Reviewby Theron Martin,
Your Lie in April
Blu-Ray - Set 2
Kousei and Kaori feverishly prepare for the duet that will be their next (non-competition) performance, but Kaori's health problems finally catch up to her at the worst time, leaving Kousei hanging with no warning. Between that and other performances, Kousei finally finds a measure of peace with the memories of his mother. While Kaori recuperates, Tsubaki ponders how she really feels about Kousei, Kousei gets anxious about visiting Kaori in the hospital for a variety of reasons, and Hiroko pushes Kousei to mentor her new student, a precocious first-year named Nagi, who was originally out to sabotage Kousei since she's Takeshi's younger sister. As various characters contemplate their futures (or lack thereof), emotions swirl tempestuously around friends, love interests, and rivals alike, both on the musical stage and off. Will Kousei discover the lie in April before it's too late?
Let's cut to the chase: the second half of Your Lie in April is, at least in part, a tragedy, somewhat in the spirit (though definitely not the style) of major “tragic girl” tales like Air and Kanon. Enough hints were dropped about this direction in the first half of the series that I don't think that even qualifies as a major spoiler at this point; heck, the second half's new closer openly suggests it. Instead of the big question being about whether or not Kaori is going to survive the series, it is about whether or not her situation is developed and used effectively enough to warrant the series' reputation as a major tear-jerker.
On that point I am ambivalent. Kaori's situation is a sad one, to be sure, and it does offer some powerful scenes; one sequence involving a seizure is riveting, and other moments involving Kaori breaking character and finally admitting her fears and her last message to Kousei (which reveals the source of the series' title) are almost as compelling. There are some other neat scenes, too, like Watari's telling final appearance or the way that even Kousei's staunchest rivals show concern for him (even if they do not understand what is really going on) when he is almost literally sick with worry over the possibility of losing someone else important to him in a manner very similar to how he lost his mother.
However, the tragic elements do not carry quite the emotional impact that they could, which surprised me given that the whole series – and especially the second half – is grounded in emotions. This is a story as much about the complicated feelings of its characters as it is about music (or perhaps more precisely, how those complicated emotions can be interwoven with music); Tsubaki in particular gets a lot of introspection in these episodes, but so do a couple of new characters who arrive on the scene who have their own connections to Kousei. We even get a bit more about Takeshi, Emi, and Hiroko, the latter of whose insights lead to further revelations about Kousei's mother. If that seems like a lot of introspection, it is – too much, in fact. In trying to cover so many bases and plumb so many depths to the characterizations, the story at times loses focus and pushes Kaori off to the side, and that hurts the emotional build-up. The comedy asides provide further disruptions and some of Kousei's ruminations are needlessly repetitious. Even at only 22 episodes the series is stretching; it always has been, in retrospect, but it is much more apparent in the second half.
The other major problem – and this is more of a personal beef than an actual qualitative issue – is the way Kaori's illness is handled. What she actually suffers from is left very vague; it is something with nerve and/or muscle-related consequences, but that's all we are ever shown for sure. (And frustratingly, who beyond Kousei knows about how serious it is, and how soon they know, is also left vague.) This is, of course, hardly a problem unique to this series, as numerous other anime have pulled the same trick. An argument could be made that the character being debilitated is far more important than what the character is debilitated by, but it all smacks of symptoms orchestrated for storytelling convenience without a specific diagnosis put to it. As annoying as this is, there is a certain logic to it: if the writers never assign a specific disease/defect then they don't have to worry about conforming in a realistic fashion to its effects. Cynically speaking, is it not more important in these stories to have the character looking pretty until the end?
At least the second half does get Kousei's character development right and effectively show how the Kousei/Kaori connection influenced both of their lives for the better, even given how it ends. Seeing how Kousei has unknowingly influenced far more lives than he realizes is also a nice touch. The penchant for quoting from the American comic strip Peanuts also continues. Most importantly, the main strength of the series – how its renditions of classical music performances are used to convey the emotions of its characters – is still fully intact. The piano and orchestrated numbers used for the regular supporting musical themes are also just as strong and impactful as ever; in fact, few series have a better or more moving signature theme than this one does. Comparatively speaking, the new opener and closer are unremarkable.
The visual quality also largely remains unchanged from the first half, with the animation effort still emphasizing fully-detailing a few key performances at the expense of shortcuts frequently taken elsewhere. (The most amusing of these shortcuts is the expression plastered on the face of Hiroko's daughter during some of the performances.) The series puts great effort into trying to visualize the music and the mood of its characters during the performances, with mixed but generally positive results, and the camera used plenty of creative angles in an effort to keep the performances visually interesting. Quality control outside of the performances does sometimes slip, however. Also look for some seemingly-innocuous but telling visual details, such as how the inside of Kaori's home has hand rails in its hallways. (That's the first major clue that Kaori's condition is not a recent development, as no home would have those unless someone with a long-term infirmity or disability lived there.)
The English dub continues to remain strong, with Max Mittelman deserving more kudos for handling Kousei's numerous emotional scenes remarkably well and Erica Lindbeck capably acquitting herself as Kaori. Performances in new roles are also solid but less memorable. The English script comes off smooth but continues to take extensive liberties in doing so; at times this goes beyond just being interpretive, as characters are occasionally saying entirely different things in Japanese and English. I do not feel that this changes the story or impact of individual scenes in any significant way, though.
Extras for this Aniplex of America release are similar to those for the first set: clean opener and closer, an English audio commentary for the last episode (featuring ADR director/writer/minor role actor Patrick Seitz and the voice actors for all four of the main roles, with much discussion about how much of an emotional roller-coaster the series was), a set of art cards, and the second half of the OST, in this case consisting of 10 tracks totaling 23 minutes. All of it again comes in a deluxe artbox. The one new addition is the earlier-promised blooper reel, which covers the entire series. It's worth listening to, as amongst the actual errors are some pretty funny ad libs. (Some of them do involve some foul language, but that usually makes them even funnier since that's so out-of-character for the series.) And yes, it's still close to double the price of comparable release from other companies, both in terms of series quality and release content.
Despite my earlier criticisms, I can still easily see how this second half would be an emotional experience for many viewers. After all, it definitely tries hard to push emotional buttons and stoutly builds its tragic circumstances. Ultimately, though, that aspect of the series never clicked for me in the final few episodes, and in the absence of that the content sometimes becomes tedious.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : A
+ Can have a strong emotional appeal, wonderful musical score, some nice little touches.
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