There are two things that I love; music and anime. Put them together and you end up with a....dropped anime? I was anticipating watching Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso after hearing that is is an award winning manga about a musical child prodigy learning to face his demons, with a bit of romance thrown in. If done right, this could have been another gem to add to the multiple other music-based anime out there. But instead it seems that almost everything went wrong.
The protagonist of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is Kousei, an unbelievably talented musician who's mother's death has been haunting him, so much so that he cannot play anymore. Since then he's found life fairly meaningless, apart from moments of happiness with his two best friends; Tsubaki and Ryouta. Then one day he meets a near perfect-looking girl his age who is also a violinist and has arrived to change his world. There's nothing wrong with this premise; in fact there are many enjoyable films with the "depressed male meets manic pixie dream girl" premise. What follows is where the problems begin.
The first problem arises when Kousei is describing the loss of his musical ability. Instead of saying something a regular person would say, such as "I don't like it anymore", Kousei says he "cannot hear the music anymore". When I heard him say this I thought that it was just a bit melodramatic, nothing more. However, now that I look back I can see why he uses these words. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso wants to be a feels trip, but doesn't know how. So it turns the drama dial to the max, even if things don't seem natural. The characters don't speak like normal people. Every line of dialogue (outside of the attempts at humour) is portrayed to have some deep meaning for them.
This is emphasised by the constant monologuing and flashbacks. Kousei isn't just seen struggling to play music, he'll have a discussion in his head about how difficult everything is and then there'll be flashbacks of his mother abusing him. He won't just have a few scenes showing that he struggles with girls (even though his best friend is a female - which is generally far more than what most guys have at his age), he'll launch into a monologue about how he's "always the sidekick" - repeatedly. There's nothing wrong with the problems he is facing seeing as there are people who have gone through similar circumstances. But there is no need to constantly repeat and emphasise these issues in an attempt to create drama.
Then there's the emotional and "life-changing" moments. The characters of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso are overcoming obstacles and creating new outlooks on life every few minutes. This is simply too much. This is where most critics start calling the show pretentious, which is understandable. No human being has the wisdom to come up with the realisations these characters do so frequently. No one reflects on their friendship, hobbies and place in life every second of the day. For a show that requires the viewer to relate to its characters, it does everything it can to achieve the opposite.
The next issue is Kaori and the cliches. Now, I don't believe that cliches are inherently wrong. Especially considering almost every adventure film involves the same plot devices. However, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso even failed to do cliches right. This is where Kaori comes in. She is meant to be an MPDG; the girl that comes in to Kousei's life to change his world. But, like the drama, this is turned up to the max. Everything about Kaori is meant to be perfect. She's happy-go-lucky, loves music, intelligent, willing to show her emotions, beautiful, gets along with children and has a massive interest in our protagonist. They even throw in that she's sick and dying in case everything else didn't receive an emotional response. However, due to how overboard they've gone to make her a MPDG, it's actually made even fans of the show to have some dislike for her. When she is pushing Kousei to play with her, the show is attempting to portray her as encouraging Kousei to come out of his shell, but it comes across as borderline bullying. Her character is simply a trope gone wrong.
The cliches continue for the other characters and it makes it predictable. Tsubaki clearly has feelings for Kousei but will end up accepting that Kousei does not reciprocate. Ryouta will not change at all and is only there to create a love triangle. Kaori's sickness will end up getting worse, but before dying she'll reveal that the whole time she loved Kousei. Kousei will end up coming out of his shell and still love Kaori even after she's gone. The side characters will come and go without doing much and each episode will be padded out with flashbacks and monologues. It is obvious what's coming and really only has content to last a film, not a whole 20+ episode series.
After all that rambling about the negatives (and there are more, but mostly minor at this point), there are some positives. The artwork in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is wonderful to look at. Take a screenshot at any point in most episodes and you would have a good wallpaper. The animation is fairly decent, especially when the effort is put in to the concert performances. The music throughout the show is brilliant and the choice of songs throughout are actually very appropriate. The OP is incredibly catchy and as much as I didn't enjoy the show, I still enjoy listening to the OP.
So, if you enjoy forced melodrama with music involved, then you might get more out of this show than I did. However, there are definitely better drama-based anime out there, even with music being a focus. Personally, I'm just disappointed knowing that this show could have been much better.