If nothing else, it seems like Shigatsu is destined to frustrate me.
Last week I was hoping that episode four of Shigatsu would definitively let me know what type of show this was going to be and whether I was going to like it. In my mind we’d either see Kaori and Kousei’s performance be a success and I’d know this show wasn’t going to be what I had hoped, or it would be a failure and I’d be back on board with the show. Instead we ended up in a sort of middle ground where Kousei stumbles but recovers and it isn’t clear to me whether we’re supposed to view this as a plausible solution to Kousei’s trauma or not. I kind of wish the performance had ended in the middle when Kousei broke down to give us a more conclusive answer to that question. As it is, the performance certainly wasn’t a success, but it’s still possible we’re supposed to view this as a step in the right direction rather than a dead end.
It’s a little bit amazing how much a slight change in perspective can change how you view an episode and this is a perfect example. All of my comments in the first paragraph hinge on the idea that what Kousei is experiencing is a serious mental trauma stemming from his mother’s death. If you view his problems not as a clinical mental condition but rather a case of anxiety, suddenly everything falls into place. When dealing with a case of anxiety, extending a helping hand to pull somebody through their problems is much more reasonable than trying to drag somebody out of a serious mental block by forcing them to face their fears. The question then becomes: what are we, as viewers, supposed to view Kousei’s condition as? The feeling of being deep underwater and drowning combined with the persistent visions of his dead mother would indicate to me that Kousei’s condition is more serious than mere anxiety. On the other hand, one could arguably write this off as artistic license to give a heightened sense of the anxiety that Kousei is experiencing. I might consider this still a bit insensitive to people who actually experience this type of mental block, but it’s less egregious if the in-universe condition isn’t meant to be that serious. Personally, I still think this is supposed to be serious mental trauma and it’s being handled poorly but I get the argument that this isn’t the case.
This isn’t to say that viewing Kousei’s condition as anxiety rather than something more serious solves all the problems with Shigatsu. The show still has problems with being too in love with Kaori. At every turn it feels like the message is that Kousei can solve all his problems just by being more like Kaori. The way each episode is presented and the way the characters act reinforce the idea that Kaori is categorically right and Kousei is wrong. They laid it on extra thick this week during the performance as the audience grumbled about the terrible accompanist that was ruining the show for their lovely Kaori. They can’t be expected to know about Kousei’s issues but it still felt in the moment like more of the show worshiping the ground that Kaori walks on. By contrast, the positions taken by Kousei’s mother, and by extension, Kousei’s entire approach to music is feeling more and more like a straw man for Kaori to knock down. Statements like “everything is in the sheet music” feel unnatural and absurd on their face. Nobody could reasonably think like that and it merely serves as an obviously wrong perspective that Kaori can be a counterpoint to. All that said, I do feel like Kaori’s heart is in the right place, but I don’t think her help is exactly what Kousei needs right now. The author obviously feels differently though.
I don’t want to be completely down on Shigatsu though. This episode was very well executed and has a lot of points in its favor. If you ignore my meta-commentary on mental health issues and the general perspective the show takes on Kaori, this was a perfectly fine episode. I liked the way the cold open used the metronome as a metaphor for Kousei’s mom’s overbearing regimented way of training Kousei. Having trained with a metronome, its incessant ticking will drive you nuts after a while. I also like the way music is used as a metaphor for Kousei and Kaori’s relationship. Moments like the line about two soloists trying to work together felt very meaningful, although for my money they’d be better placed five or six episodes from now when the relationship between the two is more fully established.
Kaori’s collapse as the episode closed was surprising and will lead the way forward next week. I had guessed that her previous visit to the hospital had been related to a sick family member but it seems like she may have a medical condition of her own. It’s possible that we’ll find that Kaori’s extreme passion for life is having negative side effects on her physical well-being and maybe she needs to tone things back a bit. It’s probably wishful thinking but I still really want Shigatsu to be something I can like.