Your Lie in April
四月は君の嘘 (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
Shounen – Slice-of-life, drama, romance, psychological, tragedy
5 Volumes (ongoing)
Kosei was once considered a piano prodigy. After his mother’s death, however, he froze during a competition, and Kosei hasn’t played the piano since. Two years passed, and he meets a girl playing the melodica. This encounter forces Kosei to once again answer the call to music.
Note: this review has been updated and can be found here.
(Note that the protagonist’s name is romanized as “Kōsei”, but I’m using “Kosei” for simplicity.)
When people hear “shounen manga”, they tend to immediately think of action-adventure titles like Naruto, One Piece, Fairy Tail, etc. However, there’s quite a bit of moving slice-of-life manga that target the male demographic, the Maison Ikkokus and the Cross Games. Your Lie in April fits decidedly in this group, and it has a lot in common with these two manga: leads have lost a loved one and have to move forward, love polygons, and protagonists trying to prove themselves. Yes, if you’re a fan of male-oriented romances that don’t focus on a lot of fanservice like series done by legends Takahashi and Adachi, then Your Lie in April should not be missed.
But what if you haven’t read anything along the lines of Maison Ikkoku or Cross Game? Your Lie in April is about Kosei returning to music after his mother’s death. However, there’s a much deeper psychological component to this manga besides Kosei wallowing in grief. He has regrets, fear, anger — all natural emotions for someone who has lost a loved one. But we also learn Kosei’s mother’s parenting was far from ideal. This isn’t a manga about a child who has lost his best friend in his mother. His mother was abusive, yet the bond between parent and child isn’t easily severed. We often see Kosei’s self-doubt take on the form of a black cat, and we learn why this is psychologically significant. All these things make Kosei’s issues fascinating to read about. There’s also quite a few hints the story is going to take another emotional turn, and it will be interesting to see how Kosei reacts to this development. I may know where it’s going, but I still want to see what happens.
The manga is a slow-moving romance, focusing more on Kosei’s personal development rather his romantic development. If shoujo manga is often about a protagonist finally being able to stand up with the help of her love interest, then this manga is about the protagonist having to teeter forward to his love interest’s outstretch hand. I’m not saying Kaori is cold or cruel; in fact, she’s just the opposite. She’s providing Kosei the opportunity to move forward, and she puts a lot of effort into helping him, plastering music sheets everywhere and almost blackmailing him into competitions. But when Kosei stumbles, Kaori is there to support him. It’s easy to see why Kosei is drawn to Kaori, as she embodies everything he lacks.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a romance without a good love polygon. In this case, we get Kosei’s childhood friend (and also Kaori’s friend) Tsubaki as well as third childhood friend (and Kaori’s crush) Ryota. Ryota is girl crazy but shows some deep insight from time to time. Meanwhile, readers are treated to many scenes from Tsubaki’s point-of-view as she struggles between seeing Kosei as a younger brother and object of her affection. I really like how they try to support Kosei in their own ways, biking Kosei to the music competition and lending him shoes. In so many manga, non-music/sports/whatever-the-theme-is-they-don’t-play, these type of characters would be reduced to being the avenue for which the author explains the game/piece/whatever. While Ryota and Tsubaki may not fully understand the music world, they play a larger role in the story besides saying, “What’s that? Is that hard? What’s going on?” The pair may also mess with and tease Kosei, but you can still see how close the three really are to Kosei. It’s also nice how they don’t treat Kaori as an outsider, the third (fourth?) wheel to their long-standing friendship.
While Tsubaki and Ryota take on the roles of romantic rivals, the third and fourth volumes introduce Kosei’s music rivals, Takeshi and Emi. Although Kosei doesn’t realize how much his music affected the two, Takeshi and Emi also want Kosei to return and fully awaken to the music world. They have had little direct interaction with Kosei at this point in the story, but I hope to see them around more without pushing Tsubaki and Ryota to the side.
The only downside so far story-wise is the humor. The comedy is a constant miss for me. We see a lot of flashbacks of little Tsubaki’s teasing/bullying of little Kosei, and she even messes with Kosei in the present by calling him “Friend A”. Even little snippets of comedy like Ryota falling for Emi but knowing he sort of has Kaori just falls flat. I don’t know if it’s jokes itself that are bad or the lack of funny reactions (there’s a reason why so many comedies feature both a funny man and a straight man), but the serious parts of the story are far superior than the comedic ones.
I already discussed what Your Lie in April has in common story-wise with Maison Ikkoku and Cross Game. But there’s another thing the three have in common: the art. While some shounen artists focus on fast-paced stories with packed panels, the art Your Lie in April is much more simple. At times, I can see hints of Wakaba in Kaori. Arakawa definitely puts a lot of effort into the emotionally charged scenes, and they feature wonderful images of Kaori playing the violin with energy and the rivals pouring their frustrations into the music. However, some of the less important scenes (the main four hanging out, flashbacks showing Kosei’s incompetence) are much more lax in the artwork. The characters lack detail and look hastily drawn compared to the beauty of images like Emi playing the piano. These scenes sometimes look like a worse version of Kodomo no Kodomo. While the series is about 1/3 of the way through at this point, I hope all future scenes show the high quality like the music images.
The translators here are some of my favorite, and so it’s no surprise I enjoyed their adaptation of Your Lie in April. Dialogue is faithful and smooth, and several pages of notes are included at the end of each volume. Honorifics are used as well as accent marks.
Your Lie in April is a wonderfully emotional journey that is sure to tug at your heartstrings.
The anime is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.