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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.