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Your lie in April
Episode 20

by Rose Bridges,

After finishing this episode, my initial impressions ranged from "NO," to "NO NO NO," to "AAAAUUUGGGHHH." I can't find much else to say after the events I just witnessed. It's a little embarrassing, because it's not like I didn't know this was coming. As usual, Your Lie in April presents the inevitable in the most emotionally devastating way.

Before we can dive into sorrows though, the show provides some serious triumph: Kosei has finally figured out that he's in love with Kaori! What's more, Tsubaki finally confessed her feelings to Kosei! He still thinks it might be a joke, being a clueless teenage boy, but at least she made the leap and got that burden off her shoulders. Kosei even tells Watari that he also loves Kaori, and they joke about competing over it. That revelation comes right before the tonal whiplash that sends us tumbling into the abyss, making this a week of extremes. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Everything was finally settled, only for the show to rip open a new wound. Everything was perfect, and then it was ruined forever. Right after Watari and Kosei's heart to heart, they see nurses rushing into Kaori's room. The boys watch her struggle and then go limp. Both their eyes go wide in shock, and after the nurses rush them out, Kosei takes off running. On his way home, he watches a car run over a defenseless black cat, and rushes the animal to the vet in hopes of saving it. He's too late—just like he probably is with Kaori.

It's heavy-handed symbolism, but it struck me that a cat is a truly fitting symbol for our heroine. Kaori is capricious and quirky, yet exacting in her expectations of others. She can be grumpy and fly off the handle when she doesn't get her way. She's bouncy and flexible (before her illness anyway). In short, she's very much like a cat. It isn't a surprise that cat-lover Kosei, who's never forgiven himself for letting his mom get rid of Chelsea, would be drawn to her. The cat-as-metaphor reaches deeper the more you think about it; the black cat Kosei rescues followed him and rubbed against him throughout the episode, but he didn't pay much mind to it. It's reflective of how Kaori needs him present in her final moments, but he's accidentally ignoring her. Kosei's nurturing, protective side has been taken over by other concerns.

One of those might be the piano competition, but his focus is away from that for this episode. There's a reason this week only gives his career a few minutes, and spends the rest on all the interpersonal drama neglected by the latest performance arc. At the end of the day, Kosei was playing for somebody else, but that somebody else isn't there. As much as he may try to dodge it, Kosei has been neglecting everyone around him out of denial of his feelings, including Kaori herself. This is part of why everyone's outbursts at him this week are so fierce. It's not just about a competition or a crush. The whole atmosphere is tense, even when it's blanketed by gently falling rain.

That separation makes the visual metaphors this week that much stronger. There are parallels to Kosei's behavior as a child after the Chelsea crisis, and what he does with the cat at the end of the episode. He runs through the rain both times, and breaks down in tears at the end. The first time, Tsubaki was there to comfort him, and reassure Kosei that his tears prove he does have a soul, no matter what anyone else says. The second time, he is all alone, forced to process his demons himself. Kosei is a caring, compassionate person, but fear of what his feelings might mean makes him block others out. It's also telling how much Tsubaki's confession scene involves her and Kosei in separate frames, despite standing right next to each other. They may be physically closer than ever, and continuing on to nearby high schools to boot, but their emotional distance couldn't be greater.

It's elements like these, all piled on top of one another, that make this week so devastating. It didn't even do much in the music department, which is usually Your Lie in April's biggest weapon in its emotional arsenal. These moods were earned through direction, character revelations and the simple shock of the plot. It's not the series' most creatively stunning hour, but it's one of its most memorable, delivering a powerful emotional punch in spite of that. At the end of the day, Your Lie in April is all about the teen romantic melodrama. By that barometer, it's hard not to call this one of the show's best episodes in a while.

Rating: A

Your Lie in April is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a musicologist who studies film music. She writes about anime and many other topics on Autostraddle.com, her blog and her Twitter.

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