The Snow Melts, and Until it Falls Again… Analysis
One element of this short story that makes it so crucial in understanding Kazusa is that it does not revolve as heavily around Haruki as other related stories do. Haruki plays an important part, of course—but we get a look at Kazusa’s world, as well. This is, essentially, the story of how and why she shut herself away, then gradually began to open back up again thanks to her feelings for Haruki.
The prologue gives a succinct picture of how Kazusa came to reject everything around her, its use of repeated phrasing—“Kazusa Touma hated the sky,” “Kazusa Touma hated her classmates,” and so on—almost giving the impression of doors being shut, one after another, until she is entirely isolated. These rejections are broad: the whole sky; all of her teachers, because of one teacher with no spine; all of her classmates, because of one student who irritated her. The explanation given for the second of these, that it’s “too much trouble” to make distinctions between allies and enemies among the school staff, is also a recurring issue for Kazusa. She is quick to brush things off as too much trouble, too much work.
This all-encompassing hatred has a definite root: her mother’s sudden departure for Europe, and particularly her callousness in announcing it. Kazusa is left feeling pointless and unwanted, and as though everything and everyone around her were simultaneously mocking and disregarding her. Later, her mother’s third consecutive failure to follow through on a promised visit to Japan reiterates to Kazusa that the world exists only to hurt her. This instance has a particular sting, as she had dared to feel some lightness in her heart earlier that day, playing the piano in Music Room #2 and listening to “Guitar-boy” practicing next door. It feels to her like yet another reminder that she can’t have anything. But, as stated in the prologue, hating literally everything else is still easier than hating her mother.
Kazusa’s stealthy enjoyment of Haruki’s clumsy attempts at playing the guitar is what starts to bore a hole through her mental wall. Her acknowledgement to herself that she doesn’t hate the sound of it is the very first step along the road that ultimately leads to her deep, musically driven connection with Haruki. When she uses the piano to guide and teach him, in ways that she could never manage with words, she reconnects with the piano as well, closing up the rift that had formed two years before when she came to hate the piano just as much as everything else. After their single in-person “lesson” during the summer break, she also begins to ponder, if not to accept immediately, the worth of earnest effort. Kazusa is someone blessed with talent, innate ability, quick uptake, as demonstrated not only by her achievements at the piano, but also by the easy acquisition of her driver’s license and her mastery of the fighting games at the arcade. Haruki is similarly blessed when it comes to academics, but in the realm of music, he must commit himself to steady work, even in the absence of immediate results. Kazusa has little regard for this mindset at first, but it soaks in, and shows itself in certain actions she undertakes—actions that come as quite a shock from someone who normally “can’t be bothered” with anything that requires more than a minimum of effort.
The first is her search for the study book that Haruki gave her as a gift. She seems stunned, almost offended, at the moment that he gives it to her, and yet the realization of its absence from her bag sets her off on an extended trek around town, retracing her footsteps over and over, fighting past her socialization barrier to engage other people’s help, even tramping around in heavy rain in the middle of the night. It would have been so much simpler just to forget all about the thing, but she doesn’t—she can’t—and her efforts are rewarded not only by the successful discovery of the book, but by the further discovery of the note hidden inside it, which in turn further firms up her tie to Haruki.
The other significant action she takes, though on a smaller scale than her adventure searching for the book, is in stitching up the stuffed dog that her mother had sent for her birthday two years before. She sees it as an emblem of the break between herself and her mother, but acknowledges now that the dog itself didn’t do anything wrong, and takes it upon herself to repair the damage she did in her blind fury immediately after receiving it. This is exactly the sort of distinction between “enemies and allies” that she couldn’t be bothered to make back then. And, though she hasn’t forgiven her mother, she has found a sense of connection with this dog, faithfully waiting around even while its master ignored it, to go with her own newly-developed characterization of herself as a loyal dog, going to lengths for Haruki of which he himself is unaware. In removing the burden of her strife with her mother from this stuffed animal, she also demonstrates a growth out of the mindset that led her to hate all of her classmates, all of her teachers, on account of only a few.
And then, finally, we make a return to the key recurring phrase in the story, but with a different, hopeful twist: “Kazusa Touma had never hated the sky.” It isn’t only that she doesn’t hate it any more; she never hated it to begin with. She has found enough of a connection with the world around her now, and with herself, to realize this much. She might not be completely cleared of negative feelings, or ready to start socializing actively, but she exists in a way that she didn’t before.
The story ends right on the cusp of things opening up in a new, even bigger way for her—meeting Setsuna, who, to Kazusa’s surprise, also has her eye on Haruki—but it is a brief ending, short enough to be more like an afterthought. From this point in time forward, the story becomes that of the three of them, but that story is already known. The value of this short story lies in the more complete picture it builds up of Kazusa herself, as an individual person, as the protagonist of her own life.