Kaori Miyazono Asks, “Do You Love Me?”

Today’s guest post is from a longtime friend of the blog, Micah. A former anime blogger for Otaku Collision, Micah is an aspiring writer from Tennessee who has a passion for fiction and storytelling. He also enjoys listening to Kendrick Lamar, playing Pokemon, and doing both at the same time.

The definition for “redemption” has been lost in translation through modern times; the most accurate picture comes directly from the Old Testament, which conveys the idea of “setting free from captivity or slavery, buying back something lost or sold or exchanging something in one’s possession for something possessed by another”. It was a common practice in ancient Israel for a poor person who could not pay a debt to sell themselves into servanthood for a period of time to their debtor. Unless by the exception of the Year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year, all debts were erased and bond servants were set free), that person would be bound to their contract until their debt was paid in whole. However, there were some instances when a spouse or another person would pay the debt themselves and buy back the person under slavaery. This Old Testament concept of redemption became a New Testament reality when Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans on a wooden cross in 33 A.D. His sacrifice was payment for the sin of mankind, a debt they could not pay, and delivery from the bondage of Satan. However, in modern times, many people also find themselves under the slavery of other things, not just sin. In a lot of cases, this can be past trauma and actions done toward that person that have taken them prisoner. When looking toward Christ’s death, it becomes evident that only love has the power to redeem others. In the highly-acclaimed romance anime, Your Lie in April, the love Kaori has for Kousei mirrors the love Christ has for Peter because of the redemption that takes place, healing the broken parts of their hearts. Kaori’s persistence in forcing Kousei to play the piano encounters his hurting spirit and restores him to a new man, just as Christ changed the meaning of ravens cawing, renewed his calling as rock of the Church and restored him thrice with the rhetorical question, “Peter, do you love me?”

The first form in which redemption condensates itself in Your Lie in April is through Kaori’s persistence in forcing Kousei to play the piano. In episode three, Kousei and Kaori are sitting together in a small cafe while she engages her sweet tooth with a large plate of caramel waffles with apples and nuts. The two hear the subtle playing of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” behind them and they turn to find two young girls sitting at the piano, one boasting how she has been learning how to play. With her fierce personality, teeth gritting, and stubborn glare, as well as a strong kick on the leg, Kousei has no choice but to teach the young lady a lesson in piano. It is in these moments that redemption begins. Having been on a piano hiatus for two years, disturbed even by the thought of a piano, Kousei begins to quicken his pace and grace his fingers with complex note patterns and melodies, capturing the wonder and awe of the cafe listeners. He can’t help but blush, and a large grin appears on his face. For the first time in years, Kousei has found deep enjoyment in the piano again, despite the anguish it has caused him in the past, and this is only the beginning of his return from slavery.

Later, after pouring out his heart to Kaori regarding his inability to hear notes and the trauma his playing reminds him of, she forcefully appoints him to be her piano accompanist at her next violin competition. It is during the competition in episode four that Kousei has reached his limit of playing the piano in his own power. Seeing an apparition of his dead mother sitting in her wheelchair triggers his imagination, submerging him underwater where he is unable to hear the notes he is pounding so frantically. His pace speeds up dramatically and he is terribly out of sync with his partner. Eventually, Kousei stops altogether, disqualifying the duo from the competition. It is the encouragement given by Kaori before the performance and her encouragement during the performance that sparks his motivation to start over, facing his post-traumatic stress head-on. Having an encounter with his mother from the past, he is able to see the non-abusive, loving mother who taught him how to caress the keys rather then violently pound them. He is able to imagine the sounds where the sounds are not present and play the piano for the first time in two years as his mother had originally taught him. Working through much of his past in these moments, he is given the strength and determination to finish the song, receiving the roar of applause from the audience. Only by being forced to play the piano was this redemption possible, and it was through Kaori’s persistent, stubborn personality that he followed her lead.

Finally, Kousei is once again roped into playing a music competition, this time a strictly piano competition, as payment for not visiting Kaori in the hospital from episode five. Similar to the first performance, Kousei is struck with post-traumatic stress before he even reaches the piano bench. He envisions his mother in her wheelchair, beckoning him with a dark, brooding aura as though reliving another practice session. He remembers times when he would receive bruises by his mother across his body for imperfect playing and how he was never allowed to play outside with his friends. Most of all, in the middle of his performance, he recalls a prominent memory where he told his mother he wished she was dead in response to her beating him with a wooden rod, pouring blood down his face. He believes he is unable to hear the notes because he is cursed by his mother for the words he spoke to her that day, and believes he deserves his punishment. Finding his new purpose of piano in Kaori, and changing his style from rigid, machine-like perfection to emotional, passion-filled playing, he is able to leave behind the demands of his dead mother, knowing that he does not play for her approval nor her health. Despite his challenges regarding post-traumatic stress, it is in these moments that Kousei is permanently redeemed through playing, which came about from the prodding and pushing of Kaori.

Similarly, Jesus redeems Peter from his betrayal of Christ by dramatically changing the meaning of ravens cawing. Commonly known as “breakfast at the sea”, Jesus repeats His supernatural miracle of allowing the disciples to catch an impossible load of fish by lowering the net on the incorrect side of the boat and waits on the shore with a warm breakfast of coal-baked fish and loaves of bread. This fellowship between master and disciples took place in the morning, which was during the time that roosters would alarm the world of the early hours of the day. During his denial of Christ early in the morning many days before, Peter had most likely heard the somber songs of roosters, which had become a fixed reminder to him of his betrayal of his friend. Every time he heard roosters since that point, he was reminded of the night he “wept bitterly” with guilt and shame for his moral failure. However, Jesus specifically chose to have breakfast with Peter to redeem this painful memory and change the way Peter knew the sound of roosters. Rather than guilt and shame, Peter is given new memories of encountering the grace and love of God and the removal of his guilt and shame.

Also, during their meal on the beachside, Jesus, with attention to detail, asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Although this pangs the heart of his friend, knowing that he had betrayed his friend and did not show love, it is at the third time that Peter realizes that Jesus spoke this way with purpose. A revelation occurs where Peter learns that for the three times he had proclaimed, “I do not know this man!” Jesus had asked Peter whether he loved Him, canceling out his guilt and shame. Rather than being a slave to his denial of Jesus, Peter is able to experience the forgiveness Jesus has for him, which is another prominent example of redemption.

Finally, Jesus’ charge toward Peter and reaffirming his identity is the last example of redemption in the Biblical story of “breakfast at the sea”. In Matthew 16:13-19, long before Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter had confessed his confession of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah and God of the universe, which Jesus had taken and chosen to entrust Peter to be the rock of the future Church. He was also given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” and spiritual power and authority to bind and loosen. These he gained through his confession of Christ and expected to lose them through his denial of Jesus, but in fact Jesus did not take them away. Rather, Jesus reminds Peter of this charge that He gave him at his confession, which redeems him from his denial, and charges him to be a shephard for the church. He is given more responsibility and authority despite his mistakes and he is able to represent Christ.

Overall, redemption was defining feature of Kaori’s love for Kousei and Christ’s love for Peter that causes the two narratives to share similarities. Although Kousei had undergone a process of redemption and Peter a single act, both had been bought back from their previous slavery and were restored as free men, being delivered from their past failures and traumatic pasts. As from the context of the Old Testament, both Kousei and Peter had been sold into slavery to pay debts they could not pay, yet there was someone in both circumstances who was willing to pay their debt and buy them back, thus redeeming them.

Your Lie in April can be streamed on Crunchyroll.

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