Review: Your Lie in April Vol. 1 by Naoshi Arakawa

Kodansha USA has licensed a few “off the beaten path” comics
in the past 12 months, and next week, one of those titles sees the light of
day. Your Lie in April, a title from
Monthly Shounen Magazine, is a music-based manga; the category doesn’t have a
strong track record her in the USA. Most American fans will recognize the title
from Crunchyroll, which simulcast the anime adaptation from Fuji TV’s noitamina
block. Your Lie in April is only
Arakawa’s third published work, but the comic earned the 2013 Kodansha Manga
Award for Best Shonen Manga.

The plot of Your Lie in April  is fairly simple – a young  piano prodigy Kousei Arima is punishingly
forced to compete at the highest level by his strict yet ailing mother. After
her death, he has an emotional breakdown at a competition which prevents him
from being able to hear the piano when he plays.  Content to cover up his emotional turmoil,
Arima whiles away his time in school. But when his two best friends introduce
him to Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with a fiery personality, it turns Arima’s
world upside down. Miyazono is all about challenging the status quo in violin
competition, and seems also intent to challenge Arima’s status quo by forcing
him to be her accompanist.

One of comics’ strengths is its ability to convey
information in ways that just plain images or just plain words could not, but
it is difficult to find ways to represent the nonvisual. In more
comedic/ridiculous manga like Food Wars or Yakkitate! Japan, the way to gauge
the taste of a food is by how profoundly the eater reacts. Arakawa does a
better job of showing the impact of music than most – speedlines around the
performer indicate movement and action, while the shocked reactions of crowds
show the music’s impact on its surroundings. The art is quite lovely; Arakawa
has a good grasp on when to increase detail in the work and when to get a bit
more cartoony. I also appreciated the way Arakawa sets up establishing shots
and transitions; Your Lie In April
often feels cinematic in a way that most manga doesn’t.

The major thrust of this first volume is to introduce the
two main characters and see how a headstrong girl in need of an accompanist is
able to break through the walls that Arima has built for himself. These
overcoming trauma plotlines are pretty prevalent in manga, and they are feeling
a bit false at the moment; it’s more likely that Arima needs professional
counseling and not busybody students, but this is manga, and the possibilities
are endless! It’s important to note that Miyazono isn’t doing this out of the
kindness of her heart – she needs Arima’s help as much as he needs hers. Once that
becomes clear to Arima, we see the lights finally turn on. Sadly, we don’t get
much in the way of results from Miyazono’s wheedling in the first volume – we’ll
have to wait for Vol. #2 in June to see how everything pans out.

———–

An advance copy of this comic was made available by Kodansha
USA for the purpose of this review. You can see more of Kodansha’s kodanshacomics upcoming
books at their website.

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