This review is meant to be for the first week of posts, the week of 9/21.
Hey everyone. This review is going to be a little different than the usual ones. Because of the nature of this show, the spoilers will ruin the entire thing. If you haven’t seen this show yet, please go watch it. You won’t regret it. It’s a masterpiece of animation and storytelling that just might change your life – it sure changed mine. It’s incredible and I seriously recommend you watch it. From this point forward, THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Good god. So, you’ve watched it. How many tissues did you go through? This show is an experience moreso than an anime. And if you’ve watched it, you’ll understand what I mean. If you haven’t watched it because you’re some kind of sicko who doesn’t like watching painfully sad shows, I’ll give you the rundown. The show follows four characters: Kosei, Kaori, Tsubaki, and Ryota. Kaori is a beautiful, quirky girl who plays the violin and is severely ill with some sort of illness. She still gets the most out of life, but we see it impact her as she starts to faint frequently, and is unable to walk for some time after one scene. It’s clear that she’s dying. Kosei is an awkward guy who plays the piano and keeps to himself most of the time. Due to childhood trauma around piano playing, he loses his ability to “hear” the music he’s playing, and a once child prodigy becomes useless at piano and quits for some time. However, when he plays with Kaori, he figures out how to use her playing to make himself able to play. It’s complicated and sort of metaphysical, but it’s a joy to watch Kosei come out of his shell. Tsubaki is…also there.
Some stuff happens, Kosei and Kaori become very close but Kosei is too dense to figure out that Kaori likes him, and…well. You know how this story ends. The final episodes in this series had me crying like an absolute baby. I watched the last 3 episodes back to back, and I literally cried the entire time. I had to pause the final episode multiple times because I was actually sobbing. I had to watch the final episode again to write this review, and I cried just as hard even without having watch all 21 of the other episodes. When I say that this story is a heart-wrencher, I am NOT playing around!!! In the final episode, Kosei has learned to hear the music again. Kaori has become extremely sick and can’t leave her hospital room anymore. She is effectively dying. She wants to appear on stage with Kosei one last time, and undergoes a risky surgery.
This story is an absolutely incredible study on childhood trauma, the downfalls of “child prodigy syndrome,” and a perfect insight into how a few teenagers in this scenario would actually behave. The series is 22 episodes but feels like it’s 3 seasons long. The “villains” are not villains, and actually help Kosei towards his goal and end up rooting for him in the end. Many shows try to be like YLIA, but none can truly capture what YLIA managed to do. From the perspective of someone who is going to be writing as a career, this show is a massive inspiration for me. The way it’s written is something I can only hope to achieve with my writing. The way that the characters grow and change is in itself inspirational, and makes you want to grow in your own fields of interest.
The way that Kaori is written is very realistic, as well. The plight of a young girl knowing she is dying is something that’s hard to present in a positive light. The death of a sickly high school girl is some extremely dark subject matter, but YLIA makes it realistic. A dying teenage girl with Kaori’s personality would not just sit around waiting to die. The unique perspective of someone who is dying is hard to capture in a way that’s realistic but still relatable, and YLIA somehow manages to do this.
The art direction is unique and beautiful. The colors are used in a way that conveys the emotional state of the characters flawlessly without having to say a word. When Kosei’s relationship with his mother is broken and all he can remember are her beatings, she remembers her as this gray-green sickly monster in dark colors. When he reconciles and forgives her, she’s presented as a healthy, colorful mother with caring eyes. The way that scenes are reused over and over really makes this show unique. Where most shows would be afraid of using a scene repeatedly (i.e. the characters crossing the train tracks, the train signal blinking) but YLIA makes use of it to show how every day is just like any other, yet there is something darker beneath the surface.
Even the score is flawless. I’d hope that a show centered around music has good sound, but the music in this show is spectacular. It sounds like it uses real audio recordings from the instruments for the music scenes. The music itself can pull at your heartstrings because it’s filled with such emotion, and many very difficult or complicated songs are played with perfection.
Overall, I believe that YLIA has the potential to be an anime of the decade. Personally, it’s in my top five favorites of all time. I believe that anyone who likes anime should absolutely watch this, and those who don’t watch anime can still enjoy it. This show earns a perfect 10/10 for me. There is nothing that I dislike about this show. Even the length is perfect. Any longer or shorter and it wouldn’t have been just right.