「春の中」 (Haru no Naka)
It’s probably a good thing that I waited for my migraine to go away before tackling this episode.
As a manga reader, I wasn’t surprised with the events of this episode, so there aren’t any sudden misgivings on my end. Still, I was kind of hoping they’d tone some of the material here down, especially concerning Kaori. As much as I really like this series, I never did care much for the way she and Tsubaki treat Arima. There’s a lot of interesting consideration as to why this kind of thing is so widely proliferated in the medium; this is hardly the first time you come upon an abusive friend/love interest in an anime (and this season, Ookami Shoujo is proudly displaying the inverse relationship eeeek) nor is it the first time that a character like that is viewed as a life changing positive force.
I think in one regard, this might be insensitivity about things like bullying and mental disorders. The series is trying to pass off blatant bullying (which Kaori and Tsubaki are doing, make no mistake) as a funny and silly form of friendship and support. In reality, they’d probably be making things 5000% worse for someone like Arima. They seem to be saying that a trauma like his shouldn’t be such a big deal, which is breaking the #1 rule for dealing with mental illness: NEVER belittle someone else’s pain and difficulties. It’s hard to pin this kind of thinking on any one group or media because really it’s everywhere to one extent or another.
In another regard, you could probably say this about a great deal of anime (and plenty of other media), but there’s definitely sexist overtones here. The boys are supposed to be “man enough” not to have their feelings hurt when a girl is beating them up and the girls are shown as selfish and whiny (but that’s okay because they’re cute… NOT). I don’t like it anywhere, and I don’t like it here. I don’t really like Kaori as a person much either because she’s a selfish and somewhat insensitive person. She’s a great musician, yes, but that doesn’t mean she gets to go around bullying someone else. Yes, there’s the flag going up for her visit to the hospital, and there’s another one in that she’s a young middle school girl and middle school kids are… well not so pleasant, but even so, I don’t think it’s healthy to show someone like Kaori as an ideal. Being spirited and spunky doesn’t give one leeway to be a jerk (see Soreseka for a counterexample).
Okay, with that out of the way, was the episode a good one? The parts with Arima working through his problem and playing the piano were great, but there was just too much focus on the girls trying to force him to be Kaori’s accompanist. Rule of thumb: just because you think something is good for someone else, doesn’t mean you get to force them. People can only be helped if they want to be helped. You can try to convince them, but it should include far less kicking and far more gentle understanding.
Of course, they are middle schoolers (*shudder*) and lets face it, once you’re past that stage, the mere mention of what you were is cringeworthy. Hopefully the show chooses to stop trying to force these moments like the manga does.
Note: I’m still down with a mild migraine so please excuse errors and awkward constructions. Let me know if you need me to explain anything.