Despite his reluctance Kousei is entered into an upcoming piano competition, which means a lot of practice. Kaori takes the helm in guiding him in this effort, but seeing them getting along so well isn’t easy for Tsubaki.
Another opening scene that goes back to Kousei’s childhood. The kids get hurt while playing, but Tsubaki is the one that has to suck it up in order to get Kousei home. The show likes to play with parallels, as it did in the last episode with the bridge scene, and so it sets up the one it plans to use for this episode here.
The key takeaways are that Tsubaki has always had to be the stronger one, and that her bond with Kousei is deep and long running. Encroaching on it is certain to be met with resistance.
Which spells trouble when Kaori comes over to Kousei’s place, takes a bath, and changes into his shirt. Before Tsubaki rages out on Kousei, we see this suddenly emotional scene with Kaori cleaning the dust off the piano. She repeats the words “I’m sorry” as she lays her head on it. Is her pity for Kousei or the piano?
Kaori explains the competition for the viewers and the supporting cast. The piece she chose, Chopin’s Étude Op 25 no. 5 is interesting for a number of reasons, which I’ll point out in a later section. The focus of this moment is in Tsubaki feeling once again like Kousei and Kaori are in their own world – a place she can’t reach.
Kaori delivers the Anton Rubinstein quote that reflects her approach to music. “Before you fingers touch the keys, you must determine in your mind how you want to play it.” This is something new to Kousei – being deliberate in how he plays instead of what he’s playing, and he spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out the imagery he wants his performance to invoke.
Tsubaki looks quite happy listening to Kousei here from her porch. Maybe this was something she did often when they were younger? Despite her concerns about Kousei slipping away, she’s enjoying the byproduct.
A calm Kaori, for once? Kousei even remarks that she looks angelic as he goes to blanket her with his jacket. It looks like her company means more to him than just having someone to critique his playing.
Kaori does her best to sound dispassionate as she talks to Tsubaki, even saying Kousei is like a hopeless ‘little brother,’ the way Tsubaki tends to think of him. As soon as they part ways though, Kaori runs back the way they came. She knows she’s intruding on Tsubaki and Kousei’s space, so she does it carefully, and secretly.
Tsubaki realizes it well enough herself. Her line: “In that we, there’s no room for me” says so much. There is no way she can do for Kousei what Kaori is doing now, so she decides to pull back and start dating her former senpai, Saito.
Kaori’s talk with Tsubaki might be the reason she went back to the music room in the first place. Despite her aggressiveness, she realizes that she’s putting Kousei through a lot by pushing him. She knows he needs it, but is afraid he’s going to hate her for doing this.
Kousei’s response assures her otherwise. He acknowledges that it’s painful, but that’s part of the process, and reminds her that she’s the one that wiped away the dust. His world filled with color, only because of her. For once, Kaori doesn’t know what to say. Aside from “you dummy,” that is.
The momentary elation when Tsubaki sees Kousei there to cheer her on is followed by the pain of seeing Kaori beside him. Her nerves are already on edge with this pivotal moment in the game, and this sight throws her off even more.
As Tsubaki thinks “I’m not there for him now, not like she is,” she makes herself the one looking on from the sidelines instead of Kousei and Kaori. They are the stars of this story, and she’s just Friend S. With these thoughts on her mind, could the game have turned out any other way?
The show doesn’t let Tsubaki sulk too long as Kousei comes by to help her. It seems Kaori realizes she took a step too far since it was her idea for Kousei to meet Tsubaki alone. The physical role reversal mirrors the emotional one, and Kousei is suddenly saying things that are making Tsubaki think.
“You never need to hold back with me,” and “I guess you’re a girl after all.” Tsubaki never expected to hear these things from Kousei. She has the game loss as an excuse for her tears, but being so close to Kousei again probably has a lot to do with the emotional outburst. Is it any wonder the stars are sparkling so much?
The tracks that feature prominently in this episode get used again later, and in better places than this episode used them (imo). So today, before the half season mark takes it away, I’m posting a link to the OP “Hikaru Nara.” I wanted to share it at some point anyway because I absolutely love this song.
It somewhat ties in with this episode though, with lyrics about shining through darkness to create a starry sky. Also the visuals are quite telling regarding the series’ content, like the shots that show Tsubaki and Kousei as children, followed by Tsubaki crying for reasons she doesn’t seem to be aware of herself.
As an aside, this was the song Kousei was listening to on his phone and transcribing in the first episode. Fun stuff!
It’s an external link this time since I couldn’t find a good video on youtube and the one I got didn’t want to play nice when embedded. Apologies 😦
“He’s suffering, but that’s where the music will come from”
It’s a common motif even outside this show that art comes from pain. Artistic expression is certainly reliant on the performer being able to put emotion into the piece, which is something our Human Metronome isn’t used to. Still, the show will return to this idea that painful experiences are what enable Kousei to reach new levels.
Trains and crossings are featured a number of times in this episode, and will appear later on as well. As vehicles for moving a person literally from one point to another, they are common literary devices to represent character movement. The most telling example in this episode is when Tsubaki gets a call just as she crosses the tracks. With thoughts of Kousei and Kaori on her mind, she shifts direction and chooses Saito.
This section has some classical music history for those who are inclined. I left it at the end so as not to bore anyone who might not care to read about this, but Polish composer Frédéric Chopin was a pretty interesting guy, and his work features prominently in this series.
Among the pieces he created in his short lifetime were a number of études (literally “studies” in French) that were designed as proficiency exercises through difficult to achieve sequences. Because of their technical curve, these pieces are a common source of material for competitions in testing and evaluating a performer’s skill.
Kaori selects Chopin’s Opus 25 no. 5 for Kousei in the competition. If what she played back on tape sounds off to you, it’s not entirely Kousei’s fault. This piece has earned the nickname “Wrong Note” for the quick dissonant minor semitones it uses. It sounds strange even when played perfectly as the aim of the piece was to test the dexterity of the pianist’s left hand in the first and last sections in E minor while being tonally tricky for the “wrong” sound they produce.
Chopin’s test subject of choice was usually his friend Franz Liszt, who was something of a virtuoso for his ability to play these pieces. Chopin even dedicated Opus 10 to the guy, but reportedly once got so mad when Liszt added his own embellishments performing one of Chopin’s nocturnes that he demanded an apology. Chopin’s gripe? Play the music as written or don’t play it at all. What would Kaori think of that?
That was a lot for one day from me, now tell me what you think! If you missed a post, catch up on the re-watch party here