What They Say:
Summer passes and Kaori spends more time in the hospital than school. After much struggling, Kousei comes to realize that he’s onstage now because of the people who support him. Playing the notes that they all gave him, Kousei pours his entire soul into his performance so that it will reach Kaori.
Contains episodes 12-22 plus the original soundtrack CD vol. 2 by Masaru Yokoyama, collectible post cards.
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.
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.
The packaging for this mirrors the first set as it brings us two clear Blu-ray cases inside a soft box to hold it all together. Going with a blue theme this time around, the front of the box gives us a good look at Kaori playing the violin while the background works some of what you’d see in the sky from the city at night. The back panel is given over to a good image of Kousei from the side while another panel next to him has a thoughtful image of Tsubaki, both of which again has the same kind of wrap as the front of the box background but with more white bleeding off to the side, which also wraps 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 Kaori and kousei together in full performance mode that’s just beautiful with its minimalism. The back cover can’t top it but I love the image of Kousei with Seto and her daughter as they’re together with the style it’s done in and the color palette. The reverse side carries this design with the right panel providing the competition 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 that bleeds through from the other side, 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.
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.
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 final episode.
The first half of Your Lie in April when it was released a couple of months ago definitely made an impact on me. It was the kind of work that reaffirms faith in what animation can do to really connect you to characters and their stories in a big way. It made watching other anime shows for several days afterward very difficult since most really do lack this kind of meaning and portrayal. So I was somewhat wary of going into the second half as part of me really thought that the show truly ended properly with those eleven episodes and that anything else would just draw it out further. The uncertainty, the teases, the potential, all of it was wrapped up in there so well that just being able to think of where it might lead felt like the better route to take.
This half of the series does a lot of very good stuff but at times it felt like it focused on the wrong areas, at least for me. While I enjoyed the overall group dynamic of the first half and seeing the tensions and problems that were coming up because of it, it worked because it was strong with Kaori. This half has a strong finish for her at the end of the series and a few strong pieces throughout, but her reduced presence is palpable here. It is, admittedly, the point. With Kousei having gotten better tanks to her being in his life and helping him through the things he’s been struggling with, removing her is a huge strike to who he’s become. But she’s done so much good for him that when she misses the gala performance early on he still gets out there and does it. There’s a minor struggle but this is a big point for Kousei because he’s finally letting go of the control and presence of his mother on his life, through his perception of what she did, and is becoming free to play how he wants to play.
Kaori’s ending up in the hospital was a background piece for the first half but you knew it was coming and that things would end up there. This again puts most of the focus on Kousei and it works because of his own past struggles even as he begins to eject that element from his life with his mother. To be drawn back into it is painful, but Kaori is beyond worth it. Seto sees the pain it causes and begins to fear losing Kousei again because of who he’s become invested in and that worry is something that provides more insights to when Kousei was little and we see Seto dealing with his mother and her own struggles with her impending death, making clear why she was the way she was in wanting her son to be the piano player that she knew he could be. Kousei’s spiral downward here is well done and it resonates right because of the time invested in his past with his mother in the first half. That he becomes unable to connect with Tsubaki along the way is no surprise nor is it that he finds a way to deal with things with Watari as Watari all but said it plainly before that he knew that Kaori really belonged with him, no matter how much Watari began to appreciate music through the two of them.
What I liked about the first half was that while you knew Tsubaki had some layer of feelings for Kousei, it was set up enough so that she could move into her own life without that being explored. But the more that Kousei connects with Kaori and her struggles and the more he begins to look at moving away – if not overseas! – for high school the more she realizes the depth of her feelings. Some of it is likely just the abandonment side of it with a friend she’s known and cared for forever leaving, but there’s some different layers to the kind of relationship that they have because of how long they’ve known each other. So exploring it makes sense but you get Tsubaki in a really tough place of trying to be a friend but unable to be more because of what both Kousei and Kaori are going through. You feel bad for Tsubaki and the position she’s in but at the same time I felt a little robbed because I wanted more of what Kaori and Kousei were going through or even more with Watari.
Everything is in service to the end of the series, however, and that includes time spent with the Aiza siblings and how Seto works Kousei to be a teacher for a while to try and get his mind in the right place. Turning the tables on him is interesting enough and watching how he gets pushed out of his stupor at times and recognizes the challenges from the other side is engaging. Running that through everything else he has to deal with expands things well, though again part of me wanted a more narrowly focused series, and I like how it ties back to some of his competition over the years and the way they slowly bond more because of the growth that each of them has gained by competing against each other. It’s not deep or really involved but you can see it playing out well here and it serves to reinforce just what kind of talent and inspiration that Kousei’s music can be.
When it comes to the end of the series I’ll admit part of me was wondering whether they’d chicken out. Anime has become far too safe for too many years with few shows taking risks. Your Lie in April takes the risk and reaps the reward because it puts our characters through the wringer with their emotions and what they have to deal with. It’s compounded by all that has come before and the visual design of the final concert performance, but there’s some real beauty to it. The balance of the situation just makes it all the more intense as we get the performance where Kousei’s trying to reach Kaori with his music, now able to stand tall on stage by himself, all while she’s under for her operation. The performance is the kind of piece that can go too far in the schmaltz to be sure, but they hit such a level of perfection here that it’s one of the most striking episodes of an anime series that I’ve ever seen.
The second half of Your Lie in April is a powerful work – one that I suspect will play even better when there’s no break between the two halves. This set covers a lot of ground and fleshes out its cast more, to the detriment of time with Kaori in my mind, but the end results are just strong and worth every moment of it. The performances in both mixes are fantastic, the visual design comes through beautifully through what Aniplex had encoded here as it really needs to be top notch, and the set as a whole has some great items to it that will add the enjoyment greatly for quite some time to come. I thoroughly enjoyed this series as a whole and it’s something that really belongs on that ‘you must watch this and understand its important’ kind of list that a lot of fans have. Very highly recommended.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Ending, Audio Commentary (Ep. 22)
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.