Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso 03: Tone Deaf

Sometimes a show just seems destined never to find solid footing.

Every episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso seems to be a tug of war between the good and the bad in this show. Last week the good parts won out, but this week that lead was mostly given back. Shigatsu is very uneven, not only from episode to episode but even from scene to scene. At times I’ll find myself thinking that this is destined to be one of my favorite anime in a long time and at other times I’ll wonder whether the show’s actually any good at all. I absolutely loved the musical scenes this week. Seeing Kousei’s hand running up and down the piano while the restaurant customers looked on approvingly was magical and the sudden interruption was extremely tragic. Unfortunately that was more than offset by the awful comic violence.

These bouts of using violence as comedy are symptomatic of a serious tonal consistency issue for this show. We’ll get a very thoughtful moment of reflection by one of the characters or a really great bit of music and then suddenly Kaori is throwing a shoe at Kousei or Tsubaki is hitting him with a softball. In addition to not being that funny, the “comedic” moments really interrupt the flow of the show rather than serving to complement the rest of the story. This herky-jerky storytelling style makes Shigatsu very hard to get immersed in for more than a few minutes at a time. I want to get lost in the music and really connect with Kousei’s troubles but the show keeps dragging me out of it.

Aside from the uneven flow of the episode, I have some serious concerns with how the show is handling Kousei’s mental issues. There are specific ways this type of condition will manifest itself and there are specific ways it should be dealt with. One of those ways is not “forcing someone to participate in the activity against their will.” (A short aside: Kousei’s condition is actually very reminiscent of a problem that can affect professional athletes that is referred to as “the yips.” An athlete can find that an activity that used to be easy and instinctive becomes almost impossible to perform when they start thinking about it. Here is a video about a professional catcher who forgot how to throw the ball back to the pitcher. You’ll notice that the eventual solution looks nothing like what Kaori is offering.) Kaori and Tsubaki’s behavior, especially the constant reminders they place for Kousei, amounts to little more than bullying. However good their intentions may or may not be, at the end of the day they’re inflicting psychological torment on Kousei in addition to the aforementioned physical harm. It’s the equivalent of telling a clinically depressed person “Just snap out of it. Stop being so sad all the time.” It’s insensitive at best and actively harmful at worst.

It’s possible that the show will acknowledge that this is a mistake in the coming episodes. Maybe Kousei takes the stage in the next episode and completely locks up and Kaori acknowledges that her methods are flawed. If that’s the case then much will be forgiven. From there the show could move forward with a reasonable remedy for Kousei’s condition. To be clear, Kaori isn’t completely wrong here as it is true that Kousei is using the condition as an excuse not to try to return to piano because not dealing with it is easier than trying to work through it. That fact doesn’t justify her behavior and I hope that this will be acknowledged next week. I can see the show getting a lot of mileage from examining this and having Kousei gradually work through this in a way that is comfortable for him. I have my doubts that this is the route they’ll take since there has been no indication that the author sees Kaori’s actions as anything but the right way to deal with this.

This is really a continuation of the problems I had last week with Kaori. This week she was actively doing bad things and there’s no indication that anybody has a problem with that. The story thus far has fallen into the repeated pattern of “Kaori is strong and right while Kousei is weak and wrong.” If the author has any intention of being even-handed about the relative value of Kousei and Kaori’s worldviews he’s hidden it well thus far. At the same time, I suppose it’s to be expected that Kaori would annoy me since I tend to see things very much the way Kousei does. Maybe the show has something to teach me just as much as Kaori has something to teach Kousei about how to approach music. If that’s the case though, Shigatsu could use a lot more subtlety in how it goes about it. As much as Kousei is broken and needs healing, Kaori also has plenty of room to grow by learning from Kousei but so far she’s been treated more or less as a fully formed perfect being.

Next week’s episode will be very make or break for Shigatsu. By all rights this performance should be a failure. Kaori and Kousei have no practice together and Kousei hasn’t even seen the music, and that’s even before you account for Kousei’s unique circumstances. If the performance is a success it shows that the author has no sense for the reality of the situation Shigatsu is portraying. On the other hand, if the performance fails, things might just be looking up for the show. If you forced me to choose, I’d lean towards the negative at this point. I know it’s early but Shigatsu is starting to remind me a lot of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. It’s a show that is outstanding visually and deals with romance and issues related to creative disciplines (art in Sakurasou, music in Shigatsu). Also like Sakurasou, I have serious issues with the main female character, although the specific issues themselves are very different. Both shows tended to struggle when they tried to be funny, which they tried far too often. Things didn’t end well for Sakurasou, and the similar feeling I get here has me concerned. It probably isn’t fair to burden Shigatsu with all of Sakurasou’s baggage at this point but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any misgivings. Let’s hope that this time next week I’m pleasantly surprised for once.

This entry was posted in Episodic Commentary, Fall 2014, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso' and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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