Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – 03

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This show has covered the full spectrum of reaction for me in the last two weeks.

I made no secret of my affection for last week’s episode of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.  In fact at the time I watched it I thought it was the best episode of the season, though the premiere of Mushishi a few days later usurped that title.  Watching it was really a transcendent experience, to the point where any flaws were like dust in the wind compared to the powerful impact of the experience as a whole.

But there’s a lesson I should have learned by now, because I’ve seen it repeat itself over and over in my time as an anime fan.  When my reaction after an episode  – especially an early episode – is one of being enraptured despite some significant red flags, I really need to keep my expectations in check.  Because often it’s those trip-wires that prove to be the most enduring legacy of the episode, and not the things that made me so giddy with excitement.  And so it is, for a week at least, with Shigatsu.

In sum, everything that I was worried about (I mentioned all of it in my otherwise glowing post) hit like a ton of bricks with this episode.  The show still isn’t remotely funny, and it tried to be way too often this week.  The comic violence by the girls against Kousei continues to be especially unfunny and a discordant note, and it was struck over and over here.  And we got even more moments (this time mostly Kousei) of characters slipping into rhapsodic philosophical musings that sound absurd coming from a middle-schooler.

The biggest problem, though, is with the female characters.  It’s bad enough when anime hero-worship their pedestalized female characters and turn a blind eye to whatever they do wrong, but it’s even worse when they hero-worship ones who hero-worship themselves.  It appears what I feared about Kaori may well be true – she’s being cast as an ideal, a higher being to be admired by all (not least herself) and given a free pass for her dubious behavior and frankly shocking narcissism.  I may be jumping the gun on that, and it could still change – but the larger issue is that I don’t like her behavior even when I’m supposed to.  In fact I think both the female leads are arrogant, violent and not especially endearing people.  They’re convinced they know what’s best for Kousei and they aren’t remotely interested in giving him a choice about his own life.

It’s certainly true that Kousei has some serious issues, and he’s running way from them.  With no parents in his life it appears no one is pushing him to receive the therapy or other help he clearly needs.  But what Tsubaki and Kaori are doing is a textbook example of how not to go about “helping” someone.  This isn’t a game for Kousei – it’s a serious trauma, a dysfunction that makes him unable to utilize his greatest natural gift.  He shouldn’t be forced to accompany Kaori (at least her accompanist had the good sense to dump her) if he doesn’t want to, and he shouldn’t be turned into a punching bag because he refuses.  It’s not good comedy, it’s not good therapy, and it’s not good friendship.

As if all that isn’t bad enough, what do we get in the end?  After Kaori’s belligerence doesn’t get her what she wants, she turns on the waterworks and naturally, Kousei caves.  That’s wrong on so many levels, not least for how demeaning and sexist it is.  I want Kousei to overcome his demons and play the piano (the tiny taste we got of it was wonderful) – desperately so – but I sure as hell don’t want this to be the way it happens.  Frankly, I find myself hoping that the performance at the competition next week is a disaster because that would restore my faith that Shigatsu and mangaka Arakawa-sensei haven’t completely missed the boat on common sense.  It should be a disaster – a lesson that everything we saw this week was completely wrong.  But I’m not expecting that.

It’s only when one loves a series as much as I did the first two episodes (especially the second) of Shigatsu that it can piss us off as much as it did this week.  And I’m equally pissed at myself for seeing this coming to the point of writing about it and being blinded to the danger by the sheer majesty of last week’s episode.  I’m pretty sure I’m in it for the long haul with Shigatsu – I sure want to be – because there’s just not much anime out there that can match the emotional pitch of this series when it’s on its game.  But I’m definitely going to be going into next week’s episode with a lot of wariness, based on what happened in this one.  I don’t have to like the female leads to like the series, but it would be nice to at least feel that the show itself is coming from a place that makes sense.

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Shigatsu - 03 -25 Shigatsu - 03 -26 Shigatsu - 03 -27
Shigatsu - 03 -28 Shigatsu - 03 -29 Shigatsu - 03 -30


  1. R

    I didn't see Kaori's plea as if it were part of her therapy for MC. She comes off as someone that's "living life" desperately, this idea is enforced by the possible implications behind her hospital visit. Be more empathetic with her character!

    The violence retribution, even you don't find it funny, it's still something done for comedy. It's not like he was being mentally and physically bullied into accepting the invitation. Also, female lead number 2 doesn't care if he plays piano or not.

    When is the other -gatsu getting an adaptation?

  2. K

    Actually they were bullying him into accepting the role of Kaori's accompanist, and I would kinda think that pasting musical sheets of the piece Kaori is supposed to play everywhere in Kousei's path is psychological bullying.

    I don't like the leads but I'm in love with Kousei's struggle… I'm with Enzo here, the performance needs to fail… I don't think I can keep watching if it doesn't.

  3. T

    The compromise the result of the performance makes… is interesting, needless to say. Quite obviously, the performance must not dissuade Kousei from taking the piano up again, else there'd be no plot, but as you've said, the performance also needs to fail. How do you reconcile both? Answering that is next week's episode in a nutshell.

    However, I have been very wary of Shigatsu from the start, because I get the niggling feeling that the show is out to drop the dumps ontop of poor Kousei.

    Also, Kaori's getting tragedy vibes, even , perhaps the hint of Death Flags. Say that Kaori manages to coax Kousei into the world of music – and then the hint that Kaori is actually down with some kind of medical condition materializes just when the show convinces you that everything is going to be alright. It's this possibility that makes it hard for me to get into Kaori and Kousei at more than an intellectual "this is interesting" level.

    The problem is that this show can hit it's emotional heights and paint it's emotional conflicts very technically well, but at the same time, it's plot between those heights aren't as tightly written, and I fear give away too much too fast that Kousei's has a very high chance of not getting his happy ending.

    And as you can see, the plot in between the emotional peaks has alot of questionable choices – the method with which Kaori convinces Kousei is ludicrous, and only serves to perpetuate the notion and cliche that Japanese fiction sucks at capturing emotional trauma. I believe you will love the Fourth Episode, and most of the next arc, but eventually, once the show climbs down from those climaxes, it's going to shoot itself in the foot again.

    That's the problem with Shigatsu – it does things very well until it confronts the question of helping the MC overcome his problems.

  4. Muse, I very much agree with your point that the peaks are superb, but the trails in-between them have been very troublesome.

  5. R

    >psychological bullying.
    Oh god, you are right.

    >That's the problem with Shigatsu –
    Sounds a lot like the usual shonen romance drama issues.
    Ok, I'll be careful.

  6. s

    aaaaannnnd this is exactly what i was talking about last week; I dont like that manufactured feeling that lingers around this series because it doesnt need it. The conceit of this narrative has heart, so all that manufactured fluff needs to disappear for it to truly sign. A big part of that manufactured feeling comes from kaori's character, which is what i tried to allude to in my comments last week. The romance is fine, but the behavior of some of these characters and some of the plot progression isnt.

  7. Sorry, too specific.

  8. D

    This episode seemed a bit off to me as well, but I wouldn't worry too much about it just yet. The comedy does fall a bit flat here and in no small part due to HOW MUCH of it there is. I'm fine with the occasional gag here and there, but if 70% of the screen time is filled with generic anime beatings and exaggerated monster faces in a show that otherwise tries to tackle serious issues, then at best it turns the episode pointless and dull.

    Having said that, I did find the girls attempt at "helping" Kousei generally believable. While streams of life wisdom are kinda off the mark for kids this age, I have no trouble finding their reaction realistic, simply because they're not capable of truly understanding the extent of someone's serious emotional trauma. To them, it probably just seems like their friend is being mopey or lazy and they deal with it the only way they know how – by pestering him about it and trying to "power through" the issue at hand with little regard fpr the possible consequences. Maybe that message got obscured by the overwhelming level of off-key comedy.

    As for Kaori, I'm not sure if I like her or not just yet, but I do think she's a pretty good character. It doesn't seem like she's meant to be portrayed so much as an *ideal* rather than an idealist, a stark contrast to the main character. Perhaps she acts that way because she simply doesn't know better, or maybe it's her way of dealing with some other issues that they hinted at with the bus/hospital scene. That's also why I think that her bursting into tears wasn't a calculated attempt at emotional manipulation but rather a girl who reached the limit of her cheery persona and became overwhelmed. I highly doubt that the show is trying to portray Kaori as the waypoint for emotional maturity and it's probably more about them helping each other to grow beyond their current extremes.

    Hopefully the next episode will dial back the funnies. Shigatsu is the show I look forward to the most every week and it's just a damn shame if they waste more precious screen time on comedy that just harms the tone and pacing more than anything else.

  9. s

    the kids trying to "help" kousei with his trauma is not really the problem in my opinion either. I see comments on the internet of ppl damning the writing of this series because they feel that the characters dont know how to mind their business. These are middle-school kids, heck even adults meddle with their friends lives and try to do what they think is right for them; it's normal. I would say that the only real problem right now (which of course future my prove that this may not be the case) is if this series tries to make it seem like it's right for your friends to be unknowingly insenstive about your feelings just because they so desperately want to help you. This is why I believe enzo is right in saying that Kousei needs to fail so that these girl's see that they have to have consideration for others when doing things like this; they need to have some sort of moderation.

    Now granted, im not saying that you should never meddle in your friends affairs, because sometimes you need to. I've also seen comments of people saying that people should just learn to mind their business period, which i dont agree with because it's that kind of mindset that lead to people who are in a really dark place doing things that could have been prevented had you meddled. People should learn when to interfere and when to back off, it's that simple. These kids dont seem to know that yet, which is fine because they are kids. But if the narrative makes it seem like every selfish act that they make "all for the sake of their friend" is for the best, then that's an incorrect message to be portraying in a story such as this, especially with something like trauma.

  10. v

    I personally feel that this is how Asian society view psychological trauma and mental problems – that everything is in the victim's head and the problem can be solved by a good scolding or by forcing the victim to face his/her issues. Or at least this is how most Asian media portray psychological problems.

  11. k

    I don't think it's quite that… to me it's more like a kind of wishfulfillment fantasy which goes along these lines: "our hero has Issues, he has no motivation to help himself" -> so he encounters with this strange, brilliant, dream girl that forces himself into action thereby helping him make the first step -> eventually her relentless love of life and [insert thing that connects her to our hero] proves infectious and he slowly finds and regains his purpose!"

    At least to me these stories usually seem like the hero doesn't have the energy to "save" himself so the heavens send him this savior girl who does it for him.

  12. k

    *forces him into action

  13. g

    The worst thing is his friends will hold his agreement against him because "if he agreed, it wasn't so bad in the first place, righto?"
    I find Kaori's act as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl annoying, over the top, forced and it rings a false note. But maybe it should be that way, like we should feel it's a façade, or something? And it's my only speculation but if she's terminally ill then I would understand her behaviours of overcompensation or not caring but it doesn't excuse her being completely insensitive. And I don't think she cried deliberately to manipulate Kousei but I though with glee how funny it would be if he said still "No". Her tears would work on me if she showed her weakness quicker, if she shed her "super happy-go-lucky" act and righteous attitude earlier instead harassing and bullying him into it.
    Well, I guess at last the manga & the anime captured correctly how annoying mostly are junior high kids.

  14. This has very much been the dilemma with Shigatsu so far. The stuff that's dumb and annoying – is it setup? Is it supposed to irritate me, or is this simply the author being irritating?

  15. g

    Yeah, and I feel a dissonance, you know? Because I love Nodame Cantabile but I don't like Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso so much as I want to (it doesn't mean I hate it). It's like otouto to oneesan.
    I mean both have the same elements: a manic pixie dream heroine, a brooding hero with a trauma, bulling as a comedy (mostly him beating her, similarly to Hori & Kashima's relationship) and it's not like during watching/ reading I wasn't annoyed by Chiaki or Nodame's behaviours because I was sometimes even angry. So why I'm fond of Nodame but not of this anime?

  16. K

    I don't really consider Nodame a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Yeah she is a bit eccentric but she is hardly Chiaki's dream girl, she is dirty and she drives him nuts. He isn;t attracted to her at first but her music. I just think Nodame just eventually wears him down,

    More importantly both Nodame and Chiaki are shown to have flaws and have to develop as characters (and musicians). The story is about how they both help each other. Nodame helps Chiaki relate to others and not be so up-tight but he helps her realize her full potential as a musician and most importantly while she starts out wanting to be a better musician so she can stay with Chiaki eventually she wants to improve for herself,


  17. D

    Yeah, like Del said, I think Kaori started crying not in the attempt to manipulate Kousei but because she reached her limit and got overwhelmed by the emotions. I mean, they've already hinted that she have some emotional issues with that shaking hand in episode 2 (and with her stopping the bus at the hospital in this episode).

    The comedy here is definitely not good and the one of the weakest (if not the weakest) parts of the show. My reaction to the majority of the jokes – "Why? Just why is this here?" (especially in regards to the scenes where someone beats up Kousei). Some gags got the chuckle out of me but most of them are just complete and total miss, the show would've been much better without them.

  18. R

    Gotta say that I am also still not sold with the slapstick here. It really does feel like they are trying too hard to be funny at times.

    I guess they are hinting an explanation as to why Kaori acts the Manic Pixie Dream Girl a bit too much, what with the ending of the bus scene. Must be one of those "I want to live my life to the fullest because I am dying" scenarios (I haven't read the manga yet).

  19. Lord, I hope not.

  20. R

    IKR. That has got to be one of the cheesiest twists that I have seen in oh so many romances. But I guess Kaori being an MPDG would be somehow related to why she visited that hospital.

  21. J

    I really want to like this series. However, the violence and harassment is getting really annoying. It's especially so because this is a series that uses a tone and storytelling style that tells us they want to tell a serious story, and they want us to take the story seriously. When a series like Gekkan shoujo Nozaki-kun features Hori-senpei beating up Kashima-kun to the point of bleeding, we know that isn't actually happening, because the tone and style of the series establishes the sense that they are exaggerating Kashima isn't actually flying off of buildings and bleeding to death. However they feature these girls bullying Kousei, we are still understand the impression that this is a serious series, which they do want us to think, but we are also supposed to identify that the bullying and harassment is an exagerration and find it funny. That simply does not work, our brain doesn't and turn serious and comedy mode on and off like that. The atmosphere of this series doesn't allow for these kind of violence to be taken lightly and so we take it more seriously than they intended, thus resulting in getting annoyed at these scene.

    I really do hope this aspect gets better. The piano scene was great this episode and Kousei's character is starting to grow on me.

  22. m

    Yeah the violence is a problem (though i found the pasting of score sheets in front of Tsubaki's window mildly funny cos I wasn't taking it seriously by that time). I think the comedy is going to undercut the real emotional scenes of the show, which isn't good since I'm really loving Kousei's characterization.

    I think what especially irritated me was Kaori though (I think Tsubaki's forceful aggression for Kousei to play the piano was at least more relatable cos they grew up together and Tsubaki had seen Kousei break down at that time. Not that I think she understands how painful that is, but at least she knows the story and has been with Kousei long enough to understand him at least a little.). Kaori is coming off as presumptious and way too egotistical. Plus why is she so two-faced, pushy around Kousei, nice and sweet around Tsubaki…

  23. z

    So I agree with you all about the bullying and was disappointed that Kousei agreed to play. Given that he was so opposed to the idea, despite a week of badgering, there's no way some tears would realistically sway him.

    But there's an easy way the story can go. Kousei is obviously enamored with Kaori's vibrant playing, and said that he just can't hear his own playing. I'm guessing all he has to do is "tune in" to her playing, a la Chiaki and Nodame, and let the notes flow along. Disregard all the normal structure and just follow her sound. They haven't even practiced together before, and she didn't mesh well with her partner last time, this is the only way I can see them harmonizing… and voila, it fixes his trauma.

    I'm intrigued with the idea that Kaori has some terminal illness. If Kousei's current trauma is just an appetizer for a bigger story – where he has to continue without his second lifeline, that would be interesting.

  24. K

    I can't say I dislike this series, in fact I am enjoying for the most part as long as ignore that these characters don't act like middle schoolers at all.

    However I was expecting something better when people compared this to Nodame Cantabile (obviously because of the classical music angle) but so far this series has nothing on Nodame.

  25. M

    I'm not quite turned off by Kaori's crying, because the hospital bus stop and her saying that she wants to be remembered seems to imply she gets a very bad diagnosis on her hospital visit yesterday and she is emotionally affected by that. In fact if you speculate that she is terminally ill then her playing the music against the composer's intent makes sense because she wants to live and play the way she likes as her live is short.

    But of course I am also appalled by how the girls coerced Kousei to play. To me this series lack subtlety, from how Kousei viewed Kaori to the way the girls shoved the music into Kousei's face. Had they used talking and Kousei got angry first before he relented then the series would be 10 times better. You don't resolve years of trauma simply by coercion or a beautiful musician appears in your life.

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