Later, Kaori wears her earbuds and returns to transcribing music in the classroom. Being so deeply immersed in her craft, Watari is able to step into the room unnoticed. When Kaori doesn’t stir, Watari throws a baseball directly at the back of her head. Kaori is startled, confused, and frightened and Watari complains that her reaction is boring.
He then proceeds to take the moral high ground and asks her what youth means to her. Without letting her answer, he emphasizes that they’ll never be fourteen again and yanks one of the earbuds from her ear while complaining that she’s sitting all by herself after school.
He then asks what she’s listening to and puts the loose earbud into his own ear. It’s at that moment that his tone flips and he’s thrilled that Kaori is listening to the latest song from one of his favourite J-pop bands, Goose House. His utter enchantment is lost on Kaori.
Quiet fills the halls as the school day comes to a close, but Kaori faithfully continues her work with Watari watching her intently from across the desk. After a short silence, Watari asks if Kaori’s free on Saturday because a boy in his class wants to be introduced to Tsubaki. He mentions that it would be awkward to be there alone as the two become romantic and wants Kaori to help him avoid that scenario.
“And besides,” he says as he presses the pause button on Kaori’s music. “I hear this boy plays classical music.”
Kaori’s eyes widen, but Watari continues. He explains that they would have things to talk about since they’re both in the music scene. With a soft, sorrowful voice, she reminds Watari that she no longer plays the piano and it’s already been that way for two years. Watari calls her a liar and points to her presence in the music room the day before as proof. Kaori explains that she was transcribing new songs by ear for a job she had taken. The produced sheet music was going to be used for karaoke.
Watari is unmoved by the explanation and tells her that if she can do that in the classroom, as she’s been doing, then she wouldn’t be playing the piano if she’s so against it. Kaori dismisses the idea and says that it was only to confirm the accuracy of her work. Watari then suggests that there are other jobs out there. As far as he’s concerned, Kaori is desperately clinging to the piano. His disappointment is apparent as he tells her how much cooler she was when she played the piano.
Kaori is silent. She remembers how it was her father’s dream that she would play the piano and be a world-class pianist. He ran his own music school and gave Kaori lessons from his wheelchair day-after-day for many hours at a time. He would hit her. He would yell at her. He wouldn’t let her stop even if she cried.
“You’re going to make it big in Europe in my place,” her father said.
A younger, weaker Kaori wiped her tears, but it was no use. There were many to accompany the bruises and cuts scattered across her small body.
“If it’ll make you happy… If it’ll make you get well… then I’ll keep at it,” she responded meekly.
Then when she had the European competition in her sights just three years ago, her father passed away. The bitterness that was left grew into her hatred toward the piano. Kaori reasons that her need to cling to the piano must be because she has nothing else. When the piano is taken away, she is empty.
The memories follow Kaori home and haunt her thoughts all through the evening. Watari, who lives just next door, sighs as he lays down on his bed, lamenting that another day has gone by with no sound from Kaori’s old grand piano.
This childhood friend/neighbour, who should know the history behind why the piano playing stopped and should be the most understanding only seems to be pressuring the pianist because they don’t care about them in any other capacity. Apparently, they’re less cool now that they’re depressed and traumatized. What other reason would they tell the character this if not to induce guilt for being depressed and traumatized? It’s weirdly victim-blaming, manipulative, and bullying.
For those who have someone in their life who is depressed/traumatized and you don’t know what to do, I know it’s hard. There are no easy answers. The best I can offer is to just respect their wishes even if they don’t always make sense. Obviously, this assumes that the wishes aren’t self-harming. In this case, this character stopped playing the piano. Either help them rediscover their love for the piano without guilt, help them find a new hobby, help them get treatment, or move along.
Never make someone feel guilty for stopping or slowing their contact with the thing associated with their depression/trauma. You won’t be helping anyone.
It’s Saturday. Kaori stands at the side of the road, miffed that both Watari and Tsubaki appear to be running late for their get-together with the mystery boy. Kaori’s eyes are drawn to a pair of tights and shoes hanging from a tree branch. She contemplates their purpose, wondering if they’re around to ward off evil spirits or mark a special spot.
Kaori removes the heavy yellow shoes from the branch for a closer look and immediately recognizes them as being men’s dress shoes with short heels, then turns her attention to the tights that had fallen on the ground. Kaori sets the shoes aside, lifts the tights, then panics upon realizing what they are.
I understand wanting to take your shoes off since I do it all the time, but this character would’ve had to come all the way back along the path without shoes to get everything. If you’re a person who’s ever had somewhere to be on time, then you might find this extra ridiculous.
Cue the uplifting music of a melodica, which drowns out the panic instantly. Transfixed by the whimsical sound, Kaori sets off down a path kissed by the bright pink petals of the lively cherry trees. Every moment, the words from Watari’s quote ring in Kaori’s ears.
“The moment I met him, my life changed. Everything I saw, everything I heard, everything I felt. All of the scenery around me started to take on colour.”
Each step closer gives her new hope, the hope that the world may once again sparkle for her. This promise is realized the moment she sets her eyes on the dark-haired teenage boy playing the melodica atop a large playground structure. Birds fly off in each direction, every wing at its full span adding to the angelic overtones of his masterful music. Children stand below, all equally enthralled with his performance.
Soon, the song ends and a single tear rolls down the boy’s cheek. He turns his head to watch Kaori below, the wind gently wisping through his hair as more tears well up and overflow. Kaori’s too mesmerized to move until the boy clears his throat and wipes his tears away. He figures that he must’ve been blowing too hard.
A child below calls out, mentioning that no pigeons came and explains that only a bugle can summon them. Another child corrects them by saying that it’s actually a trumpet. Either way, the consensus is that a melodica won’t do it. The teenage boy kneels with confidence and assures the small children that borders, race, and species mean nothing in music. He then offers them an opportunity to work together to summon the pigeons. The children gasp and grin, then pull out their musical instruments to create an impromptu quartet.
The sky over Japan has rarely ever been so bright as the moment that quartet played their hearts out and Kaori’s eyes follow each chipper movement. Wanting to immortalize this moment, Kaori pulls out her phone, takes a picture of the four musicians, and internally compares them to the Town Musicians of Bremen. In their last notes, the pigeons descend and hover over the group as they laugh and cheer.
Suddenly, a gust of wind picks up, pushing at the teenage boy’s light-coloured shirt and snatching the hat of one of the younger children. Kaori’s phone snaps a picture and, hearing the shutter sound go off, the boy presses down his shirt and blushes down at Kaori who blushes right back. Double-checking the cell phone photo reveals a slightly less appropriate image than what Kaori had been aiming for.
The boy winds back and launches the melodica at Kaori’s face, accusing her of trying to ruin his chances for marriage by sharing smut of him on the internet. Kaori apologizes profusely and tries to explain that it was a coincidence, but the boy notices his tights in her hand and his anger skyrockets as he continues to swing his instrument and hit her. He says that she won’t get away with this and accuses her of being a pervert. Kaori tearfully reiterates that it was just a coincidence.
So much of this is played to make women look like they snap at things that just don’t exist with zero provocation and probably makes the viewer question whether women outside of anime are trustworthy in commenting on the circumstances of their own abuse, a common thing that people (usually, though not exclusively, men) will comment on. See: “It’s all in her head” and other dismissive nonsense.
The unfortunate reality is that women are disproportionately targeted for various types of street harassment, which include being cat-called, then insulted or threatened when she doesn’t respond the “right” way; having her pictures taken without her consent, including trying to get pictures/video up her skirt if she’s wearing one; being touched, stalked, etc.
This pattern has created this idea in the public consciousness that being an abuse victim is inherently female-coded and hysterical in nature. If a male has been subject to abuse, he’s either ignored, feminized as a joke, or told to “man up.”
For those who read this rendition where the overreacting character is male, it probably just seems like a joke twisting the usual trope for laughs, but imagine if every other show you watched featured a male character in situations exactly like this one. Would you start to believe that there is precedence for the stereotype? Do you think such a portrayal would do anything to make male abuse victims more believable?
Arriving along the path are Tsubaki and Watari who wonder if Kaori and their other friend wound up in the wrong spot. Tsubaki asks Watari if this boy is really as cute as he claims and points out that boys calling other boys cute aren’t exactly credible. Watari notices the boy pinning Kaori to the ground and greets him casually.
The boy’s eyes change from an inferno to sparkles and whimsy as he greets Watari in turn. Watari introduces Arima, Kousei who smiles gleefully in the direction of the brown-haired girl standing before him, then he introduces the enthusiastic girl, Sawabe, Tsubaki. Their meeting is dynamite and roses as they instantly start flirting and fawning over each other.
Kaori is both fascinated and ashamed for not being able to pry her eyes away from the display. Watari pops back over to Kaori and introduces her as “Friend A.” Kousei is immediately taken aback. He runs to Kaori and immediately apologizes for his earlier behaviour, though whispers that if she opens her mouth, she’s dead. Kaori is terrified.
To clarify, I’m capable of forgiving the initial over-reaction because anybody trying to sneak any type of inappropriate picture of a person without their consent is deserving of all scorn, but that this is a sparkly apology followed immediately by a threat to silence takes away all meaning.
Right off the bat, this character is portrayed as being unreliable (overreacting), fake (putting on a polite, positive mask for the other characters while putting someone down), manipulative (“or you’re dead”), and vindictive. (Not interested in taking any type of responsibility for the mistake and that’s about to make that the other character’s problem.)
I feel like this belongs in How To Make Your Character Completely Unlikeable 101.
Tsubaki, unable to hear the angry exchange, delights in how polite Kousei is and they return to fawning over each other. Watari then teases Kaori for being sneaky, implying that she was trying to beat Tsubaki to the meeting of the cute boy and calls her a player. Kaori reminds Watari that it was, once again, just a coincidence. He asks what she’s being so pissy about, but it doesn’t matter because Kaori’s out of luck. Kousei likes Tsubaki. She tells Kaori that today, she’s in a supporting role only and to give it up.
Suddenly, Kousei remembers something and politely excuses himself. Tsubaki asks where he’s going and Watari points to the performance hall. Kaori gasps and Kousei reveals that he’s a violinist. Tsubaki fawns over that little detail and Kousei winks at her, basking in her attention. Watari invites Kaori to join, but she’s crestfallen and immediately states that she’ll pass. Kousei reaches for Kaori’s hand with a glimmer in his eyes and reissues the invitation. Their eyes lock and Kaori feels trapped by her infatuated whims. Kousei then leads her toward the concert hall where Watari and Tsubaki wait.
It’s the spring of Kaori’s 14th year. Is she prepared to throw caution to the wind?