And the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
– Paul the apostle, I Cor 1:28-29 (NASB)
When we left off our previous discussion of Kin’iro no Corda, we saw there a motif common to many anime series: a main character who, charmingly unbeknownst to herself, transforms the lives of everyone whose path she intersects for the better. In this way, Hino Kahoko is similar to Honda Tohru, the main character in that far superior series Fruits Basket, and can also be compared to the title character of Naruto, to
Abe Takaya Okazaki Tomoya of Clannad, and to hundreds of other anime characters of both genders. But if you’re at all like me, you will endure worse series than Kin’iro no Corda (of which there are very many) on the chance of seeing this kind of life transformation in anime characters by means of their interactions.
Just as we had to suspend disbelief earlier when the musical fairy or “fata” named Lili appeared, near the midpoint of the series we must again suspend disbelief when during a competition Hino breaks three strings simultaneously on her magical violin. The only string to survive, as if to point out the magic power it had held until that moment, is the E string, normally the first string to break in real life. Hino is at a loss for a few episodes before she realizes that she can simply have her violin restrung, and almost decides to quit altogether. When she finally starts playing again, she gets no magical help at all, but must play completely on her own. How will those in her circle of friends and fellow competitors react?
In my career of teaching, I often have to work with students whose confidence or self-esteem is low. It is not unusual for such students to have some real talent, if only they could recognize it and use it to its potential. Such is the case with clarinetist Fuyuumi Shouko, the only other girl besides Hino amongst the contestants in the musical competition. A relative newcomer to the woodwind family, the clarinet really came into its own under Mozart. Its range is enormous, in terms of both notes and dynamics, and it must be approached with sensitivity and confidence. Fuyuumi has plenty of the former, and virtually none of the latter. But when she sees Hino bring her meager talent to the violin, Fuyuumi can come to only one conclusion: Here is a girl who has nothing to offer, other than her love for her instrument, and yet still tries her hardest in spite of all obstacles. If she can do that much, then why can’t I? And when Hino is at the point of giving up after her violin loses its magic power, it may be Fuyuumi more than anyone who encourages Hino to pick herself up, restring the violin, and get going again regardless of what happens. In spite of being competitors with one another, the relationship Hino and Fuyuumi share is one of mutual encouragement.
It would not be quite so simple to describe the relationship between Hino and trumpeter Hihara Kazuki. Hihara strikes me as the sort of boy that anyone meeting him, of any age and either gender, would instantly like. Kind and outgoing, Hihara takes it upon himself to be that kind of encouragement to Hino that Hino is to Fuyuumi. Yet the way forward is rocky for Hihara. When it becomes evident that the feelings he develops for Hino are not mutual, Hihara must learn to move on with grace and patience in spite of the disappointment, and to continue being an encouragement to Hino without holding it against her. But when Hihara flubs several notes in a competition performance (as even the best trumpeters sometimes do), he couldn’t hope for a better example than Hino. Even in the midst of her own significant doubts in her abilities, it is Hino who comes alongside Hihara to recall him to his senses. And Hihara comes to understand that if Hino could move forward with joy and confidence in spite of her many struggles, then surely he could do the same.
But perhaps the greatest life transformation from witnessing Hino’s brave struggle is in flutist Yunoki Azuma. (As a flutist myself, I claim the right to flog Yunoki to my heart’s content!) We learn partway through the show that Yunoki is living a lie, and that the thoughtful, friendly, popular boy we seem to see is only an act. Once alone with Hino, Yunoki reveals his true nasty, sarcastic, and cynical personality. He despises Hino, and at the same time wishes to use his play-acting, his fake self, to toy with her in the presence of others. This in spite of Yunoki’s considerable talent at the flute: in one particular round of the competition, he wins first place performing a movement of a Bach solo flute partita. (I can say from experience that these partitas are difficult to play even moderately decently, let alone well enough to win a competition.) Soon it becomes clear enough that Yunoki is actually envious of Hino. For all his talent, he doesn’t have a tenth of her earnestness, of her genuine love for music or for a musical instrument. When we learn of Yunoki’s home life, of the crushing expectations his grandmother has put on him, and of his own mixed feelings about his future, we find an explanation for his behavior, if not an excuse for it. Gradually Hino learns how best to deal with Yunoki: let him play all the games he wants, but stand up to him, and to his bullying, and to his play-acting. It takes almost the entire run of the series, but eventually, with noncommittal words along the lines of “What am I ever going to do with you, Hino?” even Yunoki must admit defeat. Even he must admit that his facade, unbroken and flawless until that point, is no match for Hino’s sincerity. His strength is no match for her weakness. The despised and that which is not nullify that which is. Boasting is eliminated. We never get to see what Yunoki actually takes from this lesson, although we are free to hope for the best for him.
In the end, of course, this isn’t just about music. It’s about whether we will trust in our own abilities, or in the God who grants us such abilities. Or even trust in such a God when we have no choice but to walk outside our comfort zones, to use skills that aren’t our strong suit. For if the unacknowledged God within anime sees fit to use the weak things of the world to shame the strong (or at least to teach them a lesson), and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, how much more does the real God see fit to do so in the real world, so that no one may boast before him?
And if there is no other lesson than this in Kin’iro no Corda, that is enough reason to watch it. Especially if you like classical music, or sparkly boys.
(7/10 at MAL for alternately outstanding and lousy animation, awkward script writing, and violently clashing hair colors. Also because I am a tough grader.)