“Mozart is saying ‘Go on a Journey!'” though he probably didn’t mean to the bottom of the sea. Read onward for another theme exploration based on episode 4 of Your lie in April.
Whatever bit of courage pushed Kousei to agree to help Kaori starts to fall apart as he panics about being able to play properly. Her inspiring words help him onto the stage again, but sure enough Kousei’s worst fears come true. Feeling like he’s at the bottom of the ocean, Kousei stops playing in the middle of the competition.
This was a pivotal episode for me, and you can find my recap of it from last year here (new window). Let me know your thoughts about the episode here or in that post.
For today’s post though, the theme I wanted to talk about is the dark ocean and Kousei’s feeling of being trapped at the bottom. I’m sure this doesn’t really surprise anyone, but this motif is visited so often that I felt the need to cover it.
Bottom of the Ocean
Water is a popular symbolic element in many anime and literary work in general. Because of its dynamic and ever present nature, it can take on widely varying meanings, depending on the context. It can symbolize concepts ranging from cleansing and purity to motion and transformation. Rivers are often a symbol of fertility, but the ocean in particular commonly represents a deep abyss, or a great obstacle that must be overcome.
The imagery associated with the ocean can thus be quite bleak sometimes. For Kousei, the bottom of the ocean is a place where sight and sound disappear. The crushing pressure one would feel from the weight of the water above them is felt by Kousei in a metaphorical sense as he finds himself unable to do the one thing he’s expected to do on stage. His response is the same as any person would feel trapped under the ocean – debilitating panic and fear.
His experience is terrible, but these scenes are animated very nicely all the same. The effect tints everything a murky green and the sound gets distorted as if he’s below the water’s surface. His notes don’t produce their intended sounds but instead the gurgling bubbling sound of water draining, complete with the imagery of bubbles escaping between the keys. Kousei doesn’t feel the characteristic suffocation that drowning might induce, but he quite clearly feels like he’s sinking. It’s a striking animation sequence that really conveys how uncomfortable and afraid he feels.
Kaori had promised him that she would be there with him though, and she backs up her words by not leaving him behind when he stops. More than that, she finds a way to reach into the darkness that surrounds him. We saw, between this episode and the last, that his condition is partly brought on by feelings of guilt over his mother. Kaori helps turn it all around with one word, “Again.” Even if her competition score is ruined, she reminds him there are people who want him to play and that she won’t do it without him. It brings us back to yesterday’s theme, where Kaori is able to pull him up from the bottom of the ocean just by showing him that he’s not alone.
How did you feel about today’s episode and the “drowning” scenes? What do you think about Kaori’s ability to pull him out of his own headspace? Should we talk about how awful cliffhangers are instead? Let me know your thoughts on this topic and episode.
Also, the quiz. You know what to do by now, right?