Despite being a soundless medium, music-centric stories are not uncommon in manga. Now joining the ranks of Nodame Cantible and La Corda d’Oro is Kodansha’s Your Lie in April, and you can read on for my review of Volume 1.
Back cover blurb
Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she bring Kosei back to music, and back to life?
Your Lie in April may have a male main character, but it is definitely a shojo manga. The lead is fourteen-year-old Kosei Arima, a former piano prodigy whose ability to hear his music disappeared when his mother died. If this was a shonen title, he would overcome his loss through the power of male friendship or sheer determination. However, because this is a shojo manga, the catalyst is Kaori Miyazono, a girl who not only reawakens Kosei’s connection to music but stirs his heart as well.
In addition to being a romance, Your Lie in April is a music manga, which is a tricky category to pull off well. While the anime version handled the music scenes brilliantly with a combination of soundtrack and motion capture animation (probably thanks to sponsor Steinway and Sons), the manga version is underwhelming. The narrative fails to deliver a real sense of characters’ performances. We get internal and mob comments on the emotional impact, but little about the featured music’s tone or style. For instance, the scene in which Kaori draws Kosei in with her melodica playing provides no details on what kind of tune she’s playing.
As in many music manga, there’s a large reliance on visuals to convey sound, but the illustrations in Your Lie in April falls short in this respect. Kaori’s preliminary performance in the Towa Music Competition starts off with six pages sans text, but it’s difficult to tell from the pictures alone exactly what kind of performance she’s giving. This is partly due to the mediocre quality of the artwork. It’s not as drastic as the difference between Honey and Clover’s manga and anime, but Arakawa-sensei’s drawings look like rough sketches compared to the TV series.
The music aspect aside, Your Lie in April does have an engaging plot, as long as you don’t mind a lot of emo. Kosei is the very picture of passivity (which can get annoying, actually) so it’s up to Kaori’s exuberant personality to keep things moving. Considering she’s expressed interest in Kosei’s friend Watari, she spends an undue amount of attention on Kosei and his stalled piano career. But when she demands Kosei be her accompanist, you get the sense she’s got an ulterior motive, and it’s that hidden agenda, more so than the music competition that keeps interest levels high.
Other extras include translation notes and blurbs about featured music written by violinist Rieko Ikeda.
Manga with an associated anime often get compared, and in the case of Your Lie in April, I’d recommend watching the anime and not bothering with the manga. The plots are virtually identical, and with one main character who has sounds disappear on him and another main character who plays against music scores, the story simply works better with a soundtrack.
First published at The Fandom Post.