Good music animes are few and far between these days, with most of them being about either idols or tea. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a breed apart from these, conveying emotion through music in such a way that I would go as far as to say it has raised the bar for it’s genre.
Note: This review is spoiler free.
The plot of Shigatsu follows the middle school life of Kousei Arima, a piano prodigy who has lost the ability to hear notes. Having not played piano for several years, he one day meets a female violinist who becomes the light of his life, and drags him back into the world of music. However, it turns out this violinist is interested is his best friend, leaving Kousei in the role of “Friend A”.
The concept of conflicting love interests and a troubled past is far for original as a premise. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad one – just that it’s one that’s hard to stand out with. That said, Shigatsu does a terrific job of putting an original spin on a familiar situation. We get a real sense of how Kousei’s personality has been shaped by both the larger and smaller events in his past, as well as how it is being shaped in the present. This anime excels at making seemingly unimportant moments seem beautiful as we hear the inner dialogue of the characters as they take in their surroundings. This makes episodes that, story wise, may seem unimportant, feel just as relevant as the ones containing major plot points.It also acts as a reminder that often when we look into the past, it is the little things that we cherish the most.
As the story progresses, it is always getting better and moving forward as new trials appear for each character to face – not all of which they succeed in, but inevitably learn from. An overall sound premise (pun intended); slow yet detailed pacing and an ending that not only wrapped things up perfect but was brilliantly delivered has me giving Story 9.3/10.
Our main characters consist of the three childhood friends Kousei Arima (lead male protagonist), his next door neighbour Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari. Introduced to this group is the charismatic violinist Kaori Miyazono who has a crush on Ryouta.
Most of our time in Shigatsu is spent following Kousei and hearing his inner thoughts as he struggles to overcome his past and make the most of the present. His character is fairly passive and often easily swayed as Kaori takes control of the situation with her extroverted and charismatic persona. The dynamics between these two are constantly being explored as Kousei realises he can’t stop himself falling for her. The other heavily explored dynamic in Shigatsu is that between Kousei and Tsubaki. Due to growing up together, their relationship is almost sibling-like. However, Tsubaki slowly starts to develop feelings for him – complicating the love polygon even further.
The last main character is Ryouta, and here lies the shows biggest (and only major) flaw. Despite being listed as a main character, he receives very little development during the show and ends up being more of a plot device (with occasional comedic relief) than anything else.
Aside from our mains, the rest of the side characters were diverse and appropriately developed. Each of his rivals, his mentor and his eventual student all received an episode or two on them, which I was quite pleased about (as it is still more than Ryouta got).
In a show like this, with no greater good or universal perspective, we are limited to the world the characters see, and therefore the story is inherently driven by them. Although the main character was developed quite well and there were a range of likeable and interesting side characters, there were still some areas in which it was lacking, leaving Characters with 7.8/10.
A lot of attention has been payed to the art in Shigatsu. Several outdoor scenes are particularly well thought through in helping the portrayal of all four seasons via not only backgrounds but character movements as well. Many of the backgrounds are simply sutnning too, and add a real layer of depth to the anime.
For the most part character animation is solid, and despite some slightly jarring 3D animation for the finger movement during performances, the playing of characters is actually quite good (especially compared to other animes involving instruments in which finger movement is noticeably rigid).
The character designs faithfully adapt the authors take while being tweaked slightly for consistency. My only real problem – and this may just be personal – is the difference in character designs between the past (2 year prior) and the present, with the time difference visually feeling a lot greater.
For show about music, a good soundtrack is to be expected; but I certainly didn’t see this coming. All the show’s opening and ending themes are suit it perfectly and I didn’t skip them once. They reflect both the liveliness and beauty of the anime, as well as the sombreness – setting the tone perfectly before and after each episode. The first opening (Hikaru Nara by Goose House) has actually become one of my favourites, and a song I listen to regularly these days.
The full version can be found here – check it out:
During the course of the story itself, several performances are done by Kousei, Kaori, and other side characters. All of which are arrangements of classical pieces that are performed masterfully – having to reflect the emotional state of the characters, as well as taking into account mistakes they might make. This is particularly apparent with Kousei, as his distress at not hearing the notes causes rough and panicked playing. Composing pieces to reflect the emotion of a scene is one thing, but to actually mimic the playing of someone in that emotional state is completely different and an amazing achievement with scores of this calibre.
Aside from the OST itself, I’d like to give a special mention to the voice acting of Hanae Natsuki. A newcomer who has recently excelled in many prominent parts, his portrayal of Kousei was one of the best voice acting performances I’ve ever heard and one that added a whole layer of depth to the show. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any anime he is a part of.
When adapting a manga, a studio is heavily reliant on the source material for the story, characters and art. Sound, however, is not provided, yet essential to a series like this – something that A-1 Pictures definitely respected. Sound receives a perfect 10/10.
From start to finish, I enjoyed just about every aspect of this anime, with problems being few and far between. Every episode seemed to end too soon, leading into an incredibly painful yet rewarding wait for another week. The ending in particular was worth the wait, as although the plot is simple enough, the delivery was (as I’ve previously said) absolutely amazing; leaving that classic void that appears after a good anime. Enjoyment gets 9.5/10.
Shigatsu was really a breath of fresh air in both the romance/drama and music genres. With a simple yet heartfelt story, a likeable cast, stunning art and an unparalleled OST; this anime can make you both laugh and cry at it’s best moments. My overall rating for this anime is 9.14/10 and a definite recommendation to watch.