Today’s episode title, ‘Twilight’, concisely summarizes the feeling of today’s episode. Everyone is in a tough spot right now; Kaori is on the brink of losing all hope, Nagi faces ever-mounting pressure and waning self-esteem, and Tsubaki struggles to identify and come to terms with her self-created walls. Kousei and Hiroko are haunted by the past repeating itself, Takeshi continues to be shaken by failure, and even Ryouta probably is struggling to accept his true fate as the real background character. Most everyone in the series is going through their moment of twilight, but it is now future episodes that’ll dictate whether it’s the twilight leading to a sunrise or an unfortunate sunset. Let’s tackle the main issues today one by one.
Pavane for a Dead Princess
The elephant is finally called out, where Kousei has no use denying it anymore. Kaori is dying, not just in a physical sense, but as a character as well. Without her outlet of music to fuel her reason to live and definitely without physical strength to even hold the bow of a stringed instrument, our once cheerful musician has seen her lies finally collapse, where fooling anyone has become more a strenuous effort than a means to escape pain. Although she’s still able to conjure up smiles and a violent personality as before, these moments are fleeting and only serve as a mere few seconds of escape before being reminded of her situation. There isn’t much to say that has been said already about Kaori’s character at this point, except that it must be hard for her to face Kousei now, despite her clear desire to see him again. If she sees him, she’s reminded of her inability to play music and the love she can’t accept. If she doesn’t, her longing for companionship intensifies, furthering the isolation that she feels from the rest of the world. Lose-lose everywhere, death flags everywhere, it sucks to be Kaori.
As a result of Kaori’s impending doom, a chain reaction leads both Kousei and Hiroko to face the demons of their past. For Kousei, there isn’t much in his power to change his fate. There was nothing he could do to save his mother, and as such that same feeling of helplessness kicked in today as well. It seems proper that the “Pavane for a Dead Princess” was the haunting melody in Kousei’s head, symbolic of his inability to run away from the truth. In order to fight these feelings, the Kousei of two years ago tried his best to fulfill his mother’s wishes, perhaps in hopes that doing so could save or help his bedridden parent. Although that didn’t pan out so well the first time, Kousei is once again facing his despair head-on to help Kaori. The difference here is that he isn’t fulfilling any one specific request to appease someone. Instead, Kousei is hoping to grab Kaori by the hand and give her the hope she desperately needs, through the cliche power of music. It’s fulfilling to see Kousei ‘giving back’ to the person who brought him back to music, though bitterly hopeless it seems at times.
Meanwhile, Hiroko is also facing her own repeating mistakes as well, with Nagi reflecting a younger Kousei. However, this is well within her realm of control–she literally grabs onto the opportunity to set things straight and give Nagi some real talk. Seeing Hiroko paralyzed two years ago at a crying Kousei was understandable, but what’s great is that her action today reflects an all-too-real desire to never see such a sight again. With Hiroko’s direct personality, the whole scene fit rather well, nicely complimenting the repeating history theme that was played at today. Just as Kousei indirectly reminds Nagi of the mutual solidarity that musicians share, Hiroko faces the scene head-on, unwilling to see another student crumble under stress that they can’t overcome alone. We’ll talk about this theme later, but the bonds between fellow musicians are indeed powerful, enough so to overcome the stress and sense of failure that accompanies any performance.
Guilt and Relief
Poor Tsubaki. It isn’t just today that she’s felt a guilty relief; her whole life with Kousei has been a love-hate relationship with music. In the past, it was music that took Kousei away, but Tsubaki knew fully well that Kousei without music just isn’t Kousei. Now that Kaori is in the equation, the same guilty rules apply. She’s damned if Kousei and Kaori get together without a hitch, and she’ll feel guilty because Kousei is sad if troubles arise, with guilty feelings arising in the process. It’s an all too commonplace feeling in everyday life; we honestly wish for the success of people close to us, even if that success may silently hurt us emotionally. What of the friend who keeps getting promoted at work, the unrequited love interest over heels for another, or perhaps even the child who surpasses what you could have ever done. It’s a sad mixture of two conflicting sides: the supportive role that wants to see someone happy, versus desires and jealousy to be a larger or more central role to that happiness. These are very complex feelings for our early selves to understand, so today we see Tsubaki consciously breaking down these conflicting feelings and trying to make sense of them, a sometimes futile effort. On the bright side, this conflict might bring the kindling for Tsubaki to confess. There are still a number of episodes left, so I’m crossing fingers here that Tsubaki will finally start moving like the rest of the cast and get things rolling, even at the cost of Kaori’s feelings.
Solidarity in Music
However, of all the moments we’ve witnessed today, the penultimate scene with Nagi and Kousei took the episode in my books. The scene itself was fairly simple–Nagi and Kousei are freaking out as they usually do–but it was when they held hands briefly that really took it away. No, I wasn’t shipping them hard, but it was a subtle, yet symbolically important gesture that I could relate to as a former piano player. For all of the musicians in this series, none of them work in isolation to become the best. Whether they like it or not, by performing publicly they implicitly join a community of musicians, both with the fellow performers onstage or the audience watching in earnest. Despite this fact, it is natural to believe that your worries about the stage are limited only to yourself. After all, what most people show on stage is a beautiful five to ten minute performance, rather than the hundreds of hours of practice that went into that piece and the stress and loss of hope that comes with it. Thus, when Kousei took Nagi’s hands into his, you could see both the physical and emotional connection being made as they both trembled. For Nagi, she saw firsthand how hard Kousei worked to perfect his part of the arrangement–being reminded of that most likely gave that sense of solidarity that gives one confidence to move forward. It is scenes like this that show mutual respect and trust between the characters that has carried Shigatsu’s finest moments. With another performance imminent, I look forward to seeing how the show can wow us next week with two musicians in tow.