Abstractions: White Album 2 ~Todokanai Koi~

Musings on a love that cannot reach.

This article was originally written on 9-16-2014. Contains express spoilers to the work and should be read after completing it.

Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) is without a doubt, one of the best names for anything within fiction. I mentioned in previous posts that quite literally, it translates to love that cannot reach.  It’s literal, and it’s not as poetic as the English translation of ‘Love that cannot be.’ But because it’s literal, it’s more vivid.  In Japan, a common message that an individual would get as a response of a failed call would be:


Or translated literally: “The phone that you have dialed is in a place where electromagnetic waves cannot reach, or the phone is powered off.

Envision just how electromagnetic waves propagate. They undulate, indiscriminately passing through the air, disinterested in what they reach. They’re physical entities, which lack their own conscience.  On their own, electromagnetic waves do nothing more than propagate. Without a receptor, information cannot reach its destination, or in this instance, a phone call cannot be connected if it’s out of reach, or turned off. Let’s take the concept of this, and apply it to the scope of White Album 2.

Kazusa is an eccentric individual.  She can’t make friends, she can’t hold conversations, and her life skills are nonexistent. She’s reputed to subsist on junk food and sweets, and she can’t survive without someone else taking care of her. She can’t do anything but play the piano. Because verbal eloquence isn’t her strong suit, Kazusa is an individual who best expresses herself by playing the piano.

Setsuna is an individual who first broke away from her archetype, from the person that the others perceived her to be by singing. It’s fair to say that prior to singing, she was living as what she thought she should be over what she was. Without Haruki, she adamantly believes that she wouldn’t have been able to break away from that. As a result, Setsuna is an individual who best expresses herself by singing.

Haruki is a stubborn individual. He’s seldom frank with his most intimate feelings, which causes a lot of people grief. So in lieu of being direct, Haruki is an individual who best expresses himself with writing.

In the Introductory Chapter, Kazusa played out her feelings in the music room without an audience in mind. Within this analogy, Haruki, and Setsuna were both inadvertent receptors to Kazusa’s feelings. During the Introductory Chapter, Haruki wrote the song Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) while thinking of Kazusa. To him, she was someone capable of playing any instrument with ease, while he struggled with picking up the guitar. To him, Kazusa was an individual out of his league. She was insurmountable, and unobtainable. As a result of Haruki having written the song Todokanai Koi (届かない恋), the trio perform it at the school festival. Kazusa played her feelings, and Setsuna, sung her feelings.

In every instance, each individual communicated their feelings the best way that they knew how. Kazusa, with her piano. Setsuna, with her singing. And Haruki, with his writing. Of course, in all cases, whether it’d be the waves of emotions colliding against the other, distorting the signals, or whether it’d be the lack of volition or confidence in being a receptor, the feelings did not reach. Love did not reach.

Nonetheless, the significance of Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) doesn’t stop at the Introductory Chapter. After the farewell screen at the airport, Kazusa left Haruki for Europe. There, she did nothing but play the piano. She passionately and ardently, played out her feelings nonstop via the piano on a daily basis. Of course, there wasn’t a receptor in sight. Kazusa had first gotten close with Haruki as a result of her piano, as a result of her feelings reaching him. By playing without a receptor in sight, Kazusa was in a sense, shouting her feelings desperately, in an attempt to talk to Haruki.

Within the Concluding Chapter, Setsuna stopped singing due to the ending events of the Introductory Chapter. As a result, despite her persistent attempts to win Haruki back via verbal invitations, and text messages, none of her feelings reached him. It wasn’t until she sung at the Valentines’ Day Concert, that her feelings finally reached Haruki, who was a willing receptor by that point [“The girl that I love most in the world is the Setsuna that sings.”]. During Coda, Haruki was tasked once more, as a journalist, in covering the up-and-coming pianist, Touma Kazusa. While he  struggled at first, he made it his duty to accurately, and to truthfully depict who Touma Kazusa was to the public. In writing his article, his feelings reached the public, who were willing consumers of the paper. He couldn’t just blatantly tell his coworkers about his past, nor could he be direct with saying them to the public. He had to write them.

The most prominent example of Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) fulfilling occurred during Kazusa’s normal route during Coda. Within the realm of classical music, it’s generally not that simple to wing performances. A performer is expected to attend rehearsal on a consistent basis, and a performer is expected to play day-in-and-day-out, for the sake of maintaining acuity. Within Kazusa’s normal route, Kazusa routinely skips practice. She promised herself that she’d stay alongside Haruki only for the Winter. After that, she would leave, like the melting snow welcoming in Spring.

With that said, in lieu of practice, she routine sex with Haruki. After all, she would always be able to play the piano, but staying by Haruki’s side was something of an ephemeral dream. As given from the events of her normal route, she had broken things off with Haruki forcibly on her own accord towards the end of the route. She, as a final farewell gesture, invited both Setsuna and Haruki to the concert. Her initial reason for returning to Japan, a country which she disliked because it reminded her of Haruki, was to play the piano for him after he asked her to. This would serve as an opportunity to to carry that out. When Kazusa begun to play, both Setsuna and Haruki were glued to the performance. Captivated by her performance, they didn’t say a word to the other. Instead, they listened.

This was a performance that Kazusa decided on as a means to redress two qualms: One, as a means of apology to her mother, who had been by her side consistently. She would give her the absolute best performance.  And two, as a means of keeping her obligation to Setsuna — she would return Haruki to her. By the end of the performance, Haruki was dejected, and in tears. Setsuna, had already left. By the third movement, Setsuna fully understood Kazusa’s feelings. She knew that she couldn’t win over Haruki at that point.  Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) was fulfilled once more, with Kazusa’s love reaching both Setsuna and Haruki.

For the concert, Kazusa played Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 2. It’s a frequently-performed classical song, known for its “virtuosic demands” and “great variety.” Which means, it’s not simply a song playable through technical prowess alone. Within classical music, a pianist could be criticized as being too fastidious, and not spirited enough in actually conveying the proper sentiments of the piece. Generally, it’s a complaint tailored towards newer pianists, or children, without the life experience to connect the song with emotion.

Schumann’s wife, Clara, on the topic of this particular work, was reputed to have written something along the lines of:

“I am endlessly looking forward to the second sonata. Your whole being is so clearly expressed in it.”

So, it’s a pretty difficult work. Both in emotion, and in mechanical execution. The pianist has to be caught up within the reverie of the piece, the pianist has to convey the sentiments of the song properly. Within the Introductory Chapter, Touma’s mother had invited Kazusa to Europe only because she saw something nascent within her daughter that had not been there previously. That something was nothing other than love. By the end of the performance, Kazusa, while maintaining the acumen of a concert pianist, conveyed her feelings, or her love, to the audience.

So Todokanai Koi (届かない恋), as depicted above, tells of a love that cannot reach. Recurrently within the work, Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) is fulfilled over and over again. One, in showing instances in which love doesn’t reach. And two, in showing instances in which it actually does reach. At the end of the day, a ‘love that cannot be’ is nothing short of conclusive. A love that cannot reach, has a meaning, which far extends beyond the surface.

To recapitulate, the concept is composed of a simple relationship between emitters and receivers. Emitters indiscriminately release their emotions, whereas receptors consciously, and willingly pick them up. The below section focuses more on ‘POWDER SNOW’, and Setsuna’s character, which ultimately tie up the work.

Proof of Pure Love

White Album 2 is a work which seeks to prove the existence of pure love. That existence itself is presented, and proven in a manner virtual to a proof. Facts are presented in form of history [or events which happen], and theory, in this instance, would be presented in form of concept. Todokanai Koi (届かない恋) serves as the central theory, or concept to the pith of the equation. Through this concept, the audience viscerally, and vicariously feels the emotions of the characters. It’s a concept, as mentioned, which provides a vivid image, and a concept, which manifests, in discernible, and poetic ways. Each of the characters convey the notion brilliantly in their own style.  Nevertheless, the central character of proving the existence of pure love, is without a doubt, Setsuna.

At the end of White Album 2, during the conclusion of Kazusa’s true route, Setsuna sings a song titled “POWDER SNOW.” During the Introductory Chapter, in deference to the concept of Todokanai Koi (届かない恋), the three had attempted to convey their feelings to one another by ways they best knew how. In the creation of Todokanai Koi (届かない恋), Haruki wrote the lyrics. Kazusa played the music. And Setsuna, sung the piece. With the performance of ‘POWDER SNOW’, Setsuna establishes two things. First and foremost, she establishes that her love for Haruki hasn’t diminished. This is evident within the lyrics of the piece:

The powder snow gently come down from the sky
The snow I accepted in my hand was lonely
Are you looking somewhere? Standing still someplace,
Remembering, looking at the sky?
To the you who walked so happily on the snow
I truly saw you so dear

Even now, I still remember the white of the snow of that day
I will never forget the warmth of the lips I first touched (kissed)
I still love you.

The powder snow falls down on me, year after year
It reminds me of your warm kindness
Remembering you when you talked to me, looking as if you were having so much fun
Makes my heart yearn for you

Even now, are you having a dream about that white world we saw on that day?
I will never forget the coldness of the fingertips I touched that time
I still love you

Even now, I still remember the white of the snow of that day
I will never forget the warmth of the lips I first touched (kissed)
The powder snow is like you, flawless and beautiful
I want to become like that too, so I wish on the snow.
I still love you.

‘POWDER SNOW’ is my favorite song of all time. It’s a song that manages to capture the essence of the series perfectly. The notion of love is delineated, accentuated, and made all the more incredible by the singer of the piece — perhaps the largest, the most incredible victim it all. It’s a song about a love that never ends. It’s a love that was not requited, but it was a love that also never diminished. It’s a simple love song. One, cheesy in nature, but also one nonpareil in having its veracity deferred to. It’s a song that carries extreme emotion behind it. The extreme emotions don’t quite seem unnatural in the context of the song. In fact, they seem all the more attenuated, casual, and matter-of-fact. It’s a song that manages to convey the most extreme of emotions, while maintaining minimal instrumentation and execution.

And second, by performing ‘POWDER SNOW’ itself, Setsuna conveys the notion of Todokanai Koi (届かない恋).

She wrote the song, she played the sung, and she sung the song.

Try to envision emotions in the shape of electromagnetic waves, undulating through the air. Electromagnetic waves follow certain physical laws, but they don’t specifically seek a receiver on their own volition. In this instance, Setsuna serves as the receptor herself — that incredible amount of emotion, of passion which had previously been propagated through the air indiscriminately, centered on one individual. In holding all the emotions on her own, there is no catharsis. As the sole receptor, each time she sings, that amount of passion increases, and since her emotions always have a targeted direction, there is no release. Her love at that point only grows greater and greater. In other words, when she says something as nonchalant, as obvious as:

“I’m still singing.”

So despite just how lightly-delivered the line is, it’s powered by a lot of emotion. Typically, trying to talk about a love this intense would be subject to ridicule. It simply wouldn’t exist, or it’d feel far too out there. But Setsuna, with ‘POWDER SNOW’, manages to sing of the most grandiose of loves, with minimalist execution. In doing that, its verisimilitude is certain, and its grandeur, obvious.

It’s without a doubt, a breathtaking song. White Album 2, is an phenomenal work.

I enjoy reflecting on works which I've read and sharing my thoughts on them.

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