“Your Lie in April” (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) is mangaka Naoshi Arakawa’s third published manga and first licensed work in America. Like his earlier works, “Time Stops in the Cold School Building” (Tsumetai Kousha no Toki wa Tomaru) and “Goodbye Football” (Sayonara Football), “Your Lie in April” is a slice of life series that was originally published in Kodansha’s Monthly Shounen Magazine. The English adaptation is licensed through Kodansha Comics and translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley, two well-known names in the field of manga translation.
The story opens with a tragic flashback to a competitive piano performance by then eleven-year-old protagonist Arima Kousei. Three years later, Arima still finds that he’s unable to play competitively, resigning himself to using his musical skills in a part time job transcribing melodies of popular songs for karaoke recordings. His childhood friends, Tsubaki Sawabe and Ryouta Watari, chide him for his melancholy approach to life and his talents.
For the playboy, Watari, this is mostly superficial and focused on the pursuit of love and getting girls, but Tsubaki expresses a genuine concern that Arima’s breakdown on the stage has left his life stalled and prevented him from coping and moving forward. Tsubaki invites Arima along on an outing with Watari and a classmate of hers who’s interested in Watari, Kaori Miyazono. She hopes Arima will help her not feel like a third wheel and hopes that Arima and Kaori might have something in common as well, since Kaori is an accomplished violinist.
As it turns out, it’s Arima who meets Kaori first, accidentally snapping an up skirt photo of her when a gust of wind interrupts an impromptu performance between Kaori and some neighborhood children. The energetic Kaori goes on an all-out attack for Arima’s transgression, only calming somewhat when Tsubaki and Watari show up and the three of them rush to make their way to Kaori’s violin competition. The performance hall brings a strange sense of nostalgia and anxiety for Arima after abandoning his own career three years prior, but as Kaori steps up to perform he finds himself captivated by her eccentric and enthusiastic rendition of the competition piece. At that moment, something begins to stir in Arima, slowly changing the way he once looked at music.
Arakawa’s experience in the slice-of-life genre really shines through on the pages of “Your Lie in April”. His clean line work and distinct character designs convey a clear sense of movement and emotion for the characters. Something as simple as a panel drawing attention to a tremor in a character’s hands or a downward gaze of the eye give the scenes real emotional weight. For this volume Kodansha Comics chooses to leave the Japanese sound effects intact with translations in matching fonts that help to maintain the upbeat energy of the pages. Alethea and Athena Nibley provide a smooth and enjoyable translation that effortlessly maintains the distinctive voices of the characters. In reading the comic, you can hear the gusto that Kaori puts behind her words in contrast to Arima’s cool pragmatism which creates a delightful experience.
Although “Your Lie in April” is published in a shounen magazine, it carries over strong elements of the shoujo genre as well. For music lovers or those who are interested in a character driven story that plays on the struggles of human relationships, ambition, and youth, “Your Lie in April” is an excellent read. Volume 2 recently hit the shelves on June 23rd and Volume 3 is scheduled for a release on August 25th.