What an ominous start to an episode.
— Oh god, the cat can talk. We’ll learn later why Kousei sees a black cat in his dreams.
— After the OP, we see Ryota miss a game-tying goal, but this doesn’t diminish him in his friends’ eyes whatsoever. Everyone likes him even though he seems like a womanizer-in-training, but that just goes to show you how much appearances matter, especially to young people like our heroes. Kousei even has to repeat the fact that Ryota looks cool in case you didn’t hear it the first time.
— Later, Ryota hides out in a bathroom stall, and laments the fact that he won’t become a star till high school. Away from all the adoring fans — away from his tearful teammates — Ryota finally lets his guard down and sobs violently. There’s something to be said about the timing of it all. He can’t show weakness out in the open. He has to hide and bury his feelings until it is safe to cry. Also notice how he cries in the bathroom, a place where you often relieve yourself and dispose of bodily waste. In other words, his tears are linked to — pardon my French — shit. The subtext here is that your feelings are waste products. Look at Kousei. He wasn’t allowed to be weak either. When he wanted to be weak, the girls told him to man up, and I doubt this has gone unnoticed by Ryota, who probably worries more about his appearance than the main character. That’s why he won’t even allow his closest friends to see his tears. He has to cry alone, and that’s quite unfortunate. He has no one to lean on. But let’s not forget that Kaori used to her feelings to get Kousei to ultimately agree to be her accompanist at the end of the third episode. She is allowed to cry. Why beat around the bush? Girls are allowed to be emotionally vulnerable. Sometimes, it’s even expected of them, and that’s terribly unfair. Likewise, boys are not allowed to be emotionally vulnerable, and that’s unfair as well.
— Anyway, Ryota and Tsubaki have both failed their middle school competitions. Should the pressure now be on Kousei? I don’t think it should. Ideally, he should feel like he’s starting over from scratch. That doesn’t mean he should practice Chopsticks all day, but I mean, if he doesn’t win, so what? His friends’ lack of results shouldn’t have any bearings on his own upcoming performance. But we’ll see how his buddies will encourage and support him. I’m hoping that after a turbulent start, the show is going to mellow out. And honestly, I’m going to stick this out for the long haul, so I want to give the story a chance to improve. After all, if I choose to continue blogging well into 2015, there’s a dearth of interesting shows to cover in the following season. As such, I’m going to see what — if anything — I can take away from this anime.
— I don’t really agree with Kousei practicing so hard that he’s even pretending to play the notes in class. I think it’s always healthy to strike the proper balance in life, and he’s young enough that he really shouldn’t be pouring all his energy into any particular passion. If it’s time to pay attention in class, then he should pay attention in class.
— Kousei feels lost, and I don’t blame him. I think it’s asking a lot for Kousei to find himself in the music that he plays. He’s so young, and most people his age aren’t equip to reinterpret a song to reflect their identity. Kaori is the manic pixie dream girl, so you just expect that sort of thing from her. But with Kousei, we have to be realistic.
— More importantly, have we even sat down and had a frank conversation on what Kousei expects to achieve? You can’t find yourself if you don’t even know where you want to go. Where does he see himself in five years? Ten years? Why are we practicing now? What are we building towards? That’s why I think Kousei is putting the cart before the horse. Y’know, when we are young, our parents make us take up a hobby simply because they know better. My mom wanted me to play the violin, because she thought it would enrich my life. I didn’t question it; I was five, man. But Kousei is old enough to start wondering about these things. He’s old enough to start making his own authentic choices in life. Let’s put aside whether or not we think he’s been emotionally manipulated. That debate is old now. Let’s just focus on the matter at hand. What does Kousei really hope to accomplish in the long run? Until he can answer this question, I don’t think he’ll ever find himself in his music.
— Apparently, Kousei’s been skipping meals, because he’s so “immersed” in music at the moment. Maybe he has an addictive sort of personality. It’s also rather problematic that he has to be cared for this much by his friends. It almost feels like they have to hold his hand through life. I don’t agree with them pushing him to play music before he was ready, but yes, you should definitely force someone to eat, because the alternative is, well, y’know, death.
— He and Kaori come across that black cat that we see all the time, and this suddenly makes our hero fall to the ground and dry-heave. At some point, you have to wonder if he’s mentally healthy enough to truly pursue anything. I think it’s still clear that he’s got a lot of issues to work through, but he won’t have that luxury. Few if any anime characters ever seem to have that luxury. Since we are watching an anime, the power of friendship will probably be enough to save him, but will this be a satisfying victory?
— It turns out he used to have a black cat for a pet, and it would always eat his candy when he wasn’t looking. I’m a bit skeptical about that. Cats can’t taste sweets. Plus, chocolate can kill them. But on a more serious note, the cat once scratched up one of Kousei’s invaluable hands. And knowing what we know about his mother, you can probably figure out what had happened next. As such, any time he sees a cat, he’s reminded of his mother and not in a good way.
— Kousei has a pattern of giving in. He didn’t protest when his mother took his pet away. Of course, back then, it was forgivable. He was just a young kid, and we know his mother was abusive. Unfortunately, Kousei’s eagerness to acquiesce to the whims of others was never corrected, so it became a habit over time. Kousei certainly doesn’t stand up for himself now nor is he ever assertive with his friends.
— How does Kaori react to Kousei pouring his heart out to her? She just says, “You’re just you, no matter what.” Okay…
— I can’t and won’t ever enjoy the physical slapstick in this anime. It’s just not funny, and it’s troubling how comic violence against male characters is condoned. I don’t care how much of a trope it is. Lots of things are tropes. Guys trying to peep on girls when the latter are bathing is also a common anime trope. And in both cases, defenders will claim that these tropes are “not serious.” Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. That doesn’t make these tropes right nor should they ever be acceptable.
— Make note of the train in the background. It’s often said that you will see a train in your dreams if you feel as though your life is on rails. It’s food for thought. When the train first makes its appearance, Kousei hears his mother say, “I’m doing this for you.” The second time it appears, Kousei is telling us that he regrets never speaking up to save his dear cat. When the train appears a third time, this is when we see Kaori kicking Kousei in a “light-hearted” way. Do you think these moments are accidental or coincidental? Why even have the train go to and fro in the scene at all? What does it add if not subtext? Does the train perhaps link these three events together? Think about it. Or don’t. I’ve been told that overthinking things will lead to an early death, so I’ve been trying to cut back.
— Kaori then offers inspiring words from the wise Charlie Brown. She then suggests that Kousei’s hands are happy to touch hers. Try as I might, I just can’t like her. She just seems like a big phony.
— In another dream sequence, Kousei admits to his pet cat that he still can’t hear the notes. Nevertheless, he will push on because Kaori believes in the power of music, so he guesses that he’ll try to do so as well. I don’t know what that means. More importantly, it still feels like his life is on rails. It never seems like he’s doing anything for himself. He played the piano for his mother, and now, he’s playing for Kaori. Nevertheless, the cat tells him that it seems like he’s ready. Whatever that means.
— More slapstick for the sake of watching Kousei writhe in pain. Haha, it’s so funny.
— Then just for added drama, Kousei runs into some enemies. This part just feels contrived — like he’s in a shounen, and he needs rivals to battle against.
— Then we see a flashback involving his rivals, and I’m sorry, but they don’t sound their age. I mean, take a look at this: “He’s not interested. Not in other people, and not in us.” C’mon, no kid who looks like this would ever talk like that.
— According to Kaori, the audience is larger than usual because they heard that Kousei will be performing today. Even Ryota confesses that all anyone could talk about in the restroom was Kousei. Sure. I totally buy that. Kousei is a big deal, yo.
— Kousei’s three friends then awkwardly sit around and feed us exposition. What group of friends talks like this? Seriously, Kaori sounds pretentious as hell in the way that she’s currently speaking. This is how you introduce a new combatant to the battlefield, not how you describe a friend and his social struggles (e.g. “Goku. The Super Saiyan. The Legendary Fighter.”)
— The whole thing puts me off. Here’s how Takeshi describes a former encounter with Kousei: “And just when I thought I had him, after stretching out my arms all the way… Like a mirage, he faded into the distance. He was like a dove in a magic trick — poof, he was gone.” Come on. Stop putting on airs. The story tries so hard to sound meaningful and poignant that it just comes off fake.
— Ryota basically acts out the audience’s interest level. At least he can be honest with how he feels. There’s not a whole lot that I like about him, but he’s relatively straightforward. He doesn’t try to be sophisticated.
— The rest of the episode drags itself out. Kousei is naturally afflicted with stage fright, but when he sees Takeshi confidently march out onstage — and our hero doesn’t realize that his rival had just been dry-heaving in the bathroom just moments ago — he suddenly hears Kaori’s words of encouragement. He then finds the conviction to at least stand on his own two feet. So, y’know, there’s nothing new here.
— Kaori continues to feed us more exposition; Takeshi is the favorite to win, she says.
— In another flashback, we see that Takeshi had passed up an opportunity to go overseas just to compete against and beat our hero in this current competition. It’s so hilariously overdramatic. Nevertheless, that’s the note that the episode wants to end on. Oh well.