Your Theme in April: Ep 7 – The Shadow Whispers

We move on from the last episode’s theme to something cute but not exactly easier to deal with. Read on for my take on episode 7’s strongest motif.


Intro

Kousei is running out of time to prepare for his competition. He has been practicing nonstop, but isn’t any closer to knowing how to express the piece he wants to play. His old doubts return to haunt him, and his inner voice in the form of a black cat taunts his failure.

I covered episode 7 in last year’s event at this link (new window). Have a look for the a recap and my take on important moments.

Today I’ll focus on the cat Kousei sees in this episode and what it represents in his life, both from a physical and psychological perspective.

Standard warning: The below post may have spoilers for episode 7. Also, while I will answer your comments according to whether you have seen the series or not, there is no guarantee about other users’ comments!


The Yellow Eyed Cat

The image of a cat is present with this anime from the first minute of the show, and in every episode which the opening, Hikaru Nara, precedes. Their presence reoccurs frequently over the course of the series in both physical and symbolic forms, but there are a few differences between the cats we see. The yellow eyed cat that Kousei encounters in this episode is the one most representative of the feelings he struggles with.

Right off the bat we see the cat taunting him about how unprepared he is. It isn’t a malicious approach, as it tells him that no one expects him to be Beethoven, or to be able to express the piece as its composer Chopin did. It feeds him these excuses while also giving voice to his fears: Not hearing his notes, being laughed off the stage, disappointing himself and others. All this can happen, but it’s better than being abandoned.

Image of Saki carrying Chelsea away

The connection to abandonment comes when Kousei encounters the cat in person with Kaori, and explains to her about another cat, Chelsea, he had when he was younger. She was a playful animal that Kousei clearly loved, but was thrown out by his mother after she injured Kousei’s precious hand. One of the few remaining memories Kousei has of his mother is the harrowing experience of her taking Chelsea away.

Kousei doubles over with sickness when he sees the cat because of the feelings of guilt it invokes. He was powerless to stop his mother when she took Chelsea away, not even daring to raise a word of objection. Kousei’s young life was so controlled by her that it didn’t cross his mind to try to stick up for himself or something that he loved. This leads directly into another problem he deals with – a lack of identity.

Robot. Saki’s puppet. Human metronome. Friend A. Kousei has always just been whatever other people define him as. The cat’s repeated questions of “Who are you?” and “Where are you” are purposely designed to prey on this insecurity of his. The fact that these doubts take on a separate form is itself representative of how even his faults are not a part of his self identity, or something he can own and control.

Kousei sitting on a swing with the black cat stepping toward him out of shadow

Kaori, ever the inspiration, has become the answer to getting past a lot of these issues. He’s not Beethoven or Chopin, but she lets him know it’s enough for Kousei to be himself. By the episode’s end we see that her words left him comfortable enough to tell the cat that he’s okay with not having all the answers right now. Still, the cat’s warning, “She will be there,” gives him pause. The “she” it refers to is Kousei’s mother; the source of all of his trauma, and a pain that he can’t get over so easily.


What did you think about the cat when it first appeared, and what did it mean to you? Do you feel there was any other purpose behind giving Kousei’s doubts a ‘character’? The other competitors are introduced in this episode as well, so if this is your first time watching let me know what you think of them.

Also, there have only been a few people playing the quiz, so if you are interested in the giveaway make sure you participate to increase your chances. All the quizzes are open until May 1, and you can catch up on the previous posts for this event here.


Your Quiz in April

15 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 7 – The Shadow Whispers

Add yours

  1. That’s a cat! I thought it was his Dad at first because it sounded like the same voice actor, and then settled for it being his inner voice but it kept on showing up so then I went back to thinking it was his Dad lol. So interesting it’s a cat, I wonder if that brings more symbolism to it as well? Since cats are known for being bad luck, good luck, all that jazz. I’m super fascinated that it’s a cat and it honestly blows my mind finding that out haha.

    Kousei’s self doubting thoughts are really interesting to me too, and how he gradually comes to terms with them throughout this story arc is really nice to see. Of course he’s no where near mended yet, but seeing him slowly but surely repair himself through Kaori’s words, support from his friends, and just overcoming his fears and playing piano again is really realistic, and why it always hits me in the feels every time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is the same voice actor actually, Max Mittleman in English and Natsuki Hanae in Japanese, which is why you might have been mixed up as to who was actually speaking. Kousei’s dad is absent through this entire series, which is very weird but strangely normal for anime I guess.

      I’m curious though since I haven’t tried it myself, but does the Netflix version not have English descriptive audio? Seems like something they would want to be clear about if a cat comes up and starts talking to him!

      I really enjoy Kousei’s slow growth as well. It would be very unrealistic and just less appealing overall to me if Kaori just had the magic words to fix all his problems. Her help has been invaluable for Kousei to lead himself through them, but they can’t be fixed overnight.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No, that’s one of the unfortunate things about Netflix anime. I have no clue why, but they legit never have audio description on them, unless it’s like, a netflix original cartoon their billing as such. The only dubbed over anime that has it is Glitterforce/Precure, and I’m pretty sure that’s just because they’re billing it as an original series. Huge oversight, I’ve always wondered why they don’t add it to anime as a whole because it’s irritating haha. Don’t think I’ve seen anime anywhere with audio description, now that I think about it O.O I’m curious if they do it in Japan at all now!

        lol I’m rather fond of the main character who lives at home with an absent parent anime trope, but in this show it’s rather odd considering everything Kousei is going through. You’d think Dad would put Kousei in therapy, at least, but nope because anime logic XD

        We all need a little Kaori in our lives to push us forward, that would be nice 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Huh.. that is unfortunate. I was under the impression that since they did it for their live action stuff like Daredevil, etc… that they might have it for anime as well. Maybe they have it for one of those “Netflix presents” anime like 7 Deadly Sins? I’ll have to check.

          It’s not just anime logic, it’s boyhood fantasy. Kids without parents go on to do great things, just ask Batman. Still, his mother who was also abusing him is hospitalized for a long time and passes away. To have no mention of him ever doing anything is just so weird.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. In the audio description section I didn’t see any anime, but I also don’t think they list evverything that has it there because I’ve ran across a few things that aren’t there that do have them. Would be nice to see, definitely – I know a few people who don’t watch something if it isn’t audio described, and it’s ashame because that’s narrowing the watchability of a lot of shows lol. I don’t do it but totally get the logic behind it, if I watch with a sighted friend they usually describe the important stuff happening, so that’s a plus 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alright, now that I’m home I was able to look through some of the catalog and I see you’re right. I didn’t find anything with English descriptions. Some of the more recently added shows like Kuro Mukuro and Violet Evergarden do have Japanese descriptions but I don’t suppose that helps you.

      If you remember my event from last year I have recaps of each episode of this show where I talk about moments I thought were important, and for this event I’ve been linking out to those in the Intro section. You could take a look to review the episode if you have time and you think it might help. Those posts are image heavy but I do include descriptive text on all images.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had liked the introduction of the cat even though I was initially not quite sure what to make of it.

    Ahhh, I know you specifically asked for first-timers to share their thoughts on Kousei’s rivals, but I actually ended up liking both of them in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The more I think about the cat the more I kind of confuse myself on the metaphor. It’s a bit of a loose symbol and can be applied a lot of different ways… maybe on another rewatch I’ll finally get it? 😛

      Mm, I remember from last time you were fairly fond of them. Crystal from this event never warmed up to Takeshi, but Emi seems to be a common fan favorite, which is interesting because she’s kind of tsundere and a bit stereotypical as the girl who can’t keep her emotions in check. Then again, maybe the show pushes emotional connection so much that you start to like the characters who show they understand it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe! I think you’ve got a better hold on it than most of us!

        Ooohh you remembered. Yeah, I usually have a soft spot for rivals. Sorry to hear that Crystal remained indifferent towards Takeshi, but to each his or her or their own!

        Hmmm, you make a good point. Maybe I’m too easily swept along!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember hearing that black cats symbolize luck and fortune in Japan when I took a trip there, and in the context of YLIA I thought it represented the connection between Kousei, his mum (past) and Kaori (present), as much as it might be obvious at a later episode.

    It seems ironic that the appearance and disappearance of the cat syncs with the events that happen to Kousei’s mum and Kaori at their respective times (as well as what Chelsa did to Kousei could perhaps associate with Kousei’s mum’s discipline matters). For whatever good luck that was brought to Kousei, these good things do not last forever, and its shown twice in the series.

    Hence I thought the use of the cat (and its convenience), while simple, is a pretty effective way of portraying history and the connection between characters.

    PS: I’m catching up with everyone’s posts a little late, pardon for bumping up the activity on this post series really late. I really enjoy reading these insightful interpretations though 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi, and welcome! No worries about getting to this late. I’m always happy to discuss and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

      Black cats certainly are seen differently in eastern and western cultures. With this series we see a tendency to adopt elements of both (Kousei uses a black cat’s appearance as an excuse not to visit the hospital later), so it’s difficult to say for sure what they were trying to convey about fortune or luck.

      Seeing the cat as a way to connect characters is a very interesting possibility though. Its appearance does seem to coincide with important events that define character relationships. As many parallels as there are between Saki and Kaori, it makes sense that they would have some kind of symbolic link to represent their experiences with Kousei. I haven’t thought to look at it from this angle before, and it gives me something to look out for the next time I watch.

      Thanks again for stopping by, for your kind words, and for the insightful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your thematic analysis for each episode is eye-opening as well, having watched the show only twice thus far, there are still lots of ideas that I’ve not yet grasped and its nice to understand the other perspectives from others.

        I was doing a bit more thinking while reading the other episode discussions – its still kind of blurry – but I was wondering if there’s also a way to associate the black cat with the piano itself at some point (it’s been shown in the anime that the piano design is black throughout), and the very black keys and their notes. Unfortunately I’m no music major, so I’m just making some speculation and will need to do some research on this to find if there’s a possible connection.

        Thanks for the warm welcome Weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m happy to be part of your journey to explore this anime! I’m always interested in seeing others’ perspectives on it as well and I thank you for expressing yours.

          It can be tricky to try to map black as a color across many thematic elements because it’s so ubiquitous. There are certain connotations that can be inferred, but a lot of the time it may be coincidence (Eg: Yes,the piano/keys/notes are black, but those things are almost always that color).

          But Kousei does remark at the beginning about his life being monotone like the piano keys. Choosing a black cat might have something to do with this, as the absence of color associated with it definitely makes sense when he sees the yellow eyed cat because it seems to echo all his doubts and limitations. It’s interesting to think about and I’ll have to see if I can get a firm grasp on that idea as well. Thanks for pointing it out!

          Liked by 1 person

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