Your Theme in April: Ep 4 – The Journey

“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.

Image of a visibly nervous Kousei as if he's underwater

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.

Image of Kousei pressing the piano keys with air bubbles coming up between them

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?

Your Quiz in April

16 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 4 – The Journey

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  1. I always find imagery of water and drowning somewhat disturbing, in some cases unwatchable, so this sequence hits me pretty hard. It is very affective at conveying his emotional state, as is most of the imagery used throughout this anime, but still quite confronting when watching it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do remember you mentioning that you had issues with such scenes and I wondered how you felt about the ones used in this show. Does the fact that Kousei doesn’t feel like he’s drowning make a difference? His reaction seems to be much more about the depth and darkness surrounding him rather than feeling like he can’t breathe.

      In general though the show does an incredible job of putting us in Kousei’s place with the way it expresses his emotional state. Actually feeling discomfort yourself because of what he’s going through is a sign of how much Arakawa and these animators understand people and their feelings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It doesn’t make a difference that he isn’t actually drowning. The imagery here is pretty convincing and I remember that while watching this, actually just thinking about it, m stomach gets very tense and I have to remember to breath myself. I really don’t like drowning sequences but in this instance it was kind of perfect for what they were trying to convey. There are occasional moments of similar imagery in March Comes in Like a Lion but again, it is used purposefully so its fine. My bigger issue is when anime drowns a character just so they can have mouth to mouth and then play the first kiss card. Don’t make me feel that stressed for something that pointless.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Mm, I see. It’s a common fear or source of discomfort for people, but not everyone thinks of it as something that affects a viewer’s ability to watch – at least not in the way that graphic violence or other disturbing imagery might.

          But you raise a good point in being purposeful about what is being presented. I remember several scenes in March in which Rei was feeling as if he was sinking or being swept away by water, but it was to convey his emotional state just as this show does with Kousei. I can totally understand being upset about using something disturbing simply to point your plot in the direction you want it to take.


  2. Not going to lie, that drowning / underwater sequence for poor Kousei hits home pretty hard. The fact that Kaori was able to pull him out of it was very wonderful, however. Sometimes people who are suffering from anxiety just needs someone to show some support, perhaps.

    Also, ugh, cliffhangers. They’re the worst. Okay, they’re more like necessary evils, I guess, but I’m bitter about them all the time all the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Is this the story where you lost your glasses? 😛

      We see Kaori pull him back to reality a few times in this series, don’t we? It ties into the motif I covered for ep 3: “But you have me.” I think it’s particularly effective for Kousei because loneliness was a part of his entire experience with the piano. He had to put off playing with friends, he didn’t get along with competitors, the audience even became bored with competitions because he played like a perfect robot. His only companion when it came to piano was his mother, so whatever supported him through those hardships was gone when he lost her.

      This is all, of course, built up over several episodes. What struck me about this one is how they set up his obstacle in such a drastic way. It’s not just stage fright or a typical hangup that any generic anime character might face. We have a strong sense of sympathy for Kousei and feel like we’re suffering with him because of how it was presented.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, there’s that, too. But I feel like I’m drowning at work, haha. Not enough training for the amount of work I’m doing.

        Great points. It’s just so remarkable that Kaori was able to get him to try to move on and not just mope around. Maybe Seto could have done it if Kaori never butted in (I doubt it), but Tsubaki never seemed to have had a chance to reignite Kousei’s forgotten feelings. She’s not a musician. She doesn’t quite understand Kousei’s situation. But Kaori is and she does. So even though Tsubaki has been trying to support him, it wasn’t really working since she didn’t really understand piano or him, like what you implied. Thank goodness there was Kaori, though.

        Mmm it’s very drastic and dramatic. Perhaps not realistic, but it really paints a vivid image that sticks with the viewer like you said. We can imagine how it feels and also feel bad for Kousei as he struggles in front of us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Mm, I heard from a reliable source that you were having some trouble with work. Hope it’s not too much for you to handle. Ganbare!!

          I similarly doubt that Hiroko could have done what Kaori did. She helped with the last push in reconciling Kousei’s feelings about his mother, but it was only after he told her that he wanted to play piano again. You have to think, she’s had 2 years in between when she could have intervened but as an adult she doesn’t have enough naivety about mental trauma to just shove him back into playing like Kaori did. Then again, what she does works in Kousei’s case, because it gets him to realize that the piano was about more than just his mother.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks, Weekend. Yeah, I’ll try my best!

            Mmm. Hiroko opted to do a hands-off approach which is fair since she’s seen Kousei’s mother at her worst and had probably figured that the last thing he needed was to get back into piano or that he needed to come to that decision on his own. Thankfully Kaori didn’t, or couldn’t, wait for him to make that decision and helped him move forward.

            Great point about how piano isn’t just about his mother for Kousei. We all start doing things for simple reasons but then our motivations change gradually. Kousei simply hadn’t realized that yet, maybe.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with Karandi and Remy. The water scenes are very scary. He should be able to hear the piano because his ears work, but he CAN’T. The psychological trauma underlying that is frightening and I don’t feel comfortable when I watch Kousei experiencing that. At the same time, I really like those scenes because they fascinate me. I feel slightly disturbed but I am also highly enjoying it. It’s probably because it’s not happening to me. Although, if I were to put myself into Kousei’s shoes, that would be extremely frightening. Not only because it’s in front of everyone, but also because I don’t know how to swim. The sound choice are pretty spot on (when he is hitting the keys).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m not very good at swimming either 😛

      It looks like it’s a similar experience all around, since your experience matches other viewers in that the scene is uncomfortable but fascinating to watch. The feeling which resonates most closely is panic rather than a real sense of fear. The two are related, but I get the sense that it’s more the loss of control and his senses shutting off (seeing the notes, hearing the sound) that frighten him than the sinking feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This scene gets you right in the gut. The sound design for it is fantastic and you can tell exactly what’s going on, but reading you describe it just adds an extra layer for me, sounds like it’s scary to watch. I really relate to this sequence, and to Kousei’s feelings about playing the piano in general “I want to be able to do something I’m proud of” like it hits me right in the musician feels haha. Luckily I’ve never gone through anything Kousei has, but the show just captures the emotions so vividly that it’s hard to not feel them, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well you’re an actual musician, so maybe you understand the struggle with wanting to make something you’re proud of more than the rest of us! I see from your blog posts that you often go back and forth about recording a song or video until you just decide to do it 😛

      I’m really glad to hear that what I wrote helped you enjoy it even more. If anything, my hope with these posts is to spread enjoyment and get people to see this show as brilliantly as I do. Thanks for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah that mindset and being able to snap yourself out of it when need be is probably the biggest music related struggle I go through so Kousei doing that too is always relatable to me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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