The 5th episode of Apollon is a spiritual journey of sorts for Kaoru as he tries to figure out where his relationships with others lie. Kaoru’s journey begins with the official confirmation that Ritsuko’s heart lies with someone else. He reacts by completely withdrawing from interactions with Sentarou and Ritsuko, who thought she had said the wrong things to him. However, with his father now home, he is given a letter which has the address where his mother is working. Sentarou convinces him to take a train back to Tokyo, and he also tags along.
The whole theme of this episode was how interconnected the relationships between characters are and how changes in those relationships affect everyone. There are 2 instances in this episode where this plays out. The first is his own response to Ritsuko letting him know that she loved someone else. The other one is his mother, which made him realize that he had made a mistake.
Let’s start with Kaoru rage quitting his relationships with his friends. He was rejected by Ritsuko, which only served to confirm that he would never be able to win the same place in her heart that Sentarou occupied. Just the chance that he would be around the two of them meant that he went through the winter vacation period without returning to the store once to play.
What effect does that have on everyone else around him? Ritsuko is saddened by the thought that she has permanently damaged their friendship. Sentarou doesn’t have anyone who can play the piano as he drums anymore, nor does he have a clue that he’s the one Ritsuko loves. Kaoru just withdraws into his room every night even though his father finally made it home. What should have been a happy time for him isn’t because he just couldn’t move on from unrequited love.
Fortunately, Sentarou and Kaoru’s father step in to push Kaoru in the right direction. Sentarou tells him that Ritsuko has been feeling lonely without Kaoru around and all he has to do is show up to the shop to cheer her up. Kaoru’s father then presents his son with a letter with his ex-wife’s address. There was a certain awkwardness at this point. Kaoru’s father seemed more saddened about having to give Kaoru a letter and suggesting he travels on his own to Tokyo than anything. Sentarou then delivers the final push by only telling Kaoru that he may never have an opportunity like this again.
What follows between that scene and the reunion with Kaoru’s mother is basically a slow-motion montage of repairing the friendship between Kaoru and Sentarou. The two go on the train journey together since it’s too late for Kaoru to turn around. They eat and sleep on the train as well. Then there’s the fish out of water scenarios when they arrive. Sentarou can’t believe how many people are at the train station in Tokyo, while Kaoru can’t believe his mother works at such a shady place. Fortunately, they can stop at Jun’s place to stay overnight. However, he had been away for a long period of time, but it passes almost entirely without comment. Then they get drunk with a couple of university students who live in the same building. The only thing that really came out of this was Kaoru spotting Yurika’s letter in Jun’s mailbox and deciding that Tokyo probably wasn’t the best place to have Sentarou’s heart broken.
Finally, there was the reunion between Kaoru and his mother. I guess the lunch they had struck me as rather odd. They may be related but they had no idea who the other really was. Then there was the laughter. From his mother, it felt like she had found something funny in the fact that her son would find himself heart-broken in Tokyo after so many years had passed since they last met. Essentially, it was the same situation she found herself in now. For Kaoru, I think it was more the realization that his own agony at rejection really didn’t matter as much as he had made it out. He was just a kid still and too young for it to impact others’ lives as much as her mother’s choices had done. He still had the time to perhaps find someone else.
At the conclusion of their reunion, Kaoru tries to ensure that they have a reason to meet again. He wants her mother to practice singing from Chris Connor’s Sings Lullabys of Birdland even though she doesn’t know any English. In the same way that he started playing jazz piano, he just tells her to imitate it first to make it sound similar. The scene concludes with the train departing and Kaoru’s mother saying a silent apology. Ultimately, we have the mother passing on relationship advice to her son and the son passing on musical advice to his mother. While we may never know the results of the latter, Kaoru reacts by returning to the record store and resuming his duties on the piano as though nothing had happened. Sentarou and Ritsuko were happy again and things could return to normal for now.
There was also one other bit of the episode I wanted to talk about here. Prior to leaving for Tokyo, Kaoru is in class reading through a train timetable which at that point in time came in a several hundred page book. He was interrupted by a classmate who was clearly of the train otaku mold, though the term didn’t exist at that point. Here was a kid who lived trains. He dispensed as much knowledge as he could to Kaoru even if he didn’t ask because the kid had found someone who looked interested in trains as well. I don’t know if this was included as anything beyond a wink at the audience or just the acknowledgement that otaku-like behavior has been around much longer than common belief.
I said before that a sense of normalcy would be returning to the main trio for now. That could easily change on a number of fronts. Sentarou could find out how Ritsuko really feels about him. Jun’s secret life could expose Yurika’s feelings for him, especially if Sentarou knows Kaoru had known for some time. Then, there’s the rather underused character of Mariko, Kaoru’s cousin who seems to know exactly what Kaoru is doing behind her family’s back, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it now.