Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 04

Shigatsu - 04 -17 Shigatsu - 04 -21 Shigatsu - 04 -34

Two cours of this?  I don’t think I could take it.

I could cite few examples of a series that has me as conflicted as this one.  Perhaps it’s true that if a show can make you feel anything intensely than it’s doing something right, even if what you’re feeling is anger and disgust.  But that doesn’t mean the experience is going to be an enjoyable one.  It’s a tough thing, anyway you look at it – there are shows about which sorting out your feelings is straightforward, but Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso definitely isn’t one of them.

At the eyecatch this week, I was absolutely convinced that Shigatsu was at the crossroads – the next 11 minutes would determine whether this series was one of the elites of the season or dropped.  Now, at the close of the episode, I find that (somewhat irritatingly) neither one of those results has come to pass.  I’m as torn over this series as I was then, because those 11 minutes were non-committal as far as what sort of series this is going to be.  I may in fact feel very differently tomorrow than I do right now, or the day after – but the nature of a website like this is that you write down your impressions in a timely manner.  And right now, my impressions are that the signs are not hopeful.

Last week I said that if Shigatsu were to have any credibility, Kousei’s performance would have to be a disaster.  Well, it was – but one could tell that the seeds were being planted for it to be redeemed in the second half.  So was it?  Sort of – I think the show was trying to have it both ways here.  But the fundamental problem remains – this whole scenario was a terrible, terrible idea, a huge mistake by the two girls who forced it on Kousei with Ryouta’s help.  And I see no evidence that the POV of the series itself recognizes this fact.

No exaggeration, I think this was borderline abusive – far worse than the comic violence against Kousei that’s so utterly unfunny.  For someone in his situation being forced to play against his will and then suffering such public humiliation might just be the final straw that prevents him from ever being able to play the piano (certainly in public) again.  OK, you might say, but these are middle-school girls and they meant well – how can you expect them to know better?  But even if you make that argument, I expect the mangaka to know better.  I expect them to realize that they’ve made a terrible mistake, and beg Kousei for forgiveness.  But there’s no sign of that – no sign that the story itself believes anything except that Kousei needs to man up and get over it, and that he should be thanking Kaori and Tsubaki rather than accepting (or refusing) their apologies.

Lord knows, there’s more.  A real problem for me – perhaps paradoxically – is that I love classical music too much to love the way it’s presented here.  As the evidence mounts that the same is true with the character drama, Shigatsu takes an extremely simplistic view of interpreting the classics.  Kousei’s Mom is grey, robotic, a drone – literally a metronome, exhorting Kousei to worry only about the notes on the page.  Fall to your knees and give thanks to free spirit Kaori (“You’re freedom itself!”), who with her divine powers of inspiration liberates the music!  Liberates it from the intent of the one who created it, as often as not.

Make no mistake, the interpretation of a piece of music is called “interpretation” for a reason – the musician must make their own soul a part of the performance, or else they’re irrelevant (you could refer to a subtly brilliant conversation between Picard and Data on this topic).  Yet it’s not the black-and-white cartoon reality being presented here – a true musician seeks to interpret the music in a way that’s consistent with the intent of the composer.  I can’t help but be reminded of one of the most famous recordings in classical history, Glenn Gould’s 1955 interpretation of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”.  It was a sensation at the time, sparking a love-hate (mostly hate) reaction among critics.  And not just critics, but Gould himself, who came to hate that recording so much that he re-recorded the Goldberg 26 years later.  This was what he said about the original recording:

“It was too fast for comfort…  The 25th variation sounded like a Chopin nocturne. I can no longer recognize the person who did that.  To me today that piece has intensity without any sense of false glamour.  Not a pianistic or instrumental intensity, but a spiritual intensity.”

Once again, a distinction must be made here.  The problem is not that a 14 year-old girl has a narrow and narcissistic view of the interpretation of music.  The problem is that there’s no sign that the writer’s feelings are any different than the 14 year-old girl’s – that his own view is any less childish and simplistic.  In that sense the issue here is exactly the same as that with Kaori and Tsubaki’s spiritual assault on Kousei.

As if all that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that it seems Arakawa-sensei is going to play the “fatal illness” card with Kaori – as if she weren’t being deified enough already.  It’s too early to ask the jury for their verdict on that development, but it’s a dramatic voyage filled with terrible danger – the place on the narrative map that says “Here there be dragons”.  Maybe Arakawa is a good enough writer to pull that off without being swallowed whole, but many other writers have thought that they were, and very few were proved right.

And in spite of all that, I can’t quite let it go.  The raw, visceral emotion in the air when Kousei was suffering on-stage – so reminiscent of the most painful moments of Hourou Musuko – or the crestfallen look on Tsubaki’s face when she sees that Kousei shares a connection with Kaori that she’ll never share…  You just don’t find that kind of intensity very often in anime, or any fiction.  It’s not easy to walk away from a series that has the power to make you feel the moment so deeply and powerfully, even if this one seems to have none of the subtlety and depth of Hourou Musuko.  For all the flaws I see in Arakawa’s writing the fact that he can create such moments is a testament to his skill, and that’s not something to be lightly dismissed.

As I said earlier my feelings may be different tomorrow, or the day after, or next week.  For now I think I’m in limbo (although in truth it’s more like splitting myself between Heaven and Hell). I’m condemned to suffer the highs and lows of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso for the moment at least, because the idea of not knowing what it’s going to make me feel next is more unacceptable than the knowledge that whatever it is, it’s going to put me through the wringer.

Shigatsu - 04 -11 Shigatsu - 04 -12 Shigatsu - 04 -13
Shigatsu - 04 -14 Shigatsu - 04 -15 Shigatsu - 04 -16
Shigatsu - 04 -18 Shigatsu - 04 -19 Shigatsu - 04 -20
Shigatsu - 04 -22 Shigatsu - 04 -23 Shigatsu - 04 -24
Shigatsu - 04 -25 Shigatsu - 04 -26 Shigatsu - 04 -27
Shigatsu - 04 -28 Shigatsu - 04 -29 Shigatsu - 04 -30
Shigatsu - 04 -31 Shigatsu - 04 -32 Shigatsu - 04 -33
Shigatsu - 04 -35 Shigatsu - 04 -36 Shigatsu - 04 -37


  1. R

    I think the biggest problem I have is that I AM a pianist. Maybe not a professional one, but I've been playing piano for almost 15 years of my life now (holy crap I feel old). Yes, some of the best interpretations of the classics come from people who are pretty liberal on the "interpret" side, but I don't agree with the idea that disregarding the composer's original intents, or essentially insulting all of the people who poured hours into perfecting technique, rhythm, the building blocks of playing by disregarding them as unnecessary or these grey machines that suck the freedom out of music like are you kidding me.

    You can't interpret a piece if you don't have the technique to play it. Kaori is talented enough to do that, yes, but just this whole thing irks me to no end. You perfect your form, your rhythm, you play that piece like a machine over and over until you can play it in your sleep on muscle memory and then you can talk to me about interpretation. I'm not saying music should be technical to a fault and the best way to play a piece is exactly as it's written, but anyone who physically can't play it exactly as it was written yet because they haven't practiced enough is not in any position to be changing anything.


  2. All I can say is that I agree 100%. It's fine for Kaori to feel that way, but there's so far no evidence Arakawa feels any differently.

  3. S

    Well. I'm glad music doesn't belong to you classical pianists. I don't agree that this is in any way an insult to anyone. The grey machine mother is not representing the schooling of all musicians, only Kousei's struggle alone. He seems to need a little bit of freedom. It's not like Kaori hasn't practised hours and hours to perfect her technique, is it?

    Making an interpretation is composing in a sense, even if many of you try to be as "true" as possible, the language of music (notes) only defines a musical piece something like 60-80% fidelity of the original score. i.e. no two interpretations will sound exactly the same. Therefore there's no problem with interpretting(composing) a piece that you have the technique to play, even if you don't have the technique to play the original score.

  4. Z

    Pretty sure some of this was covered in that Sakamichi no Apollon series (always liked it when they focused on the musical side rather than the drama in that show).

  5. i

    For my part, I'm worried that Arakawa has bitten off too much in the way of dramatic elements (Kaori's illness, Kousei's struggles, the obviously inevitable relationship drama, the classical vs. freedom stuff in the music). I've seen shows that tackle a lot of big issues at the same time, but the fumbling the show's done thus far with most of those issues doesn't exactly inspire confidence that it's going to being able to handle even MORE stuff.

  6. In the larger sense I think you have a good point, but I'd be thrilled to think there was going to be "drama" over the musical interpretation issue. As of now, I see no evidence Arakawa sees two sides to this at all.

    As a general note: no, I'm not inviting manga readers to spoil me by confirming my suspicions about the series, or refuting them. I'll find out when the anime gets there.

  7. i

    That's true. I see the musical interpretation drama as probably getting framed as an idealized Kaori versus some stingy, stuffy, maybe nasty judges and essentially just running the classical interpretation into the ground by painting the characters who support it as repressed or stiff or whatever.

  8. R

    You know what…I've dropped this show. I was hopeful to enjoy good character drama and classical music, but…you said it all already, Enzo, so I have made the decision for myself. Feeling a bit sad, but it is what it is.

  9. I feel you, Ronbb. I was close, very close – the B-part definitely could have done things to close the door for me. But I think it left it open just a crack, for now at least. But it's going to be a rough ride however long it lasts.

  10. R

    Okay, I will keep reading your reviews — for as long as you can do so — and come back when you say it's good again.

  11. K

    I also dropped it but I also accidentally spoiled myself for future things and to me it's not worth continuing it. Of course I can't say more without spoiling so you may love where the story will go I just don't find it very compelling.

  12. N

    Haha, I went to sleep wondering what you'd think about this ep. Anyhow, I think it would be a shame to drop the show, for me the faults are something I can overlook as long as those transcendent moments keep being produced. I guess since you are a critic and blogger, the writing sensibilities and self awareness issues are a central factor, objectively. Perhaps it's better to see this anime as a form of broader metaphorical strokes. The premise more about inspiration rather than an inaccurate depiction of trauma and poor treatment methods. The biggest turning point on whether to keep with the series is whether or not the initial magic gives way to a poor drama with naive writing. So you're fears may come true…but I think we at least a few episodes before that becomes a bail point. I have some reservations how many times they can pull the performance card… The anime will need to improve in the writing aspect so it isn't just a one trick pony

  13. r

    @Ngai-Han Liu
    What you said. I'm as offended as everyone else at the way Kousei's friends abuse him and their extreme insensitivity towards his trauma issues. I don't agree with it, but somehow I can still enjoy this show. I think it's because I see it more as a story about Kousei and his friends and a part of his life's journey than as an endorsement of abuse and insensitivity.

    The thing is, humans aren't perfect and do a lot of bad/mean things, so I won't discredit the show just because people are doing bad things. If the narrative becomes too incoherent, or it becomes exceedingly clear that the narrative is positively endorsing Kaori's behavior, then I will discredit the show. I really hope it doesn't. I'm hoping against all hope that the writing actually becomes stronger later on, because I too am noticing some elements that may become very problematic

  14. R

    I knew it!. I like how the image Kousei has of his mother changed from the robotic, sickly woman to the one brightly colored. But I have to agree with your here. That whole switch in view is just too abrupt and unrealistic. And Kaori collapsing after that performance just feels like a cheap trick to make the audience feel sympathetic to her.

  15. v

    I really don't understand the somewhat liberal depiction of blood everytime Kousei is subjected to "comedic" violence. If they want to do slapstick, why can't they just stick a plaster on him or something? Is it extra funny when someone is bleeding?

  16. r

    Lol, almost choked on my food when I read this. Yeah, that really bothers me too. I think they actually are trying to be "extra funny" with this

  17. R

    This really gnaws me too. It just feels sick and kills the mood this series is trying to establish. Makes the fact that the girls are essentially harassing and abusing Kousei even more grating.

  18. 7

    I knew, there was something up in the Air, with this Girl. And yes, looks like they needed to fail to restart again to learn from the Start the Music to hear the Music in their Hearts. She want the Music to reach the spectators hearts, so a bit of herself remain in the World. And the Boy, need someone that help him to crawl outside his hole. But as your said, with force you get only the opposite effect. Only time and love can build stairs to heaven


  19. J

    Yeah this series adaptation is definitely running into some problems. First though I have to clarify, why is it so important to you that this work be considered among the "elite" as you put it anyway. I mean I continue to feel there's a fundamental difficulty to understand the kind of work we're dealing with here, or perhaps your reactions to shows are just a lot more raw and visceral than my own and that's the only difference in perspective here, but it always looks like you're a pendulum swinging back and forth from one extreme to the other, sometimes within the same episodes reaction piece and like you just need someone or something to come in and halt and stabilize the momentum so that you can find the perspective you're looking for more readily. As it is though, swinging from one extreme to the other I don't see how that's ever going to happen lol.

    In any case, just because a show deals with the subject of music or any other art doesn't automatically qualify it for being particularly more mature, meaningful and realistic than it's peers. I don't know if that's where the whole expectation of "elite" comes from, but I feel that hope continues to be misplaced or rather you're setting the bar for success a little too high here. I mean people really need to understand that we're dealing with a show aimed at the Shonen demographic here and while you can totally have a work like Hunter x Hunter or even Ace of Diamond that goes beyond the typical constraints of that demographic to become something more meaningful that doesn't necessarily mean that's going to be the case for all works. Yes April is Your Lie makes some attempts to do this, but the whole slapstick nature of the comedy (which by the way is really getting played up in this adaptation I should mention) along with how the characters and situations pretty much conform to certain archetypes and portrayals ought to clue more people in on the kind of work they're actually dealing with beneath the glitzy color soft color palette and attempts to beautify every other scene.

  20. J

    There's not much I feel that you haven't said already. As if watching the music notes disappear from Kousei's eyes and him drowning in his trauma that absorbs his own music away from his ears wasn't already troubling enough, I then had to sit there while the audience blame him for being such a terrible accompanist/bringing her down/blahblahblah when from the beginning he didn't even want to accompany her and she forced him to do it. What did he do to deserve this cruelty?

    I do want to give a nod to the amazing OST though. The part right before they went on stage was especially great.

  21. e

    This show sure is some kind of journey. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with how childish they act, as it would be more appalling to see them do non-childish things (well, actually that seems to be Kousei's role). Not that I condone their actions (heck, I wouldn't want to be in Kousei's position), but there aren't any active adults shown so far, so maybe the intent really is to focus on other things.

    If this show was looking to illicit some discussion on how music should be treated, it looks like it is succeeding. I am currently having formal piano lessons (almost a year now!)–before I was only playing around on my own–and I am starting to see how the classical training actually shapes pianists. It's not too far from what is shown in the show- on how mechanical it is, as well as the care you should put care in pressing the keys. Their performance was mostly great (at least what we were allowed to hear of it), and I even got teary-eyed towards the end.

    It would be too bad, though, with the possible "fatal illness" angle. Seems like the show, in general, really isn't setting itself apart too much from the rest, which is ironic compared to its treatment of classical music.

  22. S

    I've never read/watched this series, and I was reading this post just to understand what all the controversy surrounding it was about. When I got to this sentence:

    "it seems Arakawa-sensei is going to play the "fatal illness" card with Kaori"

    my heart skipped a beat. Obviously, after a quick Wiki search:

    "Your Lie in April (四月は君の嘘 Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso?) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Naoshi Arakawa."

    and sigh of relief. If Hiromu Arakawa had written something like this I would have been worried for her health and sanity.

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