Your Lie in April, Episode 17

Yup, so that’s it. It’s finally confirmed (shocking…truth…) that Kaori doesn’t have much time before she dies. Yet, in true KimiUso fashion, we get a few really great scenes dealing with this new reality and then we breeze on back to the tried-and-true nope still bad tonal whiplash techniques that we’ve been dealing with for 17 whole episodes. Frankly, I have to admire how consistently frustrating this show is to watch as it insists on horrid juxtapositions of great scenes and bad ones. Such is the KimiUso way.

Your Lie in April

So, we kick off the episode with Kaori (predictably) retracting her chilling proposal of a double suicide, but the scene still set the tone for the entire episode: dark. Time to deal with the reality of Kaori’s condition and the impact the news of her impending death is going to have on Kousei. Orrrrr not.

Wait, what?

So, once again, KimiUso demonstrates its total lack of sensitivity to its character’s respective arcs by pushing on from Kousei’s very realistic and natural distress over Kaori’s revelation into an internally great scene with Tsubaki on the basketball court. Tsubaki is showing some real growth in her own self-awareness, presumably acquired since her decision to stop clinging to an idealized past, with the scene cleverly staged on the basketball court—an athletic arena where Tsubaki feels the most at ease. After missing twice as she winds through a series of reflections on her own feelings (during which we discover that she’s working to get into a school closer to Kousei), she hits the final shot in her moment of honesty. It’s a lovely scene, including a very pretty sequence of cuts as she prepares to take the final shot, but…

Your Lie in April

…we’re getting all of this on the heels of the news that Kaori is dying. She’s dying, Kousei’s in the middle of dealing with the heaviness of that news, and we get a Tsubaki scene. Not only is this unfair to Best Girl Tsubaki’s arc (after all, how are we supposed to give the angst of a 14 year-old girl the same emotional engagement as the death of a 14 year-old girl?), but it creates narrative (and therefore emotional) distance from what’s supposedly the main conflict of this episode—if the opening scene was to be believed. We have to suspend the distress caused by the Kaori scene and wait to return to it while simultaneously reengaging with Tsubaki’s arc…which we haven’t touched in 2 episodes. Furthermore, by following up the Kaori scene with the Tsubaki scene, it’s somewhat implied that these two moments have the same narrative gravity. Which, as much as I love Tsubaki, they really shouldn’t.

But, guys! The Tsubaki scene was really good! I loved it! But the structure here forces me to be conflicted about it, when all I want to do is enjoy it. Then, of course, we proceed back to Kousei—except now he’s at Hiroko’s doing a lesson (and getting smacked over the head for playing poorly). Now, for whatever reason, we get a sound bridge—the basketball going through the net/Hiroko’s slap—from Tsubaki’s scene into Kousei’s. Why are we connecting these two moments sonically? They have absolutely nothing to do with each other! Just a final, annoying footnote to a poorly placed good scene.

Your Lie in April

Now, it looks like we’re going to get to see Kousei dealing with his pain, but nope—this is actually a Nagi scene, complete with her internal monologue and flashbacks! Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve really come to love Nagi in these past two episodes. She’s definitely one of my top three favorite characters in the show (Emi and Tsubaki, of course, being the other two), but it’s a baffling decision to focus on a scene that sort of ends being healing for both of them through Nagi’s perspective. Kousei is giving Nagi advice, drawn from his experience with Kaori, but he’s talking like someone who has already come to terms with her death.

Which…you know, he hasn’t, as we see in the next scene with Watari. Again, on its own, this scene is really great. Of course Kousei wouldn’t want to go see Kaori again right after that! Of course he wouldn’t know what to say, how to act, or even how to feel! This is a perfect expression of a particular reaction to impending death—sheer uncertainty of how to react—given words in Kousei’s agonized, “What could I have said to her?” Death is the great known unknown of human life. Confronting it, we are so very often left without the words to say to express our feelings on the gateway to the most hidden part of our existences. And for a 14 year-old boy to have to relive this uncertainty twice with two people he dearly loves? What could he say to himself, or to her? How can he express his grief and his bitterness and his sorrow?

Your Lie in April

The following scene with Kaori is well-done, too. Despite Kaori’s desire to be remembered, her fear of causing other people pain is even stronger, causing her to suggest the impossible to Kousei: just forget about everything. Here, I think the jump into the comedy (while still inappropriate, I mean, really) actually worked well with Kousei lighting off on Kaori. Not only does it relieve the tension, but it symbolizes a reversion to their prior relationship: Kousei will not forget. Instead, he’ll do the hard thing and keep on remembering what it’s like to be Kaori’s friend.

And the show’s solution to that…is to now bundle Nagi’s arc into Kousei’s quest to do something for Kaori? And in a comedy scene that completely undermines the gravitas and significance of the gesture? And in a montage of Nagi and Kousei preparing for her school’s festival that skips over any sort of intermittent emotional shockwaves Kousei might possibly, just maybe, be dealing with? I mean, heck, for him this is a reliving of his mother’s passing away and we’re spending that time breezing through their preparation?

Your Lie in April

And again, the individual pieces are are really great! We get a properly used sound bridge in the form of continuing background music from Nagi crying at the piano to the scene with her and Hiroko in the bathroom—linking the emotional logic of the practice montage’s end to the continuation of Nagi’s feelings four days before the festival. Both Nagi’s struggle with the simultaneous weight of huge expectations and Hiroko’s reimagining of her as another Kousei are powerful moments (although it seems a bit incongruous to compare Kousei’s extreme situation to Nagi’s self-inflicted one), and the small detail of having Koharu sit behind Hiroko as she comforts Nagi is a nice one, giving the scene just another bit of warmth and Hiroko shows that she is far from a failure as an instructor.

And the scene with Nagi and Kousei backstage, while somewhat less elegant than similar scenes we’ve had in this show, was good, too (aside from the (1) horribly (2) timed (3) comedy too lazy to even try maintain actual continuity). Nagi once again displays a disproportionate amount of self-awareness for her age—”But I’ve only lived for thirteen years…”—and it’s great to see Kousei supporting Nagi the same way Kaori once did for him, but at the very end of the episode we get two shots with Kaori, reminding us who Kousei is really doing this for. Which is, again, totally unfair to Nagi and, anyways, the connection between Kousei’s performance at the festival and his desire to do something for Kaori is understated to the point of almost being incomprehensible.

Your Lie in April

In the end, this is really just more of the same KimiUso that I’ve grown used to—a collection of solid pieces ranging from very good to great hampered by dreadful structure, incredible fits of tonal mismanagement, and tons of narrative threads that get misplaced or unjustly bundled into other stories. Despite that, the pieces are strong enough on their own, but it’s always hard pill to swallow when your favorite characters’ scenes are being poorly treated.

At once infuriating and engaging; that’s Your Lie in April all right.

6 thoughts on “Your Lie in April, Episode 17

  1. Ravel again. Kosei hears it, covers his ears and runs from it. Perhaps the music makes the prospect of Kaori’s death more palpable, that’s why he runs from it. This seem to be the musical motif of the second cour.

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  2. Today I’m going to disagree with your take. I thought this episode fit together well, and more importantly there was actually a unifying theme here tying these disparate scenes together: how people face their fears, and how they push through them.

    Kaori and Watari are doers, and they tend to ignore their fears by focusing their energy on doing totally different things so they don’t have to think about being afraid. Kaori’s pouring what energy she has left into pushing Kousei forward because it gives her something to focus on besides her own mortality.

    Kousei’s a thinker, and his instinct is to run away when he’s afraid of something. He’s back to avoiding Kaori again in this episode, until Watari (man of action) finally spells it out to him why he needs to see her. And he’s right, because avoiding her forever won’t make the inevitable hurt any less. Watari’s a real bro for Kousei this week, not just here but all episode long.

    Tsubaki’s also a thinker, and tends to internalize her fears and brood over them in her head. Her scene’s placement worked for me because she was in a similar position to Kousei a couple of episodes ago, faced with being permanently separated from her loved one and helpless to change it. Kousei’s only leaving town, of course, not dying, but the difference is one of degree, not kind (and you could argue that to a 14-year-old, the degree of difference between death and “I’ll never see my best friend again” is pretty small anyway). We learn in this scene, though, that she’s finally accepting what she can’t change, and trying to forge a solution to the problem she can live with, even if she still doesn’t feel good about it, so it works as a juxtaposition from the start of Kousei’s struggle to her own catharsis. Now Kousei needs to find his solution.

    Nagi’s story is the balancing point in this episode. For one, she herself is pretty balanced between the two extremes of thought and action. This is the girl who had enough guts to sneak into the camp of her brother’s rival, as nervous as she was about doing it. She can be very pragmatic, and her dismissal of Kousei’s words about playing for others as just a cliche is an extension of her practical side. At the same time, though, she’s only 13 and no more immune to fear than anyone else, to where Hiroko even sees some of Kousei in her when she starts cracking under the pressure. One thing I like about Nagi’s arc, though, is that it’s mutually beneficial. None of them realize it yet, but at the same time Kousei and Hiroko are helping her become a better pianist, she’s also helping them. Hiroko can find some redemption by helping another talented youngster and avoiding the mistakes she made with Kousei. And teaching Nagi is helping Kousei grow up a bit, and start to understand and apply some of the lessons he’s learned from Kaori about music and life.

    Now when Nagi agreed to them performing together, I didn’t take Kousei’s reaction as comedy at all; it’s exactly how I would’ve expected him to react. He knows she’s ambitious, and he has to know what he’s asking her to sacrifice, sharing the stage with someone famous like him when she’s supposed to be the star attraction. Of course he thought she’d say no. Forget him being surprised she agreed, I was surprised she agreed. But his reasoning is sound. After his talk with Watari and finally seeing Kaori again, it makes him realize that he wants to do anything he can for Kaori, and literally the only thing he can do is play music. He can show her that all her efforts to get him back on stage weren’t in vain, and that taking a student won’t hold him back (as she worried about). Doing this show, with his student, will prove both points. That’s where Nagi’s subplot connects neatly to the main plot; I didn’t think Kousei’s motives were understated, I thought they were obvious. And I’ll bet dollars to canales that the favor he asked from Watari will let Kaori enjoy the show; if not getting her to the festival then letting her see or hear it later (maybe Watari will record the performance so they can play it for her afterward?).

    And I get your take that the focus on Kousei’s thoughts about Kaori at the end is “unfair” to Nagi, but as much as we like her, Nagi is still a supporting character. Her character and her subplot ultimately exist to “support” the development of the hero and the main plot, and I think they’re doing that very well so far. Honestly, I really liked that scene. Even when she went into “tsundere overreaction” mode, Kousei didn’t retreat. He kept his cool and said what he wanted to say to calm her down – it might be the most mature moment we’ve seen from him. Even if he’s channeling Kaori’s spirit, it just puts an exclamation point on how much Kaori’s already impacted him. She may be alone at the end of the episode, but she’s far from forgotten.

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    • Yeah, I think the issue at the bottom of this all, for me, is that I’m just not sold on the emotional weight of Kaori’s impending death. I think I’ve said it before in these posts, but Kaori’s story has never been the most interesting narrative in this show for me. Whether it was Tsubaki, Emi, Nagi, Kousei, Takeshi, or even Watari, I’ve never felt like KimiUso, from the very beginning, gave Kaori the attention she needed to become an emotional force in the show on her own. Certainly, we can see how much she means to Kousei, but that’s still through his lens.

      What I guess I’m saying is that Kaori basically doesn’t exist as a force in the show outside of her relationship to Kousei. Everything about her is defined by Kousei’s particular form of attachment to her. But Kousei has had so many other things going on inside is head (primarily the stuff with his mother, which was the main focus of fully half the show) that the mental space Kaori occupies is marked by occasional vividness, rather than constancy.

      In short, I honestly feel like Kaori’s role in KimiUso drags down the rest of the show, including the arcs of characters I find more interesting, sympathetic, and compelling. It’s like she’s (ironically) a dark cloud hovering over the entire show, a kind of damper that blunts in the emotional impact of the teenage angst the rest of the characters are feeling because…despite it being a matter of degree, as you’ve said, how is Tsubaki’s anguish over Kousei leaving supposed to compete with someone literally about to die? From an audience perspective, it’s basically impossible to equate those. KimiUso is just telling to many stories, and not all of them fit together well.

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      • Interesting. I know you aren’t a Kanon nerd like I am, but I’m thinking about that right now because that series has two different anime adaptations that took two totally different approaches to adapting the VN. I haven’t seen Toei’s earlier version, which was never released outside Japan, but I’ve been told that it basically had all six major story arcs (the MC and the five girls) going concurrently, much like KimiUso, before resolving all of them in the last couple of episodes. The second version (KyoAni’s, the one most people know) is still developing the MC’s story throughout, but the girls’ stories are basically done one at a time. There’s still some secondary development with the other girls, but whoever’s in the spotlight, her arc gets most of the focus, and it gets resolved before they switch to the next girl. There’s advantages and challenges to both of those approaches, but most people who’ve seen both have told me that the KyoAni version is the far more emotionally impactful of the two. And it isn’t hard to see why – when you have five very different stories to tell, it’s easier to get emotionally connected to them and empathize with the characters when you only have to focus on one at a time, versus having all five thrown on the table at once like a soap opera, all competing with each other for attention.

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