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Your Lie in April Collection 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Your Lie in April Set 1 CoverThe dreams we chase and the pain and passion that propels us.

What They Say:
Kousei Arima was a genius pianist until his mother’s sudden death took away his ability to play. Ever since then, each day was dull for Kousei. One day, he meets one violinist by the name of Kaori Miyazono. This care-free, independent, and sometimes short-tempered girl had an eccentric playing style that immediately fascinated Kousei. His once monotonous life was about to change forever.

Contains episodes 1-11 plus the original soundtrack CD vol. 1 by Masaru Yokoyama, collectible post cards.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is definitely one that’s done well as we get the original Japanese language track and the English language adaptation in stereo using the uncompressed PCM design. The show is one that works some real magic when it comes to the soundtrack itself with the music and giving it a clean and uncompressed form like this is an important thing – especially since it’s done for both languages. The series works a very rich and warm approach with the detailed music and it definitely creates that right kind of magical feeling. This helps to elevate the dialogue side itself, which is a bit standard since there’s not much here out of the ordinary. But the combination of the two, some of the internal dialogue, and just the overall push from the mix helps to raise it to the next level in a very good way.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014 and 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episodes in this set are spread across three discs in a three/four/four format. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the series is simply gorgeous with everything it does from top to bottom. The colors are rich and layered, there’s a great amount of detail throughout, and the backgrounds have a richness about them that helps to make it feel all the more authentic. While the music is the thing here, the animation is just as important in giving it the life it needs and there’s just such a richness and smoothness to all of this that it’s beautiful. The character designs are wonderful with so much to them while still staying simple in terms of costume, but it knows when to expand. There are also some beautifully fluid sequences throughout this that lets you get sucked up into the show even more, showing the power of such a deliciously designed series that’s given a spot on perfect transfer.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us two clear Blu-ray cases inside a soft box to hold it all together. The front of the box gives us a good look at Kaori and some of Kosei’s competition that he faces later in this set. The back panel is given over to a good image of Kosei playing the piano with a close focus on his hands. What’s really nicely done is the way the cherry blossoms carry across the whole thing, wrapping from front to back and along the top and spine. It’s a really nicely done piece that has a great illustration look about it. There’s also a nice wraparound to it that breaks down everything that’s inside as well, leaving the artwork itself unobstructed.

The case with the three Blu-ray discs has a great illustration of the three longtime friends together with no logo that has a really beautiful look about it with color and detail. It’s upped with the back cover of it that has Kaori and Kosei playing together with a real beautiful look. The reverse side carries this design with the right panel providing the competition along the right and a breakdown of the cast and staff for the show for both languages on the left. The CD soundtrack case is a bit simpler with just a little bit of pink, blue, and white that dominates with a few musical notes across it. It’s a very minimal design but it works well, even if I would have liked more artwork. The back side presents the track list with numbers and titles in both languages. The reverse side has some nice artwork done as location shots as photographs spread across both sides. The only other piece in this release are three really beautiful extended length postcards that showcases the main cast. Kaori’s the best of the three but they all have a lot going for them here.

Menu:
The menus for this release takes its cues from the illustration side once again as well to good effect as the same pieces used as the postcards are done up across the three discs. The larger look at the artwork here is fantastic and there’s a real richness to the detail and warmth that comes from it. Each menu looks great, though the navigation itself is a little too detailed. It’s setup as piano keys where the selections align over the keys themselves, making it a little hard to read from time to time. The layout itself looks good and I like the concept of it, but it was just a little rough in actual presentation as there’s simply too much detail. Navigation itself is smooth and problem free both as a top-level menu and as a pop-up menu.

Extras:
The extras for this release on-disc are pretty minimal overall as we get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences as well as the audio commentary for the first episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso by Naoshi Arakawa, Your Lie in April is a twenty-two episode series of which we get the first half of here. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the series garnered a lot of critical acclaim during its broadcast and simulcast run as it drew in audiences in a big way. The manga itself ran from 2011 to 2015 with eleven volumes total, ending just before the anime itself finished out. Having not read the manga nor seen the simulcast, I was able to go into this half of the season without any real preconceptions other than hearing nothing but great about it. And within just the first episode or two at most I found myself agreeing with it. And at the end of this first half of the run it felt like we already had a perfect season all while knowing there’s another half still to go.

The series takes place with a group of end of middle school kids that are all dealing with their own issues. There’s a familiarity to it all to be sure because these are stories that anime covers constantly. But a familiar story can become magical in the right hands, such as the production team here and the source material itself. With four main characters, things are kept small yet expansive with what each of their stories are about. The simple nature is here. Kosei is a piano prodigy that has lost his ability to play, leaving him something of a quiet wreck. He’s got his best friend in Ryota, the captain of the soccer team that has dreams and plans of going worldwide and being a star. He’s got the confidence and skills to pull it off but he always makes sure that his friend is high on his list. Both of them are childhood friends of Tsubaki, Kosei’s next-door neighbor that’s a key part of the school softball team where she directs much of her energy. She’s a big part of Kosei’s life for obvious reasons and is continually concerned about him after the events of the last few years.

When she sets up a date for Ryota and a new girl named Kaori, it all twists their lives into a tailspin. Kosei comes across her first and discovers that she’s a musical genius herself, though it’s not until later that he finds out that she’s a violinist. He falls for her even while realizing he’s Friend A – and she even calls him that from time to time. With this in play, Ryota’s smitten with her as well though he’s smart enough to see Kosei’s interest in her. Ryota is something of a playboy in a way as he dates multiple girls, so while he’s interested in Kaori at first it doesn’t feel like something real, which is what Kosei feels. Hell, Ryota tells Kosei to go after her even though he’s the one ostensibly with her at the moment as he says that just because they’re friends it doesn’t mean he can’t. Tsubaki’s role in all of this isn’t exactly complicated, but she goes from having her childhood friend and never thinking of him as anything more to realizing his attentions are directing elsewhere. That puts her into a difficult place as it gets all in her head and she doesn’t know what to do or what it really means. Kaori’s presence in all their lives, where she really is simply friendly and outgoing with them all, shakes up the dynamic so much with so little that it’s positively striking.

And yes, utterly familiar. But that familiarity isn’t something that it leans on. Each of these characters generates a solid amount of focus with what they’re going through with what Kaori brings to it, but the primary focus is on Kaori and Kosei and more so with Kosei in this first half of the series. Kosei is something of a celebrity of sorts for what he accomplished as a child prodigy of the piano up through when he suddenly just quit mid-performance two years prior. That has others still seeing him as competition that they want to overcome, a piece that factors into the later episodes here. Kaori knows all this about him, though she hides that she knows it, and instead works on just trying to bring him back to the world of music. She somehow manages to convince him to accompany her with her competition performance and then later gets him to do a solo competition all on his own.

But these are all disasters for him because of what he’s suffering from in that once he really gets underway in playing he can’t hear the notes. It’s represented as a black sea that swallows him and the sound, making for some striking visuals for the terror that he feels. He is truly gifted and capable with a precision that earned him so much recognition. But this loss has made him a joke for many since they can’t understand it. Kaori wants to break him free of this, though she does it in the way that you’d expect of someone this age by just throwing him back into it and trying to get him to swim. For Kosei, he’s had nobody all this time to try and get through to him so it’s a powerful move even if it results in some true disasters. Kosei wants to do right by Kaori since she believes in him and that’s powerful itself. Honestly, when he looks at her and the way she looks at him, you can completely understand why he feels like he does – especially on stage.

When the show digs into Kosei’s problem, all while providing small and less than subtle hints as to what Kaori’s are that will dominate the second half of this series, it hits some really dark and painful material. But this is what the show wants to do in a big way, giving us these characters with real problems that have impacted them significantly. The first blushes are there with Ryota and Tsubaki as they begin to face hardships with their dreams and are unsure of what it will do to them. For Kosei, he hits his two years ago with the death of his mother. A death that has haunted him since in some truly dangerous ways for his mental health. But as it digs into more of his upbringing and how that played out with the hurtfulness in both words and physicality, you realize just how far down the hole he’s gone. The visualization of his terror was already powerful. Knowing the truths of why it exists takes it to a whole other level.

This dark material is a big and important part of the series because it is so much of who Kosei is at this point. But the series also brings out so many absolutely beautiful moments that it’s haunting how well it does it. Kosei’s attraction to Kaori has him seeing her in the most positive way and with the animation style and design here it just becomes utterly absorbing. The dynamic between the kids themselves is great and it comes across with a wonderful honest and authenticity about it that it does elevate the show. Even the time spent at the last competition that focuses on two kids from Kosei’s past that have wanted to go up against him again works. Usually these pieces feel forced and like padding, but they provide insights into Kosei’s past. At the same time, we connect with their struggles and place in things in ways that I usually never do. All of this serves the larger story and fleshes it out. But just watching the time that the core four spend together, inside concert halls and out, deepens everything and allows you to connect a lot more naturally with this cast.

In Summary:
Your Lie in April hits some truly beautiful and heartbreaking notes from nearly the start of the series. By the end of this first half I felt like I had been on an intense ride that had come to a solid enough end, an end with the openness of real life. And that makes me scared of what the second half will do to me as there are some big emotional elements to this half of the series. Your Lie in April hits you right where it should and does it with such skill and ease so as to utterly disarm and manipulate you into it. Which I love as it shows some real mastery of the craft. I love the cast here, the directions that they’re all going, and the possibilities and fears that all of it has as well. It’s so lushly animated with emotion and built with fantastic character through the voice acting on both sides that this series just completely did me in. I’m already excited to watch it again but not sure I can go through that experience quite so soon. This is one hell of a gem here.

Plainly said, Your Lie in April moved me.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Ending, Audio Commentary (Ep. 1)

Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: March 29th, 2016
MSRP: $159.98
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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