A review of the Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso anime series
I felt like a monster after the final episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April). The ending was always going to go one of two ways and I was braced for either one: agonising tears or delirious happiness. I certainly didn’t expect to feel nothing. All these other people gushing tears, drowning in hyperbole, and there I was, indifferent. I had cheered Kousei Arima on through the bright lights of stage performances and honey-lit afternoon walks home but in the denouement I realised that all the individual things that irked me about the series had gathered like so much detritus on a beach and was now spoiled.
he is lionised, an indestructible prodigy and a mountain that must be conquered
I knew what I was getting in to of course. Awash with pastel shades and misty eyed teenagers this was a romance series first and foremost with the “musician’s heart” narrative the tempo to the love story melody. Kousei starts out unable to play the piano, supposedly a prodigy from a young age, he is invited on a date by his best friend and serial flirt Ryouta where he meets the series’ poster child, Kaori Miyazono.
The elephant in the room whenever I’m talking about a series like Monogatari, ef, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai or, in this case, Mekakucity Actors, is the director Akiyuki Shinbo. I have tried and usually failed to address that elephant when reviewing his shows yet each one he does without sharing directing duties is indelibly stamped with his unique vision. My issue being that despite his obvious talent and corruscating view of the world, it takes an enormously strong story to match that style. Mekakucity Actors does not have that.
an obnoxious mash-up of a vocaloid and the Microsoft Word paperclip
Madoka did which is why it’s difficult not to maintain the niggling suspicion that it was so successful despite the director rather than because of him. He is consistently strong when it comes to aesthetics, with allegories and metaphors bubbling contentedly beneath the surface but with Mekaku it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. There’s the fascination with time and cogs with crooked clock towers and giant hourglasses littering the landscape and drenched in neon like a futuristic Salvador Dali. Sunsets and stained glass windows frame moody looking teenagers holding books and cocking their heads with signature aloofness.
Like many recent two-season anime series, Nagi no Asukara (lit. From The Calm Tomorrow, alt. A Lull in the Sea) is bifurcated neatly at the thirteen episode mark. You could, in theory, leave the series at that point and be content with a competent if unresolved story story of early teenage angst. It would be a huge disservice to how spectacular the series is a whole though, and though you can spend the former half playing “count how many times girls cry” each episode, the latter half exceeds an already beautiful production with a thematically rich and emotionally charged tale of adolescent love in all its forms.
Your eyes are so blue, and your tears look like waves
It’s an unlikely recommendation for a series whose director’s previous productions have included the Inuyasha movies and the woefully unremarkable Gunparade Orchestra. Perhaps not so unlikely though for the writer who is right at home after penning The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and the similarly P.A. Works produced Hanasaku Iroha. It’s also odd to hear myself recommending it when the pseudo-contemporary setting and laser focus on romance and juvenile relationships isn’t my usual fare. But rare is a series that is afforded such startling production values that match a capable story and confident delivery.
Please note: the remainder of this review contains spoilers from throughout the anime series.
The Dangan Ronpa anime accrues a lot of pop-culture debt during its thirteen episode run. The most obvious being to Phoenix Wright (Gyakuten Saiban) with its near carbon copy of the hyperactive trials, only the iconic “Objection!” being replaced with a bizarre ammunition mechanic. More surreptitiously is its desire to be even a fraction as stylish as Persona 4 with a funky-smooth Engrish opening and questionably bold style. Tertiary influences seem to include the torturous logic diatribes from Death Note as well as the “children versus children” storyline from Battle Royale (and by extension the recent BTOOOM among others).
Combine these with a day-glo colour palette, retro video-game motifs and a cast of charicatures rather than characters and the final presentation is a muddled hodge-podge that, somewhat ironically, barely has an identity of its own.
Sometimes a specific element of a series becomes notorious, the murderous end to School Days for instance, and Yosuga no Sora (Sky of Connection) has its own as an epilogue to the first episode. Female masturbation isn't something certain facets of anime have shied away from but it poses the question of whether or not it's in good taste. Short answer: no. What puts the series into a different category of lewdness than other tasteless series such as Ikkitousen, Queen's Blade and Kanokon is that here the series makes a desperate attempt to tell a meaningful story of emotion and heartbreak the likes of which visual novels are renowned for.
It's all been done before though, and done better. The beige-grey palette will be familiar from Futakoi Alternative and though the characters avoid the most egregious archetypes, their motivations and reactions feel all too commonplace. That black undercurrent though, with plot threads such as the sister's incestuous obsession with her brother, feel far too forced. Their taboo nature magnified when the characters are still schoolchildren of indeterminate ages and maturity. More succinctly: it crosses the line between the self-knowing, head-shaking titillation of Ladies versus Butlers and into deviant fetishism and disquieting sexual territory.