There is a lot of media out there that focuses on music and the journey a person takes with it. Sometimes, it’s based on true events, sometimes it’s fictional. Stories following musicians as they follow their dreams is full of classics like Rocketman, A Hard Day’s Night, and Raise Your Voice. While there are great ones out there, it’s the music-related stories that are layered with a deeper underlying meaning that tend to grip me more emotionally. The Japanese anime Your Lie in April, known in Japan as Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (四月は君の嘘) is a piece of media that does that for me. Your Lie in April scratched my musical itch while also taking me on an emotional journey with the main characters. Let’s dive more into the show and how it accomplished this so well.
For those unfamiliar with Your Lie in April, let me give a brief summary of the anime. Fourteen-year-old piano prodigy, Kousei Arima, had given up the piano after the death of his mother. In his grief, Kousei lost the motivation to play and the ability to hear the notes he played. Two years later, one day in April, Kousei meets the violinist Kaori Miyazono whose free-spirited playing dazzles him. As the pair become closer, Kouri pushes Kousei to get back into playing, and in doing so, he begins to face and overcome the trauma that caused him to quit piano in the first place.
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When it’s laid out like this, the story seems simple enough, right? Yet there are so many more layers to the story. At its core, it shows how music can serve as a catalyst for healing.
For anyone who has an interest in watching the anime, I will label certain sentences with major spoilers so you can avoid them.
As the viewer goes deeper into the show, there’s more to Kousei’s trauma beyond just the death of his mother. To become this child piano prodigy at such a young age, he was under a very strict teaching regimen that became abuse and manipulation over time. With a mother who was also a musician, there were high expectations for Kousei to play perfectly and exactly how the composition is written. Any deviation from the original work would result in reprimand. As Kousei improves and begins to effortlessly win competitions, his mother becomes very sick. At one point, his mother manipulatively tells him she will get better if he continues to play well and win competitions. She sadly died before Kousei's qualification to what supposedly was his first competition in Europe *Spoiler* Before her death, when pushed too far in public by his mother’s abuse after a competition drives him to say, “I wish you were dead.” And that’s the last thing he says to his mother before she dies. *Spoiler end*
When his mother dies despite her promises, Kousei is riddled with guilt over it. This mix of guilt and grief causes him to panic every time he plays the piano. It’s like playing underwater to him. His fingers are moving, but he can’t hear the notes, and he always can see his sick mother hovering nearby, sometimes verbally taunting him. Kousei battles with the grief of missing his mother but also the traumatic memories his mother put him through. *Spoiler* Kousei later realizes he was only seeing the dark side of his mother by his own accord. He was personifying his guilt in the form of his mother. This is when he realizes he had been using his mother as a scapegoat for not dealing with his trauma and guilt. *Spoiler end* Playing the piano became painful. The one thing he could do well was now a stranger to him. It was like his life had turned into monochrome without much meaning. It’s this way until he meets Kouri who brings color back into his world.
Kousei’s personification of his mother. Source