Writing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope [Your Lie in April]

June 14, 2020

Happy Sunday!

Today, I’m bringing the analysis of Your Lie in April that nobody asked for, but I kept promising anyways. XD I struggled for a looooong time on what to discuss - there’s a lot I could talk about, from Kousei’s internal conflict (which I LOVE) to the *cough* ending *cough*.

But all of those are either depressing or way too spoiler-y. look, if someone says this anime is happy, they are lying to you

And I want to discuss something I sometimes see in a character tropes or archetypes list: the manic pixie dream girl.

First and foremost, what is a manic pixie dream girl?

Basically, a manic pixie dream girl (can we just call it MPDG for the rest of this post?) is a character who exists solely to open up the eyes of a man. All their personality traits center around this one mission, and this is their only purpose in the story. They’re usually “quirky” and full of energy and life.

(I would give some examples, but I looked some up and I didn’t know any of them, so . . . yeah. XD Although I suppose that in a way, Glinda from Wicked is kind of a MPDG???)

The man who coined the term, Nathan Rabin, described it as existing “solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Source

I think you can probably see why people don’t like this character trope. Characters that exist solely for the main character’s benefit, with no motivation or desires of their own, don’t feel real, and they come across as annoying or stupid.

But I’m going to make a case FOR the MPDG - I think that, like most tropes, if you do it correctly, it can make for a really interesting character. XD

In short: I think to have a successful MPDG-type character, you have to make them just like any other character. Give them their own desires, fears, misbeliefs, motivations, and personality beyond “helping the male protagonist.”

I’m sure that was a mind-blowing concept to everyone. XD

And I think Kaori Mizayono is a perfect example of a MPDG done right.

(In case you haven’t seen the show, here’s a warning of MAJOR SPOILERS for THE FINAL EPISODE. If you have ANY intentions of watching the show, you need to click off now. Thank you for reading! <3)





All right, I know you haven’t finished the show, but you are very brave to continue on. I’m not holding anything back.

Here we go.

At first glance, Kaori seems like a typical MPDG. She’s quirky in nearly every sense of the word. She does strange things to live life to the fullest, and she DEFINITELY shoves our main character Kousei out of his monochrome world. Some examples:
  • Jumping off a bridge because she wanted to try it and convincing Kousei to follow her (the bridge wasn’t too high up, don’t worry)
  • Setting off fireworks on top of the school (??? I think it was on top of the school, anyways???)
  • Pestering Kousei to be her accompanist for days, which involved taping sheet music on his locker, piano, textbooks, and every other available surface
  • Chasing after a cat for the first minute or so of the show
During the first ten episodes or so, we only see the bright, perky side of Kaori’s personality. Sure, there are a few hints to some deeper stuff, but for the most part, our impression of Kaori is all, “I AM GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPIER, KOUSEI, EVEN IF IT MEANS MAKING YOU UNCOMFORTABLE.”

And I think this is okay. For the most part, we see things through Kousei’s eyes. It wouldn’t make sense for him to suddenly know all her internal conflict. Besides, the few short scenes we see of her hidden side make things more mysterious and suspenseful.

You don’t have to dump all a character’s secrets at once - in fact, hiding them can even make things more interesting. Just make sure that the audience knows that they’re not one-dimensional, if that makes any sense? Give hints to different traits the character has.

After the first ten episodes or so, Kaori's character depth begins to be shown to the audience, and her character arc begins to shine.

And if you have a MPDG character that is a major character, I would encourage you to consider giving them a character arc of their own, not just letting them stay stagnant. Not only does it make them more interesting, but it also makes the audience feel that they have a greater purpose. 

If you’ve seen the show, you know how this arc goes down: Kaori begins getting sicker and sicker from a secret, unnamed illness. The sicker she gets, the more hope she loses, and she gradually just . . . stops living vicariously?

Through his piano-playing, Kousei gives her drive to try to live as long as possible, so she opts to try the risky surgery that might extend her life. And . . . she doesn't make it.

*cue the GIANT SOBBING MESS that was me when this happened*

*I am still not okay*

*but anyways*

And, ironically, it's through her death that we finally understand her full character, her "why."

Because your MPDG NEEDS a "why." Their actions need to make sense in the grand context of things. Why are they being so supportive of the main character? What are they trying to achieve?

Kaori is such an interesting character because she has her own motivations, desires, fears, you name it. And although it’s not obvious from the start, there’s a reason why she helps Kousei.

Kaori has struggled with an illness for most of her life, but only recently has she discovered that she’s probably going to die from it. Her biggest fear is not being remembered, which can be seen with this quote of hers that she thinks before she performs:
Will it reach them?

This fear of being forgotten drives nearly everything she does, from playing her violin with passion to trying to impact Kousei, her secret crush and the person who inspired her to become a musician. She asks him several times if he thinks he’ll forget about her, because she’s terrified that this person who is so special to her won’t even remember she existed.

Since she knows that her life won’t last longer, she also lives life without regrets - jumping off a bridge, eating tons of pastries, et cetera.

And since she’s struggling with hopelessness as the show goes on, a lot of her motivational quotes could be her convincing herself to keep going.

In other words, every single one of those “quirky” characteristics of a MPDG is explained, and they add to her character in a significant and powerful way.

THAT is how you do a MPDG properly. You can still have a character that serves to change and impact your main character - as long as their motivations make sense, and as long as they have a life separate from the main character. And this will make them memorable, interesting - real.

So, that’s my analysis of Your Lie in April! I hope it made sense, and I hope you enjoyed it. If you get a chance, you should watch the show even though I basically spoiled it all for you XD. There’s a lot more to this show than just the MPDG aspect. :D

And also, you’re going to cry.

A lot.

-Nicole <3

Do any of you write MPDGs? Have you seen Your Lie in April? What did you think about Kaori’s character arc? Let’s talk!

You Might Also Like


  1. This was such an interesting post! And very true. Any character existing simply for the sake of the MC will be boring and flat unless they have some sort of personality or raison d'etre beyond 'helping the MC'.
    Also, I have not seen this show (you totally got me on "All right, I know you haven’t finished the show", except in my case, I haven't even started it...) but it sounds really fun!
    I feel like it would be really interesting to try writing a Manic Pixie Dream boy? Although boys don't tend to be as...idk...flighty? (not sure if that's the right word, maybe whimsical?) as girls, they definitely could convince a female MC to live life to the fullest, while of course also having their own life/experiences/three dimensionality.

    1. Agreed - more depth is always necessary in that case!

      Haha *cough* “fun” isn’t exactly the word I was use . . . but it’s a beautiful, if heartbreaking and hard story! (Haha, I figured 98% of readers haven’t seen it ;) )

      Ooo, that would be so interesting - although I definitely agree with you on the whimsical aspect. Maybe just replace that with a ton of enthusiasm???? XD But that would be so cool to see in a story! (And now I want to write one XD)

    2. If we replace whimsy with enthusiasm, does that mean that Wes from 100 Days of Sunlight is basically the epitome of a Manic Pixie Dream boy?

    3. *gasp* OH MY WORD, I CAN TOTALLY SEE THAT. AAAAAHHHHHH *runs around screaming*

  2. Oh this sounds saaaaddddddd. *sobs* NICOLE. No wonder you cried. If I ever get into anime for real this'll be on my list.

    (Kinda unrelated, but I guess the ghosts in A Christmas Carol would technically be MPDGs? Even though they're arguably all male? :P)

    1. *sobs with you* *is literally tearing up* If you ever feel the urge, I’d definitely watch it! It can be hard to watch in some places, I will warn you . . .

      (Hmmmm, it’s been a while since I’ve read A Christmas Carol, but I can definitely see that! XD)

  3. Wow, I love this! When I first read the meaning for MPDG, I was like, "That is so my character.... but I am working on her to not to be..." But then you redeemed it all by saying how a good character this type could be. (I felt better having a MPDG.)
    I have at least one character who is a MPDG character. I have been trying to figure out her life beyond the main male character for a while now. I think one of those ways is know why she is with him. She has always been with him, so why wouldn't she be with him? I need to explore further with this.
    Thanks for helping me see my character in a new light.
    I felt like crying too, and I haven't even heard of it before!

    1. Oh my goodness, that’s so cool!!! I love that you’re writing one! (And don’t feel bad for writing one - it can make for some really interesting characters. :D)

      Ooo, yes, run with that! There are so many cool possibilities you could go with!

      <3 <3 I’m so glad this helped! (and don’t worry, I feel like crying quite frequently whenever this show is concerned XD)

    2. Thanks for your encouragement!
      Yes, I've realised there are many different possibilities with that thread. It's been great to explore it. I think I had the answer once but then I forgot it (that what happens when you brainstorm before you fall asleep!). Still, I feel that I still have the answer floating around in my mind. Every time I think about it, I get closer to the right words that explains it all.

    3. Oh, no, I feel your pain with brainstorming before falling asleep! (Too many ideas lost . . . *sigh*) And hey, just give it some time! You’re nearly there. <3 <3

    4. <3 Thank you for your sweet words! <3

    5. <3 <3 Aw, you’re welcome!

  4. This analysis is so good.
    I agree with you that it can be done well, and Your Lie in April certainly did that.
    Honestly, probably any character type can be a good character, as long as they're done well.

    1. Thank you, McKayla!
      And I completely agree with you - character types can lead into some fascinating, well-rounded characters. :D

  5. LOVE THIS POST. Manic pixie dream girls are seriously underdone and seriously underrated!! And wow, thanks for making me want to watch Your Lie in April! Turns out that spoiled ending is exactly what I needed to kick me along, lol.

    1. THANK YOU, MERIE. They really are!!!

      . . . um, well, I guess it worked, then??? XD Anyways, let me know if you ever watch it - I want to hear alllll the thoughts! ;)

    Sometimes I get annoyed at people always degrading EVERY bright, perky, quirky girl who wants to live life to the fullest and tries to help people because oh, she's a MPDG. Like...none of those qualities are inherently bad? In fact they're good? They're just bad if the character's SOLE PURPOSE IN LIFE is to bring the hero out of his shell.
    And I feel like you just NAILED it. Like, yes, people who are like Kaori have reasons for it! Weird reasons, compelling reasons, whatever. There's a reason! I haven't seen Your Lie in April, but Kaori sounds AMAZING. I love the thought that, instead of being a character who has depth despite being a MPDG, her MPDG-ness sounds like it's PART of her depth. If she wasn't a character with these hidden depths, that MPDG aspect of her wouldn't be there at all. I just love that. It sounds like the MPDG trope done so, so right.
    In short: I love this post, your thoughts were so interesting,and I now have so much food for thought about writing fleshed-out characters who fall into common tropes. So thank you!!!


      YES TO ALL OF THAT!! Those qualities aren’t bad if the character is well written! *sighs* I wish they weren’t degraded as much . . .

      Kaori is EPIC as a character, and yay, thank you!

      Yay, I’m happy this gave you some things to think about - that was the goal!! <3

  7. Love this! I still need to watch the anime, but I'm so glad they used the trope but in a good way. I think they can all be good if done well too! Fantastic post!!

    1. Yes, I agree, tropes done well are FANTASTIC. :D


Welcome to the comment section! I love hearing what you guys think and seeing you guys talk. Just remember to keep it clean, and as always, check back for my replies! <3