Well, it’s been one heck of a wild, emotional, sometimes frustrating ride, but we’ve come to the end of Your Lie in April. Somethings have ended, but others stretch out for as long as we remember them. It took this episode a few minutes to get going, but when it kicked into high gear, it really kicked into high gear. As expected, the aesthetics truly took charge in this episode and, even if there was a little more digital work than I would’ve liked, the end results was something pretty special. So, now it’s time for one last look at Your Lie in April.
Okay, I’ll say it. I was worried at the start of this episode, worried we were going to get another performance of unimaginative camera angels attempting to drag an emotional reaction out of me with heavy-handed check-ins with everyone else as Kousei continued his performance, even if we were getting clever shots of the audience shading the frame with a mournful, subdued red. Despite all Kousei’s revelations about the importance of the other people in his life (the shoutout to Tsubaki, I thought, was especially precious), this is ultimately a show about Kousei and Kaori and the way they impacted each other’s lives and I think you can tell that the creators of the anime are drawn to that dynamic and that story.
You can see it in the startling shot of Kaori cradling child Kousei’s head. You can see it in the way the pastels start to take over the screen and in the way the pace of the editing accelerates along with the tempo of the song. You can see it in the shots that draw lines between Kousei and the light as he starts to think about Kaori. You can see it in the way the camera pans upwards along with Kousei’s refrain of “reach her.” But it’s really not until KimiUso liberates itself from the physical confines of the concert hall into the abstracted beauty of the lake foreshadowed in the OP that the episode truly began to resonate with the meaning.
And why? Because this is the sensual execution of everything KimiUso has been preaching to this point. “We’re musicians, so we communicate through music.” “Let your feelings, not your words reach other people.” The extraction of the scene from physical constraints, from the necessarily limited realm of location, into a vast, unlimited plane mirrors the way Kousei lapses into silence and the sound of the piano takes over, accompanied by the effervescent visuals. Yes, in this scene KimiUso truly embodies emotion communicated without words, breathes rather than speaks, exists rather than proclaiming its presence. In a sense, it’s a paradox. How can such an ostentatious display of pure sensory decadence be so understated?
It is, because KimiUso lapses solely into the realm of feelings, having exhausted the possibilities of words for a little while and leaning into the power of its aesthetics. The scene becomes precisely one with the thing it is attempting to communicate. The experience of watching draws you into the experience of feeling. A-1 Pictures took a page out of their Saekano playbook for this scene, using deep magenta color instead of black in many of the shots. It was a brilliant decision, as the additional colors add depth to the images while resisting the feeling of darkness. And, finally, we tumble into the gorgeous illustrations from the first OP—still shots, but incredibly beautiful, crystallized moments of music turned into image—and languish into the nighttime.
And Kousei’s words return as his image of Kaori begins to vanish, as the dream ends and reality begins to reassert itself. But, before we can return to the world of the stage, the visuals explode along with the song—along with Kousei’s grief—in a terrifying display of light that perhaps could be beautiful at another time. Chaos itself is the emotion now, and it fills the screen just as it fills Kousei. And then, only then, can we be thrown back into the shining mundanity of the stage—once a source of terror for Kousei, now the place where he faces the reality of his life and the truth of his identity as a pianist. And so, he must say goodbye.
This is Kousei’s true farewell. We skip straight from the end of the concert to him receiving the letter from Kaori’s parents because all that could have been said, all that could have been felt, has already been given to us through the piano. What follows is essentially one long montage as a sort of metaphor for the grieving process. If the chaotic moment at the end of the lake scene was the shock of loss, winter is the stage of sadness and, eventually, we come to the acceptance and reminiscence of spring.
I don’t remember from Emi’s episodes if little Kaori was always next to her, but I suppose it makes sense that it all would come full circle like that. For all the dialogue lines about connection, this sort of narrative construction communicates that idea with far more elegance and grace—and has the adorableness of child Kaori to boot. The backstory of awkward glasses Kaori didn’t do quite as much for me, although her description of watching Watari, Tsubaki, and Kousei together—”There was no space for me to slip in“—resonated with me. In a way, her backstory felt to me like an attempt to redeem a character who didn’t need redemption…until the all-important point where she decided, in the face of impending death, to truly embrace life.
To me, this doesn’t justify the lie she told and I somewhat struggle with the way KimiUso tried to romanticize it. Fortunately, we get a two shots of Watari—who it seems won’t forget Kaori as soon as she expects—which bring up at least a little criticism of her lie. But, in the end, it’s more a slap on the wrist than anything, even considering her apology to Tsubaki, because (as the framing goes) it brought her to Kousei. Because it changed Kousei for the better. Perhaps it’s not very gracious of me to complain about the lie, but it still feels a bit disingenuous to me to use glasses Kaori’s struggle to justify genki Kaori’s lie. I think she should have just talked to Kousei, rather than using Watari and sneaking behind Tsubaki’s back.
But, that’s how people are sometimes and, for all that, I can’t fault her too much for chasing after the person she loved, for giving herself a chance. Even if she had to say goodbye.
Speaking of Tsubaki, she’s still the hero of this show for me. She’s the person who found the color for Kousei, the person who can understand his pain of having the person he loves gone (as she indeed has faced down that same hurt with his impending departure), the person who won’t leave him alone, the person who loved him, screwed up, tried again, and will still stand beside him. In a way, her unrequited love is selfish, but in another way it is still incredibly pure and touchingly generous. I didn’t cry, you know, until Tsubaki showed up right at the end of the letter—as she shows up before the boy she still loves in her Tsubaki way, kicks him, shouts her love for him, and stands beside him as the train crossing levers fall in between him and the symbolism cat.
It may be a spring without Kaori, but it’s spring nonetheless.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with me through this show! It’s been great getting to talk about KimiUso‘s triumphs and failures with you guys! Hoping to get a comprehensive review out in the next couple days!