Your Lie In April was one of 2015’s most emotional anime. Now, a year later, a live-action adaptation is making its way to Japanese theaters. While like its anime counterpart, this film is likely to bring a tear to your eye, the most interesting facet of the film is how much better it is if you know the twist going in.
[This article contains spoilers for Your Lie in April (both the film and anime).]
When you first watch Your Lie in April, it is the story of a boy, Kousei, overcoming the loss of his mother and rekindling his love of music through a mysterious young violinist, Kaori, barging into his life. In a lot of ways, it is your typical “manic pixie dream girl” tale—i.e., a story where a beautiful, quirky girl comes into a serious male character’s world and teaches him how to appreciate life.
In the film, Suzu Hirose plays Kaori in a performance that is obvious in its insincerity. While the rest of the cast transform into their characters, Hirose always seems like she is overacting—trying a bit too hard to be whimsical and upbeat and coming off false in the process. On the first viewing, objectively bad performance makes the film difficult to watch as the only person with more screen time that Kaori in the film is Kousei. However, once you know the twist, Hirose’s acting becomes brilliant.
From Kaori’s viewpoint, Your Lie in April is a completely different story: It is the tale of an unremarkable girl who discovers she has an incurable disease and has only months to live. Faced with her own mortality, Kaori takes a page from the classic Beowulf and decides to achieve the only kind of immortality one can have for sure: living on in the memories of as many people as possible long after she is dead.
Realizing that she has a chance to do this through her violin, she dedicates herself to playing; not in the “correct way”—i.e., as the sheet music says—but in a way guaranteed to stand out in the minds of all that hear her.
As music has given her a way to be remembered, Kaori wants the one who inspired her to get into music to remember her as well—in this case Kousei. But more than that, she longs to play with him, for him to remember her more clearly than anyone else. Of course, there are two problems with this: 1) There is no room for her in his tight group of friends and 2) he’s quit playing music entirely due to his own traumatic experiences.
Thus she has no choice but to rekindle his love of music by bursting into his group of friends and inspiring/bullying him into playing again—i.e., becoming a manic pixie dream girl.
However, the fact is that at her core, the true “her” is a generally shy and quiet girl; it is only the drive gained from her own impending death that allows her to break the mold. This is where the brilliance of Hirose’s performance as Kaori shines through: The reason Hirose’s acting seems so bad at first glance is because it is Kaori, not Hirose, that is bad at acting so over the top and happy all the time. The only times we see the “real” Kaori and the moments when she is playing the violin—or when she is battling with her illness when no one is around.
So while the live-action film lacks the vibrant colors and surreal musical elements that make the anime such a visual joy to watch, this is largely offset by Kaori’s unique portrayal—and how it makes the whole story seem that much more real and grounded.
Well, if you know the twist going in anyway.
Your Lie in April was released in Japanese theaters on September 10, 2016. There is currently no word on a Western release.