For an episode that focused mostly on Tanya and Yun-Long, I thought this episode was great. Of all the 2nd and 3rd season episodes, I thought this got as close to the first season "feel" as any.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… While Tanya manages to pass the first round of her performance, unfortunately Yun-Long’s dreams are shattered when he fails to do the same – even though he did manage to overcome his nerves.
Don’t they have shower curtains in Paris? Chiaki, this one’s your fault. Also, shouldn’t Chiaki have been in Italy by now? I got the impression last episode that he was immediately heading to Italy to study with Viella, while traveling back to Paris to conduct with Roux-Marlet. I guess he’s heading out there after the performance with Rui. Even though the episode had more of a dramatic feel to it, funny moments like these really help to break it up. Actually, the dynamic when the gag scenes are in between serious scenes makes them even funnier.
Yun-Long isn’t the most memorable of side characters (where are you Mine-kun!?), but I really felt for him when he couldn’t bring himself to finish writing the letter, just because of the brutal finality of it. You don’t practice your ass off and devote your whole life to honing a craft just to teach some rich kids how to play piano. Even if China is a hot market.
Yun-Long manages to break out of his malaise fairly quickly though. And continues to support Tanya in her quest to win the competition. Even asking Chiaki to bring Tanya’s "prince," Kuroki-kun out to the competition. Both Kuroki and Chiaki were hilarious this episode. Kuroki, for his embarrassment over Tanya, and Chiaki for his deadpan reactions.
Tanya’s performance is very good, even Chiaki thinks he underestimated her chances at making it to the finals. However, for whatever reason, perhaps because of Tanya’s flamboyance, she fails to make it to the finals. I gotta give director Chiaki Kon some credit, because I think she did a real good job making it easy to empathize with Tanya and Yun-Long. Yun-Long overcomes a crutch, only to fail making the cut. Tanya plays brilliantly, only to be shot down due to an ass of a judge’s biases. All their best effort, all in vain. Two dreams shattered so easily; their future paths determined by the whim of "somebody else." Unless you’re one of the 5 people in the world who’re undeniably brilliant at what you do, like say Lebron James or Chiaki, your future is so heavily impacted by random people who may not even care about who you are. Even Nodame’s victim to this.
Tanya responds to her failure much more poorly than Yun-Long did, shutting herself in her room and splurging on potato chips and getting fat. Ah, Chiaki’s honesty, I love it.
Meanwhile, Frank and Nodame head over to the final round of the competition, where we’re treated to some oldies but goodies. I loved hearing the Rachmaninoff piece again and seeing the flashbacks. It’s such a great song that harkens some excellent Nodame memories. And then seeing the Ravel’s piece blow Nodame’s mind reminded me of the scenes when Chiaki would conduct, and flowers would bloom in the background. All in all, even though none of the pieces were played very long, this episode did not skimp on the music. For the first time in a while, it really felt like the music was central to the plot – which is the way it should be.
God, it cracks me up seeing Kuroki’s reaction to his own suggestion. After learning that Tanya can’t continue her studies because she’s no longer going to receive government support and will have no place to stay, Kuroki breaks character and makes a shocking proposal, offering his place to Tanya to stay in. Kuroki tries to alleviate the shocking situation by claiming that it’s just a living arrangement and nothing more, but that seems to infuriate Tanya even more, and she rejects Kuroki’s proposal, since it’s not like they’re dating anyway. But she’ll come crawling back, I know it. I’m sure Tanya will take up Kuroki’s offer later, but I hope Kuroki x Tanya doesn’t end up happening. I just think it’ll be much more amusing if they’re living together and all the while, Kuroki tries to claim he has nothing to do with her.
Nodame, still on her Ravel-high, blasts into the room right after Tanya leaves and hurdles Chiaki for a perfect 10. Did you know the Winter Olympics started this week? I didn’t. Does anybody care about the Olympics? I want to see that organization and event disappear forever, but I digress. Nodame excitedly claims Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major for her and Chiaki, when she finally gets to perform with him.
As Nodame’s playing has become more refined and "professional" I think some of its whimsicalness was lost. But here’s another scene that I loved just because it really draws on that first season feeling. Watching Nodame play a song she heard for the first time from memory – and do an unbelievable job of doing so, leaving Chiaki, Kuroki and Yun-Long in awe just reminds me how excellent she really is. Like Kuroki says, she’s on a totally different level.
But sadly, Yoda-sensei still has more lessons for Nodame to learn, continuing to rebuff her desire to enter a competition. And just when you think Rui couldn’t cockblock any more, she sends Chiaki her song choice… you guessed it, Ravel’s Piano Concerto. I really hope Chiaki convinces Rui to do some other song. It’s going to break Nodame’s heart if Rui jumps her again.