Still waiting for this show to string together an entire episode without any major hiccups.
It’s become almost routine for Shigatsu to turn in an episode with a lot of very good elements that almost convince you the show has been fixed, and then undermine that with some extremely ill-advised choices. The biggest problem, at least for me, seems to be that the show expects a certain set of base assumptions about how this fictional world is and how it should be. Whenever there’s a conflict it’s very clear who the show thinks is right. This week we saw the judges confronting Kousei about his performance, it’s obvious that the judge are stodgy old men who don’t understand the significance of Kousei’s inner conflict and are more concerned with following rules to the letter than making allowances for specific extenuating circumstances. This is fine if you’re already on board with the idea that the judges are wrong and are the enemy but if you do believe there’s something to be said for showing more respect to the competitors that went after him, this comes off as stubbornly focused only on the characters that matter.
Another example of this issue came later in the episode when Kousei is talking about how he returned to piano after his extended absence. Kousei (accurately) describes Kaori getting him to perform as “she kicked, punched and forced me into it.” It’s fine if you already decided that getting Kousei to play the piano is a good thing regardless of the methods used to achieve it, but it’s hard to argue that the relationship does seem to be pretty abusive. Despite this, the show frames it as a wonderful growth experience for Kousei. I’m willing to allow that this might work out despite Kaori’s questionable methods, but to continue to not even acknowledge that her methods have issues is still a serious problem I have with the show.
Kaori aside, I have some issues with how the show is handling Ryouta as well. His constant gushing over every new female character makes him come off as a generic bro character from a bad harem show. There are worse things in the world than that archetype, but Shigatsu clearly aspires to be something more than a bad harem show and Ryouta’s existence continues to undermine those aspirations. I’m also puzzled by his relationship with Kaori. As Kousei reminds us, ostensibly Kaori and Ryouta are supposed to be interested in each other and potentially dating but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that this is actually the case other than the characters simply stating this as an accepted fact. This could work itself out eventually but each additional reference to Ryouta and Kaori being a thing comes off as incredibly odd at this point.
I don’t want to be too much of a downer though. I did really like the part of the show that dealt with Kousei being concerned about not being treated like a real person. He’s been seen as a robot, a puppet or a hero, but never as a person and this eats away at his psyche. His immense talent has isolated him to the point where people just expect him to churn out perfect performance after perfect performance rather than considering the fact that Kousei is human with all the fallibility that comes with it. Seeing Takeshi’s disillusionment in seeing that Kousei actually is mortal rather than being the perfect, unstoppable hero of his dreams was really compelling stuff. In general I find the relationship between Kousei and his rivals Emi and Takeshi to be much more interesting than the relationships between the main four characters. When the show looks at the difference between what Emi and Takeshi want from Kousei, and the person he needs to be for his own mental health is when the show is at its best. Unfortunately, the show seems to be drifting away from this dynamic for now and back to the relationship web that we were introduced to at the start of the show.
That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing though. If nothing else, Shigatsu always has the ability to turn in a visually splendid and emotionally resonant scene. This week that was the scene at the end between Kousei and Kaori among the fireflies. I’ve complained a lot in the past that I don’t buy into the relationship between these two but in this scene that didn’t really matter. The scenery was beautiful and it was easy to get swept up in the magic of the moment and forget all the nastiness that came before. The conversation between the two built beautifully to Kousei’s near-confession at the end. It was a fitting capstone to a very up and down first cour.
Shigatsu’s off for the New Year’s break next week which is probably a good thing all things considered. If nothing else, the show could use a break for me to collect my thoughts and come back to it fresh without all the baggage that it carries fresh in my mind. Maybe that will be exactly what Shigatsu needs, maybe it isn’t, but I do know that more of the same is not going to be a winning recipe for this show.