Lost in Ideas: The Mystery Blogger Award

Here we are with another tag post! I am working on a few different articles at the moment but felt as though I needed a break of sorts from that rhythm, so this is a welcome opportunity for that. I was first tagged for this by Nora over at IT’S YOUR FAULT I’M NOT POPULAR!, so am going to respond to that; to Aizen_Kuro over at It’severythinganime, I also appreciate you mentioning me, but as this is already quite an extensive tag I thought I wouldn’t stack them up. Thank you to the two of you, and for those reading, go and view their blogs!

Right, then, here we go, time to find out more about, well, me? Here are the rules, as copied from the post I was tagged in:

The Rules

  1. Display the award logo on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Mention Okoto Enigma, the creator of the award.
  4. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  5. Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
  6. Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
  7. Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
  9. Share the link to your best post.

3 Things About Myself

Profession: People who read this site may not know that I am a graphic designer, so this seems a suitable place to mention it! I have a Degree in Design for Publishing and 2 years of experience in industry. My focus is on printed products such as magazines and books, which matches my personal trait of collecting physical media. The tangibility of beautiful printed products holds so much value to me, and being involved in creating in them supplies this to me as well.

Gaming: It may be clear I am a fan of gaming – considering this site! – but here is some trivia for you: all the way back in 2010, I took part in Britain’s Best Nintendo Gamer, where after qualifying locally, I got to the finals with 15 others. These were held in London, and Nintendo treated us very well on our trip there. The game for the finals was Goldeneye on the Wii, which hadn’t been released yet! I narrowly missed out on the final 4, placing 2nd in my match, but still, I won a year of free Nintendo first-party games, as well as a Super Mario Bros. DSi XL for winning at a Guitar Hero side tournament they had there! I also got to know some new fellow gamers, which was great.

Activity: I have done quite a bit of field archery in my time, and know my way around a bow! In games and other mediums, I am drawn to archery and those who wield a bow, so it seems right that I have done it myself. My focus was on recurve – I prefer this to certain modern bows with many extra devices such as weights. I am considering Green Arrow for future cosplay!

I’m not quite at this level…

My Answers

Following are my answers to the five questions asked; I have copied the questions from the post in which I was tagged:

I mentioned something I started doing thanks to anime. What about you? Have you ever took up on or tried something that you saw in anime?

I mean, I guess the clearest example would be when I got into Trading Card Games around the time that Yu-Gi-Oh! was ascending into stratospheric popularity. The anime and the card game were much more intrinsically tied together than, say, Pokémon, where the anime and the TCG were – to me – more separate from the success of the games. I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG from early on, eventually starting to go to a local club where I met new people who would become friends. I actually found quite a bit of success, winning promotional cards, sleeves, and more. I really enjoyed that, but did drop off around the time that XYZ was introduced – in my opinion, they started to over-complicate the game. I still collect the cards, but I don’t currently regularly go to a club as I used to.

Any general bad habits/a type of prejudice that you have when you’re first starting an anime series? Example: I am very picky about genre, thus I don’t start a series from *insert the genre you don’t like* unless I read very good things about it.

Hmm… Perhaps art style. I often find myself watching anime with detailed and soft aesthetics, such as Your Lie in April, with stunning use of colour that is not in-your-face. Other anime that have that perhaps more intense, flatter style can initially sway me away. I should be more open to watching them and seeing how they are in movement though, as perhaps I would enjoy them differently to how I reckon beforehand. A few examples are My Hero Academia, Kill la Kill, and Naruto – they’re not as high in my list of to-watch as, say, a show such as Violet Evergarden is, and the art style is part of that.

Any title that you think should exist in another form? Ex. a manga that needs an anime adaptation, an anime that needs a game adaptation etc.

Great question. I reckon a Kakegurui game could be awesome! They way that world is constructed, with the tiers of status, could make for a satisfying progression system as you try to survive your academic life, playing the different games that appear in the manga and learning more on each character. It could be a mix of visual novel and puzzle game, with these various matches to make your way through and a story that is constantly evolving as you do so. It’d also be a reason to get awesome new artwork of the characters!

What’s one character you think is greatly misunderstood by fandom or a series that is paid dust but it should change?

This isn’t so much for anime or directed at the fandom or series itself, but I found the way certain people reacted to Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018 disconcerting. For the final game in the origin trilogy, Eidos Montreal and Square Enix made the choice to explore how the quest for answers Lara Croft is on is in some ways hurting her and the people around her, resulting in multiple points where she shows her vulnerabilities and flaws. I saw some people react to this in a disappointing way, as though she had to be constantly endearing and happy. In my opinion, the game handles itself very well and treats this aspect of itself with class. They did not have to delve into the character in this way, yet they did, and that should be applauded.

Lara Croft faces many challenges in Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Something personal: what is one thing that you didn’t think would enjoy/it wasn’t your thing but out of utter boredom you took it up and enjoyed in the end? I’m sure quarantine life had us do otherwise unreasonable things.

To apply context again, this isn’t an idea I was against, but one I just hadn’t put enough into pursuing, and that is Discord. For years I have heard of people using it for chat and easier discussion with friends, especially for gaming, but for some reason I had just not gotten into it. However, during this year and the obstacles of contacting others it has brought, my friends and I tried it out. It has replaced much of my other social media since for keeping in touch with said friends, and allowed us all to converse in a more cohesive and satisfying way. The multiple chat channels, with an efficient combination of text, audio, and video, has been a personal revelation and helped to be a daily source of communication in a year where doing it face-to-face has been tough.

Bonus question: Terry Eagleton once said “Evil becomes sexy, when virtue becomes boring,” in a discussion on our fascination with evil characters. What are your thoughts on this? This isn’t easy to just answer under an award post and I intend it to be more of a conversation starter, or a new blog post idea that you may want to play around with.

This is a question I may indeed go into elsewhere in a separate article. It extends on from my point on Lara Croft; characters facing personal setbacks, and then learning and improving in those areas, can be very rewarding to view, endearing them to us for their determination to be better. For antagonists, they are there to be people with opposing ideals that we may not agree on, and so that conflict is built-in; therefore, they inhernetly have that space in which to change in a positive way, and when they do that they can be fascinating for the audience. I mean, take my favourite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel and Spike are amazing examples of character development and redemption arcs.


Right, now time to nominate people! Seems plenty have been tagged already elsewhere, so I am not going to tag 10-20 here, so as not to repeat tags already done. Instead I am going to tag 5 people; if you are mentioned, don’t consider it an obligation, but a suggestion! My 5 questions for you all are then below.

Shoot the Rookie
Frostilyte
Wretched and Divine
Nepiki Gaming
Gray’s Otome Visual Novel Corner


Questions

  1. Is there a particular genre of game, anime, or otherwise that you previously did not have much experience with, but over recent times have found yourself discovering an enjoyment of?
  2. Have you ever considered getting into cosplay? If so, which character(s) do you reckon you would embody?
  3. Which is your favourite gaming-time snack and drink combo?
  4. Is there a particular game series you have never played that you plan to soon get into?
  5. If you could go on holiday with any fictional character, who would it be and where? You can choose the tone of holiday!

Best Post

Finally, for my best post, I am going to include a link to one I did on Celeste back in 2018, named: Celeste Tackles Anxiety in a Way Only Games Can. That is a game that is very special to me in how it handles certain mental health issues in a way that is interwoven into the gameplay itself, and has really helped me personally in tackling certain internal thoughts. Firstly, I recommend that you play the game, but then afterwards I would point you to read this, as it is an article that means a lot to me. It is awesome that Lena Raine – who did the music for Celeste – mentioned it on social media too, a wonderful moment for me!


Well, there you go, I hope you feel as if you know me a bit better! This was a fun one, and perhaps a great way to change up the format of writing. As aforementioned, I am working on several exciting articles that are on the way soon. I hope you have a brilliant day!

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.