I had a few more issues with this episode than with previous ones, but it was still reasonably enjoyable. Aside from the atrocious CGI, this episode made me question the extent to which art is objective in this show.
- Thanks to Re: Zero, my brain automatically substituted “legs” with “brain.”
- I felt for tiny Takako on the giant stage. She might just be the most endearing character in the show so far, and her voice actress Aoi Yuuki is to thank for much of it.
- Takako’s performance was a success. I thought she captured Mozart’s liveliness pretty well. Better than Shuuhei even. I have no idea why Shuuhei’s performance is still considered to be better.
- Takako hugs Wendy. Aww…
- It’s kind of sad that Takako is probably doomed to be the supporting girl in this show – a token of female representation to go with the Kai-Shuuhei rivalry. I just wish Takako was made to be skilled enough to actually compete with them too. Takako herself certainly understands by the end of this episode that they’re out of her league. I wonder if she’s going to develop an unrequited crush for Kai.
- Even after successfully encouraging Takako, Kai still hasn’t overcome his own psychological barriers. His self-doubt manifests as hallucinations of Mozart everywhere.
- Most of these Mozarts have faces of people he knows. The one in the far right is Ajino, the far left one is Shuuhei’s mom, and the one on the piano is the class bully. So it’s not really just Kai who gives himself pressure either. Perhaps it is also significant that Mozart is known a child prodigy – something you don’t usually want to compare yourself to. That Mozart prophecy is really taking a toll on Kai.
- Kai plays, but finds himself playing like Ajino, which the audience immediately picks up and fawns at. Being determined to play his own piano, Kai takes off his tie and shoes and goes into…CGI mode. Seriously, if a screenshot is enough to capture how out of place the CGI is, we’ve got a pretty glaring issue. It’s always been plot > visuals for me when I watch anime, but this is getting distracting.
- Kai’s playing is good. How do I know, as someone who ditched piano classes altogether years ago? Well, the audience’s unanimous reaction tells me he’s good.
- Why is it that Kai, Shuuhei, and Takako all accomplish their performances without mistakes, but their performances can still be clearly ranked? Why is it that people can pick up on Ajino’s style just like that, and are all even more wowed when Kai chooses to play his own way? Is there a defining difference between how Takako and Kai play that I just can’t seem to catch? The way art is depicted and perceived feels too basic in this episode. People ought to get touched (or not) at different points and connect to different styles of playing, if styles can be sensed this easily in elementary school students. True, the judges disagree greatly on how to judge Kai’s performance, but their disagreement is mostly based on his poor stage etiquette rather than his playing.
- Yikes, the feeling of being second best. The series brings up many important topics related to the psychology of performance. It’s hard to say whether it will address all of these issues it raises adequately, but right now, Shuuhei’s acknowledgement of his inferiority does feel kind of painful. Is being second best good enough, if it’s something you dedicate your life to?
- Surely, Kai can play Chopin’s Minute Waltz anytime he wants as long as there’s a piano. He recognizes that the difference is that there wouldn’t be an audience. I was surprised by this, considering that Kai presumably thought of the audience members as trees in a forest during his performance. Is it, then, about the recognition? The glory? It’s a part of human nature to seek these things, but it’s rare for anime about artistic expression to name that as a primary motivation for its protagonist. Or maybe it’s simply about spreading joy to people?
- So Kai gets eliminated by the judges. A slight surprise for me. Takako assures him with the words almost everyone else has been thinking.
- Prediction: Kai will feel beaten down for most of the next episode, and find inspiration to play near the end of it.
Writing about this episode was interesting. At this point, I don’t really have high hopes that the anime would be all that refined in terms of art and characterization, but at least there would be consistently nice music and shounen moments to keep me pumped up once in a while.