Kousei continues to be kinda a jerk. His performance with Nagi rekindles the rivalry in Takeshi’s heart, and an open challenge is given to him for the next big piano competition. Nagi’s performance helps her understand her feelings, and Kousei goes to Kaori to finally make some demands of his own.
I’m not sure if the author just doesn’t realize what the line between being an asshole and guiding someone, as it’s hard to see Kousei’s actions in the concert as the latter rather than the former. I’m sure this piece can have a nuanced performance without everyone thinking Kousei was basically showboating. We’re supposed to buy that this is his way of helping Nagi evolve as an artist, but I just don’t buy it. I don’t know if this author just had some very problematic relationships growing up, but not everything has to be formed on the basis of antagonistic behavior. I get that this arc was just as much about Nagi’s development as Kousei’s growth in teaching her, but I feel like there could have been a better way of expressing that message without Kousei hogging the spotlight again.
While I’m really not happy with that, for the most part this was a much better episode than what we’ve been treated to for a long time. Finally Takeshi becomes more relevant in Kousei’s story as he tries to validate his place as rival. With Kaori’s failing health there hasn’t been that push for Kousei to better himself as an artist. I’m also looking forward to seeing Emi actually involved in the plot instead of being just a creepy stalker/monologuer as she’s still my favorite character. My only fear right now is how everyone is going to get the proper amount of time to finish their stories. If this is going to go like a typical noitaminA show, we’re looking at four episodes left before the finale, maybe five at most. Considering how much the show has loved to consume time with performances, I just don’t see how that will be possible unless they cut short performances for the sake of interactions or skip very quickly to the performance than I’d expect.
The very end of this episode is where things get equal parts encouraging and troubling. What’s encouraging is that Kousei seems to finally be exerting his own control over the relationship between himself and Kaori, and flipping the tables by finally asking her to acquiesce to his demands. The troubling part is how he still seems to treat this as a dependent relationship. He talks about her twisted idea of double suicide as ridiculous not because he wouldn’t do it, but because he doesn’t think they act in accord, rather him following her lead. Almost as if saying he would commit suicide if the illness were to consume her. Also, with her health causing weakness, it almost seems that he is exploiting it to exert his own power. I’m worried that instead of trying to have an equal relationship this conclusion is simply going to try and push Kaori beyond her limits so that he can have his own satisfaction. At the very least I like that the dynamics are changing as Kousei becomes more confident in himself, I’m just worried what that confidence is doing to his ego.