While the other competitors think about rivalry, Kousei’s thoughts and the theme covered in today’s post take a different turn. Read on for the next part of my April event series.
Emi finishes her performance and Kousei takes the stage to play his piece, with his friends and rivals alike anxiously awaiting to see how he performs. Though he is excited to compete against Takeshi and Emi, approaching the piano causes him to relive his abusive history with his mother.
I covered this episode for last year’s event in this post (new window). Go have a look for my take on some key moments.
For this post, the theme I want to discuss is Kousei’s sense of guilt and how his approach to the piano is fundamentally different from other performers.
In contrast to what we saw in yesterday’s post regarding his rivals’ motivations, Kousei has long suffered from a warped understanding of what the piano means to him. His mechanical perfection is less about his skill and more about his single minded goal of winning competitions. If this was to market himself in his career or an ego boost, it would be better than what it actually means to him. Kousei mastered his pieces out of a sense of guilt, and that very same feeling kept him from playing for two years.
Some of this goes back to the discussion I did on the Yellow Eyed Cat. Kousei’s severe lack of awareness about his own identity causes him to be easily shaped by the will and opinions of others. When Saki tells Kousei at the hospital that his playing is the best medicine for her, he takes it literally. He knows how much she wants him to succeed in competition, but he ends up equating even her health to his ability to play. So much so that when his mother is hospitalized for the final time, he thinks it’s somehow his fault.
Whether or not Saki purposely put that expectation on him is up for debate. It’s unlikely that any mother would wish their child to realistically believe that their illness could be fixed because of a competition. Some events, like Saki hitting him in the concert hall we can reasonably expect happened in some capacity, but recall that Kousei has holes in his memory where his mother is concerned. Her behavior shouldn’t be excused, but it is important to think about how little of her story we’re seeing.
Saki’s eyes are always obscured when we see her, a common sign in visual media that something is missing. Kousei even remarks that he can’t remember his mother’s face that day – just a black hole staring back at him. The face, and the eyes in particular, express a person’s emotion and personality. In not being able to recall them, Kousei’s mother is more like a concept in his mind rather than a person. A spectre, waiting every time he tries to draw music out of the piano to remind him that the only reason he played was to make her better. Without her, he doesn’t have a right to touch the keys.
The disembodied voices he hears calling Kousei a robot and human metronome might have really been there, or they might not have. Just as his doubts took on the form of a black cat in his mind, so too could his own insecurities about how people view him given rise to the repeated taunts he hears. Before the performance two years prior where he broke down, we hear someone in the audience ask “How can he play after his mother just died?” and “Like mother, like son.” Viewers hear these things as context for the state of Kousei’s mind. Kousei might be hearing them aloud or in his own head, but he is undoubtedly feeling them. The buildup of guilt over finally losing his mother forever after he rejects her becomes too much and he suffers a breakdown.
Your lie in April leans heavily into the melodrama at times, but I feel like it does give proper weight to the feelings Kousei is struggling with. Without his trauma, Kousei’s challenge in returning to the piano is much less pronounced. Overcoming these feelings is a big part of his character arc, and ties directly into finding the inspiration to play.
I’m hoping to return to more cheerful topics soon, but for now what do you think about this theme? Anime characters have some terrible mothers sometimes, but do you think Saki is as bad as she seems? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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