Redemption? Why, when it’s easy to pretend to play network executive and cancel people and remove them from our “programming”; out of sight and out of mind? Seeing redemption in others is one of the most difficult conclusions to reach, because you have to search beyond the surface.
When is redemption appropriate, when is it time to forgive, can everyone be redeemed, what constitutes reformed behavior, why do people deserve 2nd-3rd-4th chances when so many never got one to begin with? I don’t think there are right answers to these questions, it’s always going to be subjective lines in the sand and in the court of public opinion the only rule is the majority wins, if the vitriol doesn’t inherently make sure that everyone loses.
Any discussion of redemptive figures turns into the loudest voices rather than the most insightful having any real impact on the matter. It’s ferocity in toxic behavior discussion that causes everyone to fight vehemently by their beliefs than to be seeking any compromise or understanding (when you stopped getting angry, you’ve lost twice…). Time and time again, someone begins with an extreme/aggressive opinion that incites an offended reaction, and then because of the dog-piling or the people offended/hurt by the initial opinion others that support the opinion come in overly defensive to the mob mentality and defend the honor of the boogeyman portrayed by the initial crass extremity of the original opinion and by the end the only achievement most sides make is a run-on sentence with no real point.
Now to what you clicked on this post for, one of the most poignant portrayals of redemption is someone I don’t know if I necessarily forgive, but it shows that people are often more complex then credited and are more profound than our preconceived notions often find them.
With this series I enjoy highlighting the best a series has to offer, while not completely spoiling the experience so you can come and be sold on the series. This is a little deeper in then I’d like, and I don’t consider it the biggest highlight of the show (The fans will know when I say the high point is: Ballade No 1 in G Minor, Op 23) but how about we take a look at when good, became great. For Your Lie in April, that moment comes with Episode 13: Love’s Sorrow.
Former piano prodigy Kousei Arima no longer plays the piano after the death of his ill abusive mother left him unable to hear the notes. Kousei never planned on ever playing again, but that all changes when Kaori Miyazono (just imagine if summer was personified, it’d be Kaori) decides to enlist his help as an accompanist. Kaori is really well-written as this vibrant personality but has a philosophical depth to her… it’s so charming. I had to fit in my Kaori admiration now, because she ain’t in this episode. Mysteriously vanished presumably due to her not so subtly foreshadowed health complications. It looks like this time Kousei will be on his own. Third times the charm, as previous attempts have inspired something within Kousei, but not enough to fully free himself from his demons.
A Star is Born
This episode starts with the origin of Kousei’s perceived genius, having the uncanny ability to replicate a simple tune after just one listen. It begins to set a frame of reference to consider whether Kousei’s talent was by nature or nurture. Kousei seems to have a knack for the piano at an abnormally young age. You can argue he can’t become a piano prodigy without a piano and that makes it inherently nurtured by how he was raised, but look at The Shaggs you can’t just hand instruments and force people to play until they become musical prodigies (also that’s literally what happened with The Shaggs and you should read their story it’s even more tragic than their out of sync music).
Also seeing that it was Hiroko that encouraged Saki to teach Kousei changes how at least I, imagined Saki as always having been a tiger mom. It also explains why Hiroko seems somewhat guilty for how Kousei’s life turned out.
Kousei insists that the show must go on, motivated by a younger violinist who insulted Kaori’s free-spirited performances as lacking the discipline to be deserving of the appraisal she gets. While not explicitly stated, it almost feels as though this moment represents Kousei’s past self. That as Kousei was only taught to play what was written and ignore the artistry of performance he too would have probably been unfazed in recognizing the beauty of Kaori’s playing. Before taking the stage, we see a quick montage of Kousei’s fellow musicians, all who adamantly clamor how much they want this moment to succeed on stage (interesting enough in the subtitled version they each repeat “Look at me!” I think it shows that despite them all being of different motivations and personality types all performers are seeking some level of validation for their practice, commitment, choices, and ability to put themselves in the vulnerable position to make a mistake.)
I think you have to give Your Lie in April credit for how they construct these performance scenes: from the detail to accurately portray the piano keys being played, to the cinematography simulates a dolly backwards to give the impression of sound traveling across the auditorium, to adjusting the sound quality as it plays from a TV instead. The attention to detail is truly inspiring.
This performance is exemplary of one of Your Lie in April’s major theme which is the difference between technical mastery and brilliance versus achievement of artistry and exuberant passion. This is something universally applicable and an aspect that many overlook. The road map to success often looks like the sheet music and our interpretation of being a great pianist is being able to replicate what we consider to be great pianist. I know a lot of people who run similar sites to mine, and they might tell you: a good writer has excellent grammar, superb organizational skills, impressive word count, or post frequently. Are these great qualities? Duh? They show conviction, and discipline and the diligence to perfect the craft. At the same time, you can write something elegant with colorful diction but ultimately lack substance and fail to resonate with your reader (ex: how am I doing?).
Nothing exemplified this concept that Kousei being able to play every note but it’s regarded as a tantrum because it lacks the refinement of infusing himself in the music in a meaningful way. Kousei is not devoid of passion, but it’s disconnected from the composition that his lack of a level-headed approach becomes detrimental to his cause. It’s interesting how to the average audience member Kousei’s playing is quite incredible but to those who understand the art of playing it’s crass and crude. I’ve always found that being in a position of having to produce something that you have the most investment in the final product, and people are going to be more forgiving and just open to the premise.
There’s an interesting parallel between how Kousei plays the song, and how he feels about his mother. His performance begins as one of angst, playing his frustrations and rebelling against his mother’s necessity for refinement. Then as he loses the notes, Kousei’s thoughts transition to fear. Kousei’s temporary predicament is being afraid to ruin the song with his inability to recognize it, but it almost reflects the fear he felt during his mother’s passing. How is a pianist supposed to continue without the notes to guide him… how is a boy supposed to grow up without a mother to care for him? In this deep contemplation, Kousei for the first time in the show recognizes that his anger is pointless and begins to remember his mother fondly.
The advice from Hiroko is empowering, don’t let your trauma be a handicap. This is a tricky subject I don’t feel the most comfortable with stating authority on. It’s not the best to say, “be thankful you suffered some form of abuse or struggle because you can channel that into something”. The final season of BoJack Horseman actually does a great job of addressing this by completing Diane’s arc with the idea of “good damage”. Diane spends the season trying to write a book and addressing her past hardships, but when confronted with why this book is important to finish despite her inability to do so it’s because she wants her damage to amount to something.
I don’t think Kousei embodies the concept of “good damage” as you might initially consider. Yes, the show implies that Kousei can elevate his artistry through letting his emotions leak into the piece, but Your Lie in April is hardly about the performances. The music operates as a channel for these characters to express their emotions; the quality of the performance to the audience hardly matters to the narrative. The performance is a way for Kousei and other characters to evolve by unleashing their inner feelings into an expressive medium. Kousei isn’t using his “good damage” to improve his playing but playing in order to resolve and mend his damage.
Your Lie in April visuals wise has sort of a complex identity. Sometimes I found the visual foreshadowing a little blunt, and the A-1 Pictures visual humor of changing to cruder drawings honestly doesn’t work as well for this story and these characters. When the show wants to be ostentatious and grandiose the show delivers big time. I think the most intriguing visual motif is Kousei’s mom not having eyes for most of the series. It can be interpreted that Kousei is unable to look his mother in the eyes after how their relationship ended on a sour note, or with eyes being the window of the soul the first time we get a look at her genuine self is in this episode and the cruel phantom that Kousei conjured up is a manifestation of his resentment towards her.
His mother teaches him to nurture the piano, hold it gently like a small infant. We see a new side to her, one that shows how a person can assume many identities. I don’t think Kousei’s mom being belligerent or downright scary is all abstract, but she was a loving mother with the insurmountable stress to raise a child on her deathbed…should her strict principles and cruelty define her.
Then the show does the impossible, takes an abusive mother and garners some sympathy from her. NO, not justifying her actions but at the very least humanizes her. The insert of her struggling to pick up Kousei’s glasses of the ground is all we need to see to know how frail she is. Then she at least confirms that she is wrong, and regrets going that far.
We then see Hiroko coming to aid the distressed Kousei after his first breakdown after the notes disappeared and honestly, it’s a little heart wrenching. Despite his mother’s actions or behaviors, when he calls out for help… he still calls out for his mom (both in the dub and sub). Kousei is always going to love his mom, despite how wicked she got, the warmth of a mother was there at some point at least. I think cutting ties with someone so previously embedded in your entire life is an impossible task. The good and the bad will remain with you and it’s up to you to decide to what degree and what perspective you approach it at.
Kousei’s mother presents an unfortunate conundrum and one that can’t be justified or excused with a sob story. Her speech at the very least gives us some insight into her rather vulnerable perspective. Kousei’s mom does want what’s best for Kousei and terribly dreads knowing that he is going to grow up without a mother. Her strict discipline is a result of wanting Kousei to at least have his piano skills to support him through life.
I almost wonder how Saki would have been presented as if she was the protagonist, what if we presented the story of a dying mother doing whatever it takes to help her child prodigy become the very best before she’s gone. Saki’s character flaw is her obsession of building up Kousei to be something without her. Her cold exterior even could have been a defense mechanism to keep Kousei from having too much affection towards her.
I think in narrative we almost commonly operate in a protagonist-centered morality, that the audience voyeuristically views the main character as their place within the story and tend to believe their perspective and internalize it as their own. Our enjoyment of a protagonist comes from us justifying their logic and perspective and how much it aligns with our own. Are we more likely to judge Saki more harshly because she is an addendum to Kousei’s processing of grief and cruelty than given her own defined story?
How many times have horrible deeds committed by a character or admired figure been justified because of how beloved they are? I mean in a show I’ve covered and adored has “Mr. Abandon Your Child for 5 Years” as a well-liked and respected protagonist. I see a lot of preaching for empathy, especially in terms of mental health but what about physical health and the tolls that has on the body and mind. Child abuse is putrid and an inexcusable societal ill and Saki deserves whatever punish from her legal system, from her God, from Kousei and anyone else in her life. However, does she not deserve an ounce of pity, can we not agree that the burden of an impending death, the fear of your child growing up miserable, and the constant stress of being in/out of hospitals is enough to warp someone’s outlook on life.
I don’t think it’s fair to persuade you to believe in Saki’s redemption or not, but wherever you entered here from, I hope you at least open yourself to the idea of forgiveness in even the most unlikely of circumstances.
It’s an interesting detail that Saki only plays Love’s Sorrow and not the accompanying piece, Love’s joy. I think that explains the relationship pretty well, that it will always be a bittersweet one.
Deeper examination into the piece Liebesfreud or Love’s Sorrow provides many connections to why it’s the perfect piece to represent Kousei Arima. The song was composed by Fritz Kreisler accomplished and well-renowned violinist. His impact on the music world was sometimes one of his best kept secrets:
“He wrote some of the most popular violin pieces in the world, among them “Caprice viennois,” “Tambourin chinois,” “Schön Rosmarin,” and “Liebesfreud.” He also published a number of pieces in the classical vein, which he ascribed to various composers (Vivaldi, Pugnani, Couperin, Padre Martini, Dittersdorf, Francoeur, Stamitz, and others). In 1935 he reluctantly admitted that these pieces were his own”–Thirteen.org
Kreisler’s interesting history does reflect the episode a lot, as it’s Kousei revealing his genuine self and shattering illusions of being unable to play/the cruel on-look of his late mother. Kreisler’s hidden impact on the music world, ghost writing these pieces reflects more than just this episode, but the major themes and messages of the show. Your Lie in April is all about finding a deep appreciation for the people, places, and events that resonant with you.
The tragedy of Your Lie in April is not built on misfortune, but about being unable to express your gratitude and affections as much as you’d want to. Music, words, and seemingly meaningless gestures are mediums to connect and communicate with one another. Imperfect methods that can be quite effective in reaching someone, but to what degree does our inability to be fully honest bar us from experiencing perfection. To what degree does semblances of the truth remain buried by our inability to disclose it.
Kreisler’s performance history, especially Love’s Sorrow is exemplary of one of this show’s major premises: a true performance artist goes beyond technical mastery and achieves their own personal expression. Kreisler and Your Lie in April have honestly given me a newfound admiration for musician’s as I honestly believed Kousei Arima and the perfectionist standard was all there was to it. I don’t have a great ear for music and a G-chord might as well be Borat attire from what I can deduce. To me the same sheet music and the same instruments sound virtually the same; any expression is committed by the composer who arranged the notes and maybe a conductor who modifies the tempo and other aspects of performance. I hardly could recognize that sheet music is just a mere script and to say a musician just plays the notes is the same as stating an actor just reads the lines.
Seeing how Kousei evolves through the piece from a rampant fit of rage to being able to use the piece to openly embrace his grief, guilt, and remorse illustrates this remarkably, almost as much as Kreisler himself. Kreisler demonstrates the evolution of an artist and a composition being a platform for interpretative expression with Love’s Sorrow as those looking to him in order to discover the “right” or “intended” version of the piece are left disappointed. Klassical_KAT on kurrentmusic.com did a wonderful write up comparing Kreisler’s 1930 performance in Berlin with his 1942 outing in Philadelphia and found a shocking disparity in how the piece was performed. The piece itself hadn’t changed, but Kreisler being able to go beyond mere notes had and refined the piece in a mature way that’s worth checking out.
The performance ends with Hiroko giving a lovely speech about how music connects us all and Kousei finally being able to say goodbye and make peace with his mother. Seeing Kousei collapse after performing really puts to emotional weight of the performance into perspective.
One thing that I’m sure some would consider an unjust complaint, because you should know what you’re getting into with this show… but am I the only one who thinks they cry all the damn time. I understand us Americans are more into internalizing our emotions until it slowly burns a hole inside of us then show the sort of vulnerability common in Eastern media, but Your Lie in April almost weakens the effect of seeing a character breakdown. It’s impactful to see a character finally break and give into their emotions; Manchester by the Sea is a harrowing depression tale and while there’s numerous scenes of tears, it comes in the 2nd half of the film and at the pinnacle of different character arcs. I feel that seeing Kousei cry would resonate more if not every emotional scene involved someone crying. It’s a moment that doesn’t feel as raw because we just saw his mom crying 2 minutes ago, and there’s a character crying the very next episode, and every episode after that…
However, this intimate moment is really earned by how this episode really went through a journey emotional. Kudos to Max Mittleman who really sells the moment by fully breaking down.
The Final Notes
We then reiterate the power of influences and how it shows through nerd boy’s performance. Nerd boy has the unfortunate predisposition of following up the main protagonist in an anime, but seeing his cute little nerd mom just praying for him to play good is a cute little topper to this episode. It shows Kousei’s journey is more universal and how the art of playing and the support of our love ones is a part of it for everyone.
I love Emi Igawa. She is best girl… OKAY HEAR ME OUT! I love both Tsubaki and Kaori, and I cared about their character arcs and their well-beings. Yet, I feel the show almost campaigns for these two to be liked by the audience, while Emi is just awesome and has an unrivaled spunk and attitude while being amazingly talented that yeah she deserves more recognition. I think she’s a good bridge between Kousei and Takeshi and young Kousei and current Kousei that she’s got an interesting role in the scheme of things even if it isn’t the most important.
We wrap with some of Tsubaki’s perspective, noticing the more mature Kousei and alluding to her insecurities that will lead into the next episode (spoiler is another top 5 episode). Finally, we get Hiroko and Ochiai as they lay forward the heavy foreshadowing that considers how Kousei will react “When the muses demand another loss” and we stumble upon a bedridden Kaori.
I’m glad that I took some time to reflect upon Your Lie in April, because initially I found it good and insightful but the series reputation, made it a tinge predictable causing it to seem more of a mechanical tearjerker than a genuine pull at the heart strings. As time passes, the tragedy of the series and the genuine intimacy between multiple characters with a wide array of characters proving their own aspects to a larger discussion of passion, music, love, loss, redemption, legacy, pain, and sorrow. This series demonstrates the power of channeling inner strength and embracing adversity as a natural element of life.
Tragedy is unavoidable and our relationships and means to express ourselves are imperfect. Some days you’ll feel like you are drowning, being plunged into the sea at times is unavoidable, but you can choose to untie your anchor. Release your burdens of sorrow and regret and live each day trying to compose a symphony of choices that bring you happiness, and joy, and life…. Because forever is a lie so never leave not expressing the things and people you cherished. Cherish the good things and make them great.