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.
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.
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!