Blog Update: Admin & Anime

Oh hi there. I’ve been relatively quiet as of late, so thought I’d put together a quick post as to why, as well as noting some other projects! To keep y’all entertained whilst doing so, there’ll be anime GIFs throughout, so stick around, yeah? This isn’t gonna be a long one. Either way, there is anime, so, yeah! We’re all a fan of that right?


OK so firstly, to explain my recent reduced frequency of posting; a storm of different life stuff has been going on, from moving where I live, to starting a new work position, to, erm, managing to damage the keys on my laptop and therefore making typing tricky… However! The first two are more organised now, and the latter I have sorta-fixed (don’t ask). I’m back in a position where I have more opportunity to write!

Also, I have been playing quite a few games recently, and have a lot of material ready. Expect quite a few reviews soon, as well as more Let’s Chat, and even some more one-off articles. I’m keen to start doing more list articles as well, but one thing at a time and all that. With it being the time of year that it is, also expect themed pieces…

Another exciting prospect is that I have been setting up my video recording arrangement, to the point where I am prepared for video capture and streaming. For those intrigued, there are two methods in which I am doing this; when I am recording gameplay, or streaming solo on Switch or PlayStation, I have a set-up of the Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition in combination with the OBS software. When I am playing multiplayer in party chat with friends on PlayStation, though – such as for Path of Exile at the moment – I go through the in-built Broadcast feature, as this is a straightforward way in which to get multiple voices into the stream.

This means I shall occasionally be online for you to follow along – predominantly the streams shall be through Twitch, and the bespoke videos on YouTube. My writing shall continue to happen here, with the videos as a complimentary channel of content that runs alongside. I have plans to stream the soon-to-be-released The Crown Tundra DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield!

Those are the main topics I was planning to mention. Yet, I’m here now, so let’s discuss a couple other events going on. With new consoles on the way – I hope I can get a PS5 at launch! – there is going to be much to write, and I imagine a lot of this shall be done through Let’s Chat. I’m very excited for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and finding out more of the story at that point in the Zelda timeline; I have been avoiding much of the info released so far so that I go into that game as fresh as I can! Expect in-depth articles from me on potential story theories when that game is out.

I have many reviews planned, as I try to get through my backlog; finishing a game and then reviewing it is a process I find very satisfying for ticking a game off in my mind – perhaps that is just me, but maybe that is a feeling shared by others. Gotta get through that backlog, right? Also I shall continue my Film in 500 review series, which seems to have been well-received, and fit in anime too. So much great stuff!

Okay that’s enough rambling from me. I mean, I should get onto making headway with all these fun projects! I hope you have a wonderful day! See ya 🙂

Five by Five: Give It A Light Novel Title

Well hi there! So, this is the first tag post I have done here on this site, after being kindly nominated by IT’S YOUR FAULT I’M NOT POPULAR! over on their entry for this; I’m going to be making up names for manga/anime/light novels in the format of the ridiculously long titles many light novels have!

As far as tags go, I quite enjoy this one, so am eager to get into it! From reading the post KS Blogs did, it appears that this was thought up by Shallow Dives in Anime. There you go, there’s a bunch of links for you to click, eh?

They’re not that bad, just have a read, yeah?

Before I attempt to be comedic (prepare yourselves), have a read over the rules and details, which I am going to copy/paste from the post I was tagged in:

The Rules

  1. Choose up to five anime, manga or visual novel series that have a short title
    • Light novels that have shorter titles (Date A Live for example) are also allowed.
  2. Give these series a new title based on those classic overly long Light Novels we love!
  3. If someone has already picked a series you wanted. It’s OK! Let’s see your own take on the title!
  4. Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas.
  5. Include Give it a Light Novel title in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  6. Nominate around 1-6 bloggers.

Sorted. That’s the formalities done, so now onto my 5!


Kakegurui

School Gambling is Getting Out of Hand (Not Just Because of Physical Maiming)


Carole & Tuesday

Who Knew A Music Career On Mars Would Be So Tough?


Yuri!!! On Ice

It’s Difficult to Quit Skating When Your Role Model Turns Up Naked


Steins;Gate

How A Microwave Can Lead to Time Travel, Corporate Conspiracy, & Romance


Yu-Gi-Oh! (First Series) –

I Share My Body With A Pharoah; He’s Amazing At Card Games!


– Bonus Round: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (I Just Have To Add This One… ) –

Card Games On Motorcycles


That was fun! Got me at least attempting to be funny, aha! Right, now I have to nominate others… *Drum Roll*

Extra Life
Pinkie’s Paradise
gamergal.exe

If you’re tagged, consider it a suggestion, not an obligation! Not gonna chase you up on it; this was a fun creative process though, so perhaps consider it.

Now, back to your regular programming; reviews, Let’s Chat, and more on the way soon!

Film in 500: Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Review

Certificate: 15
Director: Mari Okada
Production: P.A Works
Distributor: All the Anime
Platform: Reviewing the Blu-ray Version
Release Date: Out Now


Around the time I saw A Silent Voice, I also watched Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, another fantastic anime film which impresses with style and substance. So, as I did my first 500 word review on the former, I’m following up with one for Maquia!

The film opens with smart, snappily-paced world-building; in this fantastical reality, Iolph is home to the Iorph, a long-living species that maintain youthful appearances over their centuries of existence. They’re skilled weavers of Hibiol, a precious material with an abstract quality of documenting time. Sadly, there are those after these traits for their own means; invaders from Mezarte break into this wondrous locale and forcefully take Leilia (Ai Kayano). In the chaos, the young Iorph Maquia (Manaka Iwami) is unwittingly separated from the others as she evades capture.

In an unfamiliar locale, Maquia discovers a child stranded in the arms of his deceased mother. With determined spirit, she takes it upon herself to be a maternal figure for this child, named Ariel (Miyu Irino – who voices Shôya in A Silent Voice, how’s that for a coincidence?!). The following years are relatively peaceful; they’re taken in by a farmer family, providing Maquia with further human support. It’s an endearing section of the film, where we gain empathy for these characters before emotional friction arises as Maquia grows up at a visibly different pace to those around her.

The Iorph warn themselves not to get invested in human relationships, due to how the difference in lifespan shall likely cause heartbreak. For Maquia, the most evident visual change is her hair turning sunset orange/brown (see image above), but for Ariel, he is growing into a young man and dealing with conflicting thoughts about Maquia as a mother and a female; it’s handled delicately, with no scenes being unnecessarily provocative.

Elsewhere, we see how other scattered Iorph are handling themselves, as an ambitious and dramatic plan brews to save Leilia from her imprisonment. The insight into different situations and perspectives adds depth to the family themes, but I’ll that none of these dynamics are as well-developed as that of Maquia and Ariel, and the film suffers for it at points.

Visually, Maquia is very proficient, but I’d say it lacks that final edge of refinement that, say, Your Name has. It just appears a smidgen dated, but still, it’s often beautiful, especially when using the visual motif of weaving. The music is traditionally elegant, with a soft, melodic feel carried throughout.


Final Thoughts

If it isn’t clear yet, the idea of family is central to Maquia, in particular the many alternate forms it can take from generation to generation. Not all the relationships are given as much attention as that of Maquia and Ariel, which slightly limits the impact of certain plot events and their subsequent payoff later on. However, the overriding commentary on relatable relationships is interwoven with a world of magical possibility, one which sweeps you up for a journey speaking to how family goes beyond any one person.

8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Film in 500: A Silent Voice Review

Certificate: 12
Director: Naoko Yamada
Production: Kyoto Animation/Pony Canyon/ABC Animation/Quaras/Shochiku/Kodansha
Distributor: All the Anime
Platform: Reviewing the Blu-ray Version
Release Date: Out Now


OK, I am trying a new format here; I have less experience reviewing films than I do games or TV shows, so to try and create some structure for myself to produce more articles on films, I am testing out my new idea for a running feature: “Film in 500”, where I review films I have seen within the extent of 500 words. It may help me getting more film reviews done, as for some reason I have previously found them a bit daunting, being unsure of how specific to be when going into the story details; with this word count, I shall be tasked with being concise!

I mean, blimey, that one paragraph was around 100 words (this isn’t counting for the review)! This could be genius, or could go wrong… ah well, let’s try it, beginning with a review for A Silent Voice: The Movie! Oh, and do let me know your opinion on this set-up for film reviews. Would be very helpful to know if this works well! 🙂

What have I gotten myself into…

In the quest through my Blu-rays, I recently viewed A Silent Voice: The Movie, a poignantly told story about events that unfold after a case of school bullying. Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami) joins a new grade school in Japan, promptly informing the class of her limited hearing. Many of the students aren’t very understanding, and Shôya Ishida (Miyu Irino) particularly bullies her – verbally and physically. He’s shockingly inconsiderate and mean-spirited. Shoko keeps putting on a smile and trying to befriend classmates, but eventually moves away to another school.

From here, we see how years pass and characters grow up. Shôya harbours guilt about his actions, and is himself now isolated and lost in high school. He seeks out Shoko to try and find resolution – not necessarily forgiveness, as that isn’t his decision, and I appreciated A Silent Voice having that level of emotional awareness. The awkward, well-intentioned reunion blossoms, despite inevitable roadblocks that occur as a consequence of the past; there’s an endearing message here about how we can change, but at the same time must be responsible for our behaviour.

It’s delicately handled storytelling that is carried through to the side characters. Other students have varying life paths and individual opinions on their involvement with the bullying; there’s an explosive scene later on, where true feelings are outed, and it’s testament to the film that it feels earned. To reiterate, however, the most powerful scenes are reserved for that dynamic of Shoko and Shôya. A Silent Voice goes to very emotional and mature places, so be prepared for tears to flow!

The animation style is slightly different to any other I have seen. It’s superbly drawn; there’s a natural, handmade appearance, with fine lines and painterly colours hitting that balance of being beautiful, but not overly extravagant. For a subtle, character-focused story, it fits very well. On the audio side are similar qualities, a focus on ambient sound allowing the excellent voice acting to be at the fore. Given the trouble Shoko has hearing, sign language is prominent, and the patiently portrayed narrative gives this expressive form of communication space to shine – it’s really engaging in such a visual medium as anime!

If I had any complaint about A Silent Voice, it’s that I felt it ended ever-so-slightly too soon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a satisfying conclusion, but it was a bit sudden, as if there could have been another scene or two to further pay off the range of character arcs. Really, though, there is no critical flaw, and I can only imagine people being put off if the premise just isn’t to their tastes.


Final Thoughts

A Silent Voice tells a touching story about how we make mistakes, and should be aware of them, but there is always room for us to improve as people and seek forgiveness. In doing so, we can help each other in unexpected ways. With fantastic character development and inherent quiet charm, A Silent Voice is an important story I highly recommend.

9/10

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Carole & Tuesday: Part 2 Review

Certificate: 15
Production: Bones, FlyingDog
Distributor: Netflix
Platform: Streaming – Netflix
Release Date: Out Now


In my review for Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday, I talked about how I really liked the partnership of the two leads (Carole and Tuesday, if that isn’t clear) but it lost its way during the Mars’ Brightest competition that dominates Episodes 7-12. My hopes going into Part 2 were that the series would keep the focus on that central dynamic of Carole, Tuesday, and the people directly around them, and stop with the shallow and unnecessary scenes. Whilst slightly formulaic in places, Part 2 delivered on this and is an improvement as a result! This review half-accidentally turned into me recapping a lot of what happens, but I am going with it, so, spoiler warning, and strap in! Also, and I don’t know if this is a controversial opinion, but to me the music in Part 2 is overall wayyyyy better. Someone please tell me if that is controversial?! Don’t be angry… (I’m right though).

-SPOILERS FOR CAROLE & TUESDAY AHEAD-


Take Two

We rejoin Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado) and Tuesday Simmons (Kara Ichinose/Brianna Knickerbocker) straight after the end of Mars’ Brightest, having been disqualified but also being offered a recording contract. Whilst the winner Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Ryan Bartley) is wowing the world with her new song Breathe Again, Carole and Tuesday – along with manager Gus Goldman (Akio Ôtsuka/Jason Marnocha) and the helpful Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar) – refuse the offered deal and prioritise their creative freedom. So, essentially, they’re not far away from where they were before the Mars’ Brightest competition, especially financially – the main difference is that they are recognised more. Which is nice in a way, but also not so nice when people are hassling them at the launderettes. Just let them do their washing, you creeps.

Alright, I’ll listen to your music

Okay, so their new mission is to create a song and an album with which to debut, and the early episodes follow them trying to do so through several avenues. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a similar structure to the early episodes of Part 1, when the group was attempting numerous methods of getting the initial word out. Now, I really enjoyed those episodes in Part 1, as it made the characters and the interactions the focal point, so revisiting that vibe is welcome to a degree; however, it did feel to me that we were repeating some of the same territory. Take Gus and Roddy – they continue their general support for Carole and Tuesday, but other than that they don’t get much new development in Part 2. Roddy especially – he gets noticeably less focus, and I was hoping for more from his obvious crush on Tuesday… that sorta falls away. I’m a romantic, okay?

Still, there are a lot of sweet moments here. After finding the hard taskmasker producer Tobe (Hiroshi Iwasaki/Joe DiMucci), Carole and Tuesday produce their first song, initially reaching a respectable 53rd in the charts. I really appreciated being able to see more of the actual process of Carole and Tuesday making their songs, as often times before we didn’t know about a song until they were about to play it. Seeing the struggle of playing over and over to get it just right shows the effort it takes to make the music, which is also important as a contrast to the proliferation of AI music on Mars. We get more of this in later episodes too, such as when Carole and Tuesday are under pressure to create an inspiring song and are working together to get through their writing block (including putting keywords up all over Carole’s apartment).

In these episodes they meet up with a diverse selection of other characters: there is the respected, distinctive Desmond (Kôichi Yamadera/Patrick Seitz), teaching Carole and Tuesday crucial life lessons (perhaps including how to pull off purple) in Episode 15 God Only Knows; and the insightful story of Flora in E16 A Natural Woman, who Gus used to manage before she signed a contract elsewhere and her career went downhill (Give You The World is such an amazing song). This brings back Gus saying to Carole and Tuesday in E13 Walk This Way, upon the decision of whether to take the recording deal: “What’s more important? Money or freedom?”. On the other hand, there is the episode with a focus on DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase), E17 Head Over Heels, which is the closest Part 2 gets to repeating the mistakes of Mars’ Brightest. Ertegun losing his money and having to rediscover his inner confidence is a solid episode idea, but I reckon there was more potential to be had. It being mostly sorted in one episode seemed really quick, and I was expecting more of a redemption over his rude rejection of Carole and Tuesday in E3 Fire and Rain.

What do you mean, eyeliner on BOTH eyes? Preposterous idea

I am also glad to say that Angela gets much more of a comprehensive arc in Part 2. After a bold start, very much getting the early edge over Carole and Tuesday by performing her new song at a press conference (the *audacity* of it, can you believe), there starts to be more nuances to her relationship with Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley) that only become more evident as the episodes progress. Her path connects to that of DJ Ertegun, and subsequently drastically improves that rushed plot thread. Instead of the vague intentions of Angela and those around her in Part 1 that seemed intended to be a mystery but instead were tough to be invested in, they’re a much more developed set of characters here, giving us more insight into who they are and being easier to get behind as a result. When a threatening stalker invades Angela’s privacy, it unsettles her and throws up a whole other set of complications – by giving Angela enough screen time that she essentially becomes a third main character, it makes this threat more keenly felt. Furthermore, her musical performances have this incredible ability to richly portray the feelings of that moment (props to Alisa, who voices her songs). To name just one for now; The Tower, which plays at the end of E23 Don’t Sop Believin’, is hauntingly beautiful.


Suspicious Activity

Meanwhile, other individual plotlines are proceeding too. Carole is finding out about her father Dann (Atsuki Tani), and Tuesday is in contact with journalist Kyle (Jun’ichi Suwabe/Ben Lepley). In Part 1 there were mentions of Carole – as a refugee from Earth – not knowing of her family, but there is more info uncovered here in well-executed sequences that helped me empathise with her position more. As for Tuesday, Kyle is doing a piece on her mother, election candidate Valerie (Tomoko Miyadera/Rachel Robinson), and the suspicious activity of Jerry (Yutaka Aoyama/Kirk Thornton), one of her backers. Jerry is engaging in some very shady, underhanded, and downright horrific tactics to push onto her his agenda of stopping immigration from Earth (draw real-world parallels as you see fit). In Part 1 we got some seeds sown about the political stance of Valerie and how it had affected her relationship with her children, and this pays off in Part 2 as Tuesday proactively chooses to talk with Kyle. Valerie’s stance on immigration is potentially going to directly affect Carole, so there is clear reason why Tuesday would be motivated to speak out.

What I really liked was the show mixing these deep topics with moments where you are reminded that Carole and Tuesday are 17, and dealing with the emotions that come with that age of your life. Tuesday is talking to Kyle because of the political situation first and foremost, but through having multiple personal conversations she understandably starts to fall for him a bit. This is built up subtly with her blushing at certain remarks from Kyle, to the point where she goes to give him a thank you gift – dressing up to do so – in E18 Only Love Can Break Your Heart (guess where this is going…). Upon getting to him, she discovers he is with a woman already, and there is this heartbreaking moment of slow-motion as she, and we, realise the situation. She turns around with Kyle seemingly not even knowing she was there… this reminds me a lot of my favourite moment of Part 1, when her brother Spencer (Takahiro Sakurai/Lucien Dodge) arrives at Mars Lounge and just turns around to leave. They’re both moments of emotional show, don’t tell, and there is even an extra gut-punch here as Carole finds Tuesday, forlorn, on a bridge in the rain. In the first episode, these two connect over their loneliness on a bridge, and now they’re finding, and comforting, each other again. Agh, my heart!

Kyle, HOW COULD YOU

Another note from my review of Part 1 was that the animation style was inconsistent in places, and this is another area which Part 2 refines. It commits to the traditional yet expressive approach, and is much better at maintaining the same level of quality across the episodes. There are less uses of exaggerated expressions, though this actually made them stand out more – mostly, these are from Tuesday, often adorable in her shy but confident approach to situations; while she may be initially taken aback, she responds with resolve, determined to overcome any obstacle. Also her beret game is awesome. Carole is more steadfast, with a poised composure that anchors the pair together. However, this doesn’t prevent her getting to show a range of emotions; for example, when she says farewell to her father – she is initially facing in another direction, determined to not give away any indication, but as Dann leaves to return to prison, she resolves to break through that and sends him off in optimistic fashion.


Music As The Message

Episode 19 People Get Ready is where many of the characters and their individual stories converge in a climactic fashion. Returning to the Cydonia Festival where they filled in during E6 Life is a Carnival, Carole & Tuesday are now a main act, along with the new combo of Angela and DJ Ertegun. The stalker is targeting Angela when she arrives on stage, but here we see some of Tao’s personal feelings finally burst through his calculated front as he goes to extraordinary means to save her. When he realises that they haven’t caught the right person, he uncharacteristically runs towards the stage to prevent Angela from being harmed. Tao has been cold and ruthlessly composed for much of the series until now, but we start to see him in a different light here that hints at revelations to come.

After Angela and DJ Ertegun wow the audience with the production of their joint performance, Carole and Tuesday take a low-fi approach to their act and get a similarly positive reaction. It’s a lovely combination of musical scenes showing how competition and contrast can be healthy, and going from the rapturous LIGHTS GO OUT to the tender Message in the Wind is just joyous. This is part of why I say I prefer the music in Part 2 – there is both quality and variety to the soundtrack, with less of those one-note performances that negatively affected Part 1. Even for the opening and closing credits, they’re more cohesively separate and confident in their music choice and art direction. Oh, and if it were somehow in any doubt, Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann are once again tremendous as the vocals for the Carole & Tuesday tracks. Beautiful Breakdown from E20 Immigrant Song is the best song and well, that’s final, so I hope you are on board.

Remember the image in my review for Part 1? See how far they’ve come… Though, that civilian hasn’t moved far since then

From here on out, the episodes keep up a high standard. I would say that from the latter stages of E18 Only Love Can Break Your Heart through to the end of the finale E24 A Change is Gonna Come is the best run of the series. Whilst Part 1 went off the rails a bit in the later stages, Part 2 goes the opposite way and gets better! After all the set-up so far, the closing episodes pay off character arcs and take these people to new places of growth. The previously-mentioned E20 Immigrant Song continues this in style, with Carole reuniting with an old friend she encountered at the Cydonia Festival. Carole and Amer knew each other when they were younger, but he now goes by Ezekiel and makes hard-hitting rap music to call out the injustice of how immigrants are being treated. It’s a surprise for Carole, seeing how much Amer has changed, and this serves to provide us knowledge of Ezekiel’s past when he – and others – are imprisoned because of their views.

Following the Festival, it feels as though the characters are in closer proximity, and the music is not only reflecting their feelings, but the situations they are in. During Part 1 it was as if Carole and Tuesday were on their path over here, Angela was over there, and the political element was pushed into a background that rarely connected much to either. In Part 2, the ways the characters act more directly influence each other and the music they are making. Immigrant Song is my favourite episode of the entire series – with the range from Carole and Tuesday’s Beautiful Breakdown to Ezekiel’s Crash the Server, and the themes they represent, it’s incredible musically, and there is intense drama as relationships reach a breaking point – one case being Angela and her mother figure Dahlia (Kenyû Horiuchi/Brook Chalmers), leading to devastating consequences.


We’re In This Together

The fallout of Episode 20 is felt just as two major events are about to happen in Argo City: the Mars Grammys, and then one final, grandiose gesture of solidarity when the singers all unite at the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall. Unlike Mars’ Brightest in the later episodes of Part 1, there isn’t a misjudged scene in sight, and no unnecessary extra acts. First up, we get Carole, Tuesday, and Crystal (Maaya Sakamoto/Cristina Valenzuela) singing After the Fire together, literally putting the two girls on stage with their idol to show how far they have come. This builds to a emotional crescendo when Angela follows them, despite having just lost Dahlia – there is such shock and grief in the vocals for Endless… those lyrics are so raw, they struck me in the soul. Angela has won Mars’ Brightest, topped the charts, and won the Best New Artist Grammy, but that human connection being lost? That’s more valuable than all of them.

Angela goes through a lot in Carole & Tuesday: Part 2

For Carole and Tuesday, the final flourish for their series arcs is in finding the theme of the song everyone is going to sing at the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall, a setting that circles back to Roddy recording them there in E2 Born to Run. Tying into Tuesday’s brother Spencer pleading to their mother to break connection with Jerry, even if that means not being President, the pair hit on a mutual similarity that all of us can connect over – and hence the anthem Mother is created. After losing her own mother figure, the final episodes see Angela really altering her perspective, in her relationship with Tao and her rivalry with Carole and Tuesday. I am so pleased that Angela was incorporated more into Part 2. Without her, the rest of the show would work nowhere near as well. It’s significant, too (at least to me), that Angela is the focal point of the ending credits for Part 2, in a departure from the previous credits with Carole and Tuesday. It further signifies her more prominent role. Y’know, I guess Carole & Tuesday & Angela isn’t as catchy, but it may be a more accurate name for this anime.

I shall say, in the final episode, the series doesn’t hold back on callbacks and fan service. The closing joint performance of Mother is such an unabashedly hey-isn’t-this-so-emotional ending, but it JUST about earns it. JUST. I am slightly disappointed that the series doesn’t really fully resolve some of the plotlines, particularly those of the political goings-on… it’s more of a message of an ending, which does feel a bit of a cop-out. I’ll add that whilst I’m all for leaving some aspects to the imagination, there is a lot of Part 2 dedicated to Carole and Tuesday making their album; one plot point is them trying to find the closing song for it, and when they do nail it in the form of the breathtaking Lay It All On Me, it made me excited to see how the album was received – and we don’t get that. It’s almost as if there is a 25th episode missing that wraps up the aftermath. However, the ending is undeniably a tear-jerker to watch, and I can only complain so much about an anime that makes me cry (these were positive tears, to clarify).


Final Thoughts on Part 2

When I hope that a show improves in certain areas, and that is exactly what it does, it’s only right to heap praise upon it. Additionally, it’s a sign that the people behind the anime understood what worked and what didn’t in the first batch of episodes. My main complaint is that there is some repeated episode and season structure from before, but even then it is from the better segment of Part 1. I also felt as though some characters were left on the sidelines for a lot of the time, as with Gus and Roddy. On the whole, though, these 12 episodes take the story and the characters to new levels, are visually striking, and have fantastic music that I shall be playing on Spotify for the foreseeable future!

9/10

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Wait, is there more?

Final Thoughts on the Series

Having now reviewed both Part 1 and Part 2 of Carole & Tuesday, I thought I would add a final section wrapping up my two reviews. Despite being officially split into two I sort of have the series in four separate parts in my mind of about six episodes each. When analysing the series divided in this way, Carole & Tuesday starts off by getting you invested in the charming character dynamic of these two girls from utterly different backgrounds. Then there are some serious misjudgments of tone in Mars’ Brightest before the show returns to the formula that works so well at the beginning. It crucially does not repeat mistakes; conversely, it goes into complex territory that pays off multiple character arcs in a poignant way. It can’t be ignored that the series does have that rough patch, but it also doesn’t severely damage the rest of Carole & Tuesday as it is quite self-contained. This is an anime that draws you in with wonderful characters, and then casts a spell of musical expression. If I was taking lessons from this anime, they are that our pasts don’t define us and shouldn’t prevent us from meeting new people from other places, and that art – be it musical or otherwise – has a powerful ability to put across the way we feel. It’s hard not to be inspired by these two genuine, talented, and kind souls – with vastly different life experiences – as they form a powerful bond through music that extends out and influences other people for the better.

8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Carole & Tuesday: Part 1 Review

Certificate: 15
Production: Bones, FlyingDog
Distributor: Netflix
Platform: Streaming – Netflix
Release Date: Out Now


This is an anime someone *cough* you know who you are *cough* had been telling me to watch for a long time, and, well, I have finally got around to it! I tend to enjoy anime with a musical theme, such as Your Lie in April, so an anime about two 17-year-old girls (can you guess their names?!) breaking their way into the music scene seems very much in my wheelhouse. In this review, I shall be reviewing Part 1, which is made up of 12 episodes, with a review for Part 2 at a later date.

-SOME SPOILERS FOR CAROLE & TUESDAY: PART 1 AHEAD-


It Goes Two Ways

Ah, y’know, Part 1 of Carole & Tuesday starts out so well. Then, as it goes on, it really loses its way as you enter the second half… OK, I’m getting ahead of myself! We start out from the perspective of Tuesday Simmons (Kana Ichinose/Brianna Knickerbocker), a quiet and reserved girl from a rich family (her mother is a well-known politician). She has run away from home, with only her futuristic self-driving suitcase and guitar in tow. Oh yeah, did I mention this is set in the future? Oh, and on Mars? Ultimately, it isn’t that different from an Earth setting; there are subtle inclinations here and there, such as a train crossing the red surface of the planet, or talk of past events on Earth. One of the main differences to note is how AI are much more prominent, specifically with all music now being created through AI software. Well, nearly all…

Carole (left) and Tuesday (right) do a lot of running early on…

Tuesday makes her way to Alba City, and isn’t off to a great start when her briefcase is stolen. Wandering to a bridge in the evening, she then hears the music of Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado) as she busks on said bridge. Most people are walking past Carole without much notice, but this music connects to Tuesday; the connotations of loneliness, yet an optimistic loneliness that is open to connection, forms an immediate bond between these two girls. Chased off the bridge by security, they return to Carole’s apartment and continue the formation of their friendship. Tuesday adds her lyrics and guitar to the song Carole was playing, producing the song The Loneliest Girl.

From the outset, the musical performances are fantastic. The voices of Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann for the songs go fantastically well together, and the music really sells the emotions being put across. Plenty of original music performances punctuate the series, with my personal favourite being Whispering My Love from Episode 8 All the Young Dudes. The colourful credits have energetic tracks playing over them as well; visually, the intro has quite a traditional, rustic appearance to the animation, with the outro having a much more crisp, but static, approach. This variation of animation is carried into the episodes, to a varying level of success. At times there seemed to be an inconsistency to the way characters are portrayed. I don’t mean when you get the exaggerated facial expressions so often seen in anime, but more the scene-to-scene visual style. This is only a small complaint – I really like the slightly more traditional, expressive style which runs through most of the show!


Piano & Guitar

This early section of the series is wonderful, focusing on Carole and Tuesday as they get to know each other. As they talk and learn who each other is at heart, so do we, and I immediately found myself rooting for them. When they break into the Mars Immigration Memorial Hall to play the piano there, programmer and engineer Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar) records it and posts the video online, capturing the attention of previously-successful manager Gus Goldman (Akio Ôtsuka/Jason Marnocha). He is now down-and-out, divorced and spending a lot of time drinking at a bar; however, this music reinvigorates him to search Carole & Tuesday out and become their manager. Following episodes revolve around the various methods they try in order to get more people to be aware of their non-AI music; this includes trying to be featured by the ridiculously over-the-top (in a great way, though) DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase), and making a music video.

With Gus’ ex-wife Marie (right); also, this is prime caption competition material

A tactic-of-the-week vibe runs through these episodes that could be seen as repetitive, but the interactions between the characters are so endearing that it works. Carole is going through different jobs to get money, whilst Tuesday is getting used to being in a bustling city away from her family, and their positive influence on Roddy and Gus is clear straight away. Despite a general lack of resources, their optimistic efforts are enjoyable to witness. Episode 4 Video Killed the Radio Star is a great example; Gus’s ex-wife Marie (Aya Hisakawa/Allegra Clark) is brought in to help on the aforementioned music video, and through the creative and well-intentioned process, you notice how she sees the positive influence Carole and Tuesday have had on him. At the end of the episode, she tells him how she is getting married to her new partner; he, whilst perhaps disappointed, gives her a heartfelt send-off that shows how he has earnestly changed.

Throughout, we are also being introduced to a contrasting story; teen model Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Ryan Bartley) is aspiring to be a singer, and together with her mother and manager Dahlia (Kenyû Horiuchi/Brook Chalmers) seeks out Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley). He is a music producer who makes hit music through AI technology, and his techniques for pushing Angela are frankly disturbing. Tao is cold and efficient in the way he achieves his goals, acting as a juxtaposition to Carole and Tuesday and their approach. A lack of time with Angela means it is much more difficult to connect with her aspiring journey to musical stardom in the same way. In Part 2, I hope this is amended; as far as reviewing Part 1 as a cohesive whole, though, it is noteworthy.

The path Angela (above) takes is in many ways contrary to that of Carole and Tuesday

One of my favourite moments in the series is at the end of Episode 5 Every Breath You Take, where Roddy has managed to get Carole and Tuesday a one-song gig at Mars Lounge, an independent live house. After multiple different attempts to get the word out, their performance of Someday I’ll Find My Way Home gets people to turn their heads – even if there is not many people there. During this, Tuesday’s brother Spencer Simmons (Takahiro Sakurai/Lucien Dodge) walks in. He has been sent to bring Tuesday back home, and has finally found her. Yet, upon seeing her in the middle of her musical act, he simply turns around and walks away, acknowledging that she has found a place more suited to her. It’s a beautiful moment, subtle yet hard-hitting without any direct dialogue from each to the other. This type of scene is where the series is at its best.


Overplaying It

As Carole & Tuesday continues into Episode 7 Show Me the Way and beyond, though, that subtlety starts to get lost. After a rocky experience at the Cydonia Festival, the pair enter the Mars’ Brightest competition – essentially, a talent show along the lines of a Britain’s Got Talent or The X Factor. As an idea for their next route these characters take this is fine, but how it takes over the series and breaks the tone of the episodes prior really jarred me. A low point of the entirety of Part 1 is a montage of contestants in the audition phase, which comes off as a bunch of tone-deaf jokes of different stereotypes. It seems as though it isn’t from the same anime; when we get to Carole & Tuesday and their audition, we see revelations about Carole that make Tuesday develop as a character in an intelligent way. There is so much of a differential in quality within this one sequence!

Mars’ Brightest is the main plot thread of the rest of Part 1, and brings Carole and Tuesday together with Angela as they both participate in the later stages. Several other characters are additionally introduced as competitors, which, similarly to the audition phase, get so much less development than Carole, Tuesday, and Angela. There are a few that are given time for us to be invested in them, such as social media star Pyotr (Shouta Aoi/Erik Scott Kimerer) who – despite first appearing potentially vapid – has much more to him; also Cybelle (Ayane Sakura/Laura Stahl), a contestant with an obsession about Tuesday. But, again, some of them are just made into jokes that I found in bad taste, such as the song of profanities from the Mermaid Sisters… another low point in an anime with many highs. It’s just unnecessary, and a confounding narrative decision.

Crystal (Maaya Sakamoto/Cristina Valenzuela), on screen; Gus, left; er, Civilian, right?

I found myself comparing proceedings to another anime I have recently watched, Yuri!!! On Ice. In that show, there are multiple skating competitions with various new characters being regularly introduced. The focus on the main characters is maintained for all 12 episodes, yet all the skaters we meet are both unique and well-developed, with engaging stories and motivations. With, at times, similar amounts of time dedicated to them, new contestants in Carole & Tuesday: Part 1 have startlingly less depth to them that subsequently makes them much less memorable and affects the whole show negatively as a result.


Getting the Act Back Together

Furthermore, the more time that is spent on these scenes, the less we get on what made the early episodes so fantastic – the relationship between people from very different backgrounds, in particular Carole and Tuesday. They start to get fewer scenes together – to a degree, this is a story point, but simply not showing them together isn’t enough to justify them feeling pushed apart; show me how they are feeling, and why they aren’t connecting in the same way. In the final episodes of Part 1, they return to the fore again as personal matters intervene in Mars’ Brightest, and Carole & Tuesday picks up in quality again – I am hopeful that this is a sign of great things to come in Part 2.

For all these criticisms, the positive momentum and investment in the characters built by the early episodes helps carry Carole & Tuesday through to those much-improved Episodes 11 and 12 that close out Part 1. Whilst the story takes some rough turns to that point, the visuals and music mostly remain at a high quality, especially whenever Carole and Tuesday take the stage together. We also start to see much more of who Angela is as a person as Mars’ Brightest reaches a conclusion, and I am eagerly anticipating seeing how her story further intertwines with that of Carole and Tuesday.

The scenes of Carole and Tuesday performing together are magical

Over the arc of Part 1, Carole are Tuesday are (as you may expect) the core of the show. The way their dynamic evolves to where it is at the end of Episode 12 We’ve Only Just Begun is a satisfying progression, even if there is lost potential for it to have been done better through the Mars’ Brightest episodes. Roddy, Gus, and Tuesday’s brother Spencer are some of those who organically learn important lessons as a result of that arc, too. Considering how quickly the show works through other plotlines, Mars’ Brightest could have been condensed to allow more opportunities to learn about the characters.


Final Thoughts

The 12 episodes that make up Carole & Tuesday: Part 1 vary in quality. If I was just reviewing the first 6 episodes, the score would likely be 9 or above, but the missteps through the Mars’ Brightest episodes really negatively impacted my enjoyment of the show. However, the goodwill built early on by the duo of Carole and Tuesday softened those disappointments, and the reward was the vast improvement in the final episodes. My hopes are that Part 2 keeps the best parts of the show and avoids more of those misjudged scenes. Stay tuned to this website to find out my thoughts!

8/10

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Yuri!!! On Ice is a Dazzling Demonstration of All Kinds of Love

Recently, I have been catching up on a lot of my never-ending stack of Blu-rays. One of these is the complete series of Yuri!!! On Ice, and wow: in 12 episodes, it left me spellbound through a combination of diverse characters, wonderful animation, and a brilliant use of music. This isn’t going to be a review, but instead more of a take on the powerful and important themes at play in this series.

-WARNING: SPOILERS FOR YURI!!! ON ICE AHEAD-

A quick summary of the plot, then, for establishing purposes – I shall go into more detail when I do my full series review soon. Yuri!!! On Ice picks up the story of Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki (Toshiyuki Toyonaga), aged 23, just after he has placed 6th of 6 in the Grand Prix Final – he is devastated and considering stopping his career in the sport, returning home to his caring family in Hasetsu, Kyushu.. However, then a video of him recreating the routine of his idol, the Russian current Champion Victor Nikiforov (Jun’ichi Suwabe) is posted online without him knowing. Victor views it, and suddenly arrives in Hasetsu to announce that he can coach Katsuki.

Yes, I’m your coach now, got it?

From here on, we follow the evolving dynamic of Katsuki and Victor, which is clearly different to other coach-student relationships. There are sparks there, and the admiration isn’t going only one way. Through the following episodes, as Yuri faces challenge after challenge – whether from himself, other skaters, or Victor himself – we see this complex relationship bloom in a way that compels you to keep watching.

As a story about two men feeling love for each other, it is undoubtedly important in terms of diversity. Crucially, I find, is that whilst this is an essential element of the anime that is Yuri!!! On Ice, it isn’t the defining element. By this, I mean that it is interwoven with the other main plot thread – that is to say, the quest for Katsuki to make his way to another Grand Prix Final and try to win Gold – and both informs and is informed by the other characters and their respective obstacles in love.

For example, straight off the bat, we see Katsuki go back to his hometown and subsequently Ice Castle Hasetsu, the ice rink he uses for training. He reunites with a friend, Yuuko Nishigori (Mariya Ise), and makes an internal offhand remark about how she is “cute”, which is a sign of how this treats people and their opinions in an open way; there aren’t thoughts that are closed off to people because of other aspects about them. This is, actually, when the aforementioned recording of his imitation of Victor happens, in front of Yuuko. We shortly discover that she is both married and has kids, as we become more and more aware of how Katsuki idolises Victor. In a scene that could have, perhaps, been a cliché of returning home and having a relationship with a friend Katsuki hadn’t seen for a while, Yuri!!! On Ice instead shows how people grow and go different ways – and, importantly, that these diverging paths don’t have to mean we can’t still be close to one another.

Katsuki, skating in a costume Victor previously wore

So, we immediately have these themes of love at play, romantic, friendly, and family. It’d be remiss to not mention the love for competition, and more specifically, figure skating, too. Yeah, I know, wow, I discovered a theme of skating in Yuri!!! On Ice, I’m a genius! It’s more than that, though; figure skating as a competitive sport is so expressive, and such a smart method to essentially show character development through competition. Every time Katsuki or one of the many other skaters (more on them in a moment) go onto the ice, they literally and figuratively have all eyes on them, and them alone, for the duration of that performance. These performances are rarely cut off or cut away from, either, except when memories or other crucial experiences are used to show the state of mind they are in.

Furthermore, the nature of figure skating matches up so well with the development of the characters and their emotions because the skaters have two routines they prepare – one for the short program, and one for the free skate, which together make up your score. They adjust them here and there, but the music and the essence of the routines are constant from event to event – so, brilliantly, there are multiple renditions of these routines through the series, allowing them to be clear and absorbing showcases for where the character is emotionally relevant to their last performance. Additionally, if you compare how Katsuki and Victor greet each other after each skate, the progress of their bond is fascinating; at times, slight disappointment, at others, jubilation (such as the end of the seventh episode, where Victor suddenly launches himself at Katsuki). In a similar way to how Your Lie in April shows emotion through music, Yuri!!! On Ice does this through figure skating (which notably also involves music).

The rivalry of Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky (above) runs throughout the series

Early on in the series, we are introduced to Yuri – no, another one. The Russian Yuri Plisetksy (Koki Uchiyama) was, before these events, going to have his routine made by Victor, so he – understandably – follows Victor to Hasetsu to confront him about the sudden change of plans. Yuri Plisetsky, at 15, is much younger than Yuri Katsuki; he has essentially the opposite personality too, ruthlessly determined to succeed. Victor decides that they will compete to decide who he shall help, with them both skating to the same track, but with different arrangements. One is On Love – Agape, and one is On Love – Eros, which mean unconditional and sexual love respectively. Predictably, Yuri goes for Agape, and Plisetsky goes for Eros; until Victor then gives them both the other one from the one they chose! They are straight away thrown out of their comfort zone, and faced with baring a new side of themselves in a public skate.

To get into the new mindsets, they both find a way to focus on this new emotion; Katsuki by imagining the pork cutlet bowl his family makes and he – and so many others – enjoy (yes, for sexual love – there are plenty of innuendos here), and Plisetsky through thoughts of his grandfather. This even continues to their choice of costumes (from those that Victor has worn before); Katsuki starts wearing a bold black outfit, and Plisetsky a sparkling white outfit, both showing new sides to the characters. They both perform well, but the connection between Katsuki and Victor during his performance leads to Plisetsky leaving before the results are even announced. He is still determined to win – perhaps even more so – and his love for both his grandfather and competition are unique to him and him alone.

Yet, beyond these characters, Yuri!!! On Ice keeps impressing as you get to the later episodes and the skating events within them. There are many new characters being introduced through these, and amazingly – in 12 episodes of around 20 minutes each – they seem to all get time to make you invested in their own ways of loving. We get focused scenes on them and their performances, which vary greatly both visually and in terms of music. Credit to the animation in particular, and how they brought alive the skating – more on that in the full review. I really cared about where each of them was going, whether they were a skater with a bright future or one that had been on the scene for a while.

There is a diverse range of characters from different countries

There are so many, but to name just a few: Christophe Giacometti (Hiroki Yasumoto), who has often placed behind Victor in previous Finals and is set on taking victory with his vividly sexual skating; Sara and Michele Crispino (Sara: Marika Minase/Eri Ōzaki, Michele: Tomoaki Maeno) a sister and brother who have deep love for one another but also start to see that allowing each other to go on different paths is necessary; and Jean-Jacques Leroy (Mamoru Miyano), an incredible skater and musician who such confidence, and such a loving following which brings unexpected pressures. All of these separate people with their own matters of love they are dealing with are put together by figure skating, providing alternative perspectives as you are viewing.

Ultimately, the centre of Yuri!!! On Ice is the evolving love between Katsuki and Victor and how that affects them both. In my opinion, a reason it works so well, and is so emotionally engaging to watch, is because it isn’t immediately clear what the dynamic is – there are sparks flying on and off the ice, yet just as the characters aren’t certain what it means and how it is going to develop, neither do you. Even at the end of the series, where Katsuki wins Silver and he returns with Victor and Plisetsky (who wins Gold) to Hasetsu to potentially continue skating, it’s never said they are in a relationship. However, if you’re watching closely… the intimacy, the words spoken, and that skate together at the end; well, you can make you own mind up on what type of love that is.

Your Lie in April: Volume 1 Review

Music is a way in which people connect and express their feelings, whether through listening or performing. It’s such a massive part of a lot of our lives and it’s used as a potent subject matter for the story which Your Lie in April tells. Music is often used in film, television, games and pretty much any medium, to play with your emotions and tell you, without you realising, what you should be feeling. Your Lie in April, under the direction of Kyohei Ishiguro, goes one step further and literally shows the progression of the characters through the music in which they play.

Music expressing emotion in a raw and honest way –  a way in which regular conversation cannot – is not an unusual theme. Look at Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical masterpiece Once More, with Feeling to see a stunning example of this. The question is, does Your Lie in April manage to combine this idea with absorbing characters and presentation to set it apart?


A Review in December

It certainly does; the premise of Your Lie in April and how the music pushes the development of the characters, is riveting. Based on the Japanese manga written and illustrated by Naoshi Arakawa, Your Lie in April is a 22-episode show which focuses primarily on the arc of Kousei Arima (Natsuki Hanae/Max Mittelman). Kousei is a 14 year-old boy who has had his passion for piano playing firmly derailed two years previously by the death of his mother.

Kousei is severely affected by past events

She pressed him hard – too hard, even – to play with pinpoint precision and a lack of emotional expression (He’s even labelled the “Human Metronome”). After winning many competitions to try to please – and also somehow heal – his mother, she passed away. Kousei continued to play the piano, but after a breakdown mid-performance, he was left unable to properly hear the notes he played. The mental haunting of his mother has left him not only adrift of the piano, but also in a state where he perennially sees life in a negative and less colourful way.

Volume 1, which collects the first 11 episodes of the series, is a neatly packaged arc of Kousei learning to deal with these events and mature as a person. The first episode explains this premise sublimely, through a focus on the main four characters. We see and hear Kousei listening to music through headphones, clearly missing his playing but being cut off from it. His childhood friend Tsubaki Sawabe (Ayane Sakura/Erica Mendez), however, makes him tag along as she introduces a fellow friend – Ryouta Watari (Ryota Osaka/Kyle McCarley) – to a girl who would like to meet Ryouta.


Spring Blossoms

Kousei reluctantly attends as “Friend A”, and encounters the girl in question. Even before we see this, the show literally brightens in both colour and setting, signifying the changes this meeting will have on Kousei. Kaori Miyazano (Risa Taneda/Erica Lindbeck), playing a melodica amongst the blossoms of April, immediately captivates Kousei. With both her music playing and outlook on life, she quickly starts to have an effect on things as “Friend A” falls for “the girl who likes my best friend”.

In the early episodes, we learn about the life of our main 4 leads, especially Kousei. Meanwhile, the impact of Kaori’s introduction is having a distinct effect on the dynamics of the other characters. In Episode 2, witnessing Kaori’s very freeform approach to violin playing opens Kousei’s eyes to a new way of expressing himself through music. Kaori acts as a driving force behind his progression; making him her accompanist and then, pushing him into entering a piano competition on his own later on – despite Kousei being fearful of messing up. In between these major events we are seeing a lot of the school and home life of these characters, and this flow makes for a great early-series pace.

The development of Kousei and Kaori’s relationship is superbly handled

The specialised nature of musical performance is juxtaposed nicely with the more relatable school setting.  Especially in Volume 1, Your Lie in April is a coming-of-age tale – you just can’t always tell, because it is wrapped in such a complex and nuanced way. Kousei’s infatuation with Kaori and the way she goes about things inspires him to break out of the loneliness he is experiencing.

Kaori’s influence is perhaps best showed before they perform together for the first time – it’s an intimate moment, as Kaori is urging him to look up and embrace the performance rather than being anxious. At a base level, Kousei is being told to embrace his life and more importantly, himself. “You’re you, no matter what” is a memorable moment from Kaori and sums up what she is trying to teach Kousei.


Balanced Play

While the musical performances are the climactic interstitial moments of the show, the quieter, more everyday moments are a big part of what make Your Lie in April shine. Tsubaki, in particular, may be Kousei’s childhood friend who looks out for him as if he is a younger brother, but she ends up only finding her own feelings change as she inadvertently motivates Kousei back into the musical world she feels so alienated by. Watari could easily have been a stereotype of the guy who’s with the girl our protagonist likes, but he’s more of a friend to Kousei than anything else.

Tsubaki and Watari have their own competitive interests in baseball and soccer respectively and their personal developments often have synergy with what is going on in the musical world Kousei and Kaori inhabit. Tsubaki, for example, throws away a game due to her frustrations at being unable to connect to Kousei’s interest in music, leading to a touching moment as Kousei helps her get home in a re-strengthening of their friendship. Watari, upon narrowly losing a key game, puts a brave face on and encourages Kousei to keep going and not be overly worried of the idea of failure. These moments of youthful friendship keep the show well-balanced tonally, making the characters likable and real whilst also preventing the show becoming too dense with the heavy, emotional musical sections.

At times, Tsubaki can only watch on, away from the main stage

There is a similar feeling to the presentation of the show, which is frankly utterly beautiful. The aesthetic style is immaculate and feels polished at all times, with vibrant and warm colours pulling you in – for example and as aforementioned, a bright bloom is used on the spring, er, blooms that show the colourful effects of Kaori. Japan is presented in a lush way, with clean architecture and an optimism to the setting. This only makes the darker moments of Kousei’s mental haunting all the more stark, as dull greys and visual signifiers of being underwater connote how suppressed he is feeling.

Crucially, the animation itself manages to fit in comedic, chibi-style sequences to nicely balance against the seriousness of a lot of the show. Just like the mix of piano-playing and personal school life, it ensures that the show doesn’t overdo the weightier side of things. One of the stand-out scenes is Kousei listening to a playback of his playing with his friends all present and a rapid rapport is being made as Kousei is hilariously rolling around the room, horrified at his inaccuracy.


Blast from the Past

This type of scene is important, because the latter half of Volume 1 has an intense focus on the piano competition Kousei enters (with a little inspiration from Kaori!). This piano competition arc, if you will, introduces two rivals of sorts; Takeshi Aiza and Emi Igawa. These two are fierce competitors who were following in Kousei’s wake constantly when he used to play. Turning up in the present, their respective reasons and motivations for playing the piano are wonderful foils to Kousei’s own situation.

Emi (above) and Takeshi bring their own perspectives

Takeshi Aiza’s relentless drive to match Kousei, to keep up with the masterful pianist he witnessed years ago, has imbued his playing with a fiery determination that has seen him rise to the top. Meanwhile, Emi, who was instead emotionally moved by Kousei’s playing, has gone slightly astray without Kousei on the scene. They are both so reliant on the idea of Kousei being a figure of faultless piano playing, and his return has reignited that fire within them. The consequences of Kousei’s flawed playing has fascinating effects on these characters.

Episodes 8-11 take their time showing you the performances of Takeshi, Emi, and finally Kousei. Using a wide range of flashbacks and references to earlier in the series and in their lives, a strong competitive connection between these three is established. Takeshi plays strongly, wanting to show how good he has become, while Emi has the audience in awe as she pours her feelings into the piano. Whilst extremely engaging for the most part, these episodes do suffer a little bit when they are over-reliant on callbacks.

In general, Your Lie in April likes to connect the dots through showing past events. Often, this is an effective way of showing the way the characters are thinking, but occasionally it isn’t needed. This is most evident during these episodes, as the back-story of Takeshi and Emi is placed at the forefront. It’s a small gripe, but when episodes end with a thrilling performance only to introduce the next episode with the same crescendo we just witnessed, it can take something away from the captivation we, as the viewers, are experiencing.

The musical performances are emotional and absorbing

We see very little of Kaori, Tsubaki, and Watari actively progressing their own arcs during this sequence. Therefore, spending more time on events we have already witnessed can feel like time which could be better filled. In the insightful commentary for episode 1 included on the disc, there is even talk of how often lines, or parts of lines, are re-utilised.

Despite this, the history and passion behind the preceding performances of Takeshi and Emi build to a spectacularly satisfying mid-series conclusion. The conflict within Kousei and what he has learned through meeting Kaori, expresses itself during a stunningly put-together musical sequence and at the same time, a multi-part battle within Kousei’s mind. The resolution at this stage isn’t about being the best –  it’s about life lessons and maturity. Like many great TV shows, Your Lie in April uses its subject matter as a vehicle for the message it is trying to put across. As it happens, Your Lie in April uses music for both this and creating an immense spectacle as the characters – Kousei in particular – work out their lives.


Final Thoughts

Volume 1 of Your Lie in April takes a tragically afflicted character in Kousei Arima and by introducing the brightness of Kaori Miyazano, puts a story into place that shows him bravely tackling his issues. As a half-series, it caps this wonderfully, all whilst introducing a central cast that you immediately connect with. In the same way, it also sets up a lot for the second half of the series, with a few troubling undertones in the life of Kaori and some unanswered questions for the likes of Tsubaki. Other than occasionally overusing callbacks, Your Lie In April is magnificently presented with a charming and heartbreaking story. Whatever challenges need to be faced in the second half, these characters – and we, the audience – are firmly along for the ride.

9.5/10

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Title: Your Lie in April – Volume 1
Certificate: 12
Production: A-1 Pictures
Distributor: Anime Limited
Platform(s): Collector’s Edition Blu-ray + DVD
Version Reviewed: DVD
Released: Out Now!

Disclosure: A copy of Your Lie in April was supplied by Anime Limited, the distributor, to Tanuki Bridge for the purposes of this review.