「愛の悲しみ」 (Ai no Kanashimi)
My my, what a hard-hitting episode. Let’s just get in.
A major focus today was Kousei’s closure with his mother, who received the final pieces of her characterization today. To kick it off, the episode starts off with important symbolism–we see Saki’s eyes! Though at surface this helps us visually as viewers to humanize the previous caricature that was the cruel mother, visibility of the eyes represents Kousei’s willingness to face his past memories head-on and see the entire picture that constitutes what made Saki Arima the mother that she was.
Boy, what a mother though. Does today’s episode redeem her? Of course not, but it revealed her struggles and humanity, with her own worries and interpretations on how to handle life. In the shadow of her debilitating illness, Saki sought the only thing that she felt that she could rely on: stability. There are no surprises when it comes to being a metronome; the clicking sound is predictable and disciplined. For Saki, this constancy was what she perceived was the best for Kousei, in order to grant him a predictable future of success. However, the path to said success got ugly and mixed with Saki’s desperation and narrowing view, combined with her growing fears and doubts about herself and her son. It’s a sad tale, one with parts that Kousei (and we viewers) may not forgive, but it is a complete narrative that he has finally accepted, for all the good and bad it has. She tried hard, but sadly a cruel life takes a toll on already imperfect beings.
Before we move on to other topics, I’d like to briefly mention Saki’s concept of becoming familiar with sorrow. Though the necessity of that statement may be debatable in general, for Saki I believe it fits perfectly with her tragedy. A terminal illness is a debilitating emotional weapon aside from its physical effects, and as such, learning to accept and deal with that reality is key for those in such a position to live out the rest of their lives properly. Thus, as one of her coping mechanisms, it seems that Saki purposefully expressed her sorrow through these piano pieces, precisely to help her face impending death with dignity. Another layer to add onto a tragically deteriorating character, but perhaps another reason to view Saki not as some evil witch of a mother, but someone who tried their best in the face of adversity, but tragically succumbed to the darker nature of death.
Let’s now discuss the other characters involved, sans Kousei. First, Hiroko. Of all the characters, she is perhaps the one who has the most complete perspective on what was going on in the Arima family, since she saw both Saki and Kousei’s perspectives. I don’t blame her for not visiting Kousei after his breakdown, since she did play a part in encouraging Kousei’s rise to becoming a pianist at a tragic time (side note: I admit I laughed during Kousei’s imitation of Hiroko). Would things have been different if she had not encouraged Kousei to play? Perhaps, perhaps not, but after witnessing two bombshell aftermaths, I sure would’ve done the same in Hiroko’s shoes. It’s particularly emotional though, to see Hiroko and Kousei cry together during that one scene. Taking a guess, but that was probably the first time that Kousei had cried since his breakdown two years ago. For Hiroko to witness this, as much as she blames herself, must’ve been amazingly powerful. She witnessed simultaneously her best friend’s worries melted away, while simultaneously seeing her best friend’s son having a moment of closure through the hell that Hiroko was well aware of. To top that all off, her own daughter joined in, creating a feels-fest for everyone, including…*drumroll*…Miike!
It was disappointing to not hear Miike’s full performance after that rollercoaster of emotions, but the basic message still rang true. Kousei is a powerful character in how he influences others, with Miike being no exception. When Miike saw his mother in the audience, it was almost like the beginning of another story of Shigatsu, where another soul desired to touch the hearts of others, just as they had been touched. It’s a great instance of the golden rule being applied to music, and although it’s a small detail in the grander narrative, for Kousei to have touched yet another soul shows the interconnectedness he is creating through his performances.
Ochiai-sensei had some interesting words to say as well, which I have partially addressed in the last episode. As opposed to the other performers in the show, who exhibit raw passion and skill to blow the audience away in a sense of emotion, Arima instead chooses to lose the audience in an almost hypnotic stance, full of emotional depth without being loud and brash. All the characters play with their heart, but Kousei is unique in this set for having to play with sorrow. Ochiai-sensei interprets the sadness of Kousei’s life as a tragic blessing, allowing him to have a unique power over the audience that leaves them entranced, but not full of energy to give huge applause. Unfortunately, this also lead to the controversial statement that he needs yet another tragedy to fuel his growth, but hey, more death flags, am I right?
Many of the other characters didn’t play a significant enough role today, though Tsubaki is hinting at more development for her character in future episodes. With Kashiwagi having appeared once more last episode, I’m sure we’ll see more of those two interacting once more for some childhood friend tragedies.
Finally though, we must return to the show’s other heroine, who well, no surprise, is in the hospital. The atrophy that her body is going through is very visible, but on a symbolic level, the tables have turned regarding these two. In that one scene, we see Kousei in a much more colorful tone than Kaori, indicating that as Kousei begins to shine once again on his own, Kaori’s own ability to shine is fading away as her body weakens. Physical disability is tragic to those who rely on it, such as those involved in sports and music. For all the life they invest into it, to have one’s passion forcibly stripped away is tragedy. Kaori keeps up her smiles now, but it is inevitable before that lie will also break away, just as it did perhaps for Saki two years ago.
Overall, a great episode to watch, with lots of emotions! I look forward to seeing your guys’ reactions, so please leave a comment for the show, positive or negative!