— Kousei whines, “First I was an extra… now I’m a substitute, huh?” Give me a break. Instead of using this golden opportunity to look like he’s a fun person to hang out with, he’s got this “I’m slightly uncomfortable” look on his face. I can only wonder if Kaori has noticed it or not, but let’s assume she isn’t just a manic pixie dream girl. Let’s say she has noticed it, but she’s just putting on a front anyway to make their hang-out more fun. I almost feel a little sorry for her, because she’s so enthusiastic and outgoing, and the guy’s just got his lips sealed, bemoaning to himself that he wasn’t her first choice. Frankly, he deserves less than what he’s currently getting. Truth is, he’s invisible. He hasn’t done anything to warrant any notice from anyone. He hasn’t shown any personality. He hasn’t demonstrated that he can be a fun or interesting person to hang out with. No, not just with us. With Kaori. Look at it from her perspective. First, it seemed like he was creeping on her. Then, he’s just this quiet guy who tagged along with his friends to her concert. God forbid she’s not jumping with joy every time she lays eyes on him. It just gets on my nerves when nice but overall boring guys feel like they’re entitled to anything. A bloo bloo bloo, I’m just a substitute. Do you deserve more, though? Ask yourself that. What have you actually done to deserve more? “I’m nice” is not the answer. Being nice should just be a given, not a fucking merit badge.
— Kousei adds, “She’s such an amazing musician, but all she looks like now is an ordinary girl.” What does that even mean? Those aren’t mutually exclusive things. He makes it sound like an amazing musician wouldn’t normally coo over a plate of waffles. Fuck, dude, I want some waffles. Waffles own.
— It’s not like I’m a fan of Kaori or anything: “That piano… is such a happy piano… That piano’s grinning from ear to ear.” I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this episode.
— But like I’ve said, Kousei isn’t helping himself. He contradicts the girl by saying it’s a sad piano instead. Sure, you don’t have to agree with everything that a pretty girl says, but why would you even say something like “It’s a sad, little piano, you know.” Talk about a downer. Who cares if some small cafe puts flowers on its piano.
— Holy shit, this guy: “She sure knows how to get along with kids. I guess her mental age is low?” GUYS, WHY AM I JUST A SUBSTITUTE? I’M SUCH A NICE GUY!
— Golden opportunity to show that you’re a fun person to hang out with! When the girl invites you to play the piano for the two little girls, you do it with gusto! Oh wait, he has that trauma thing of his… right, right. I mean, Kaori doesn’t know anything about it, so it’s not really her fault. If you want to blame anyone, blame the writer for thinking that this is how someone gets over years and years of abuse from their mother.
— Oh goodie, now he’s getting abused by Kaori! Of course, Kaori kicking him is a joke. We’re supposed to believe that she’s not doing any real damage to the guy. But it’s not a joke that exists in a vacuum. It’s a guy being kicked in the leg because he won’t play the piano. This same guy was abused by his own fucking mother for not playing the piano. In any other anime, with any other shounen, this is a joke. In this particular anime, with this particular shounen, it becomes a tasteless joke. C’mon, it’s like the writer forgot he just suffered from abuse and Stockholm syndrome. But I’m sure the writer didn’t forget. We’re supposed to draw a distinction between bad abuse and good abuse. His mother’s abuse? Bad! Kaori’s light-hearted, playful kicks? Somehow good! This isn’t really cute; it’s kind of fucked up.
— Where were you when the trauma hit!
— Nice, sensitive boys always love cats! That’s how you know Kyouya from the Wolf Girl and Black Prince anime is trouble. He likes dogs. All sorts of dogs, too.
— According to Kaori, Kousei was such a prodigy that all the other young musicians, including herself, look up to him. I think that’s pretty wild. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would’ve been more believable if she had just stopped short at the whole “You’re a child prodigy.” The idea that people his age are literally looking up to him is, well, a bit much:
Bart: “Well Dad, here’s my report card. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Homer: [incredulously] “A-plus?!? You don’t think much of me, do you boy?”
Bart: [almost proudly] “No sir!”
Homer: “You know a D turns into a B so easily. You just got greedy.”
— Kousei’s so traumatized that he can’t hear the sound of the piano anymore… kinda. When he does play, he suddenly loses it somewhere along the way. That’s also pretty wild, but traumas can be wild. I don’t mind this too much.
— He goes so far as to think that this is his punishment for failing to fulfill his mother’s dreams. Yeah, this is above our pay grade. Hell, this is above Kaori’s pay grade. This is a kid who needs serious help, and I’m never flippant when I say that. Nevertheless, she’ll be the manic pixie dream girl to fix our broken shounen up. I get the feeling that this story is romance first, trauma second. Honestly, that’s the most charitable way to look at it. In other words, someone set out to write a cute, romantic story, but to make things more interesting, he or she came up with Kousei’s super-serious trauma. The result is thus jarring and a little off-putting. Why? Well, this trauma really shouldn’t be exploited for fuzzy romance points, It should be its own story. Now, you can certainly argue that the trauma had come first instead, and the romance arrived afterwards as a means to solving that trauma. But that just makes it even worse. If that is truly the case, then someone out there literally thinks that meeting a cute, outgoing girl is the key to getting over years of abuse. C’mon, man.
— Kaori’s reaction? “Don’t be such a baby! You’re so negative! Play even if you can’t play!” Then she kicks him some more. I’ll just repeat what I just said a few bullet points ago:
“Of course, Kaori kicking him is a joke. We’re supposed to believe that she’s not doing any real damage to the guy. But it’s not a joke that exists in a vacuum. It’s a guy being kicked in the leg because he won’t play the piano. This same guy was abused by his own fucking mother for not playing the piano. In any other anime, with any other shounen, this is a joke. In this particular anime, with this particular shounen, it becomes a tasteless joke. C’mon, it’s like the writer forgot he just suffered from abuse and Stockholm syndrome. But I’m sure the writer didn’t forget. We’re supposed to draw a distinction between bad abuse and good abuse. His mother’s abuse? Bad! Kaori’s light-hearted, playful kicks? Somehow good! This isn’t really cute; it’s kind of fucked up.”
— She then insists that he should play the piano even when he’s sad or depressed. Again, we’re supposed to draw a distinction between her words and his mother’s, but how? How are they different? Kaori’s not considering his feelings at all. Again, how is this any different from his mother? Of course, his mother wanted him to play and succeed for her. Kaori isn’t demanding that from Kousei… but is that enough?
— I can already hear it: “You’re taking this too seriously.” I don’t care. I feel for this character. He’s been abused, so yeah, I’m going to take it seriously. I’m going to take any form of abuse seriously.
— Kaori sparkles because she loves life so much!
— Our sparkling girl then takes it upon herself to make him her accompanist. Fuck your feelings, kid! You literally stop hearing the piano when you play it? Well, pull up yourself up by your bootstraps, you little wussy boy! Just tough it out! No, seriously, this is literally her attitude: “Quit your whining. My mind’s made up. Just give in to your fate like a good boy.” Again, his mother forced him to play the piano for her. And again, we’re supposed to draw the distinction that Kaori’s behavior is okay, and his mother’s behavior was not. I’m just not seeing it. This isn’t cute. This is fucked up.
— Ugh, I’m just halfway through this episode.
— Then right after the commercial break, we’re back to wacky, comedic hijinks!
— And more abuse. Always more abuse. Kaori hurls her shoe at the guy, but it’s okay. She’s doing it… for him. In the end, it’s still fucking self-serving as all hell.
— Of course, most people would just stand up for themselves and firmly say no to Kaori. But then again, Kousei is a victim of abuse. So you can’t help but feel for the guy. In a better anime, these moments wouldn’t be played as jokes. In a better anime, he’d have flashbacks to his mother’s abuse, and Kaori would reconsider and reflect on her actions. But this isn’t a better anime. This is a cute and fuzzy anime that you shouldn’t take seriously! C’mon, let’s just laugh at a victim of abuse get abused some more but in a playful way! Stop taking it so seriously!
— With her infinite compassion and understanding for how her best friend truly feels, Tsubaki has this to say:
Ganbatte it up, y’all!
— So Kaori has gone and plastered the music room with sheet music. It’s like a scene from a horror movie. You walk into a room and you see blood all over the walls. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. Kousei’s mother literally drew blood when she beat him for not playing the piano well enough. And now, he sees sheet music all over the walls. It’s a fucking nightmare, yo. And here are the monsters. This guy is actually being forced to relive his nightmare. And it’s all played off as a joke.
— But we’re not going to do that. From this point on, this episode is a horror movie.
— Haha, hilarious!
— In this world, you have no privacy! There are no boundaries! The monsters are coming to get you, and they’ve infiltrated every last inch of your life. It’s like that scene where the victim opens up his or her book, and every single page has been scrawled with “I’m coming to kill you.” Here, it’s sheet music.
— And out of your locker, blood comes gushing out! There is no escape! The monsters are coming to get you!
— He can’t escape.
— They literally draw blood. They literally fucking draw blood. He will relive his nightmare, or pay with his life.
— Our psychos discuss their plans as Tsubaki reiterates, “I’m going to drag him there no matter what.” The other psycho even starts to have doubts; Kaori wonders, “But are you sure it’s really okay? To force him to accompany me?” Tsubaki, however, assures Kaori that everything they’re doing is perfectly fine: “With Kousei, you have to be at least this pushy.” Yeah, just ask his mom! She knew all about pushing Kousei’s buttons! Ganbatte, y’all! You’re so close to bullying this kid into playing the piano again without once considering his feelings on the matter! If this isn’t a horror, then what is it?
— This is the face of an abuser if I ever saw one. And of course, Kaori can’t help but notice that Tsubaki really likes Kousei. The latter denies it, of course. She sees it more like a relationship between two siblings. But the point is, she loves him in some way. Whether it’s romantic or sibling love, it doesn’t matter. She loves him, and as we all know, abusers always claim they have their victims’ interests at heart.
— Tsubaki: “To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me whether Kousei plays the piano or not.” Yeah, I mean, c’mon, I don’t really care. I just plastered sheet music over everything you own, threw a baseball at your head hard enough to draw blood, and harassed you for the last two days. But I don’t really care. Do what you want.
— Tsubaki adds, “If he’s gonna quit, I want him to quit on his own terms. It hurts to see him like this.” What about “If he’s going to play, I want him to play on his own terms. It hurts to see him being forced to play the piano like this.” I mean, is the irony lost on them or what? What is this? Seriously? What is wrong with you people?! Oh right, I forget that this is now a horror story. My bad!
— Tsubaki: “Because right now, Kousei’s only living his life halfway.” Good thing you’re there to tell him how to live. I mean, she has enough awareness to realize this: “Ever since that day, Kousei’s been trapped with nowhere to go.” But why not take the extra fucking step and think, “I wonder why he’s been trapped.” Instead of just brute forcing the guy out of the trap, not knowing what the fucking trap even is, why not try and understand what the guy has gotten himself into?
— After Tsubaki gets off the bus, it looks like Kaori gets off at a hospital. So she’s going through a tough time in her life too. This just makes it even worse that she’s making life hard for someone else.
— Finally, it’s the second day of the competition. Naturally, Kousei isn’t at the concert hall, and neither is Kaori. Instead, she finds him trying to enjoy lunch on the school’s rooftop. So what does she do? The monster cometh.
— The girl then proceeds to dismiss his problems completely: “You’re just using that as an excuse to run away.” Pfft, you say you have a mental block? You want to act as if you suffer from PTSD every time you play the piano? BUUUUUULLSHIT, YOU’RE JUST A WUSSY SHOUNEN! You go, girl! Berate him until he plays the piano! Shit on his feelings even though you know nothing about him!
— I hate how his issue has been reframed as an excuse. An excuse. C’mon, man. That is so fucked up, I’m flabbergasted. What if a female rape victim is now afraid to date, because she freezes up when she’s alone with men? Are you going to call that a fucking excuse? Hurr hurr, you found yourself an excuse to not date! How is the situation any different here? He’s been abused by his own mother. He blames himself for her death. As a result, he freezes up whenever he plays the piano. How is that a fucking excuse? Fuck you, anime. This is a fucking piece of shit story.
— Yeah, ’cause you’ve proven yourself to be the most compassionate, caring person on this fucking planet:
That’s just it, though. This is not an inspiring speech moment. This is not a goddamn inspiring speech moment. You can’t just slap a bandaid over this problem by delivering a fucking monologue. Then after all that bullying doesn’t work, she cries:
And how can any proper shounen turn down a crying girl! Who cares if he’s literally been abused? She’s crying, yo! Emotional manipulation is okay if the girl is cute and pretty. This is the height of tastelessness, man. Who wrote this shit?
Get off the stage!