this show, and dropping it. I can understand why, and I think it makes a lot of sense as to why this show isn’t resonating with a lot of folks.
IF, however, you are one of those people that did like this show, that enjoy it, then well… I think its not wrong to do so. Much like Nagi no Asakura, this is a show that will definitely polarize, but I think the wealth of emotion, and the unique way its tackling some very serious issues, despite the rather frequent missteps, is worth watching.
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a show that I’m glad exists. If you’re someone who likes watching it, or someone who doesn’t, I’d really like to know what you think about all of this. This is a series and an issue that I think merits discussion, and if there’s something you’d like to say on the matter, or about what I wrote… Please feel free to do so in the comments!
(Now I think I’ll go back to being a final semester college student, and sneak back in for the weekly Fairy Tail reviews… XD)
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