Your Theme in April: Ep 21 – Snow

The second to last episode, Snow, looks back on Kousei’s experiences from his fateful meeting under the full bloomed cherry blossoms. Today’s theme, accordingly, takes a look at the journey that brought us to this point.


Intro

Obligatory disclaimer: This post may contain spoilers for episode 21 and earlier. Other readers’ comments in the discussion following this post are not guaranteed to be spoiler free for the overall series.

Too heartbroken to return to the piano, another meeting with Kaori reminds him how naive he’s been. While she fights for a chance to stand beside him again, Kousei pushes himself onto the stage for everyone who’s been supporting him.

I covered this episode during last year’s event in this post (new window). Have a look for an episode recap and, if nothing else, go listen to Watashi no Uso in the video I shared.

The end of a series often provides a kind of recap on what had come before, emphasizing the final act by reminding viewers of the experiences that led them there. Your lie in April does this to masterful effect, framing this single episode in a way that symbolizes Kousei’s journey.


Reflection

It can be an important and effective exercise for a protagonist to reflect on everything that had brought them to the conclusion of their story. While many stories might do this with a straight recap, Your lie in April is a show that strives for elegance in most everything it does and its penultimate chapter is no different. Today’s topic is less of a theme or recurring motif and more an examination of what this episode accomplishes. With Kousei reverting back to square one at the end of the previous episode, this one puts him through many of the same stages that fueled his recovery and growth the first time.

Image of Hiroko looking in on Kousei, who is depressed curled up in a corner of his room

The loss of Kousei’s mother left him unable to turn to the piano, and the thought of losing Kaori does the same. The instrument becomes a source of pain and fear for him again, with Hiroko and his friends powerless to make him feel otherwise. At the start of the series, Kaori began to change this by pulling him into the music hall. Now, her note draws him back to another place he doesn’t want to revisit – the hospital. With a dessert as the pretense for meeting him just as it was when she first assigned him as Watari’s substitute to go to the café, she pushes him toward a whimsical task (then: playing the “happy piano”, now: a picnic on the roof). The similarities with the first two episodes are so uncanny that it’s hard to argue that they aren’t deliberate.

Image of Kousei carrying Kaori on his back as she holds a bag of canelés

Their conversation mirrors the one they had on the day of Kaori’s competition, including how he’s “always looking down.” Kousei reveals how lonely music is for him now, and her response is exactly the same as it was that day: “But you have me.” The simple words pierce him as they always have, only now he and the viewer can better understand their scope. He’s still doubtful that he can play, saying it would take a miracle, so she gives him one with a performance that echoes in his heart more than his ears, like their duet at Towa Hall did.

Image of Kaori playing a violin made of light

Kaori stumbles, but she’s going to fight. She’ll give all she has to be with him a little longer. She echoes the sentiments that Kousei felt toward her, revealing that she’s jealous of Tsubaki bond with Kousei just as he was jealous of how close Watari was to her. In a callback to the role reversal topic I discussed a few episodes back, she tells him that she has him, just as he has her.

Image of Kaori laying in Kousei's arms on the snow covered hospital roof

Back when they were scheduled to play at the Gala, Kaori failed to show up because she was rushed to the hospital. This time, Kousei knows she’s absent due to her operation, but the same despair is present because he always thought she would have been better by now. He only goes on stage because he made her a promise, but he’s haunted by the memory of the person he played for – this time Kaori instead of his mother. Expectantly, he nearly breaks down once again. Just as the trauma of losing his mother made him forget the gift she imparted, his despondence over Kaori makes him forget all the precious bonds that the piano gave him.

Image of Kousei sitting at the piano with his head in his hands

Tsubaki’s cute sneeze snaps him out of it, and her presence reminds him that the piano isn’t a source of pain. Like the memories of his mother’s kindness, his awareness of everyone who supports him gives him renewed drive. The prodigy, whose ability to express his emotions was stunted by past trauma, understands that he has an audience willing to watch him bear his soul. He doesn’t play for one person, or one purpose, but because the piano lets him share with the world all the emotions he’s ever felt.

Kousei playing with the imagery of cherry blossoms behind him

Kousei’s journey is revealed to the viewer though the symbolic events of the episode, each part reminiscent of a critical point in the series. Rather than a rote rehash of events, it crafts the retreading of his path in a way that not only makes narrative sense for the episode but encapsulates his story overall. The resolve which he finds here solidifies in the finale, but the choice he makes in the conclusion of this one is still a fitting end to his character arc.


I packed this one with more than I normally do, but this topic needed it. We only have one more left, and I hope I can give you all a good post for the finale.

Let me know your thoughts on today’s topic or the episode in general. Remember to play today’s quiz, and I’ll see you next time for our last theme in April.


Your Quiz in April

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10 thoughts on “Your Theme in April: Ep 21 – Snow

Add yours

  1. This episode is beautiful from start to finish. As you said, it retreads a path from the beginning but by doing so, it shows us how this character has been transformed since then by the events of the series. As a result, the resolution is incredibly powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad someone else thinks so! I remember wondering what the reason was for repeating some of these experiences until I started thinking more about the parallelism this show loves so much.

      I really only caught onto this during this re watch, though. As much as I was focusing on the themes this time around, I saw the same ones from before coming up curiously in the same order. Really amazing what you catch the 2nd (or for me, 4th) time around if you just slightly alter your perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is why I love rewatching things. I know many people don’t really get into rewatches but for me, if it is something I love, the rewatch, and continuing to watch it, is what reall cements it as each time I gain a slightly different perspective on it. There are a few things I’ve outgrown through this process where I’ve watched them to the point where I just can’t watch them again, but for some stories, they just get better each time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think I’m of the same opinion. Anime fans are more pressed for time than ever with the number of offerings that a rewatch is of questionable value but I know that if I loved the show it will be time well spent.

          Dare I ask which shows you burned yourself out on?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. More movies. I used to love The Mummy but I literally watched it to death (once you can recite every line from start to finish it is time to put the DVD away and not watch it again). My mum banned more than a few films in our house when my sister and I were teenagers because we would watch it and then instantly start it again. We’d get half-way through, pause it, come back and finish it and start it again. Other banned movies included Jaws, The Fifth Element, and Indiana Jones.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. The Mummy, hmm? I’m starting to get a good idea of your taste in movies 😀

              That reminds me so much of my own younger sister. She would watch some movies again and again for days until my parents made her stop.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes, I know I have terrible taste in movies. It’s part of my charm and I have a truly impressive collection of b grade horror movies on DVD. As much as I like some anime that make me think, I tend to watch movies just to turn off my brain for a couple of hours.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Kaori and Kousei on the rooftop is the scene I’ve been waiting for the entire show. It’s the one that’s cemented itself in my head as one of the greatest scenes in anime, and seeing it again only makes me go “Yep, I was totally right to put it up there” just so beautiful. The rest of this episode is too, but ugh that scene. I remember the first time I watched being a little bummed Kousei never outright told Kaori “I love you” but rewatching that scene I don’t feel like it’s necessary. She knew, he knew, and that scene is perfect~

    Likewise, I love seeing Takeshi and Emi’s relationship with Kousei at this point. Seeing the friends Kousei made not only because of Kaori, but because he conquered his fears is such a great message. First watch I remember just adoring how much this episode brings home how having music can bring people together, but it’s more than that: It’s about how people can help each other, strive towards a common goal, and make friendships because of that. Such a beautiful message for such a beautiful story, and like you said the “recaps” in this episode were so masterfully done and wove into the narrative perfectly. Can’t wait for the last episode, and the last theme in April!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That scene is really unforgettable for me, and I think for most of the people who have watched and enjoyed this show. I think it really puts a point on how fragile Kaori was. We heard Kousei say it before and he was thinking she was far too light when he was carrying her, but our crazy violinist was really so scared because she knew how Kousei felt and it broke my heart to see that.

      I appreciate Takeshi and Emi’s part in this story for exactly the reason you pointed out. They weren’t his friends or his family, and even if Emi had a crush on him she’s a lot different from Kaori and Tsubaki. They were his rivals in the truest sense, but what they’ve all gone through together is a powerful bond all on its own that can become a lifelong friendship.

      I’m really glad you liked this one because I was excited to write it. I hope you enjoy tomorrow’s just as much, if not most of all!

      Liked by 1 person

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