A Small (Optional) Introduction
Foreword: for those who wish to jump to the actual episode impressions, please skip this entire section–it merely serves as my intro back to the series, as well as addressing certain issues. It does get meta and personal: be forewarned.
OP2: 「七色シンフォニー」 (Nanairo Symphony) by コアラモード. (Coala Mode.)
“Twinkle Little Star”
Failure early in life is often met with the sage consolation, “you’re still young; it’s not the end of the world.” It is a phrase that highlights the temporary nature of early failures and the opportunities available moving forward. For Ryouta and Tsubaki, these notions mostly ring true–they will have another shot at their respective sports in high school. However, a certain Miyazono Kaori does not have that luxury. Disease is looming around the corner, ready to strike her down at any time.
Without this comfort, how does Kaori react in this situation? She doesn’t let it keep her down, but rather she charges forward, dramatically advancing into the fray, seeking to affect her world and touch people’s hearts, even if a few people will be peeved. In her charge, Kaori has peeved the competition (legitimately so), selfishly put herself on stage and disregards her accompanists, but at the same time has touched many people’s hearts with the sheer power and life she puts into her performance, refusing to be bound by both composer and death itself. There is no time for Kaori to wait for a next time and well thought-out decisions and words are not as plentiful a luxury as one could hope for.
At the same time, Kaori is scared. She is insecure. Faking it. She is living a “lie” to everyone except perhaps her parents. She lacks faith in her abilities. She doesn’t believe in her own contribution to Kousei’s life, nor believes in her worth to him. Her two-faced interactions with Kousei have been the focus of the series’ progress thus far, with both positive and negative consequences. This focus is what I’d like to discuss today–how Kaori’s web of mystery and deception have affected Kousei, how Kousei actually has power over Kaori, and how this entire bond of music will become Arima’s “second struggle” with the dying moving forward.
Who is Relying on Who?
Going forward, it is important to note the contrasting forces at work when it comes to Kousei’s influence. Despite being the least pushy, least assertive, and definitely non-violent person on the show, Kousei is undoubtedly the character who has influenced the most people. Emi, Takeshi, Tsubaki, and even Ryouta have in some way influenced by Kousei, whether by his talents, the struggles of his personal life, or the apparent ‘human metronome’ aura. In turn, these four have in turn shown a more ‘honest’ side to Kousei, or at least have had their honest desires unlocked. Despite being wrapped in a barrage of slapstick humor, Kousei is the gentle, yet forceful push that moves every character away from their surface exteriors and into honest powerful narratives. Kousei need not say a word, yet his determination and struggle speak enough to inspire. In my eyes, that makes him the strongest character of the show, and the one to be most admired, especially in light of his cursed struggle.
Additionally, this episode confirmed the extent of Kousei’s influence on Kaori, though the exact details are still to be revealed. Most likely, when Kaori was younger, she did witness (with her parents) the human metronome at work, where a flash of inspiration must have inspired something relating to her musical aspirations. Kaori knows first hand what Kousei’s talents are and how he left his mark on classical society, where even after two years he is still the topic of gossip. Although Kaori has the upper hand against Kousei on the surface for better or worse, in reality, it is Kaori who depends on Kousei much, much more. Although she recognizes that she is raising Kousei back into the world into music, her intentions are a multi-purposed sword that is far from being purely altruistic. For Kaori, her raison d’etre is not to touch just anyone, but rather to touch the heart of the pianist that most likely inspired her will to live and struggle many years ago. See episode two, where Kaori literally is shaking for the approval for Kousei; episode three, where in crying tears, she desperately wishes for Kousei to support her in a time haunted by death and a slow debilitation of one’s abilities; and various episodes where Kaori will conveniently appear in front of Kousei, seeking to once again be saved by the pianist she truly admires and well…loves, all under the guise of lifting him up. If I had to put a finger on it, it’s much like the relationship portrayed in Welcome to the NHK!, where under the guise of help lies a person needing just as much caring.
Unfortunately, Kaori’s terrible flaw is her selfishness to keep living a lie, preventing her from finding her beloved connection with Kousei. To live a lie by being interested in Watari only as a lite version of companionship, a ‘safe’ relationship which serves as a self-constructed barrier to put between herself and Kousei. To live a lie by playing in recitals where she is not playing alone, and in recitals that Kousei is present in. To live a lie by hiding her insecurities and her sadness behind slapstick and words of wisdom for Kousei. However, at the same time, she clearly wants Kousei to break through these self-constructed barriers and to break through to her. Even she falters at times and breaks through her own defence, but soon is reminded of her own mortality. It is a form of the hedgehog’s dilemma that is self-destructive and definitely is not the best course of action, yet it is a plausible situation that I’m sure many people have experienced in some shape or form (minus the mortality).
Therefore, the moment that Kousei moved forward without Kaori is the tipping point of the show. Just as he has started to make amends with his past, his future starts to haunt him. As viewers, this episode was mostly confirmations of what we’ve figured out already–Emi is enthralled with a rival once again, Kaori relies on the light of Kousei (literally through sparklers) to keep smiling, and that Kousei is slowly turning his life experiences into a sorrowful power that is bitter, yet enables him to be expressive and mature through his musicality. What mattered most was the implications of a no-show Kaori and how this spells the beginning of a very melodramatic and heavy-handed second cour. The web of lies has been spun, April is beginning to end, but I look forward to seeing all of that to touch our hearts as an audience, both to the music but also to the struggles of mortality and the ever changing world.
I apologize for the lack of focus for this particular post, but having come back mid-season is tough to ease back into. If you guys want to discuss anything from the previous cour, please let me know in the comments and we can start a discussion! I hope we can have a productive discussion of this show moving forward. I’ve said my piece, dear reader, and I look forward to writing for and to you guys in the near future!
ED2: 「オレンジ」 (Orange) by 7!!