My biggest problem with Shigatsu would having to be the constant monologuing. I don’t have any problem with monologues as a literary device, but Shigatsu uses it too much. It takes away from the impact of the monologues. I’m a big fan of showing, and not telling as much, but Shigatsu just barely does any *real* showing. There are plenty of monologues that can be taken out of the show, and it would be for the better. When there’s at least one monologue per episode (usually more), it really starts to get tiring for me personally. This only applies to Shigatsu however, as I really like Oregairu, which also had its fair share of monologues. The difference is that Oregairu had enjoyable monologues, while Shigatsu has monologues that border on pretentious.
On top of that, the monologues and dialogue in general, just doesn’t seem “natural” in Shigatsu. Shigatsu centers around 14 year olds, and yet it seems like they’re at least in high school, with how their conversations are written. Seriously, 14 year olds don’t talk like they do in Shigatsu at all. For me, it causes a disconnect with the characters, and makes it harder for me to relate to them. I hypothesize that the mangaka made the main characters 14 in order for the readers to relate more easily (it was serialized in Shounen Magazine Monthly after all), but I feel that the anime would benefit from having older characters. That way, the characters don’t seem unnaturally mature for their age.
While on the topic of characters, while Kousei and Kaori are fleshed out nicely (less on the part of Kaori), the rest of the characters are lacking in development. It was a mistake to have such a large cast for Shigatsu, as many characters barely get any growth. The biggest example of this, is Tsubaki. To be frank, I don’t think she should’ve even been in Shigatsu. Her own purpose was to force a love triangle as a childhood friend of Kousei’s, and a love triangle is completely unnecessary. She just took up time, that could’ve furthered the maturation of Kousei or Kaori. And don’t even get me started on the other characters, like Nagi, Takeshi, Emi, and Watari. They get *very* small amounts of development, that eventually turn to be useless, as none of them play a “huge” role in Shigatsu. This is yet another mistake, as Shigatsu would’ve worked much better as a story with a sole focus on Kousei and Kaori.
The addition of side characters just detracted from the main point of the show, like how Watari got some semblance of character growth when he lost his big soccer game, but then it went nowhere. It makes me wonder, why use that scene in the first place, if doesn’t have any relevance in the big scheme of things? The same issue arises with Nagi’s arc. She gets a few episodes dedicated to fleshing out her character, then becomes irrelevant. If her arc isn’t connected or related to the overall plotline, it shouldn’t have even existed. You could argue that it also helps the viewer understand Takeshi more, but he’s not even an important character.
I do think Kousei is a very good character however. I liked his growth, and how he and Kaori influenced, and changed each other. Nevertheless, I feel like Kaori wasn’t really at her full potential. She could’ve been developed more, which would make her death that much more moving, if the side characters didn’t use up so much time in the episodes, for their own trivial progress. An even bigger issue is Kaori’s role in Shigatsu. She’s more of a plot device to fuel Kousei’s growth, than an actual character herself. Instead of having her develop as a character throughout the story, they just reveal all her motivations and feelings in the last episode. While it’s not a *bad* way to explain her character per se, it seems like a cop out compared to actually having her character emerge as the story goes on.
I also feel that there were too many unrealistic moments or events chalked up to plot convenience, in a story that should’ve been grounded in reality. Like how Kousei’s mother was allowed to get with continuously abusing Kousei. She even did it in public once, and you would expect people to report her to child services, or whatever Japan has for dealing with problems like that. To add on, I was literally slamming my head against my desk when was able to sight read the piano accompaniment to Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.
After all, he didn’t play in two years! It’s completely crazy to be able to sight read that, when you haven’t played in two years. Now, I would be able to concede this, since Shigatsu is an anime and all. Then in episode 21, Kousei says he can’t play Chopin’s 1st Ballade because he didn’t practice it for one week. One week. Are you serious? Of course he still plays it in the end, but it’s like one moment real life logic doesn’t apply, and next moment it does. And don’t even get me started on how Kousei was able to learn Chopin’s 1st Ballade after taking a hiatus from plano playing for two years. After all, Chopin’s ballades are only *some of the most challenging pieces in the standard piano repertoire*. But I digress.
Despite my biggest problem critically with Shigatsu being the monologuing, I found the inconsistent tone even more frustrating. Humor was inserted at times when it should’ve been serious, and just destroys the tone of the show. It made it hard for me to take the story seriously, and quite frankly, the comedy wasn’t even funny. When the story is about the main character overcoming past trauma, while dealing with new challenges, the comedy just doesn’t fit. While I believe that a story shouldn’t be serious 100% of the time, the kind of comic relief in Shigatsu is just unneeded.
However, the animation in Shigatsu is very good. Like almost all A-1 Pictures productions, there’s consistently good artwork. I also like the design of the characters, and I actually prefer it to the original art for Shigatsu. The color palette is very nice, and easy on the eyes. The colors are vibrant, and fit their respective scenes very well. The loss of hair color for Kaori as the show went on was also a nice touch.
To contrast, the actual performance scenes were lacking, in my opinion. Whenever it’s a scene where someone’s playing the piano or violin, A-1 Pictures only shows a few moments of the actual fingers pressing the keys or moving the bow. The rest of the performance scene consists of characters monologuing, or aerial shots. While this can be contributed to budget constraints, when I watch a show that has music as a big component, I expect quite a bit of *actual* playing by the characters. But when you can actually see the playing, it’s very well animated and fluid. I’m happy that A-1 Pictures actually used a real pianist’s hands for reference.
As for Shigatsu’s soundtrack, it’s nice. There aren’t any standout tracks, but the pieces fit the tone of the show, and adds to the intensity of some scenes. However, from an anime that’s music based, I expected much more from Shigatsu’s OST. It’s good and does its job, but that’s about it. There’s no pieces that get stuck in your head, or are just so amazing that you can’t stop listening to them. This isn’t the case for Shigatsu’s OPs and EDs though. The first OP Hikaru Nara, is a great song, and my personal favorite OP for Autumn 2014. The harmonies are especially good, and now I’m a fan of Goose House. I also liked the second OP, Nanairo Symphony, and the first ED, Kirameki. As for Orange, the second ED, it’s just great. The tone and the feelings the song evokes are spot on.
Something that I want to note are the classical pieces in Shigatsu. Not everyone might notice this, but as a pianist myself, it annoyed me immensely. There are some points in Shigatsu, where Kousei restarts a piece multiple times, with a different interpretation every time. The show claims that there are different interpretations, or feelings with every version, but that’s not true. In the complete OST (use your Youtube-fu skills to find it), there’s only one recording for each piece. It might not be that bothersome, but as a musician myself, it really irks me. Unlike a show like Kids on the Slope, I can’t really feel any emotion coming from soundtrack, at least for the classical pieces compared to the raw emotions evoked from Kids on the Slope’s jazz OST.
The voice acting is solid, with all the seiyuus playing their parts correctly, but nothing was really spectacular.
On the other hand, the classical pieces chosen couldn’t have been more on point. There’s a lot of symbolism, and not a single piece is chosen without some meaning behind it. The first pieces in Shigatsu are works by Beethoven, his Moonlight Sonata (Op.27, No.2) and his violin sonata, Kreutzer (No.9). Both were written early in the 1800s, when Beethoven was already mostly deaf. This can be compared to Kousei’s inability to hear his own playing. Then, the repertoire changes to Romantic Era, which rids itself of all bonds and restrictions of the Classical Era. Music becomes more abstract and harder to explain, like love. There’s obviously the “romantic” in Romantic Era, which together show Kousei’s growing love for Kaori. On top of that, losing the rigid rules of the Classical Era, is like Kousei advancing past his trauma about his mother, and moving on. His own playing becomes more personal, and more emotional to suit the Romantic Era. Then there’s the blatant foreshadowing for Kaori, as Chopin (whose music is used a lot in Shigatsu) died young.
Concerning the foreshadowing for Kaori’s death, I honestly feel that it could’ve been done better. Her looming death is blatantly obvious, and just thrown in your face. It was hard for me to watch the episodes at times, because even though I wished it wasn’t true, *we all knew that she was going to die*. It doesn’t make want to watch the show, if I already know what’s going to happen, and it’s not going to be something that I like. It just wasn’t subtle enough. If Shigatsu was just a little bit more subtle, it could’ve added a lot to the show. After all, we viewers aren’t *so* stupid that A-1 Pictures has to give overly obvious hints to Kaori’s fate.
As for the last episode, it was well executed for the most part. Episode 21 had set up the last episode pretty well, and the monologuing wasn’t as annoying as it was in previous episodes. The last episode brought the story to an end pretty well, and definitely had the best performance scene out of the whole series. The piano and violin duet was done very well, and for the most part the violin harmony fit the original piece well. I didn’t like the pizzicato however, as it took away from the flowing tone of the duet. The overall artwork was great, from the spinning camera during the duet to the beautiful backgrounds. Despite that, the episode isn’t perfect. The bad comedy is still there, and completely ruined for me what would be a very touching episode.
Overall, like I said before, Shigatsu is not a bad show. There are many good aspects of the show, though I sometimes had problems deriving entertainment from the show. Especially the inconsistent tone, overuse of monologues, and unnecessary character development. Nonetheless, I still really like the concept of the show, and Kousei really grows as a character. The choice of classical pieces were not without meaning either. It just seems that Shigatsu reaches for greatness, then falls short before reaching it.