Your Truth in Music: Honesty and Performance in Your Lie in April

I’m slowly getting around to watching the anime my Internet circles keep talking about and just recently finished Your Lie in April. I particularly enjoyed how the series dramatizes musical performance and the emotions that go into it. Music is the only consistently honest expression in the entire series. By that I mean in just about every other situation, the characters lie or conceal their true feelings. “Your lie in April” is not just Kaori’s lie that we learn about in the last episode, but Kousei’s constant reluctance to express how he really feels and the little ways he hides what he thinks from Kaori. It’s Watari smiling in front of his friends after losing the soccer match, but then crying alone in the bathroom. It’s Tsubaki denying her feelings for Kousei until it’s almost too late. It’s Kaori pretending that her health is not a big deal until she can no longer hide her condition from her friends.

But when Kousei and Kaori play music, they can’t conceal anything for better or for worse. While Kaori puts in all of her soul into the violin, Kousei is confronted with emotions and truths buried deep inside of him. He can run away from these realizations offstage, but when he’s sitting there playing the piano, they come to the forefront. For the first half of the series, this makes him freeze, unable to hear the notes and watching the music unravel before him. Though I don’t have a traumatic past nor have I performed in high-stakes music competitions, I’ve experienced that terrifying feeling when you’re playing a song and everything goes wrong. My fingers freeze up and the chord doesn’t ring out fully and then the rhythm is off and I’m not in sync with my guitar anymore (thankfully, the people at the wedding where this happened most recently didn’t seem to notice).

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Kousei’s buried feelings surface when he plays piano, making him unable to hear the notes and causing his performance to falter. Everyone in the audience knows something is off, but they don’t know the reason. Even so, Kousei can’t ignore it or stop it from affecting his playing. Music always brings out the truth of his feelings, bringing him to confront and accept realities he might not be able to handle otherwise. Whether it’s his complication relationship with his mother or Kaori’s death, music makes Kousei confront it.

Kaori, on the other hand, already finds freedom in music, but although she hides her health problems as much as she can from her friends, her playing still carries the desperation of someone who’s running out of time and trying to make their mark. Yes, her music is energetic and joyful, but it comes from the urgency of her impending death. She couldn’t hide that urgency if she tried. Playing music requires her to draw from that reality and is usually what she’s doing right before she collapses, right before she’s hospitalized, and so on. We never see what goes on in Kaori’s head as she plays, but it’s possible that she confronts her fears like Kousei does with each note.

Every musician in Your Lie in April wants their music to reach someone because there’s something they want to express that they hide in everyday conversation. Music, then, becomes a conduit for truth.

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