Genres: Drama, Music, Romance, School;
Studio: A-1 Pictures;
Personal Rating: 5/10;
“You’re like a cat. If I get close, you’ll ignore me and go far away. If I get hurt, you’ll play around to share the pain.”
– Arima Kousei, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is an anime everyone was looking forward to during the Fall season. The manga it was adapted from (with the same name) was quite popular, though unfinished at the time, and the studio adapting it was A-1 Pictures. Because of this, there was a lot of expectations and hype towards it. The first episodes had good reception too, so the main cliché question is: did the anime live up to its expectations or not? Let’s find out!
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (from now on referred to as “Shigatsu”) is about Arima Kousei, a 14-year old boy who was known as a piano genius back when he was younger. After an incident that involved his mother, he was left traumatized and unable to play the piano, as he could not “hear the notes” anymore. Having left his piano memories behind him, Kousei eventually meets a girl who plays the violin – Miyazono Kaori, who also carries a burden – and the memories from the incident two years ago will resurface. The story will follow these two as they come face-to-face with their problems and help each other get through the challenge that is known as “life”.
The premise is certainly very interesting, and the show does an excellent job hooking the audience in the first episodes by properly introducing its characters and setting up the plot. The first problem that’s worth discussing is the amount of subplots that Shigatsu has. Sure enough, most of them are used for exploring Kousei’s character, since at heart, Shigatsu is a character study show, but they feel so detached to the main story that they end up being just obnoxious at times. This isn’t to say they don’t have purpose or meaning, they do, but when you are shown something from the main story and want to know more, and then they start a random subplot that wasn’t even properly set up, it just feels like a bother. These subplots do help develop the side cast a bit though.
What the show does amazingly, and this has to be said, is the performances: not only is the animation REALLY good during these (it’s definitely A-1 at its best), as they have a meaning and purpose, especially the earlier ones. They are used to convey the feelings of the characters, and it’s done in the right way too. That being said, they are few and far between later on in the show, which is really disappointing. To show how Kousei is feeling, these performance scenes use analogies, like him being underwater where he can’t hear the notes, which increases the significance of said scenes. The performances were definitely the strongest part of the series overall, even if sometimes they focused too much on how the audience is feeling rather than the character who is playing.
Shigatsu also makes full use of monologues, and while that’s definitely a very cool idea (as it lets us see what Kousei is thinking), they went a bit overboard with this. These monologues usually end up saying things that should be said in dialogue, and most of the time they repeat the same information over and over again. This is sometimes done to show how the character in question is trying to convince him/herself of what he’s thinking about, but even then it becomes a waste of time and could be shown in other ways. The characters constantly struggle to overcome their issues, but it seems like they do it too “easily” at times. And even after they do overcome them, the show still hammers in the fact that they existed in every other episode, which isn’t really needed unless your memory is really bad.
The worst part of the series is definitely the comedy, at least from the midpoint of the show on. It was fine when they were setting up the characters, and showing how they had fun together, in fact that comedy is what made me like the show so much in the beginning, but when they got to the drama scenes later on, Shigatsu still used comedy in-between these, making it really hard to take the show seriously. It was to the point where a character was having an inner struggle through a monologue and then we’d get a chibi-gag scene to lighten up the mood. This would be fine if it didn’t happen all the time, but unfortunately it does. The last two episodes fortunately aren’t very guilty of this, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that it ruined a lot of good scenes.
The animation felt really inconsistent throughout: during the performances it was at its peak, but every scene outside of these felt really lacking, and they used a lot of stills and even went as far as to hide character expressions at times. While it’s understandable why they did it, the difference is just WAY too noticeable. The backgrounds, however, are beautifully drawn, as are most of the character designs. HOWEVER! The designs for the children in the show could not have been worse; they are too different from the regular ones to the point where they look like chibis. The music is a really hit-or-miss aspect of the show, the only things that are worth mentioning here are the performances and the OP themes. During the performances, the characters play a lot of classic music pieces, which are very recognizable for the most part, and I feel like the OP themes are perfect for the kind of show it is, the first one being “happier”, while the second one has a more solemn touch to it, which is appropriate for the events that take place during that part.
The character cast is the main focus of the show, since it IS a character study after all. Arima Kousei’s character is explored through trials and tribulations, and by having Kaori supporting him. His memories of the past created the “isolated” person he is in the present, as well as his confused feelings towards his late mother. He definitely has the main focus, which is a good thing, however this happens even when other characters are in dire need of screen time. This makes it seem like some of these characters are but tools to show more of Arima, which is very unfortunate in hindsight. Kaori herself could have used a lot more screen time and exploration of her character. Shigatsu uses a “show, don’t tell” method that doesn’t really work too well for her character at all, and it feels like she could have been much better than she ended up being. What the show really tries to show is how Kaori and Kousei help each other get through their trials, their past and present, and what ultimately is born from this. The way Kousei looks at Kaori is also another point that the show makes clear, since at first he regarded her as a source of inspiration and a friend, while later he starts developing feelings towards her, causing a conflict. While these trials are nicely explored for the most part, they feel lacking because of the overall pacing: sometimes they drag out too much and other times it gets resolved way too quickly, never giving a true sense of satisfaction in the end.
Tsubaki is a character that seemed really minor until her first arc rolled around, and then she started being a main character. While she did add good substance to the show, her character felt intrusive in most scenes, and the way her character was used to force the romance theme backlashed several times. While she didn’t have a purpose for the main story, other than sometimes inspiring Kousei, she gets a lot of development through her feelings for him, which would have been a great way to deal with her character, if it had been done properly. Instead, due to the constant comedy scenes and the way she reacts at some events, it does come off as immature, and even pretentious in the way her character is dealt with. She have a decent conclusion to her character, so it’s not all bad for her. Watari has it the worse, since his character proves to be almost useless throughout the whole show. The most he did was basically getting Kousei and Kaori to meet each other and not much else. He interfered indirectly with the plot a lot of times, as Kousei thought Kaori loved Watari, and that’s what ignited his inner conflict about his feelings for her, but we never get to know his character at all, and even though he has a lot of screen time, he’s never done properly and serves as a mere filler character with basically no reason to be. The rest of the side cast is mostly used for inspiration for Kousei and to give him more “challenges”, so there’s no need to go in-depth about anyone else.
Overall, Shigatsu is an anime that had everything to succeed, and unfortunately it turned out to be just “decent”. It presented some very neat ideas, it developed most of its characters and presented its themes properly, but unfortunately it failed when it came to execution and putting those ideas together. It can be very cringe-worthy to watch at times, very pleasing at others, and the ending wrapped up everything nicely, leaving just a few minor loose ends behind. It’s an anime I’d recommend to those seeking a character-driven show and don’t mind the comedy in-between the drama scenes, as it’s much more likely they will enjoy it, but it’s definitely not an anime for everyone, especially if you have something against drama. I’m giving this show a 5/10.