How many different narrative threads does KimiUso think it can handle at once?
I’d be lying if I said I’m a little ambivalent about the introduction of Hiroko’s new student, Nagi. We’ve already got plenty of different stories going on in this show right now with most of our mainstay characters in some sort of flux, so to have an entirely new character introduced…well, it both excites me and irritates me. I like Kousei, Tsubaki, Watari, Kaori, Takeshi, and (former Best Girl) Emi quite a lot, so taking more time away from them to spend it on another character makes me wonder if we’re ever going to actually deal with everyone else’s storylines.
Thankfully, KimiUso didn’t pull an Inou Battle this week and did indeed give Tsubaki the screen time her character needed to come to a minor resolution from the events of last episode. Even better, we get to see Tsubaki deal with the reality of her own feelings in a surprisingly clear-headed and mature way. Her childhood, she finally understands, has passed her by. She’s no longer a child and neither is Kousei—both of them are living in a different world from the one they lived in as children.
Tsubaki’s senpai breaking up with her is actually a great reflection on the changes in her life. Despite the clumsiness of his break-up speech, he notes that Tsubaki never seems comfortable at his side. Like her image of Kousei as a child who needs to be supported by her, Tsubaki’s crush on her senpai is a relic of her childhood life. Just as her relationship with Kousei must change with the flow of time, so must her relationship with this boy. And Tsubaki realizes that, by living in the past, she hasn’t merely kept herself from understanding her own feelings—she’s hurt someone else by imposing that same foolish resistance to the present and future on their relationship. These are some big lessons for someone Tsubaki’s age to be learning, but I think we have to give her credit for being willing to learn them.
At this point, Tsubaki’s clearly aware that she’s in love with Kousei—a bittersweet revelation indeed for our poor Best Girl. Knowing that, her scene with Kousei in the music room is both comforting and painful. Even as Tsubaki broods over the way Watari, Kousei, Kaori and the other musicians inspire each other to keep moving forward, she’s unaware that they’re having the same effect on her. Yes, Tsubaki isn’t really as far removed from Kousei as she think she is. They may exist in different spheres of interest, but it’s her inability to push herself into the present moment that has truly separated her from the boy she loves. Now that she’s come this far, now that she’s willing to let her time start moving again…she can see Kousei for what he is and herself for who she is. Who knows if that means she will ever have a chance with him, but at the very least she will be embracing what’s true, not some illusion of the past. Go, Tsubaki, go!
Elsewhere this episode, we have (former Best Girl, soon to reclaim her throne?) Emi playing like someone who has found a brilliant purpose and Takeshi acting as if his entire world has been shaken since the last competition. It’s fascinating, isn’t it—how two people can be affected in such different ways by a single person? Where the new Kousei has inspired Emi, he’s tossed Takeshi into a pit of uncertainty. And yet, it was partially through seeing them playing that he was able to affect them in that way. The ways we human being impact each other are amazing…
Then we come to the new girl, Nagi Aizato, who literally falls into Kousei’s lap (like takeout). General suspicion seems to be that she’s involved with Takeshi in some way, which somewhat alleviates my complaints from the beginning of this post, but she’s still another new character in a show where Kaori is literally dying, Tsubaki is screwing up her courage to truly pursue Kousei, Watari is doing his own thing, and Kousei, Emi, and Takeshi are all chasing their dreams. That’s a lot of characters doing a lot of thing and KimiUso‘s insistence on splitting the narrative in so many directions is starting to work against it.
Honestly, it’s just weird to frame Tsubaki’s dilemma as such an emotionally laced moment when she pining after a boy who’s in love with a girl who is really, really sick. And that’s ignoring the previous internal challenges we seen with Kousei’s own struggle. It’s weird that these challenges, while important to each individual, are being treated with approximately the same emotional weight (110%, if that wasn’t clear) as each other. What is KimiUso actually about? What is it’s true focus? These are questions the show really needs to figure out, because right now we’re just being given emotional vignettes from these characters’ perspectives that at times feel wildly divergent from each other. KimiUso has a lot of stories it wants to tell and I like each of them—I’m just unconvinced that the show’s methods of telling them are wise.
Kaori’s fall at the end of the episode is actually a good example of this—this is the first time we’ve seen her all episode and have only previously heard her voice through a door and over the phone. Besides being poorly animated to the point of diminishing the emotional impact of the scene, it’s just awkward to throw in a scene like this with a character we’ve barely seen in the past few episodes and expect us to be able to emotionally engage. I don’t feel like I know Kaori at all, and with Kousei being unaware of her condition, there’s not really any emotional access point for me in her situation. Risa Taneda (although Ayane Sakura’s Tsubaki is better in my humble opinion) is doing a great job as Kaori, but she can’t carry an entire emotional story on her voice acting alone.
So, yeah, that’s where I stand. I don’t know how much of this plotting/pacing is from the manga and how much has been constructed in the adaptation, but despite the fact that the individual moments (barring the final scene) are generally working well for me emotionally, I’m often left feeling that I’m watching 2-4 different shows in a single episode of KimiUso. It’s not enough to totally wreck my enjoyment of the series, but it’s kind of disappointing to think about how much stronger it could be with some better structure to the writing.