Kousei plays his final performance as he reflects on everyone music has connected him to. Lost in his feelings, he envisions his duet with the person who changed his life forever. As winter draws to a close, he discovers the truth about Kaori.
We’ve reached the end! I found that I had more to say about this one than all the others, but that’s not much of a surprise. So much happens in the final 22 minutes of this series. Some of it can be put into words, and some can’t. I’ve done my best this past month though, because I honestly love this series and was glad for the opportunity to share how amazing it is with others. I hope it’s been fun for everyone who participated, re-watchers and new viewers alike.
Continuing right where the last episode left off, Kousei thinks about what it means to connect with someone, and gives us an emotionally fitting scene. As a younger Kousei begs for help, Kaori reassures him with another “But you have me.” Before her, he was still that little boy, crying for deliverance from the agony his mind created. He had friends, but was alone all the same. She reached him, and reminded him that in all the time he had been playing, he was never alone.
And so Kousei tries to reach her in return. There is some great camera work that conveys that desire of wanting his music to escape the concert hall, until his surroundings take on a different shape. He begs his music to reach her and help her get through whatever is wrong. For the sake of their duet, and everything they shared.
From Kaori’s perspective though, Kousei has already done so much. We see in a flashback that she whispers a quiet “thank you” to him as he’s carrying her back down from the roof. A sentiment that echoes in his ear even in the middle of his performance.
Even in his grief Kousei is no longer at the bottom of a deep dark ocean, but instead resting effortlessly atop it. Here, within himself, he finds Kaori once again.
The way this scene looks still amazes me. The quiet stillness of the sky and water, and the pristine clarity of it all. In an show that was so well drawn and animated all throughout, A-1 went all for these few minutes. It stands as one of the most unforgettable scenes I’ve experienced in anime.
Kaori, full of life, turns to him and Kousei’s small frown shows that he knows exactly what it means. That tiny change in his expression absolutely crushes me every time I see it. He wanted to reach her, but he knows this will be the last time.
As painful as this is, seeing her play again is a great sight. Ballade no. 1 isn’t a duet, but what does this crazy violinist care about that? The entire sequence while they play has no dialog, with the two performers’ body language and rich sound instead telling us everything we need to know. Kaori pulls Kousei out of his dour mood once again, luring him into the sheer joy of the moment. She’s there, and they have their duet. In that moment, that’s all that matters.
I love this so much. Her playful plucking and the tap of her feet on the water’s surface give this piece a cheerfulness it’s probably never known. Kousei is finally smiling once more as he watches her, and the carefree feeling of it all is just what everyone needed.
I’m sure Kousei might want to play like that forever, but as the song nears its ending the bright day shifts to an orange sunset and finally to night. Kaori plays her last note, and Kousei dreads what follows.
“Pester me for canelés again. Call me just to kill time.” The dialog returns to Kousei begging for more of these trivial moments. Those small things that defined the brief relationship he knew with this girl who changed everything for him. Like anyone losing a loved one, he pleads uselessly against time and fate, wanting more than he’s destined to have. The pain is is almost palpable as he calls out to her “don’t go!”
As she fades, he pounds out the remaining notes, ending the song with just as much emotion as he started it. Like he did in episode 12 with his mother, Kousei then says his goodbye to Kaori. It’s a goodbye in more than one sense – not only to his friend but the person he relied on to come this far. But after everything he’s been through, he can do it this time without the trauma. Thanks to Kaori, he knows this is where he belongs.
If anyone was doubtful (or maybe in denial), the graveyard scene confirms what happened. Kousei looks honestly surprised to see the letter from Kaori, though. Is it shock over seeing that she left something for him? Honestly, Kousei. Hasn’t she given you enough hints about how she felt?
A long time seems to pass (more than a month from late Feb into April?) until we see Kousei read the letter. This might have more to do with imagery than anything else, but seeing him reconnecting with her in Spring was a nice touch.
This episode comes full circle on a lot of things, and one of them is in this scene. Kousei sees another cat just before he opens the letter, though probably not the same one Kaori chased after. Maybe it’s not a physical cat at all. Do you know what it might mean now?
Once again I really like what the English dub did here. The ADR director has Kaori start the letter with “Hey you.” before correcting herself “I mean, dear Kousei Arima.”
Kaori reveals that she saw Kousei at his first recital. That flood of colors can only mean one thing, and now it’s clear why she pushed him so hard. Just like Emi, she wanted to bring back the Kousei that flooded her heart with feelings that day.
If you look back at Ep 9 when Emi is describing this, you’ll see that Kaori was there too, only wearing blue. That was Emi’s memory though, and Kaori wasn’t a significant part.
She also originally played the piano, and switched to violin just so she could play a duet with Kousei. It makes sense now why she was so emotional when he played Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with her. It was what she wanted for 9 years, and getting those few moments on stage with Kousei became her life’s work.
How does one go about doing that though? Even attending the same school Kousei always seemed so distant, and Kaori didn’t know how to approach him. In the same way Kousei hesitated as he began to step toward her at the concert hall in episode 2, Kaori stops when she sees Tsubaki run past. Back then, she was just Friend A.
But when she learned her life would be cut short, Kaori decided nothing would get in the way of her making the most of what she had left. She tackled everything she was afraid of or hesitant to do, creating the impulsive girl we knew.
It’s another great scene, accented by starting Kimi wa Wasurerareru no. The track that started this series takes us back to those first moments when we met her.
Then, as she puts it. She told “one single lie.” It was the impetus for this entire series. Her lie in April: “Kaori likes Watari.”
Be honest, how many of you guessed that’s what it was? We all got the sense that she loved Kousei, but learning that she had faked the crush on Watari was surprising for me. All those times she brushed off Watari’s womanizing suddenly make sense.
It was sneaky, and rather unfortunate that Kousei was in the dark the whole time, but as Kaori said, “that one lie brought us together.” It’s why she was so insistent when she called Tsubaki in the first episode, and why she had tears in her eyes when Kousei first saw her. I’m sure on that day her world filled with color too.
She apologizes to Watari, but he was never the kind of person she could be with. He’ll be okay, I’m sure. He’s Watari, after all. Still, I can’t help but wonder if he wished he had spent more time with Kaori instead of chasing girls. He might not have been sincere enough for her, but there’s no way he’s going to forget her either.
Her apology to Tsubaki was extra poignant too, and I think it’s the one she worried about the most. Everyone knew Tsubaki loved Kousei, except the two of them. The lie was necessary, because there was no other way to get to Tsubaki’s “kid brother.”
I’m sure I don’t need to explain the symbolism in this shot. You’re all experts now, right?
The show pauses the letter to fill us in on Tsubaki. She’s as helpless as ever about how to help Kousei, but support character extraordinaire, Kashiwagi, knows what to do. How did she get so smart about relationships?
Isn’t it funny how the most trivial moments can be unforgettable? Kousei’s tiny smiles as he reads about all the random things she remembers warms my heart. Life isn’t defined by one big thing. Not by a tiny lie either. It’s everything in between – all the moments that someone else might think nothing of, but are everything to you.
“Do you think you’ll remember me at all?” Kaori’s the foolish one now for asking. How could Kousei forget her? She might have tried to pull back when she saw how far his feelings had developed, tried to keep from hurting him by leaving in the end, but there was no chance. He fell in love that day in the park, under the full bloom of Spring.
“I love you.” Kaori says it three times but just like Kousei I really felt it when I saw it written on the page like that. Do you get it now, Kousei? You dummy 😥
It wouldn’t be Tsubaki if she wasn’t kicking and screaming. Still that blush gives her away. Just like when they were kids, she vows to stay beside Kousei forever. His soft smile in response is just so natural. Tsubaki’s vow doesn’t make it all better; she can’t erase his pain, but it’s something, and Kousei is thankful for her.
And just so we don’t finish this series with dry eyes, Kousei remarks “A Spring without you is coming.” We then see Kaori’s favorite photo, taken on the day of Kousei’s first recital, without him realizing it. It’s found an appropriate home now, sitting on the piano in the music room that held so many of their memories.
The real musical star of this episode is Chopin’s Ballade no. 1, but the track I’m sharing is the second ED Orange. The video I have is from the 7!! Vevo instead of the actual ED, but it’s pretty cool. It features several real life locations that were reproduced in the series, including the bridge, concert hall, and the walkway where Kousei twice found Kaori.
The song is undoubtedly melancholy and fits the tenor of the second half. The lyrics tell the story of a shared past full of innocence that diverges into two paths. It’s a sad thought, but the chorus reassures that nothing between them will change, even as they go on to chase their own dreams. In the end, isn’t that what Kaori wanted for Kousei?
And that’s it for the series. Could you have asked for a better ending? It was painful, and incredibly sad to watch at times, but in terms of content and execution I think it was perfect. Coming full circle with the story, delivering on so many motifs, and leaving Kousei with the strength to keep going even without the person who was so instrumental in bringing him out of his darkness. It really was one of the most beautiful things I’ve watched and it’s one of the many reasons that I’ll never forget this anime.
If you missed any of my posts and want to talk about individual episodes, you can find them all at this link.