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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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