At the beginning of Your Lie in April, Kousei, grumbling over Kaori’s choice of Kreisler’s “Love’s sorrow” for their gala piece, notes that Rachmaninoff had arranged it for solo piano, I should have guessed what would happen.
He’s grumbling about the piece because it reeks of his mother. He would lie asleep under the piano and she would use it as a sort-of lullaby. Since he’s still messed up complex emotions about her, it’s not a piece he (nor I) thought he should be playing right now, not that Kaori would care even if she knew. But the show begins working on the healing process this episode thanks to Hiroko, who has issues of her own. She suggests that not hearing the notes might be a gift, as if he’s gone beyond them. He knows which ones to play, now he must let the emotions take form within them. This being the kind of show it is, this revelation also comes to him when he nearly drowns in the school pool. And so Episode 13’s first half is mainly setting the stage for the second half, and for episode 14.
His surprise solo performance at the gala might be the show’s best performance scene yet, partly because Kousei isn’t swimming around in a funk while the audience wonders what’s going on and we squirm at home. It looks might it might wind up that way, but just briefly, when Kousei and the audience both think his performance is getting too angry. But he lightens up, and when he does we not only get the old flashbacks but fresh ones from Hiroko’s mind, remembering Saki’s despair that she can’t do anything more for her son, and her fear that what he did for him wouldn’t be enough, and Hiroko’s guilt over pressuring Saki to make Kousei a pianist (which I don’t see at all. What would YOU do if a young boy started playing decent notes with no lessons?). The music he’s playing while we see all this makes for an absolutely lovely scene, where both Kousei and Hiroko learn to forgive themselves and love Saki, while the usual gang in the audience look on, rapt. The coda, where a grumpy kid nervously gets ready to play, sees his own mother in the audience, is a wonderful ending.
But the episode’s real coda comes when we learn where Kaori’s been all this time. Odd that while the performance was going on I completely forgot about her. The next bit is a bit disturbing. They haven’t told us anything about Kaori’s actual condition, just given us hints that she’s doomed. Hiroko believes that Kousei has taken a melancholy path, and it might take another death of someone close to move him forward as a pianist (not that she WANTS that …). To me that’s ridiculous, a romantic-era fallacy that lays morbid expectations on artists, and it’s laden with that “to be a great artist you must suffer” bullshit. It’s my biggest fear that this otherwise very good series will fall into that hole, but there’s no doubt that the creators are playing with the idea.
Unlike Your Lie in April, Shirobako doesn’t usually have big sweeping dramatic moments with beautiful piano music. The big climax of the last arc was a spilling of little things that came together as the deadline loomed, a company of people saying “look at me!” rather than just one. And the next big deadline/climax is a long way away, though it doesn’t stop everyone from working their butts off. The big, amusing scene was the marathon choosing the voice actors scene. The arguments were exaggerated for comedy, especially the big boobs guy, but I don’t doubt that casting a show has these same motives and mentalities at play. They want to sell CDs and DVDs or meet some cute seiyuu.
And during the meeting, Shizuka’s name comes up, and goes away a minute later, after Seiichi brings it up. Getting noticed like she did is impressive for Shizuka, especially when the show’s director is the one noticing her. Of course, it’s cold comfort to her since she was passed over in the end. Still, I would have liked to have told her how close she got; it would have been a boost to her confidence, and maybe a lesser show would have had Aoi overhear that bit and tell her, but this show, in spite of the exaggerations for comedy, plays the production process honestly. Just another failed audition, livened a bit by getting asked to read another role. Looks like the girls will have to wait a bit longer before they’re all on the same team again.