First Impressions – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

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We’re still waiting for the NoitaminA adaptation of a certain “March” manga, but I’m happy to have this one for April.

OP: “Hikaru Nara” (光るなら;If You Will Shine) by goose house

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The heavy hitters for Fall are pretty much all checked-in at this point with the exception of Mushishi, and in terms of my anticipation levels they didn’t get much heavier than Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.  This was probably right behind Kiseijuu on my list for the season (not including sequels) and seemed like one of the few series that offered the potential to be truly great.  The first episode didn’t quite reach that standard, but it was awfully good, and certainly lived up to expectations for the most part.

NoitaminA has had its ups and downs to say the least, and even when it’s aired a really good show these last few years they’ve rarely felt like a NoitaminA show.  That’s not a huge deal since airing a good series certainly trumps arbitrary genre or demographic considerations, but it’s still nice to see a new NoitaminA that for the first time in a long time really feels exactly like an old-school NoitaminA offering.  And this one certainly does.

The influences at play here aren’t terribly difficult to pick out.  The kinship with Nodama Cantabile – which is as NoitaminA as it gets – is obvious enough that the series preview gave us a crossover.  There’s a lot of common staff (and goose house) with fellow A-1 NoitaminA series Gin no Saji, and some shared tone as well.  But most striking for me is the link with NoitaminA standout Hourou Musuko (which may well be the last “old-school” NoitaminA series to have aired).  That Art Director Usui Hisayo did the backgrounds for Wandering Son is unmistakable from the first frame of April is Your Lie (that love of sakura), and Animation Director and Character Designer Aikyou Yukiko worked on that series as well.  There’s the same sense of a series presenting the full scope of emotional volatility faced by kids in puberty – boys and girls equally.  And the same sense that we’re going to see that play out in the form of some serious drama.

I wouldn’t put Shigatsu in the class of Hourou Musuko based on the first episode, mostly because I found some of the comic intercuts a little jarring and it didn’t achieve the same level of emotional transcendence.  That’s a pretty high bar, though, as we’re talking about one of the greatest first episodes in anime history and one that could have functioned as a stand-alone entity.  Make no mistake, apart from the humor sometimes falling flat this was a very good first episode indeed.  It paints a very effective picture of the drama to come without delving too deeply into details, and the “Bremen” scene at the park is one of the best of the season.

Happily A-1 has two cours (NoitaminA cours, anyway – 11 episodes) to adapt Arakawa Naoshi’s manga, though given that it’s ongoing we’ll have to see where that leads us.  We have an interesting breakdown in terms of cast – four 14 year-olds, two athletes and two musicians.  The center of the story is piano prodigy Arima Kousei (Hanae Natsuki), whose terminally ill mother beat and berated him to try and make him the celebrated pianist she never was.  When she died just as Kousei was about to fulfil her dream for him to play in Europe, he lost his ability to play the piano (there’s more detail there, but I’ll let the anime get there in its own time).  His neighbor and osananajimi is Sawabe Tsubaki (Sakura Ayane), a softball slugger and general tomboy.  Their best friend is Watari Ryouta (Ohsaka Ryouta), soccer genius and general playboy.  And the one who changes everything is gifted violinist Miazono Kaori (Taneda Risa) who makes one of the most memorable entrances of any character this year.

There are some stock elements in this mix, no doubt, most obviously the relationship between Kousei-kun and Tsubaki-chan.  But there are hints in the premiere of deeper and more opaque waters.  Tsubaki seems quite clearly to love Kousei, and Kaori supposedly asked her to be set up with Ryouta.  But there seems to be more to Tsubaki’s actions here, as she’s clearly distraught over Kousei’s inability to play the piano (which she loved to hear) and might perhaps have been using Kaori as a means to jolt him out of his musical slumber, with Ryouta as a pretext.  And there can be no question that Kousei was immediately transfixed by Kaori as he watched her play the melodica and frolic with a trio of elementary-schoolers, using their simple music to lure pigeons (I suspect that would never work), the best scene of the episode.

I wasn’t especially impressed by the misunderstanding gags here, or the formulaic beating on Kousei by the girls – it really felt like an attempt to throw some generic fluff into what’s otherwise a substantial story.  But as with Hourou Musuko April is Your Lie manages to convey the almost electric crackle of adolescent emotion – it courses through the entire series as if it were a Jurassic Park fence (Jump Timmy, jump!).  Series set among 17 and 18 year-olds often try to capture this but it’s invariably less authentic than it is when a series (all too rarely) focuses on those at the onset of puberty, where everyone and everything seems both exciting and dangerous.  That this feeling comes across so strongly in the premiere is the biggest reason I have great optimism for what this series can do over 22 episodes, and I can’t wait to find out where it goes from here.

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ED: “Kirameki” (キラメキ;Sparkle) by wacci

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21 comments

  1. t

    Shigatsu is one of the most anticipated series in this season for me.
    it has perfect combination of A-1 studio in noitaminA.

    the premiere looks extremely beautiful. A-1 studios also doing Nanatsu, magic kaito and SAO2 this season. but none looks like this amazing as Shigatsu. this kind of art in Shigatsu is on par with the unique of PA or KyoAni. no doubt about that.

    luckily for Shigatsu, it's not just art. that is very important. there are enough series with good art and animation but dull story or execution. with only one episode aired, Shigatsu seems to have more than enough potential in the story as romance and drama are strongly in this together and it seems very well done. the chemistry between the characters speaks for itself even in the odd moments of hitting Arima.

    in the end of the day, aside from drama and romance, the theme here is music. and that's one of the crucial parameters for the anime. I think what we heard in this episode paves the way to success. a musical one. wonderful melody of piano at the beginning with the lovely improvised melody near the end of the kids with Kaori. the music will definitely make the difference in further episodes when the drama and romance will progress. I can't wait to hear the violin. (not to mention we have a wonderful opening and ending. so a success in terms of music so far).

    shigatsu wa kimi no uso is one of the elite this season. a perfect opening episode.
    in the matter of adaptation, well, I read that manga will end in the spring and anime suppose to adapt everything to last chapter since the anime will end almost at the same time. these kinds of things happens in the anime world, so no problem (happened with golden time I think).

  2. M

    Unfortunately I was spoiled about the manga on this, but it makes me more prepared for what drama to come between these 4 characters. I hope the music will be great like Nodame Cantabile. Piano and violin duet is my absolute favorite.

  3. H

    For me, "old-school" noitaminA doesn't necessarily constitute "most creative" noitaminA. Nothing has topped Ping Pong.

  4. Z

    I think Ping Pong and House of Five Leaves best represent that experience for me.

  5. R

    I like both Ping Pong and House of Five Leaves, too.

  6. z

    I really got a Chihayafuru vibe from this. The colors and character designs. Cross that with Nodame, and I'm set!

    I'm a little apprehensive about all the "shounen" talk about this one though. I hope tropes like the panty/slap scene are minimal.

    Also dude! Baseball to the head with puddles of blood is way more serious than picking up broken glass!

  7. Again, that kind of thing really clashes with the overall more realistic tone of the material. At least for me.

    I do get a bit of a Chihayafuru vibe in the character designs, yes. No direct connection via the staff, though.

  8. R

    Wasn't planning to pick this up, but glad I changed my mind. There is already the obvious love square (and then the obvious drama that is bound to unfold), but this one just has that certain innocent charm that you won't see in a lot of high school romances nowadays.

  9. Partly because it isn't a high school romance. The tone is age appropriate for once.

  10. R

    That's really what I don't get about high school romance animes nowadays. They just keep on trying to make their characters act younger than their supposed age for no real reason than to be cute.

  11. J

    And what is it that the "Bremen Town Musicians" are playing? The little girl says that you really need a trumpet to call pigeons. Plus that structure they are standing on looks suspiciously like something.

  12. R

    Okay, the first episode didn't get me as thrilled as I hoped to be, but it feels to me that there will be some character dynamic to be played out amongst the four main, so I'm interested. My only hope is that — and please, for Christ's sake, please — none of the four main characters will be those "I'm cute and I'm genki" type of cardboards running around with no real substances or meaning of their own. This is a character show, so I'm in for learning about how people add character, meaning and personalities to these characters…and I'm still hopeful.

  13. G

    That was a truly disgusting first episode.

    Everything from the artificial sweetness, the -anything but human beings- characters, the slapstick humor and the sticky melodrama made me want to puke. But what really made me physically sick was that scene with the blonde girl with the melodica. Seriously just look at it:

    The pigeons are flying, sakura petals are caressing her hair and ooh so beautiful she is crying, moved by the poetic universe that surrounds her I'm sure. The intent was for us to feel something, to be awed by the sheer beauty of the situation, right? Do they even realize what they are doing here? It's one of the most…cynical things I've ever seen. The ultimate confusion of romanticism and human connection with….SO BEAUTIFUL!!!1 or something. They are lying to our faces and I'm not even sure they know they're doing so.

  14. c

    Music is the ultimate lie. A beautiful one.

  15. Z

    You'd be amazed how may people buy into that sort of thing though.

  16. J

    Or she blew on the melodica so hard that it caused her eyes to water.

  17. J

    Just wanted to point out that the song the bremen were playing was pigeons and a boy from Laputa, the castle in the sky. It's the song that Pazu plays on the trumpet after he let the pigeons out of their cage. You know you've listened to too much Joe Hisaishi when you recognize this immediately lol.

    Also was I the only one bothered that after Tsubaki discovered her ball had hit someone in the head and the person is on the ground bleeding, her initial course of action was to take the ball and sneak away? Was this supposed to be funny? Because it made me dislike her, she looks like she'll be a future hit and run

  18. I think a number of people, myself included, have referenced that specifically and the other moments like it as being the weakest part of the episode, and rather disconnected.

  19. J

    I can't enter into this anime as wholeheartedly as I would like to, because I'm so aware of that thus far played-completely-straight "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" aspect: "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

    It's only one ep but everything from the pre-opening and the nyaa~! to the pigeons and the tears to the ED just screams it. I really really really hope this is an instance where that awful archetype is subverted.

    Also, I already commented about this elsewhere, but that dumb "underwear" scene makes me so angry. This and Parasyte both – the MC *accidentally* harasses the girl / invades her privacy or whatever, the girl *comically* overreacts violently. And then this show even has the audacity to make her appear two-faced for reacting angrily to having some stranger take a photo of her underwear!
    In case I have to spell it out to anyone why this sucks – 1. Trivializes sexual assault and physical abuse. 2. Makes it seem like girls who complain about being creeped on are overreacting/misunderstanding. 3. Makes it seem like the creeping was okay because the girl beat on the guy afterwards (uh, NO.). 4. Girls getting angry about having their privacy invaded is not funny. 5. Neither is girls beating up guys.
    Sighhhh. In both shows the incidents were completely, utterly unnecessary and unfunny. Well-written shows should never include problematic and overhacked cliches like this.

  20. m

    The "underwear" type of scene is pretty much everywhere in anime so why the rage? You shouldn't be watching anime if it offends you. Of course i don't enjoy this type of humour but i'm used to it. Though i agree that anime does trivalise this sort of action by having the girl react violently and then making it seem ok. But seriously it's fiction. In real life girls who don't wear safety pants are actually asking for trouble since i have seen girls' underwear quitr a few times without wanting to.

    For Shigatsu's case I disagree cos the incident was totally accidental. Though the girl has a right to be angry as well. So it's not like the guy creeped on the girl

  21. K

    I agree with Jasper about the stupid underwear trope, but for different reasons. Personally, I can't stand underwear, and wish it would just go away — like on a cosmological level.

    This show should be outstanding. I like the pretty American girl. I'll be voting U.S.A for President next month.

    Also, (I doubt anyone is still reading this comment) I read voraciously, but don't enjoy manga or graphic novels. Please SAY NO to spoilers so that our wonderful anime community can enjoy fun blogs and forums 😀 😀

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