Your Theme in April: Ep 9 – Resonance

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.


Intro

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.


Guilt

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.

Image of young Kousei walking with his friends in a field against the sunset

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.

Image of Saki's ghost whispering to Kouse

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.

Don’t forget to play the quiz, and make sure you’ve answered on all the previous posts found here.


Your Quiz in April

7 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 9 – Resonance

Add yours

  1. I think Saki is as bad as Kousei remembers her, if not worse. I think him forgetting more things about his Mom is more of a repressed memory mechanism than a him not remembering everything clearly mechanism. Like you tend to remember the best things about your parents if they’ve passed away, and the best thing he can remember is her forcing him to play piano and beating him? For me there’s nothing really redeeming for her, because even if she is just a construct in his mind, there’s a reason why it’s her in his mind calling Kousei a failure and saying it’s his fault. They’re his inner thoughts, sure, but I think the fact that it’s her on that end, and the black cat on the other end that is more curious, hopeful, reassuring at times just shows that his Mom put him through some horrible trauma and he’s not remembering eeeeverything about her for a reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting way to look at it, but I think different people remember things differently. I’m saying this because Kousei does indeed have good memories of his mother and we see them in a later episode when he recalls them. It took a special trigger for him to do this, though.

      The ghost he sees in his mind tells him that not being able to play is his punishment, but this isn’t something I can believe Saki saying to him in real life. Just as I don’t really believe she really tried to make him think her health was dependent on him winning competitions.

      At the same time agree, there’s a reason his worst fears take the form of his mother. Saki’s mistakes can’t be excused because they did inflict real trauma on Kousei, but I think a lot of the reason he sees her is because the last thing he said to her was that he wished she was dead. That can be a huge source of guilt for someone, no matter how many good/bad memories they had with their parent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t remember a lot of the finer details of the show since this is my second watch through, so I’m curious to see what the happy memory with his Mom is. So maybe Kousei just has to work through all of his baggage before he can see her in a good light to some degree then, poor kid.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Saki had good intentions but she went about them the wrong way. You can’t really excuse her actions and she went too far, yet I found myself feeling incredibly sorry for her once all was revealed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Critics of this show like to stick on the point of abuse and how it’s both glorified through slapstick abuse toward Kousei and disregarded by ‘redeeming’ Saki.

      On the point of slapstick, I really wonder how some people watch anime at all if they can’t tolerate this much. But like I said in my first post for this event, when you want to criticize something you find reasons, even if they might not be fully solid. Revealing that Saki was ultimately a mother, albeit a flawed one, was not redemption in my opinion. It’s an admission that she came from the same place as Kaori from an emotional standpoint. She couldn’t achieve the same results partly because her relationship to Kousei was different, but also because her thinking was flawed from the start.

      Then again, some people prefer things to be black and white. I just find that way of thinking to be too boring.

      Liked by 1 person

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