[Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso] Episode 1: Gorgeous Art, Music, and Laputa

“I met the girl under full-bloomed cherry blossoms, and my fate has begun to change.” – Naoshi Arakawa, mangaka

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is about a piano prodigy Arima Kousei who had a mental breakdown after his mother and piano instructor died. Two years later, he hasn’t touched the piano and is content to live a normal life surrounded by his childhood friends, until he meets free-spirited violinist Miyazono Kaori, who helps Kousei return to the music world.

shigatsu

Episode Thoughts / Reactions

Overall. Wow, I have to say that Episode One completely surpassed all my expectations. I stumbled upon Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso while looking for something different than my usual schtick, usually either shounen fantasy / seinen psychological / sports shows. I am definitely thrilled that I humored my whim. This anime is going to be fantastic.

lovely watercolor...

lovely watercolor

Elegant Soundtrack. The last music anime I can remember is La Corda D’Oro, which to be honest, had great fan-service as a reverse harem but not much substance otherwise. Shigatsu will obliterate all that wishful thinking for true music lovers. The opening song is catchy and lovely (the opening animation is excellent), but I absolutely love the fact that the soundtrack music actually interacts with the plot. For example, around minute three of the episode, Kousei is listening and transcribing the opening song for his part-time job, which we later learned is a hot song released by a popular band Goose House in the anime. The OP is indeed released in real life by Goose House, a band that started off covering songs on Youtube. Madhouse has taken full advantage of Shigatsu’s “music anime” status to do creative things with sound. More on this point later.

I am a homunculus.

I am a homunculus.

No Soul. Good god, child prodigies really have no soul… They are all secretly robots wearing human skin. It’s all a big government conspiracy O.o

That's just grape juice guys, it's not real.

That’s just grape juice guys, it’s not real.

Mysterious Healing Ability. For all its realism, the “anime” moment in Shigatsu comes when childhood friend Sawabe Tsubaki hits a baseball right into Kousei’s head, leaving him with blood covering half of his face. But …. he’s perfectly alright? Neither Tsubaki nor Kousei seems worried at all that she nearly cracked his head open, and that this happens on a regular basis (she almost cracks his head open everyday it seems…) However, when Kousei bends to pick up some broken glass shards, Tsubaki freaks out, presumably because hands are important for piano-playing, exhibiting some really messed up priorities.

Emotionally-Driven. This is probably the most important point I will make about the series and is more of an extrapolation/prediction than a review of what happened. About halfway through the episode, we start getting in character self-reflections in a style that leads me to believe that we will be seeing the Chihayafuru kind of character development and bond-building. If we do, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso will instantly be a candidate for best anime of 2014.

Chihayafuru was a superb anime, and the sports element of making competitive karuta seem as intense as running a marathon is a vital yet small part of its success. Unlike the typical shounen sports anime (i.e. Hikaru no Go), Chihayafuru shines because it places an equal importance on friendship / romance / real life struggles as sport-related struggles like rivalries and achieving dreams through victory. Chihayafuru highlights how humans struggle with fear, loss, hope, and jealousy. It depicts how we can love and hate at the same time, how we can wish desperately for someone to succeed and yet deep down hope for their failure.

The Power of Friendship!

the power of friendship!

Such complexity of emotion directly contradicts the single-minded purpose / focus necessary to win in sports, which is partly why shounen sports characters are so two-dimensional (they are great and they have a tragic backstory. the end.) The brilliance of Chihayafuru, and hopefully Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, is that the anime expresses both the complexity and simplicity of emotion. This type of anime reminds us all that life is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Monotone/Colorful is the title of this episode, and anime director Ishiguro Kyohei shows his brilliance by incorporating this theme tastefully throughout the episode. Color and lack of color are used cleverly to highlight moments and deliver drama, as well as draw viewers into Kousei’s inner struggles.

It's a bleak, bleak world.

It’s a bleak, bleak world.

MC as Sidekick. A unique plotline of Shigatsu is the love square in development where main character Kousei starts off as the wingman / sidekick of best friend Watari Ryouta. Kousei’s dramatic first meeting with female lead Miyazono Kaori happens when he was called on by Tsubaki-chan to lend support as Kaori wanted to meet her crush Ryouta. As I am almost 100% sure the canon OTP will be Kousei x Kaori, I am looking forward to how this dynamic will change/affect the foursome’s friendship as the season goes on.

Friend-zoned?

Friend-zoned?

Potsu with Pigeons (Kaori Redux)

Potsu with Pigeons (Kaori Redux)

Laputa Homage. Also, super excited that Shigatsu paid homage to Laputa!! Remember the scene in Laputa when Potsu stands on the ledge of the city and plays his trumpet as pigeons fly over the city? That’s totally reproduced at the end of Episode 1 when Kaori stands on a playground mound and plays Potsu’s trumpet song on her melodica as pigeons fly towards them. She then encourages the children around her to start playing the tune as well and other instruments join in the sound. Again, I just really appreciate the active role of music in conveying the anime’s message.

Anime v. Manga. [NO SPOILERS] Finally, I just want to add a note comparing the manga and the anime. And that is: the manga does not compare at all. The anime far, far surpasses the manga because (1) the colors add to the artistic theme of Shigatsu and (2) you can actually hear the music, which is kinda important in a music anime. Fans of the manga really need to watch the anime to get the true Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso experience.

Continue on to Episode Two Review.
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