「春の暁」 (Haru no Akatsuki)
Character Developments – Old meets New
Once again, this series is proving to bring something different to each episode, whether it’s a new character, new setting or just an overall new vibe, and this time we got the whole package. Again, basing this off the main promo poster, it would seem the whole crew is coming together nicely, as we are introduced to the final member, the sassy, flamboyant blue-haired Rai Nagamori (Tatsuhisa Suzuki).
While I do enjoy the constant change of scenery in every episode, it is nice to also have a recurring cast of characters to deliver more depth and meaning to their personal stories, I mean, we are here for the journey after all, not the destination (right?). This episode in particular managed to do both these things rather immaculately, that is, keeping older characters relevant while also keeping the series fresh with new character debuts.
First, the phone call with Wakana, which really established Setsu’s onii-chan as a symbol of wisdom and experience within the show, not to mention an accomplished shamisen player himself, as he dished out some solid advice for our overly-sensitive but loveable main character. Next, the introduction of Rai as one of Setsu’s neighbors, which kept the plot exciting and adventurous. And finally, the gang coming together towards the end with the goal of starting up the school’s shamisen club.
Without a doubt, the plot is heading in a really interesting direction. Mysteries are slowly being uncovered, antagonists are coming out and events are seemingly set to intertwine. I, for one, am predicting some major character confrontations and even conflicts to take place over the next few episodes, based on what has been established thus far. The ending of this episode was a clear indication of this, with Umeko (Setsu’s mother) foreshadowing another intervention into Setsu’s life, which is bound to stir up some trouble.
Concepts of Freedom
Nevertheless, this episode further established concepts of freedom, as we get to hear the tape record of Matsugorou Sawamura. As his awesome song is playing in typical free-style Sawamura fashion, sequences of birds flying in the clear skies are shown, a technique commonly used by Hajime Isayama in Shingeki no Kyojin to symbolise freedom. In fact, I would even say the main character Setsu is driven by similar ideals to Eren Yeager, in that he is fighting for his own style of play, wishing to achieve a sense of freedom like his grandfather had through the shamisen.
Through Matsugorou’s teachings as well as the guidance of Wakana, Setsu strived to play his own version of his grandfather’s song for Shiru’s grandmother, banking on rewriting her memories rather than trying to please an old one. The piece Setsu played in the climax of this episode brought me so much joy, almost like a redemption for his lacking display in last week’s episode. Shiru’s grandmother even stated that the piece was not the one she knew of, but was brought to tears nevertheless as it was a sound “that can heal people’s pain,” alluring to the “living spirit” that she believes Setsu and his grandfather both express when they play.
Self-expression through Music
Freedom, living your best life and wild rocking shamisens are what this series is all about! Being true to oneself and finding your path in life, and then unleashing your inner soul to the world are all intricate concepts that the author is cleverly conveying. The ups and downs of Setsu’s journey, the bonds he is forming and the enemies that are brewing, make for a brilliant conveying of what life is all about. Friends and enemies come and go, but what ultimately matters is how true to yourself you lived your life.
From a blunder of a performance in last week’s episode, to a tear-jerking display of sheer shamisen brilliance this time round, Setsu continues to inspire me with his relentless faith in himself and refusal to conform. I can’t help but admire that he did not give up on himself or his style, and continues to play the shamisen for the people, not fame nor glory.