As I write this, I just watched the last episode of Hibike Euphonium.
Yes. I’m ridiculously late. But, meh, this anime has bad timing to my real life schedule. All I can say is it did engage me from start to finish so I’m still going to do my episode commentaries.
And then, I’ll probably go back and continue my OST Saki series and something Saki related (if nothing else managed to hook me in the meantime).
In any case, if episode 6 is a breather episode; episode 7 is a time of reflection, a time for most of the characters to reaffirm their paths and make the story breath a little, one last time to set up everything before the episode began its crescendo.
If there is one thing that this anime does right, its the sense that the world doesn’t revolve around the main character. It gives the impression that even without Kumiko there, this background character have their own life and following their own plots.
In just the classroom scene alone, we are following the continued foreshadowing regarding Aoi. Aoi as have been established in the early episodes leaves band practice early to go to cram school. And from Haruka and Kaori’s conversation, Aoi is planning to quit for sometime now but Haruka has persuaded her to stay until the competition is over. And we of course learn about Asuka’s opinion on this which is, “With college exams around, we really shouldn’t force people to stay if they don’t want to.” A reasonable argument…. if a bit cold. But, then again, I don’t think Asuka is close to Aoi anyway.
But, that’s just one plot thread, there is also the increasing tension in the trumpet section. Yuuko really has a hard case of idol worship/crush for Kaori, her argument about Reina’s practice is “its obvious that it will go to Kaori”. (And Kousaka-san practicing it is infringing on Kaori’s right in her head). Even if Kaori is putting her foot down and making sure that her kouhais get along, you could see that this is a powderkeg waiting to explode there.
And we also get a glimpse of the cat and dog relationship between Natsuki and Yuuko. (I wonder how many times Riko needs to referee this two). And Natsuki’s increasing enthusiasm for the band as well. She’s now bringing her Euphonium to practice.
Finally we have the Shuichi and Kumiko plot thread wherein we have Shuichi once again finding time to meet up with Kumiko. This time its a bit more obvious since Shuichi himself said that the place Kumiko is the “only place that one can get out of the rain without paying”.
Notice also that Kumiko doesn’t have an umbrella and Shuichi does. It gives a sense of implication without outright stating that Shuichi went there to just find Kumiko. lol
Also, is it just me or the trombone section exceptionally gossipy? They seem to know all instance of band drama.
Or maybe this is the true for all sections and its just the bass that’s the exception?
Now that I think about it….
I have a feeling that water would spontaneously turn to gold first before Asuka, the bass section leader, brings up the latest band drama even if its somehow the topic of the section leader meeting. Somehow, I also don’t think, the three second years would also be willing to gossip much. (Goto is a man of a few words. Natsuki is usually so chill.) …. And the three first years are pretty tight with each other.
Huh. The bass section maybe a bit insulated if you think about it. It has its good points though. As subsequent episodes show, they’re not affected by the band drama as the rest of the sections probably are. But, they are also a bit cut-off from the pulse of the news as we speak.
And here we have the proverbial gauntlet thrown. In response to Taki’s question regarding her bad performance, Aoi quit.
Which is to be expected.
Aoi is already shown to be getting ready to leave the club behind. Its made clear that Aoi have made the decision to give up music for her studies a long time ago. Its only because Haruka and the rest of the club did Aoi not quit any sooner. (I also wished that Aoi decided to quit in a less public situation)
And, Taki’s harsh criticism probably haven’t helped matters.
…. To be honest, I’m wondering why there aren’t more quitting people before. Taki’s authoritarian style of teaching isn’t exactly something that the students would be okay with. Specially with the “social club” atmosphere of the year before.
Make no mistake though. I’m not really criticizing Taki here. And yet, the more I see of him, the more I feel that while he is the best conductor that you could have asked for. Quite talented, he can pinpoint the exact person that is muddying the melody and willing to push the players under him to greater heights. I still feel that Taki isn’t really suited to teach high school students with their numerous issues. Like the fact that a student may have something higher priority than music like grades for instance.
And yet even as I say that. Even if I would like to portray Aoi as someone who has weighed two choices and pick the one which is more important, its not really true isn’t it?
The band’s past cast a long shadow.
Haruka: Are you really quitting?
Aoi: Remember, I told you? I failed the high school entrance exams. So I really want to get into the college I’m going for.
Haruka: If practice is too much, you don’t have to enter the competition.
Aoi: At first, that’s what I thought. But, now…. The club is different than last year. I noticed at SunFes. That it isn’t just Taki-sensei. Everyone’s serious. You’re all working hard to win gold at the competition. I can’t go that far. I can’t just let myself wander toward the Nationals. Last year, I couldn’t stop them from quitting. So I can’t!
It all works out. Its true that I have to study for my entrance exam anyway I’ll feel better this way.
I once entertained Aoi just staying in the club but not participating in the competition. Kinda like Hazuki. It neatly solves her dilemma of music or grades.
But, its not really the point isn’t it?
Its true that Aoi has different priorities. Aoi has already chosen to focus on getting into a good university than music, she goes to cram school than band practice. And unfortunately, Aoi isn’t skilled enough to coast on without the additional practice.
But, as Haruka said, there is a third option: Just don’t enter the competition but stay in the band.
Unfortunately, that is a choice that Aoi for some reason can’t make.
Aoi is …. actually quite a proud (principled?) person and she still carries the guilt of last year in her conscious. To belong to the club that got into the Nationals without even putting a huge effort might be affronting to her in the “I didn’t deserve it kinda way.” Doubly so because she has kouhais last year that want to put this sort of effort but because of Aoi’s perceived mistake or lack of ability quit and won’t be part of the new reborn club.
And then things start to fall down.
With Haruka unable to stop Aoi’s departure, insecurities began to bubble up. Chief among them. Is the guilt that she isn’t a good President especially to what a theoretical perfect president Asuka could have been.
After all, what kind of President has one of her closest friend leaving the club?
And yeah, the inferiority complex regarding Asuka. We should have seen it coming. After all, everyone apparently wants Asuka to be the President and everyone knew this including Haruka herself.
Asuka who is being heavily implied to be the best player in the band.
Asuka who is also extraordinarily beautiful.
Haruka must feel like a drab towel when compared to Asuka.
Like a poor replacement.
And Kumiko is smack-dab in the middle of the Haruka’s breakdown.
I kinda liked the fact that Kumiko actually tries to stop it. But, it really shows that she’s not invested in Haruka. We just have to look at Kumiko’s stilted tone of voice, the shifting eyes to know that Kumiko is just saying a party line.
To be fair to Kumiko though, she did a good job of giving a description of Haruka’s positive qualities as she has observed them. Unfortunately, it can be summed to being “nice”. But, we can’t exactly blame Kumiko for that. She doesn’t exactly have extensive contact with Haruka nor have any idea what happened last year. Plus, Kumiko’s section leader is freaking Asuka who from all observation is someone Kumiko likes and respects.
Fortunately for Kumiko, Asuka to the rescue …. or not. Because Asuka is probably the worst person for Haruka’s psyche right now.
After this episode, I revised my impression of the third years as well. I always have the impression that the Asuka-Haruka-Kaori trio are good friends. But, after this, I began to feel that Haruka and Kaori are the one who are actually friends with Asuka being the friendly outsider.
…. That or Asuka is a really really shitty friend.
So yeah, let’s go with the former.
Beside that, we found out that there is apparently someone who sucks at comforting people than Kumiko …. and that is Asuka.
At least, Kumiko tries to care. Asuka based on the dialogue isn’t even trying.
Asuka: What are you doing entangling a junior? Are you a snake or something?
Haruka: I’m not entangling her! Why did you come here?
Asuka: Everyone’s worried because you still hadn’t come back. (Turns to Kumiko) Go back to the music room without us, Oumae-chan. <turns back to Haruka> Come on, wipe your tears.
Haruka: I can do it myself!
Asuka: That isn’t good. You have to do something about your emotional instability. Didn’t Kaori tell you before? The president has to be imposing–
Haruka: Then, you be the President! Its because you refused that I ended up having to do it!
Asuka: <pause> Then, you should have refused, too. <cat smile>
Notice the dialogue.
Haruka is defensive and lashing at the start. Asuka – the person that could have fixed all this mess. The person that she feels so inferior to. Asuka seeing her in tears and all of her weakness displayed must be intolerable.
This isn’t helped by Asuka’s well meaning advice.
…. Well, I hope that is well meaning because that can sound very condescending especially in Haruka’s frame of mind. Its no wonder that Haruka burst out with something that must have been on her mind all the time, “You be the President, Asuka!”
Followed up by a recriminatory line that says “I only got this job because you refused it anyway.”
Asuka’s reaction to this though is the more interesting part. Because, there is no dressing it. The way Asuka came of, she doesn’t care about Haruka. …. Or the band for that matter.
Unless, Asuka wants the President position which the series has hammered that no she doesn’t. She should at least pretended to care for Haruka who is having a minor breakdown. Aoi, a core senior member (even if not that skilled) they can probably lose. But, the President quitting as well? That is certainly going to cause some protests and “drama”.
On the other hand, while its easy to read those words as a taunt. I don’t think that Asuka is being actively malicious. Haruka is trying to entangle Asuka with her problems. Asuka stated the cold logical truth to avoid it essentially shifting the responsibility of choice back to Haruka.
If its too much for Haruka, she should pass it to someone else.
That’s what Asuka would have done in Haruka’s situation. But, its also a “thought” or “idea” that can only occur to someone that isn’t invested with the band. That doesn’t care what happens as the result of her actions. That doesn’t feel any sort of responsibility to anything.
Yeah…. Asuka theoretically maybe a perfect president if she tries. KEYWORD HERE IS TRIES THOUGH. Its probably good for everyone involved that the band haven’t been able to convince Asuka to be the President because she’s clearly not as invested in the band as a whole as she could be.
I think that I have seen enough of the series to know that while Asuka cares for the music, she doesn’t care about anything else. If Asuka ever took that position, she would have been a strict and non-compromising President as we see when Asuka held the practice session when Haruka was absent.
Case in point.
Kumiko is struggling with her music because Aoi, a childhood friend quit. But, Asuka didn’t cut her any slack. If Kumiko is the sort of angsty teenager that is quite common, she might have held a grudge for her outwardly friendly section leader who perfectly knew the reason but seemingly doesn’t care.
As she is, Asuka would have been a bad President. Because being the President of any student club isn’t about music or about whatever the club is in the first place. Its more of people management or more accurate “band drama” and Asuka doesn’t want to be involved in that.
Its even more poignant because the Kitauji Band has more band drama than usual. We finally have some context about what happened last year. Apparently there are a lot of first years that wanted the band to get serious and they butted-heads with the third years who wanted to retain the current status quo.
Of course, this is set in a society which puts a lot of emphasis on seniority so the upperclassman won and forced the first years out of the club by tuning them out.
< On that note, I really wonder why there are a lot of gungho first years in this club last year in the first place. Kitauji isn’t a musically inclined school, in fact by all accounts its rather bad at it…. You would expect gungho musically inclined first years to congregate at a school with more music history.>
I also kinda loved how the current first years reacted to this piece of news.
Hazuki is quite glad that she wasn’t there last year. Hazuki being a beginner musician would have probably been discouraged by the band drama. Midori though as someone who loved music first and foremost would probably have stayed.
Poor Kumiko though didn’t give an answer and is more reflective. The incident last year must have triggered some past memories. And as we already know that the upperclassman have probably “bullied” Kumiko for making the audition when she didn’t. I think this incident speaks for itself though on Kumiko’s answer on whether she would have stayed or not if hypothetically she was in the band last year.
Because something similar already happened in her middle school with a sempai pressuring Kumiko and Kumiko still stayed in the band. Which I think that its a pretty good clue that Kumiko must really like music back then and just got increasingly jaded and apathetic, perhaps to protect herself. Not that the happy flashback scene as a kid isn’t a big clue as well.
Beside that, I also love the slowly unveiling dynamic of the third years.
While Asuka has been shown to not be close to Haruka or at least not as invested in that relationship. Kaori is showing why she’s probably the most popular girl in the club and why she’s probably the closest person to Haruka. Kaori is just so nice and supportive in this episode; her action really shows that she really cares about Haruka, personally. (Being a comfortable shoulder Haruka can air her grievance and someone that the President can find support).
On the other hand as I rewatch the previous episodes, while Asuka’s support of Haruka is more overt , just like helping Haruka do the vote thing. Its never really personal or coming at a cost to Asuka. Also, noticed that Asuka volunteering to be the tally person for that vote gives Asuka a handy reason not to vote. And I’ve also noticed that in the previous section meeting when the band is planning “mutiny” against Taki-sensei, Asuka did not really support any side once again even though she said the previous day that Haruka can count on her.
So yeah, Asuka is a bit of a fair weather when it comes to personal relationship. Or perhaps, its more accurate to say that Asuka is just too focused on one thing – her euphonium that things like relationship fall in the wayside. As Kumiko put it, “Asuka-sempai has her eyes completely set somewhere else.”
I do wonder if there are somethings like taking it too far though. As shown by the shot of their rooms, Haruka is full of clutter and personal effects while Asuka is completely bare. Which has so many implications. I’ve already discussed Asuka’s hyper-focus on music but I also wonder if Asuka is not that affluent. Asuka’s room is pretty small.
Though, I’m having a bit of trouble reconciling that piece of information with Asuka owning a silver euphonium. ….. Or maybe not? It could be school property for all I know.
In the end, Haruka came back to the club and resumed leading it.
I think while Aoi’s departure is quite sad, its a good way to show that Taki’s methods are not perfect and it also set up Haruka character to shine and grow for a bit. That little break and soul searching is probably good for Haruka. Especially that little outburst against Asuka. That must have been gnawing for quite some time.
Asuka might have been a jerk there. But, it also showed to Haruka that she made her own bed and she should stand as her own “President”. Not wait on Asuka. That little talk with Aoi at the end is I believe pretty important for Haruka. So Haruka can answer that yes, this stupid club is important to her and she want to continue with it.
As for Kumiko. I think I’ve said what I want to say for this episode.
…. Except for the Reina encounter on the train. There is no mistaking it. Considering that Reina isn’t there when Hazuki went out and Reina didn’t come in with Shuichi. The only logical explanation is the fact that Reina entered a different compartment, found Kumiko and decided to walk over to a completely different compartment so she can sit near her object of “interest”.
Reina is totally eavesdropping there. ^^
While it is a nice gag, It also neatly sets up what will happen in Episode 8.
…. Like the fact that Reina’s interest in Kumiko is subtly spiking every episode.