And so concludes Nagi’s arc—complete with some truly touching revelations for her and her brother. To be entirely honest, I feel somewhat vindicated by the excellence of the emotional poignancy of the performance. I’ve been claiming all along that KimiUso is best when focused in on a single story, not splitting its attention in cursory reviews of each of its major characters. The stories still feel oddly disconnected from each other to me (Tsubaki at this particular performance is a great example), but everything we got from Nagi this episode was wonderful.
Like I said last week, my biggest fear for this week’s episode was that Nagi’s story would be entirely subsumed by Kousei’s quest to reach out to Kaori. I can’t say I’m at all a fan of the way he phrased his request—”I have this horrible friend who’s feeling sorry for herself. I want to punch her, just once.”—or the way he charged into the change in the music without regard for Nagi, but all that kind of ended up being a moot point as Nagi rose to the occasion in a fantastic way. And thank goodness, because her journey has been one of the best things KimiUso has done since Tsubaki’s arc.
In all honesty, I was pretty underwhelmed by the aesthetic presentation of the performance itself. Consisting of lot of long pans, slow zooms, long shots, and very little of the visual representations of sound that have made past performances as lush visually as they have been sonically, this performance was actually somewhat dull until Nagi’s internal monologue kicked in. Despite her age, Nagi’s more or less been the most articulate and sensitive cast members in the entire show, and her thoughts during the performance reveal a beautiful soul at once understanding her inadequacies and her own desires.
Kousei seems to be getting the credit for Nagi’s growth from both the characters in the show and from the show’s perspective, but I think that way of thinking actually does a huge disservice to Nagi. She’s worked incredibly hard to get to the point where she can play on equal footing with a prodigy, and her response to Kousei’s selfish playing is something she chose for herself. Nagi is the hero here, not Kousei. She’s the one who overcame her dislike of him to see the humanity in a robotic pianist and she’s the one who decided on her own to play piano for someone else from the very beginning.
Frankly, it was pretty disconcerting to see the way Kousei taking off on his own in the bassline was framed at the beginning of the performance into the end of the performance. When he starts, he’s consumed in black fire (one of the few visually metaphoric moments in the performance) and his eyes are totally focused on his own playing, but by the end he’s smiling at Nagi as if he’s supporting her. However, the reality is that his attention was something she seized from him, an equal partnership something she reestablished, and her own growth something she initiated. In short, I don’t think the show is giving Nagi enough credit for being the strong, noble spirit she is in the interest of building up a Kousei who I don’t really think deserves as much credit as he’s taking.
To go back to Nagi’s internal monologue, the little bits she mentions about how hard she’s worked over the past two months reinforce another point I was making last week—it seemed kind of wrong to just skim through her training in a brief montage and a single pivot scene right before the performance. She talks about going without food and sleep for the purpose of practicing more, so why didn’t we get to see any of that? The emotional release of this episode ought to have been similar to Kousei’s performance in episode 10, where we’d had 9 episodes prior of his struggle leading up to the cathartic moment, but the truncated nature of Nagi’s narrative hampered this episode’s ability to be completely emotionally enveloping.
Which isn’t to say at all that the performance wasn’t effective. A lot of this episode really worked for me simply on the strength of Nagi’s character and her passion to reach out to her brother. She wanted to inspire her hero the way he had inspired her and that’s a beautiful gesture, no matter how it comes about. But I can’t really say it any better than Nagi did herself, so…
Unlike everybody else, I don’t yearn to become a pro, and I’m not prepared to give all of myself to music, but there are people who will listen. There are people I want to play for. There are people that I love. So…I want to be here. Is that wrong? Isn’t that a good enough reason to want to play, for now?
I think that’s more than enough, Nagi. It’s enough for you to see, at last, the image of the child-hero Takeshei your brother once was. You’ve instilled an understanding of the potency of music within him and roused him out of his doldrums. Judge your reasons by your actions and the fruits of those actions, Nagi. Today, the question is not of degree, but of success—and because you were successful, the day was yours. I doubt we’ll get to see much more of you in this show, but I’ve been very glad to have you in this cast. At the very least, we know the inspiration your playing has created will push Takeshi towards the end of his own story.
So, with all that being said, I guess I feel kind of compelled to talk about the final scene between Kousei and Kaori, but, as I’ve said before, I have the least amount of interest in Kaori’s situation, as hard-hearted as it might seem. To be frank, even this scene, although it was gorgeously staged on the rooftop, complete with blood-red flowers behind Kaori, didn’t do a whole lot for me. “It’s time for the final tearjerk,” was mostly what I got from the scene—a fairly damning demonstration of just how insubstantial my investment in this story thread is. I mean, yes, it’s cool that Kousei has reimbued Kaori with a passion for music after she’d given into despair, but I don’t think she’s wrong to call him cruel. Is she even actually physically able to play now? I guess we’ll find out…
So, yeah, four episodes left! There are still a lot of items left to check off my wishlist for the show and chances are good the majority of them probably won’t end up completed. Ah, well. It’s been a blast to write about KimiUso thus far—for all of the frustrating elements of the show, it certainly has given me no shortage of topics to touch on and I have to appreciate the great diversity of its screw-ups and sweeping highs of its triumphs. Let’s make these final episodes the best yet (lol)!