Kōsei Arima was a child prodigy on the piano until one competition where he froze entirely. Now, he can’t bring himself to play the piano. He’s still drawn to music and often transcribes sheet music of popular songs for karaoke or other things. His friend makes him tag along on a pseudo-double date and it turns out, the girl they’re introduced to plays the violin! Kōsei is tricked into going back to the very hall he froze in to watch her in a violin competition. She plays the assigned piece brilliantly, but not at all like she’s supposed to. When she puts together that he’s the Amazing Arima, she begs him to become her accompanist, but Kōhei is extremely scared and resistant.
This manga beautifully captures performing music and mixes that with the pressures of being a musician as a young person. The stress from competitions and the pressure to be perfect is enormous, and burnout is quite common. But this story is more about building yourself back up and the power of friendship. Presumably, there will be a romance between our two leads, but the first volume focuses mostly on Kōhei’s struggles. We learn that much of the reason that Kōhei can’t play is because his mother used to abuse him to make him practice long hours to be the best piano player. She was terminally ill and passed away between Kōhei’s failed competition and the beginning of this book, but the guilt she put on him and the pressure to please her still weighs heavily on Kōhei.
Arakawa's illustrations are a little bit plain at times, but his ability really shines in the pages where characters are playing instruments. The settings are well done and immersive, especially the scenes in the park and in the concert hall.
Kodansha rates this volume for 13+, and that's probably for inclusion of child abuse and some suicidal ideation. Kōhei wonders if the world would be any different if he disappeared.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 7-12
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
ISBN: 9781632361714 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga, Music, Friendship, Kodansha
I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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