Your Theme in April: Ep 16 – Two of a Kind

My event for this month continues with one of my favorite episodes of the series. Read on to see the theme I picked out and how it relates to the similarities denoted by the title “Two of a Kind.”


Obligatory disclaimer: This post may contain spoilers for episode 16 and earlier. Other readers’ comments in the discussion following the post are not guaranteed to be spoiler free for the overall series.

Kousei unexpectedly runs into Kaori again on his way home and gets pulled into spending another afternoon with her. Nagi rebels against Kousei but opens up about her feelings on the steps of a temple. Despite the distraction, Kousei’s worries over Kaori continue to grow.

I covered this episode during last year’s event in this post (new window). Have a look for an episode recap and my take on some of the key moments.

I covered inspiration and the drive that leads these pianists to play in a previous post, but the reason Nagi reveals in this episode draws a parallel between several characters. The theme plays out strongly over the next few episodes, so I thought to highlight it now.

Playing for Others

In the discussion for episode 8 we touched upon the motivation that certain pianists, like Takeshi, have to play. Namely, it’s the idea that another person’s wish or challenge becomes the driving force behind their own growth. With the greater focus that this episode places on Nagi, we can see parallels being drawn between her experience and that of Takeshi and Kousei’s.

Image of Nagi and Kousei standing in front of a projection screen with scenes playing behind them

Kousei’s background is well trod territory by now. His life as a competitive pianist was shaped entirely by his mother, coerced at times by physical force to play his pieces to perfection and thus ensure the top spot in any competition he entered. More than just her frequently rough hand guiding him, Kousei made himself believe that if he could just continue winning competitions he would be able save his mother’s life. Doing so strained his relationship with others while she was alive and robbed him of his sense of identity after she was gone.

Takeshi had, in a sense, fallen victim to the same trap. Spurred by Kousei’s success, he pushed himself to the limit to just to approach his rival’s level of skill but was never able to surpass him. The payoff for his efforts was becoming the top young pianist in Japan, but only after Kousei quit. Consequently, all the accolades Taskeshi received afterward felt hollow because of his single minded focus on beating Kousei. All the while, the distance he put between himself and a  member of his family was creating another problem.

The episode’s title can be applied in may different as it relates to the episode, but one facet is most certainly in the similarities between Nagi and Kousei. When Kaori had reignited Kousei’s love for the piano, continuing to play gave him a way to remain close to her. Nagi too plays in hopes of impressing the brother she always looked up to, and Kousei’s meek admission that Kaori’s likes someone else reminds her that she’s never been able to pull her brother’s attention away from the person he’s always been chasing.

Close up image of Nagi's face as she explains she wants someone to notice her

The problems with focusing your motivation around someone else is that your success is no longer measured in the fulfillment that you get from the work you put in, but rather its affect on a person whose life you can’t control. That said, these musicians are sometimes at the height of their artistry when they decide to devote their performance to others. It’s a tricky balance that both invites heartache and draws out the potential to truly reach into the heart of the audience.

What seems to matter is how much of themselves they involve in their goals. Beating your rival or trying to get someone’s attention is inherently limited in terms of growth. Playing for someone else out of an honest desire to connect with them brings fulfillment to all involved. This becomes especially important for Nagi to understand in the coming episodes as she struggles with identifying where her true feelings and motivations lie. The lesson is similar for Kousei and Takeshi, who have yet to realize everything else the piano means to them.

As a drama, it’s expected that the characters of this story become hopelessly wrapped up in one another’s conflicting dreams, but how does it make you feel? How do you think the title “Two of a Kind” relates to Kaori?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, including any other themes you want to discuss, and don’t forget to play today’s quiz!

Your Quiz in April

12 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 16 – Two of a Kind

Add yours

  1. I found it interesting that Kousei actually went along with this. Given his own problems, it seems kind of strange that he is reaching out to others (even if it is slightly forced upon him). It makes for some interesting moments where he reflects, but it still seems a little odd that this happened.

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    1. It’s a bit of a strange point in the narrative because the audience is still probably more curious about what’s going on with Kaori than they are about this new character, but giving Kousei the job of teaching her expands his perspective a little. The thing that Hiroko saw right away is that Nagi is rather similar to Kousei, and him being able to pass on whatever helped him elevate his playing would help her too.

      And because what helped him grow was his desire to reach the heart of another person, everything he’s feeling comes out in the conversation. Nagi was like an anonymous ear he could speak his mind to. There’s more to why I think the story went this way, but I’ll get to that in the next few posts.

      As for why he goes along with it, he can’t refuse Kaori or Tsubaki. Do you think he would have the courage to say no to Hiroko? 😛

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      1. There’s saying no and then there is avoidance. This is something that while he might agree to in principle, might not actually amount to much if he doesn’t show or gives short lessons that aren’t overly interesting. Instead, he commits to it quite a lot.

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        1. It’s interesting that you put it this way, because his lessons with her are kind of brief (and Kaori still gives him hell about it) until they start practicing for a duet. At that point he does commit a whole lot, but the time he invests in her was serving a dual purpose.

          I think a big part of why he agrees is to have a distraction too. He’s nervous thinking about Kaori and otherwise he would just be practicing his competition pieces all the time. I was thinking about it this way when we watched it last year, but doing the theme analyses this time around I’m finding other reasons that fit better with the overall narrative.

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  2. I know a decent amount of people who put how others view their creative works before actually enjoying creating said works and it’s my biggest frustration. Sure you want people to listen, but who cares if it’s 1, or 50, or 50000 people listening? If you get someones ear to listen to your music, and it impacts them (even if they didn’t like it – but hey that’s still a view for you lol) then that’s all that matters for ME. It is a weird balance though, because you want to create for yourself, and sometimes you just have to take that leap and do something you know may not be well received by others, but sometimes you take that leap and people really enjoy your music, so why stop yourself from taking it at all because of what other people view your work as? At the end of the day the reason you create should be a reason you can convict yourself too, and I agree that a lot of the characters don’t realize what that is for them yet.

    I totally forgot all of Nagi’s arc, because like I said didn’t like it too much but it’s growing on me now lol. Anime tropes are getting in the way a little, don’t like the pointless raaaage revenge thing but I do remember how this whole thing ends to a degree and I like it’s resolution so I’m excited to see what happens next.

    Poor Kaori, she’s just going through all the stages of grief at the moment, and geez she’s just a master at dropping final lines at the episode that make you go whaaaat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once again, I’m sure you can relate more than most because you do create music. I have a similar feeling about blogging pretty often though. I get caught between writing content that gives me fulfillment and stuff that I think people are going to want to read. Real success is a balancing act, and it’s tough to know which way to lean sometimes. I think in general you have a very healthy attitude about your approach. Whatever gets you to create is worthwhile, I think.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying Nagi’s arc more. It was interesting for me how conflicted she really is about why she wants to play. Processing all that has thematic tie ins to the rest of the story and as you can clearly see, that’s what really catches my interest 😀

      Also it may not be very clear but Kaori was quoting the book she was reading, Ichigo Doumei. It’s one of the ones Watari brought her and she started reading it because Kousei had checked it out at the library before. It’s a real book and the story is very similar to what happens to Kaori. The line she quotes is said by the female lead to the male one when he visits her at the hospital.

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      1. Yeah I’m sure every creator goes through that balance, definitely a struggle but worth it in the end 🙂
        OH, thanks for the clarification! I thought it was a bit of a dark thing for Kaori to just say out of the blue, glad it was a quote from a book XD

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    1. On my first watch I wasn’t a big fan because she came right at a time when I was desperate to see more on Kaori’s side of things. On subsequent watches I really saw the value in her character as a way for Kousei to see where he came from. As you saw in my next post, she gave Kousei a great way to put everything he learned since the previous Spring into practice and provided the first real way for him to see that career and Kaori weren’t the only things the piano could offer.

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  3. The hospital scenes covered in this episode definitely points out the similarity between Kaori and Kousei’s mum which you discussed in the previous year’s post. Another parallel, I thought, is Kaori in comparison to Kousei at the start of the series. You mentioned it in the next thematic analysis on role reversal, although my interpretation of it here is the despair that both faced over the concept of ‘death’ – Kousei reeling from the aftermath and Kaori succumbing to her inevitable fate. Consequently both lost/ started to lose their motivation to play for others, and forgetting why they worked so hard through their music in the first place.

    I think YLIA really fully utilizes repetition and contrast throughout the series where many themes and concepts overlap over multiple episodes, which makes the series both complex and yet conversational at the same time.
    Glad that I read through this year’s articles, although I’ve not yet read all the discussion you wrote last year. These are invaluable lessons that I will keep revisiting to reinforce the thoughts constructed by the author of YLIA, and yourself as well.

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    1. I think you’re spot on about Kousei and Kaori mirroring each other in response to death. We really only see the aftermath in Kousei’s case because due to his youth he always expected that his mom would get better, and really only felt the impact of her illness after the fact. Kaori has time to let it sink in, and we see her realization play out in bouts of frustration and quiet acceptance. Either way, the effect on them is the same – they think it’s over and there’s no way they can step onto the stage again.

      Part of why I love this series so much is that it invites this kind of introspective thought so easily. It is more complex than most people realize, but not in a way that makes it unapproachable. Because we all experience these themes in some way, we can understand the core of what is being presented and relate those feelings to our own lives.

      My posts last year were more focused on episode moments (though if you’re into music I try to talk about that a good bit too) because I was pushing the community re-watch part of it more. For analysis and exploration, this year’s posts are probably more what you’re looking for, but feel free to check out the older ones at your leisure! I’m glad to know you’re enjoying the posts.

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