Hibike Euphonium 5.1 – Proving Grounds (Or why having a terrible personality is a good thing)

Finally finished the project, time to start my very late episodic review again. lol

As we all know the last  four episodes involve getting the mess that is the band into something that resembles “good”. This episode is about proving if its “good” enough.

This happens with the band as they enter their first serious performance together – the Sunfest.

Also, is it just me? Or does the band plot thread seem to mirror/relate a lot to the  Kumiko-Reina relationship? Granted, this might just be because I just made a review of episode 4 wherein both the band and the pair made a breakthrough at the same time.

But, its doing it again in this episode.

Its truly wonderful what nuggets one can get when one rewatch the scenes after episode 8. (Mostly because we now have some idea about Reina now, while when the early episodes are airing she’s pretty much a cipher).

Also have I mentioned that I love the band uniform?

Because I freaking do.  Its just so colorful and sexy.

Even though Kumiko might have been unconsciously/consciously trying to leave her music career behind when she joined Kitauji and sorta-justified it for their uniforms, I can definitely get their appeal. This along with the winter uniform is worth getting in Kitauji for. (Except the fugly summer uniform, the designer must be have lacked inspiration when they made that)

Also, it only took five episodes but we are now seeing a vice-versa relationship. Finally, Reina is getting visibly affected by Kumiko!

You could see it on the way that Reina reacted to Kumiko’s rather blatant staring.  And its not a subtle reaction either. Also, the reason why Reina found the stare in the first place, its because she’s now starting to look back!

What Kumiko said last episode is getting to Reina at the very least!

Progress!

And as for Kumiko,  I suppose I should comment about it but to be honest this sort of thing is getting inevitable. Whenever there is an opportunity, Kumiko eyes are going to be drawn to Reina. Simple as that.

Though, I  kinda liked how the camera pans as if to follow Kumiko’s gaze from the Asuka-Kaori conversation to Reina. Bonus points, it did so when they are comparing who is more beautiful on the uniform. lol The staff is really hitting us in the head that Reina is attractive, or at least Kumiko thinks so. Considering that Kumiko visibly compared her to Kaori (has a large fanclub) and Asuka (the face of the band itself).

Practice is also interesting in its own right. We have Aoi showing that she’s a good sempai.

And Sapphire is acknowledged as “cute” in-story and thus is asked to be a color guard.

Which she totally is.

But, you know how hard it is to tell who is attractive in the anime because everyone is. So far, in-story its implied that the  beautiful people are Asuka, Kaori and maybe Reina.

Since Sapphire is the one asked to be a color guard and not Hazuki or with Hazuki, I suppose Sapphire can be considered the girly cute of the two. While Hazuki has a boyish charm in her design, I don’t think she’s meant to be seen as pretty.

Though, I’m actually more curious about how Kumiko is seen in-universe. She’s a bit self-conscious (the flat breast joke at the beginning) making me think that she is average on the looks department.

On the other hand, I really really like her character design and consider it among the top  ones. And KyoAni does try to make their animation match the in-universe reality. Asuka and Reina for example has good figure and does stand out in the crowd as the dark haired beauties.

That and we know of at least one boy who is crushing on Kumiko.

I wonder if this is another case of Kumiko while being aware of how pretty other girls are (specifically Reina), isn’t aware of her own charms.  Kinda like in episode 9 wherein while Kumiko noticed the amazing music that Natsuki made but seemed to barely acknowledge her own which to my ears is quite on par.

And since I’m already on this chain of thought. The last top 5 spot for my favorite character design in this show goes to Natsuki. (Its Reina, Asuka, Natsuki, Kumiko and Kaori btw).

I  really liked her character design when we first saw her  as the cool and aloof slacker.  But, I even like her more now when she coming out of her shell. Natsuki just seems to be chill about everything.

Also, Natsuki is quite a fountain of information for what happened last year being a second year.

Namely, Asuka is the drum major and thus the face of the band.

Yey, for delegating responsibilities to the right person and not shoehorning someone to it.

Also, I kinda agree that Haruka being shy and withdrawn would not make a good drum major while Asuka with her energy and frankly her beauty would be the perfect fit.

More interesting is the fact that everyone want Asuka for President but she declined and thus it went to Haruka. (This  fact shouldn’t be doing Haruka’s self-confidence any favor, poor buchou.) Though, yeah, being talented at something doesn’t mean there is the willingness to use said talent or as later episodes would espouse being good at it.

Its quite telling about what responsibility that Asuka took though. She agreed to be the drum major but declined to be the President so this isn’t performance anxiety about not being able to live up to those responsibilities but something else.

The band atmosphere really has changed. Once, everyone would have been grumbling about the late practice. But, now, they are asking for additional practice time.   And instead of rebelling against Taki-sensei, they are listening avidly to what he says.

It makes Aoi and her leaving early for cram school so notable. She really has decided to have different priorities from the rest of the band.

Also, I never really realized it but there are shots here and there that shows how close Aoi and Haruka are.  Even in the third episode when Aoi put up her hand for having fun instead of the nationals, Haruka is looking very concerned.

And oh. God. Kumiko you have a huge crush on Reina.

Seriously.

Also, whoever is voicing Kumiko needs a medal. I really love how her voice changes whenever she talks to someone else. Its really notable and adds to her character.

With her friends and other people, Kumiko has this soft spoken “good girl”  voice (to borrow Reina’s words). With Shuuichi like in the geh and tsk scene in the bus, she has this grumpy bear voice that basically projects “Why are you talking to me?” Note that she uses that sort of voice whenever she talks to her sister as well.

With Reina (specifically episode 1 to 5) , it has this sort of high pitch that conveys nervous energy. That as I’ve stated reminds me of someone who have a humongous crush on someone.

Like my friend. We were just hanging around with each other  and Mr. Right enters the room and she has freak-out in checking her make-up and all manners all of the sudden.

Its hilarious to watch then. And its hilarious to watch Kumiko now.

Also, the preliminary exchange of Kumiko trying to find a topic of conversation:

Kumiko: You take the train home now, Kousaka-san?  

Reina: My mom said to, since its dangerous late at night.

Kumiko: That’s true. Yesterday, we finished at this time, too.

<Kumiko waits for Reina to make a reply> 

<Awkward silence> 

Narration(Kumiko) : Oh no. What do we talk about? I can’t talk about middle school and I don’t want to talk about Taki-sensei again…

Its kinda cute how Kumiko is grasping for a topic to talk to Reina. Also, I kinda liked how Kumiko has grown a little braver. Before episode 4, she would probably have not even initiated a single conversation but just allowed the awkward silence to fill the road until they parted or wait if Reina will break it.

You could even see the determined face Kumiko made as she rallied again.

Kumiko: So midterms are coming up, huh? 

Reina: Yeah. 

Kumiko: School’s harder in high school, don’t you think?

Reina: Yeah. 

Kumiko: ….. 

Lol. Reina, why do I have the feeling that you don’t get or *want to get* the concept of small talk. If this is how normal conversation with you goes with the  rest of the cast…. I kinda understand some of their feelings. Just a bit.

Poor Kumiko though is about to give up. Just look at how her head is down while at the crossroad.

Fortunately, Reina throws Kumiko a bone. (More like threw her a juicy steak).

Notice the way that Reina’s eye shines and let’s remember her passionate defense of Taki, just last episode. This topic is important to Reina.

And Reina wants Kumiko’s opinion. 

Considering revelation of Episode 8 wherein Reina admits on not giving a single fuck about anyone’s opinion and might even be averse on going along it. This is very notable.

For Kumiko though, it might be akin getting out of a hard place into an open fire considering her recent altercation with Reina. If I’m on Kumiko’s shoes, I would think that Reina is testing her a bit. (And I think there is elements of it on that. )

In fairness to Kumiko, she does her best to answer even if she’s blatantly tiptoeing at the first part. See the dialogue.

Kumiko: What do I think? Well, I think he’s a good teacher. Everyone practices now. Natsuki-senpai said it wasn’t like this last year. And he’s good looking and stuff…. 

Reina: Good-looking? <very astounded> 

Kumiko: No, not me! That’s what everyone else says. (To be fair to Kumiko again,  I just rewatched the first few episodes, this is absolutely true. Hazuki is the one who will say that to be precise and Kumiko looks like she barely noticed. After this though, Kumiko has relaxed …. ) 

Kumiko: I just think that he’s good at encouraging people.

Reina: Yeah? 

Kumiko: Yeah.

Kumiko: You know, like how because we played the “Marines hymn” well, he tells us we can go for the Nationals now, even though we just got bronze last year. I think there’s no way…. 

WAHAHAHAH!

Insert Mouth – Open Foot Syndrome Strikes Again!

The look on Kumiko’s face when she realized what she actually said is priceless.

From Kumiko’s point of view, she probably think she said the worst thing to Reina AGAIN. She just managed to insult Taki who Reina just defended passionately. And Kumiko somehow managed to compound the error by repeating the same “mistake” she made on middle school, implying that the their band has a small chance to be in the nationals.

But, like the previous episode, Kumiko managed to earn like a thousand Reina points by just being herself. As evidenced by this reaction.

Stupid Sexy Reina.

That smile. Kumiko is *struck* that they replayed the whole sequence again as she thinks it.

How does Kumiko put it?  Her smile is even mysterious than the mystery steps. but for some reason, it made me happy.  *Kumiko does a little happy jump*

lol Really? Sometimes I wonder how am I supposed to read this scenes except the obvious.

In any case, Kumiko obviously said something right. When I first watched it, I thought that Reina not have held a grudge over the middle school incident.

Now, after episode 8, I can dig deeper.

The first conclusion that comes to mind is obvious. Reina positively did not hold a grudge over what Kumiko said in middleschool and in time came to like it.

But, as I watch this again (like two more times) and put it  in the context. This scene has another purpose.

Looking back post-episode 8, there really has been an ongoing subplot between Kumiko and Reina that has been in every episode. As I’ve said, Episode 4 basically kindled whatever ember of “like” that is within Reina to Kumiko with the confession scene. And as we can see, starting episode 5 we get some Reina staring at Kumiko and actually engaging in conversation.

Episode 5 is sort of a proving ground. Because effusive praise and mindless echo chamber isn’t what Reina wants.  For the words that Kumiko said in episode 4 to mean more than pretty praise, for Reina to truly accept them. For Kumiko to be truly worth knowing.

Kumiko must have that sort of personality that Reina will describe as “terrible”. The one that Reina unfortunately/fortunately?  had encountered in middle school.  The cynical and apathetic one whose praise is rare and *special*.

Remember this two gals are distant acquaintances with one another and thus while there are an undeniable connection/understanding in certain moments that show interesting future possibilities. Like the scene with Dvorak wherein Kumiko gets that Reina is the one playing and her surprisingly insightful narration regarding said girl, its still an uncertain knowledge at best.

But, when Kumiko said that last line. She gave Reina the confirmation.

That yes. Reina isn’t mistaken in her assumptions of Kumiko’s personality. That part that Reina glimpsed in middle school is there just hidden in a nice girl outer covering.

“That seems like something you’d say.”  

Indeed.

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