Don’t look now, but I’ve got myself another contender for top Fall pick in the romance/comedy/drama genres, with this show easily eclipsing InoBato’s more shallow charms, while eschewing the gut-punchy twists of Waremete. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) is off to a superbly gorgeous, heartfelt start, and it gets there by sticking to the fundamentals of anime as a medium: sights and sounds.
Cutting from a blonde girl chasing a cat around a town in full Spring bloom to the flashback of a piano prodigy absolutely killing it at a recital (playing Beethoven’s appropriately relentless Piano Sonata No. 14 – Presto Agitato) but the piano abruptly cuts to silence and the present day, when he’s transcribing pop music for work, but writing and playing none of his own. This is our bespectacled protagonist, Arima Kousei (Hanae Natsuki).
His work is interrupted by the cute, lively, tomboyish Sawabe Tsubaki (Sakura Ayane) in the form of a baseball through the window of the music room into his face. It’s almost a fated ball, since in addition to being his neighbor and childhood friend (who attended that recital years ago), she also seems to harbor pretty strong feelings towards him, which aren’t really returned in the way she’d like; Kousei considers her a sister.
The episode spends a good amount of time establishing these two as an all but ideal married couple, despite their differing views on the relationship, creating a kind of holding pattern. They may be very different people, but proximity and time have made Tsubaki grow fond of Kousei, though she remarks that he was cooler back when he played the piano.
About that: it’s not that Kousei doesn’t play piano because of some kind of magic spell: his ill mother was obsessed with molding him into a world-class pianist, and she was quite emotionally and physically abusive to him. That took its toll, with him coming to believe becoming great would help her get recover, but then she died before his first big recital. For that he blames and hates the piano, and himself…but still clings to it, because without the piano…he’s “empty”.
The visual medium is exploited to its fullest to express moods and states of mind. Despite his lush, arresting environs, Kousei sees the world in stark monotone, like sheet music or piano keys. But he’s in his fourteenth spring, and his last in middle school, and all around him people are pairing off into lovey-dovey couples, as the season is full of young love. He and Tsubaki are never far from one another, but he doesn’t see her that way.
It’s only when Tsubaki makes him join her for a weekend double date with their handsome, athletic mutual friend Watari Ryouta (Ohsaka Ryouta) and a girl who likes him that things change. The others are seemingly late, but he finds suspicious pair of shoes and tights, and is suddenly led to a playground where a gorgeous barefoot girl is playing Hisaishi’s uplifting “A Morning in the Slag Ravine” from Castle in the Sky on the melodica, accompanying a trio of little kids who want to attract pigeons like Pazu.
The sound of the music, and the sight of the girl playing so beautifully, suddenly switches on all the light and color in Kousei’s world, like he was shot with a diamond, and he experiences exactly what Tsubaki’s friend Miwa described as the moment she found love. It’s such a lovely scene, Kousei breaks out his cameraphone to capture it…just when a stiff breeze lifts the girl’s skirt, which is the moment she realizes he’s there, and she shows her violent side.
Tsubaki and Ryouta arrive and introductions are made: the blonde girl is Miyazono Kaori (Taneda Risa); Tsubaki introduces her to Kousei as “Friend A.” As Tsubaki predicted, Kaori and Ryouta start flirting with each other immediately, like the pair of perfect human specimens they are, while Kousei and Tsubaki look on. Then Kousei learns Kaori is a violinist. When she invites everyone to hear her perform, he declines and turns to leave, but she catches his hand and insists: he’s coming with.
That shows that despite their somewhat rough start, Kaori is receptive to starting anew, making friends, and sharing more of her musical talent with him. Little does she know that in doing so she may be touching old wounds he bears, but also showing him that music need not be a nemesis; it can also heal, inspire, and bring people together. And so it begins.