So as I was scrolling down one day, through my list of anime recommendations, I came across one that I was looking forward to extensively: Your Lie in April. This is quite possibly the single highest rated TV anime romance on MyAnimeList (if you don’t count Clannad: After Story), with a FUCKING MINDBLOWING 8.91/10 on the website. That is high enough to be scored better than the following shows/movies:
- Wolf Children (8.82/10): Which is considered to be one of the best animated movies of all time, directed by legend Mamoru Hosura.
- Code Geass (8.81/10): Which is a cleverly crafted, action packed political drama with world-wide stakes and not a single moment of narrative downtime.
- Cowboy Bebop (8.81/10): Landmark of the late-90s to early 2000s, thought to be another one of the masterpieces of post-Evangelion animation, for it’s themes, characters and cinematography.
- Hajime no Ippo (8.82/10): A heart-stoppingly intense sports anime about boxing, with some of the punchiest, most vicious animation I have ever seen and edge-of-your-seat, moment to moment excitement.
So I it’s safe to say I was entering this show with a high degree of expectations, as a show this universally beloved had to have some major animation chops, tight storytelling, strong character development and snappy interactions, not to mention overall enjoyment.
So imagine my surprise, that, watching it, I am confused, irritated, angry, and frustrated with almost every aspect of the show by far.
LET’S DIG RIGHT IN, SHALL WE?
In order to not immediately begin trashing this clusterfuck of a show, let’s talk about some of the show’s positive aspects.
For one, A-1 Pictures has delivered a very solid, yet surprisingly flowing sense of movement with the characters and surrounding foliage and environment in it’s animation. There is definitely some talent here, as the character’s hair swooshes during the wind, as instruments are played with an accurate, elegant attention to detail, the fingers smashing against the piano keys and professionally swinging the violin bow (even if they are CG, they’re still animated beautifully).
The music feels solid, as classical pieces are played with gusto and energy, and it’s rawness is seen in the way the people playing them move and emote. The actual compositions add an extra layer to their realism by actually having flubs and mistakes be heard in the music itself, which makes it sound like teenagers are the ones actually playing, and that’s an extra touch that I believe should be added to all anime featuring music. The concert scenes are also a treat to watch, using sweeping shots of both the performer and the audience, really selling the emotion and passion of every note played on screen. The audience gets their obligatory reactions, and they are as expected; they work as intended and show the changes in mood and pleasure that they’re going through while watching the concert. It works.
And, sadly, that’s as much as I can praise in the show. Many people value the visual aspect of a show like this just as much or perhaps even more than the story or characters, but I do not. Why? Because a show that looks great but makes no sense is going to end up feeling worse than one with terrible visuals but breathtaking story. Take the show Shiki for example, a vampire drama/thriller from 2011. The show has some ugly-as-sin character designs and nonsensical hairstyles, but the story was so well crafted and structured, especially during it’s final 10 episodes, that the animation and characters didn’t deteriorate from the overall enjoyment. That’s just my personal view on the topic, but I’m inclined to give more weight to the writing in anime than the visuals, even if it is a visual medium.
Anyway, as we progress further, what are the major problems of the show?
- The pointless, weak, and unfunny use of comedic sections and punchlines.
- Kaori Miyazono in her entirety.
- The flat and unoriginal direction and shot composition (most of the times).
- The completely unfinished and meaningless character arcs that go nowhere.
- Nao Kashiwagi in her enirety.
Let’s explore these points in depth one by one:
YLIA considers itself very distant from comedy (if you check it’s tags on MAL, comedy is not listed there), but upon even a cursory glance into the show, you will notice a vast amount of gag-style and slapstick humor thrown half-hazardly around, whenever the writers feel like it. The jokes consist of no buildup and a delivery that makes it feel like a payoff, but since there is no buildup, many jokes come from absolutely nowhere and are nothing but distracting.
The worst part is when jokes like these are thrown right after or even during heavily dramatic and emotional scenes, which absolutely kills the mood and is so jarring, it takes me completely out of the weight of the moment and serves only to annoy and distract. What’s the point in having important scenes and actual character interactions and development, when you’re just going to slap a shitty joke in there for no reason?
This isn’t something like Anger Beats, where the crushingly dramatic scenes and the hilariously over-the-top scenes have space between them and actual thought put into the pacing. Here, it’s just written poorly.
Ok, so many people actually love Kaori, and that’s perfectly understandable. She’s energetic, motivational, and easily emotionally attached to depressed geeks with a guilt complex and some fucked up childhood. That’s pretty commendable, right?
Well, Kaori, aside from being the “pure” character, is the show’s vehicle for narrative convenience and easy, unrewarding cry-porn scenes. She’s an amalgam of plot points and wacky ideas. But her worst sin, by far, is that she is the one of the most perfectly crafted, most obviously likable girl characters ever written. There is not a single thing wrong with her or with her past, and her personality (even if constantly reminded by Kousei that it sucks) is just made to be the most whimsical, carefree and bubbly personality in the entirety of this cast of sad, angry and sexually frustrated people.
For all the proof we need, we just have to go to the first scene we see of her (aside from the already ridiculous cat-chasing scene from the first couple of minutes), when Kousei comes across her for the first time. He walks into the park area, and what is she doing? She’s playing a quirky, weird instrument with a poppy and vibrant pastel color, wearing a pretty adorable dress that fits her well. Also, she’s got 3 painfully cute kids dancing to her music, she’s dancing and bouncing happily as she plays, and the way this whole thing is shot, makes it seem like Kousei immediately fell in love with her. How are you not going to instantly turn her into the best girl? It’s so in-your-face about her flawlessness that it’s immediately noticeable in it’s purpose and instantly distracting. Not to mention that in literally the next scene, when Kousei is going to snap a picture of her (like a fucking creep), the wind conveniently lifts her skirt so he snaps a picture of her panties. That’s hilarious.
Not that it mattered anyway since she went from hating him to pretty much loving him faster than the speed of sound. What a great character!
Aside form the already mentioned concert scenes, the rest of the show is plagued by a very bland and forgettable directing style. Look, I’m not asking for a Kubrick-esque, every-shot-is-meaningful-to-the-themes type of shot composition, but please, do something with the almost infinite possibility of angles and interesting camera movements you could do with the medium of animation.
It’s also not a question of the studio’s quality, since A-1, while being leagues below stuff like KyoAni’s Hyouka (seriously, if you like smooth, layered and constantly amazing amination quality, watch Hyouka), they can still manage to deliver on the more creative aspect of cool shots: the angle. You don’t have to be Anno or Imaishi in order to come up with a cool looking or even slightly different shot that spices up the scene or adds some much needed depth into the already super boring slice of life sequences.
The Abandoned Character Arcs
Let’s talk a bit about Emi Igawa. Do you remember her? She was one of Kousei’s rivals that, after the end of the first half of the show, was completely and utterly forgotten, her character arc disappearing into the void. During the competition during episodes 8-11, she’s proving herself as someone always competitively bumping heads with Takeshi (who, granted, does get a semi-serviceable ending to his arc), but then gets promptly shafted for no reason. I guess she didn’t really matter? I guess they didn’t care about her enough? Well, me neither.
Nao Kashiwagi: The Appearing Act
Nao is a special specimen of a shitty character. What does she do exactly?
She appears no more than 3 times in the first half of the show, gets shoved into the second half, and used as a way for the authors to deliver emotional exposition to the characters that she interacts with.
It’s not like the actual characters can have their own emotional realizations and epiphanies, but instead, why not have a character created with that purpose in mind? What an easy, effortless way to deliver growth. Awesome.
When did we ever see her become friends with or join the group of any of the other main characters? You’d think a character that was juggling the secrets and feelings of her friends would be important to introduce in a meaningful way, or at the very least, have some distinct aspect of her personality aside from being a deadpan advice machine.
The final proof that this show is dead on arrival is the saddest one: When browsing r/anime on Reddit, or when lurking through 4chan’s /a/ board, do you see people talking about this show? Do you see it in people’s Top 10 lists, or in 3×3 posts, or anywhere that’s not deliberately talking about shows inherently similar to it?
YLIA has sort of evaporated from the minds of most people. It’s an entry show, one that’s highly popular and even more highly regarded by those sinking their toes into the anime medium, and that’s why it works. It’s done by a well-known studio, has some flashy animation, and is a sob story about unrequited love. It’s the perfect show for people looking for a quick, enjoyable show that can make you feel something, and then you move on. For people not deeply ingrained into anime culture.
And that’s perfectly fine! If you like it, that’s a-ok, friendo. No harm done.
But don’t go around spouting this show as a “masterpiece” and circle-jerking those that also like it by never actually talking about it’s positives. I’ve never seen a good review or argument as to why this show is as highly rated as it is. I am yet to find one that doesn’t resort to shitty, uninspired and non-analytical “reviews” posted by people trying to get clicks from mindless fans.
It’s not a special show, it’s not a very creative one, and it’s certainly not the 8.91/10 score that it has on MyAnimeList. It’s a blunder of plastered-on ideas and badly executed emotional drama.
At most, it’s a 4/10. And that’s just my opinion.