Play the piano Kousei, play it for me.
It’s a beautiful show, it’s a stunning show. The words its characters speak drip with youthful innocence and melancholy. Ah, do you hear that? It’s the fluttering of cherry blossom petals as the spring sun embraces us in its warmth! Ah youth!
And yet, as an episode ends…I feel helplessness crawl all over me like a dark shadow.
The realization hit me…this show conned me.
Things become more meaningful with watercolors!
It has been truly, truly difficult to write about Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso and my disdain for it has only increased over time. Helping someone get over their trauma isn’t a unique concept in fiction. In fact, it may be one of the most common concepts in fiction. No one’s expecting an anime to be absolutely realistic about things like this. No one’s expecting anime to be realistic most of the time.
Drama has always been about manipulation, the secret to keeping your audience engaged is letting them buy into the illusion. KimiUso couldn’t do that for me.
It all comes down to its characters: loud, obnoxious fourteen year olds who are placed at an altar, worshiped by the narrative. The story fails to make us believe these are human beings. They don’t even feel like people I want to relate to. They’re self-centered, selfish dolts who make it a mission to help out a friend with a history of abuse. Because they’re on a noble mission, we aren’t allowed to doubt their actions. Because they’re doing what is right, we aren’t allowed to question their motives.
When I watch a show like Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, I want to root for the characters. I want to believe in them, despite their flaws. I want to like them even if they’re being selfish. The show doesn’t give me that. There is no nuance or depth to these characters, but we can pretend they do whenever tinkling piano music plays in the background. Nothing they say really means a lot but when those pretty cherry blossoms start fluttering, you better believe it. There is no real emotional gravity to their actions, but with a deftly executed animation sequence it can cloak its own hollow attempt to wring a response.
He’s literally forced into playing the piano with Kaori and it’s all played for laughs. We have to sit through this even though we just saw his toxic relationship with his abusive mother. This show can’t even manage to seamlessly switch tones. The gap between light-hearted, cartoonish comedy and heavy human drama is far too wide, it’s a tough bridge to cross and KimiUso is incapable of doing it without making me experience cognitive dissonance.
It’s set in a escapist fantasy world, where deep and troubling issues are whitewashed and the solutions to those problems are simplified. It pretends to be about something important, but the show itself doesn’t actually care. All that matters is that you’re still mesmerized, swept by the cherry blossoms as a fourteen year old says another rehashed line about spring.