Your Lie in April, Volume 1

YourLieApril1Creator: Naoshi Arakawa
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781632361714
Released: April 2015
Original release: 2011
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

Your Lie in April is the first and so far only manga series by Naoshi Arakawa to have been released in English. Arakawa is still fairly early on in his career—Your Lie in April was only his third major work—but the series earned him a Kodansha Manga Award in 2013 for Best Shōnen Manga. The first volume of the eleven-book series was originally published in Japan in 2011. In English, the manga was released by Kodansha Comics in 2015. The entirety of Your Lie in April was adapted into an anime series between 2014 and 2015, which is how I first learned about the manga. My interest in the series primarily stems from the prominent role that music has to play in the manga. Music is something that is incredibly important to me and continues to be a major part of my life. Probably unsurprisingly, I tend to enjoy music manga. And so, I was particularly happy to receive an early copy of Your Lie in April from Kodansha for review.

Kosei Arima was a child prodigy, admired for his skill and success as a pianist, winning competition after competition. But ever since his mother died and he had a breakdown in the middle of a performance on stage when he was eleven, he hasn’t been able to play the piano. Not for others and not even for himself. Piano was such an integral part of Kosei’s life that he seems to be somewhat lost without it and he hasn’t been able to completely let music go. Several years have passed since then, leaving Kosei a rather withdrawn and gloomy young man. But then he meets Kaori Miyazono, an extremely passionate violinist who attends the same middle school that he does. Kaori plays the way that she wants to play, disregarding traditional interpretations and technique to make the music her own. Though he is still reluctant and hesitant, watching Kaori’s enthusiastic, free-spirited performances has reignited something within Kosei and she and his friends are determined to see him play once again.

Your Lie in April, Volume 1, page 6A particular challenge faced by music manga like Your Lie in April is expressing sound in a visual medium. It takes more than simply throwing notes on the page to effectively convey the feeling of music in a comic. For the most part, Arakawa handles this aspect of the series quite well. The music itself isn’t heard, but the expressions and reactions of the listeners and musicians, the impact created by the music, can readily be seen. Perhaps the best example of this in Your Lie in April, Volume 1 is Kaori’s performance during a violin competition. The violinists before her are poised and fairly reserved in their playing, but Kaori uses her entire body to emote and express the music. This and the stunned faces of the audience members make it very clear that her invigorated style is drastically different and unexpected. But while music is obviously an important part of Your Lie in April, the real focus of both the artwork and the storytelling is on people’s experiences of that music.

Kosei’s relationship with music, and specifically with playing the piano, is a complicated one. He is struggling with intense psychological distress and it is revealed very early on in Your Lie in April that his mother physically, and very likely emotionally, abused him as well, trying to force her own dreams onto her son. Whether he is aware of it or not, Kosei’s feelings towards music and the piano are very much tied up with his feelings towards his mother. Underneath a relatively calm exterior is a turmoil of conflicting emotions that includes both love and hatred and even some fear. Deep down, Koesi does still seem to have the desire to continue playing the piano, though he denies it to himself and to others. It’s something that he will have to face head-on eventually, but Kaori’s influence threatens to make it something that he will have to deal with sooner rather than later, perhaps even before he’s really ready. I am very curious to see how Your Lie in April continues to develop and the steps Kosei may take to overcome his trauma.

Thank you to Kodansha for providing a copy of Your Lie in April, Volume 1 for review.

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