Um, this is weird. Am I actually… liking this show?
After last week’s gorgeous performance we’re back to the more grounded, character-centric portion of KimiUso. These episodes always felt like the higher variance episodes to me compared to the performance episodes. When they’re good they can tap into the swirling mess of emotions that young people go through and deliver a moving and emotionally resonant episode. At their worst, they devolve into poorly executed comic violence and attempts at emotional impact that just miss their mark with no beautiful music to fall back on. Fortunately this episode was one of the good ones and it featured some of the most emotionally potent scenes that the show has delivered with very few decisions that left me scratching my head.
This episode saw the return of Kaori, albeit a much paler version of Kaori. This episode made it clear that Kousei is starting to see her current condition as reminiscent of his mother’s condition shortly before her passing and it’s understandably unsettling for him. This episode dropped plenty of hints that Kaori’s remaining time might be even shorter than we thought. The way she says things like “I wish I could have played with you again” give a sense of finality that is troubling. Kousei is also quick to notice that the behavior of his friends around Kaori feels slightly off, as if they’re putting on an act to hide something from him. If Ryouta and Tsubaki actually do know more about Kaori’s condition and aren’t telling Kousei that’s incredibly cruel but at the same time you can see how hard it would be for somebody their age to be able to tactfully tell someone such tragic news.
The most interesting part of this for me is how Kousei is reacting to this. He appears to be finally getting over his mother issues and for him to be thrown right back into a situation where his musical inspiration is going to be taken away from him before her time is terribly unfair. But life isn’t fair and one can only hope that Kousei is better equipped to deal with this given what he’s already been through. I’m curious how he’s going to handle this going forward. When you’ve been through something traumatic like Kousei has, it makes you acutely aware of the potential for it to happen again and there’s a temptation to just shut down or run away when confronted with the possibility of going through that pain again. For now it appears that Kousei is keeping his head up and looking to the future but it may be more difficult once the reality of the situation becomes clearer to him.
The highlight of this episode for me though was the renewed focus on Tsubaki. The reintroduction of Saitou and his relationship with her felt a bit clunky since we hadn’t seen him for 8 or so episodes, but after the initial awkwardness Tsubaki was really able to shine. While their relationship may appear healthy on the surface, it’s clear that at its core it’s just an excuse for Tsubaki to try to avoid thinking about Kousei romantically. Through Tsubaki’s interactions with her concerned friends and the way she behaves around Saitou the episode paints a vivid picture of a girl who wants to do the right thing but is going to end up hurting herself and potentially the people around her.
The episode also provided additional insight into Tsubaki’s history with Kousei and how it informs her feelings about him today. We see how, despite growing up so close, the two are on diverging paths that will inevitably pull them apart. I loved the scene on the beach where Tsubaki began to realize that Kousei has grown up and he’s no longer the younger brother she thought he was. Everything from the way his footprint is now larger than hers to the way she’s now walking behind him rather than pulling him forward worked to create that beautiful moment of realization on her part. The fundamental incompatibility of the happy Kousei Tsubaki wants to see and a version of Kousei that could potentially return her feelings is what makes Tsubaki’s story so tragic. It’s hard to see any way around this contradiction to a happy ending for Tsubaki. There’s basically no way Kousei is going to return her feelings and I feel like her relationship with Saitou is on such shaky ground from the start that it’s unlikely it can be salvaged once Tsubaki accepts her fate.
This episode wasn’t completely perfect though. There were still the ever present moments of poorly executed comedy although they were thankfully few and far between this episode and less violent as well. I’m not sure KimiUso can ever completely get over the issues I have with its premise which puts a limit on its potential going forward, but it’s certainly nice to see that it’s still capable of giving us episodes like this one.