Mild Spoilers Below
This 22 episode + 1 OVA anime series is an exceptionally well made standard romance-drama storyline.
Thinking over it, it has a fairly standard manic pixie dream girl teaches guy life lessons and then leaves plotline but there are key differences that make this anime outshine the standard template of what people typically expect from this series.
1.) The characters are incredibly realistic. Every single character in this anime has a realistic personality, passions, and goals in life. In contrast to the standard story formula, these aren’t cliche. Arima Kousei, the main character, has monologues that aren’t cliche or stupid; they show the introspection and emotional pain of a damaged prodigy whose whole world shattered after his mother’s death and his regretful last words despite her child abuse.
2.) Most importantly of all; there is no forced melodrama to force the story to continue, there is no character stupidity, and just about everything the characters struggle through is either real life issues that many people can relate to or ambivalence about feelings for long time friends that is just as relatable.
As a result, this anime shines far above the typical cliches and provides some incredible character development and story transition. Despite the seeming haphazardness of the story progression as it immerses us with scenes from past and present in seamless transition to show us the characters thoughts, motives, and struggles; it conducts the immersion brilliantly with a deft hand at picking out scenes that make the classical music scores resonate with the tumultuous emotions given to the audience.
The classical musical scores make the show shine as we’re treated to the inner struggles of artists who play songs to reach their loved ones and to reach audiences beyond language, religion, nationality, age, gender, and all the other social statuses that sever human connectedness. Music is generally portrayed as otherworldly but this anime makes it a point to say that music is just as flawed and human as the people playing the musical scores. Most interestingly, the artist is stated to follow the Dark Path as that is what it is to be a musician despite one’s nervousness at a live performance.
It is explicitly stated, by Kaori, the main heroine, that music is freedom. She explores and showcases the freedom of music by playing musical scores in her own beat and rhythm with her violin.
Kaori’s characterization seems fairly realistic in terms of being selfish and forcefully proactive because of her limited time in life, but unfortunately it’s still the standard cliche of a manic pixie dream girl. But I did really like her character, and the emotional turmoil she went through as her condition (which some viewers have stated resemble ALS) deteriorated and she underwent the operation. The last scene with her was a nice touch for the anime.
Despite Kaori being a manic pixie dream girl, since even in her last words at the end of the anime, it predictably stated that her whole life was about getting to know the boy whose music she admired as a kid; the childhood friend of the main character, Tsubaki, provides better character development overall. Tsubaki’s ambivalence and emotional turmoil is a more realistic portrayal of a female character facing struggles with her own feelings.
Watari, Arima Kousei’s other close friend, and his rivals Emi and Takeshi, along with Takeshi’s sister Aiza Nagi, and Kousei’s teacher Hiroko, and other side characters have incredible characterization.
I would say that it is a must-watch anime. However, I’m not sure what to score it. An 8 out of 10 or a 9 out of 10 or a 10 out of 10 . . . I’m just not sure. You be the judge after watching it. It’s certainly masterfully written and produced; a great use of standard cliches to make a riveting story and the music composition alone makes the anime standout and shine. Definitely worth your time.
Also, on a more personal note, I really enjoyed how every single one of the characters can be considered ubermensch in the defined term that Nietzsche meant. Following their own self-satisfaction, giving their lives for their art/sport, living as embodiments of art for art’s sake, and struggling and feeling happy with struggling whether it be emotional or physical impairments. Kaori, Arima Kousei, Tsubaki, Emi, Takeshi, Nagi, Hiroko, and all of the other characters all embody the ubermensch philosophy of Nietzsche. Kaori was especially the personficiation; I loved how, despite the tragic circumstances, she gained enjoyment and happiness from finding a purpose in struggling against her condition thanks to Kousei’s words about playing music with her again.It was beautiful and I think it personifies the ubermensch and the theme of the anime beautifully.