I wasn’t expecting this episode of KimiUso to stand equal with the sheer emotional heft of last week’s episode, but it was a pretty freaking stellar episode even in comparison to episode 10. If I had to describe it quickly, I’d just say that this week’s KimiUso ticked a whole lot of boxes for me of things I didn’t know I wanted from this show and of things I did want. For a cour ending episode, this was both an impressively efficient and impactful wrap-up to the events of the first ten episodes and admirable preparation for what’s still to come.
The first big box, of course, is Hiroko-san, Japan’s leading pianist, Kousei’s mother’s friend, and his brand new mother figure/mentor. The flashbacks to her memories of Kousei’s mother before her sickness—a woman in love with her baby and determined to keep him away from the grueling lifestyle of a professional pianist—seem to indicate that Hiroko feels at least partially responsible for Kousei’s mother’s decision to start teaching Kousei piano and that she feels what happened to him is somewhat her fault. It’s also pretty darn cool that Hiroko now has a child of her own. (Side note: I love how the faces of children, except in important exceptions like Emi’s very adult declaration on the playground, are drawn very simply, often with just dots for eyes. I think it expresses well the simplicity of the child and serves to highlight how, despite the fact that they’re still “kids,” Kousei and his friends are no longer really children.)
And, right away, she starts off by giving him advice and guiding him in the correct direction by telling him to go see the results posting—and by challenging him. Like Emi’s teacher, Hiroko’s old enough and has heard enough music to understand what the sound of Kousei’s playing means. “Brace yourself,” she tells him, which sounds like both a warning and an encouragement.
This leads into what was actually my favorite scene of the episode: the results posting. After getting the beautifully animated opening sequence from Takeshi’s imagination before the OP, we return to his devastation at finding out that Kousei is, in fact, human. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Takeshi to this point (and it hasn’t helped that he was totally overshadowed by Best Girl Emi), but this scene sold me a lot more on him than any of the other stuff we’ve seen from him. As Takeshi’s image of Kousei as Hero comes crashing down, all around him the dreams of other are crushed. The anonymous character who groans, “What, I didn’t make it again this year?” brought one of the most surprising moments of the show to me. I expect the main characters’ emotions to be impactful, but that simple line from a character we’ll never see again was painful.
Takeshi’s injured monologue reminded me of a ton of different shows, with the hero imagery recalling Ping Pong and his idealization of Kousei reminding me of Chihayafuru standing out. I’ve written at length about the relationship between ideals and people in my Chihayafuru piece, but Takeshi’s image of Kousei as the “lonely pianist” reminds me a lot of Shinobu Wakamiya, the karuta Queen who is strong because of her isolation. Back when Takeshi was introduced, I wondered if he would fall apart when he saw what Kousei has become. I think he’s in the processes of doing exactly that. Kousei’s been brought out of isolation, and Takeshi finds that the Human Metronome isn’t a robot, but a boy.
For Kousei’s part, the most admirable thing about him right now is his deep awareness that he stands at only the beginning of a long journey. Giving a single performance isn’t the end of his trials, and he knows it. But knowing this would be useless if he wasn’t determined to continue on, if he wasn’t ready to become human again. Even as the train lights blare “STOP,” he screams out that he’s the same as the lights in his life, that he’s a person. Robots can’t grow, but people can. They can, if they work at, be many different and many wonderful things.
What a huge step it is for Kousei to accept Hiroko as his teacher. The only guiding female figure in his life and the only piano teacher he’s ever had was his mother. Not only has he found peace with his guilt, but he’s actively taking huge steps to help himself become something than what he’s been for the last two years.
And then KimiUso turned on the sensory afterburners once again with the final scene of the episode: Kaori and Kousei underneath and among and between the fireflies. With the vague information we’ve been given about Kaori thus far, it’s pretty easy to see why she identifies with fireflies and values them as weak creatures trying their hardest to shine.
This whole sense is KimiUso at its most decadent—dripping with visual excess and buoyed by ephemeral background music with strains of a solo violin ringing out over it all. There’s no restraint in the swell of the emotion of the scene or in the melancholy of Kaori’s final line. And, you know what? I’m fine with that. I’m fine with overwhelming and incomprehensible emotion radiating out of every scene of this show. I’m fine with the way it seeks to make vivid and visceral the wildness of youth—after all, it’s not been that long since I was myself swept back and forth constantly by emotions I could barely handle. Heck, I don’t think those days are really entirely gone from my life.
So, let us forge on with Kousei, Kaori, and everyone who is going to be swept along in their wake. I don’t think it’s wrong to embrace such an overwhelmingly joyful passion. I don’t think it’s wrong to pretend all is well with the world sometimes. We may know better, but to be a child with mere dots for eyes is a beautiful thing, too.