Your Theme in April: Ep 2 – Friend A

It’s day 2 of Your Theme in April, and we’re moving on to the second episode, “Friend A.” Today I’ll be taking a closer look at a recurring theme related to Kousei’s character.


Intro

We’re still early on in the series when Kousei is struck by Kaori’s musical style and force of presence. Her appearance in his life starts to bring back memories of his own experiences with music, but he can’t figure out if these feelings are welcome or not. Is there any use in trying to find out if he’s just Friend A?

My episode 2 post from last year’s event can be found here (new window). Feel free to take a look for episode moments or continue on in this post.

Yesterday I looked at why it might be imprudent to externally apply labels to a character because it limits a viewer’s capacity for investment. Today I want to look at what happens when a character does that to himself.


Friend A

How many of you have ever felt like the side character of a story? I bet most people can say they have, as there many important events in a person’s life where they don’t take center stage. Maybe your team achieved something great at work, but you didn’t get much credit yourself. Or maybe you drag your friends to an event you’re excited about, but they all seem to be enjoying it more than you. It’s not an uncommon feeling at all, but it’s an interesting starting point for someone who is supposed to be the main character of this story.

As we saw in the first episode, Kousei lacks any sense of passion in his life. This is what Tsubaki is referring to when she says he doesn’t have “any sparkle in his eyes.” Combined with his generally low self-esteem, this puts him in a position where he doesn’t ever feel important. He doesn’t compete in piano anymore, he’s not involved in any clubs at school, and he feels like his personality is unimpressive. This is a big part of the reason that he slips so easily into the role of “Friend A.”

Image of Kousei retorting that dark eyes don't sparkle much
No one needs your logic, Kousei

A bit of background on this term: Interpersonal relationships are a big thing in Japan as anyone who has been watching anime for a little while already knows. Most people are referred to by their surnames, as calling someone by their first name is something that only very close friends or family do. On top of this, they also value anonymity in cases (mostly in legal situations) where it’s inappropriate to identify someone by name; eg: ‘Girl A’ was involved in a crime.

Though what occurs in this episode is far less serious, the idea is kind of the same. Tsubaki tells Kousei that both of them will be third wheels when she introduces Watari, but she already has some relationship to Kaori since they are in the same class. Kousei doesn’t have any connection to her, so Tsubaki introduces him with the words “Not that it matters, but this is Friend A.” Her word choice is very telling as if she’s letting everyone know that Kaori doesn’t really need to know Kousei’s name because after today she won’t need to concern herself with him. It’s a bit crass coming from his best friend, and Kousei looks very meek in that moment.

Tsubaki introduces Kousei

Kousei holds onto this sentiment strongly. Though he is as amazed as everyone else by Kaori’s performance, his reaction is very subdued. Part of this is because of his background in competitions, as he knows that she would have been docked points for playing the piece in her own style. The other part is how he downplays his own involvement, and can be seen at the moment Kousei starts to move toward her in the hallway.

He stops as soon as he sees Watari move toward Kaori and instead watches them from a distance. Even after Kaori asks his opinion of her performance, he doesn’t feel like he has any real place there. He describes it like a movie scene, animated accordingly with a spotlight on Kaori and Watari, with Kousei describing the three of them (in the excellent English dub at least) as “The hero, the ingenue, and Friend A.”

Kousei watching Kaori and Watari

Tsubaki started him on this path, but my point is in how easily Kousei accepts it. Kaori is interested in Watari, and Kousei is always sees himself as an extra. He may have understood Kaori’s performance better than Watari ever could, but Kousei’s not comfortable with approaching her or the feelings her music evokes in him. His conversation with Watari before he goes home reveals that he was thinking about Kaori, but that he could never be like Watari, and thus never be the kind of person she’s interested in. Without any passion of his own, Kousei can’t imagine he would garner it from someone like Kaori.

This isn’t all depressing though. We see when Kousei meets Kaori on the road home that she enthusiastically calls out to him as “Friend A.” The name eventually transforms from a reminder of the distance between them to a sort of pet name she uses for him. This helps the term take on an endearing quality of its own, but Kousei’s days of feeling like a side character in his own story aren’t yet over.


What do you think about Kousei’s state of mind at this time? Is it just standard fare for a mopey protagonist? Have you ever felt like Kousei does? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Also, don’t forget to do the quiz for a chance to win prizes


Your Quiz in April

12 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 2 – Friend A

Add yours

    1. My pleasure! Almost everything we’re shown is significant somehow, as I believe this series is really good with managing its runtime. Small details might slip through, but since this theme governs most of Kousei’s decisions I didn’t want it to be missed.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love Kousei. I’ve never been in the Friend A position before (and I’m super glad about that). I have felt down before though, but I am sure everyone has at some point in their lives. Referring to the last screenshot – I like how he is taking Watari into consideration when he steps back and watches Watari and Kaori together. It’s very humble of him. That’s when I knew that Kousei is a good guy who cares about his friends.

    I also think that Kousei was super adorable when he was a kid!! He is still cute now haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve sort of been in Kousei’s position before, meaning that I’ve been invited to events where I feel like I’m just an extra, but that’s probably more because of my personality than anyone’s feelings toward me. Depending on how much you buy into this post, you might agree this is probably Kousei’s problem too! He is a great friend, but I always felt like he sort of gave up against Watari here before the contest even started.

      Some of the young Kousei scenes are confusing, because he still looks really really tiny when he’s supposed to be 12 years old. He’s only 14 in the present day, so these kids must have had a heck of a growth spurt 😀

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      1. I agree, it’s his personality and that he did give up. I’m watching the show with my brother and he pointed out the same thing about Kousei looking so young!! I personally don’t mind because he looks so cute but it is weird… He looks like he’s 7 years old haha. It kind of reminds me of Detective Conan because the kids are SO much shorter than the adults.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Similar situations or sentiments might pop up every once in a while (I can think of one or two examples), but Kousei opting to considering himself as Friend A was really unique to me when I first saw the scene. It really speaks of his mindset at the time if he’s so easily accepting the label. The consistent and telling lighting throughout the series was very much appreciated even though he eventually realizes he’s may not be just Friend A.

    I’m trying my best not to leave spoilers in the comments section, sorry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries, Remy. You’re doing fine.

      My idea with this post was to point out how the story frames Kousei’s character arc. His level of disconnect from even things he likes is very pronounced because of the way he is and it’s something he will have to overcome over the the course of the series. His problem isn’t that he’s friend A, but that he lets everyone think of him like that even if he has just as much freedom to interact with Kaori as Watari does.

      I’ll tell you what. I’ll put a disclaimer in the post about spoilers in the comments section so readers can exercise their judgement. We’ve both seen the series so there’s no reason to avoid a particular thought you might have about something you read/see.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, okay, good.

        Ohh so that was what you were going for. He purposefully distances himself because he believes he /should/ act like in a certain manner when he really is being, well, a scrub. The “limits” / boundaries only exist in his head. But that doesn’t make it any less real, which is why it takes him so long to move past that phase.

        Ooohh neat. Sounds good to me!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Finally started watching the show so time to catch up! Rewatching it you catch so many things you didn’t notice before that lead to so many important things later, Kaori leaves so many hints it’s ridic.

    I’ve definitely been a friend A before, but more because I’m very introverted. Sadly like Kousei I’ve let it effect relationships, but have gotten over that to some degree. I find it so interesting how yes, what Kousei does is admirable, but the reason he’s doing it is just so ugh that you want to slap him and snap him out of it, so it’s nice to see Kaori do just that 🙂 I really like the themes for friendship in here, as well, because Kousei has such supportive friends that know him so well, they know when he needs a push and know when to give him space. Love this show so much, getting the feels for it five episodes in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome! Great to hear you have some time to get caught up. I completely understand what you mean about catching new things on a rewatch. This is my 5th time through and I’m still seeing new things as I think about this “theme” series.

      I think introverted people are prone to this feeling more than most. We internalize our displeasure, keeping others from fully understanding what we think and feel. Viewers’ bias lets us be able to step back from the moment and think “Geez Kousei, just tell her what you really thought!” but if I were to place myself in his shoes right then I don’t think I could have told her what was in my heart.

      I’m glad that they did highlight his friendship with the others this early on. It gives context for everything that comes after when Kaori starts becoming more present in his life. Tsubaki’s efforts here really made me smile though, because you can see she’s really trying to help him out even if she doesn’t completely understand how to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

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