Kosei Arima is a piano prodigy with a lot of baggage. His mother relentlessly drilled him at playing piano at a young age, imbuing a rigid work ethic and demand for reproducing scores with robotic, award-winning precision. After his mother passed away, he lost his connection to music, but a chance encounter with a gifted violinist with a lust for life leads both of them to joyous duets.

Your Lie In April was a manga series that came out in the United States in 2015 and wrapped up at the very beginning of 2017. An anime adaptation originally aired during 2014-2015. This light novel, written by Yui Tokiumi, was originally published in Japan in 2014 and the US in 2017 (translated by Greg Gencarello), reaching English-language readers as the manga and anime begin to age. A prologue and epilogue from duet partner and low-key love interest Kaori bookend the four story chapters, each through the eyes and ears of Kosei’s friends and competitors.

A Six-Person Etude is a slim volume of 162 pages, plus some ads for the Your Lie In April manga, Attack On Titan novelizations, and The Seven Deadly Sins manga. A couple of color pages in the beginning and some manga pages are included, all using art by manga creator Naoshi Arakawa. Through Arakawa’s illustrations, readers can see Kosei’s young rivals upset to eat his dust, his breakdown on stage before a large audience, and the negative impression of Kosei’s mother that haunts him, for examples.

These manga pages underline a potential shortcoming for the book, that readers who already watched/read this material know how everything turns out. For a returning reader, these chapters are a nostalgic return to the emotional beats and backstory to character profiles, flashbacks, and defining moments. New readers will pick up on Kosei’s overall arc of losing and regaining his love of performing music, but without the emotional payoffs and catharsis that would come from seeing how each character develops over the course of the series. On their own, these chapters represent character sketches that demand to be fleshed out elsewhere. There are a couple of moments regarding Kaori in particular that lack dramatic irony for new readers, whereas returning fans are more likely to feel misty-eyed.

Nonetheless, the book’s strength lies in its variety of voices. Kosei admits out loud that there’s not much to him besides practicing music, and it’s a pleasure to follow other characters with more colorful personalities. Aiza is a less disciplined boy with a social life who feels driven to practice after losing to Kosei; soccer-star-to-be Ryota is Kaori’s boyfriend who can tell she and Kosei would make a natural couple; Sawabe is Kosei’s childhood friend and neighbor who witnessed his young kindness and grief firsthand; Igawa is a competitor who could not bear to witness Kosei’s breakdown.

Along with these voices are Tokiumi’s methods of depicting music. The weakest, by far, involves writing out notes as long rows of syllables, which quickly becomes repetitive on the page. Elsewhere, Aiza explains composers at a childish age, Ryota feels the passion behind Kaori’s playing while lacking the terminology to explain it, Sawabe feels the distinct lack of music in Kosei’s life, Igawa demonstrates her expertise like a seasoned musician, and Kaori attaches to music like a fish to water. Their chapters may not be long, but their voices are distinct and match their manga counterparts well.

If your library carries Your Lie In April (and it should), shelve this in the same spot. Familiarity with the original story isn’t required but definitely completes the material. Consider making a display out of the classical music referenced, including Beethoven, Kreisler, Mozart, Bach, Gounod, and Chopin. Teens might even look up how to waltz or ländler after reading this. Vertical lists this book as Young Adult on its website, but there’s nothing distinctly mature in its content, only an emotional mural.

Your Lie In April: A Six-Person Etude (Light Novel)
by Yui Tokiumi
Art by Naoshi Arakawa
ISBN: 9781945054266
Vertical, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Young Adult

  • Thomas

    Features Writer

    Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library | He/Him

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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