As I write this, I just recently rewatched episode 11.
That episode was amazing and here I thought nothing can top episode 8. But, episode 11 is perfectly on par to said episode if in different ways. I really want to write some freaking analysis on those.
…. But, meh. I blogged enough to know by now that if I skip something even if I intend to cover it someday, I’ll lose interest or it will somehow mutate to something else.
So yeah. Let’s try to catch up on the airing episodes. And write faster.
This must be an English test lol.
In any case, the word that Kumiko is writing is “choice” and I believe its not a random word that the staff just put there. Because one of the key things about Kumiko’s character is how easy for her to just go on with the flow and one of her defining arc is learning to pick her own “choices”.
This is important in this episode because the first choice that Kumiko consciously made in the show is joining the Kitauji band. And she did it, not because her new friends Sapphire and Hazuki is joining and Kumiko just went with the flow like always. Heck, considering Reina’s presence (which at this point in the timeline is a deterrent to Kumiko from joining than an attraction), the suckiness of Kitauji Band and her wish to start anew, there are a lot of resistance there.
Instead, Kumiko did it because Hazuki’s earnest effort as a beginner brought back the memories when she considered music fun. Thematically, even for a breather episode, it is a very important one since it establishes many things. But, then again, this series has been very good at that.
One of the thing it establishes is the fact that Taki-sensei will be changing the rules once again and holding an audition instead of following seniority.
…. I’m mind-boggled by the fact that this isn’t the prior case.
I may not have been in a band before. But, picking seniority as a method of selection in any competitive activity is stupid.
One, it encourages resentment in the lower ranks when a more talented and hardworking player is passed over for a lazy and less talented one. Two, it breeds complacency because all the slots are already fixed and no amount of talent and hardwork can change it. Lastly, it meant the team is essentially handicapping itself because they are not picking their best players.
Seriously. You only use seniority as a decider if there are people of equal skill or close parity that it won’t matter who you picked.
With this system, no wonder Kitauji has problems in the past.
On a latter note, Taki-sensei like every terror teacher you meet in highschool finally got a nickname.
“Meddling Cute Demon”.
How appropriate? lol
Also, we finally get some rules on this competition. And wow. Its apparently three tournaments? I thought it would be the standard prefecture + nationals of every other sports manga.
In any case, they are:
1. Prefectural Competition (We are here!)
2. Kansai Regional Competition
3. National Competition
Assuming that they can complete a competition in one season. That meant we need 2 more season to tell the complete story. And this assumes that the story will stop at the nationals, they can still lose and since Kumiko and co are in their first year, there is room for growth for their second and third years.
And hmmm …. more exposition. There are 55 slots so some players are not going to make it.
More importantly there are 2 songs that are going to be played! One is from a set decided by the judges and the other is anything that they liked. One is “Wind of Provence“, a real life piece and the other is “Crescent Moon Dance,” which I think is anime original because I can’t find it.
In any case, with the audition and the limited slots in the team, no one is safe. And as Asuka pointed out to Hazuki not practicing seriously and waiting next year for your chance is a recipe for disaster especially if a talented first year joins.
Beside that, though, I kinda liked that most of the bass section is taking this seriously.
Even though, Sapphire is the lone contrabass, she’s not allowing that to cause herself to slack. As for Hazuki, I kinda liked that though she looks like genki girl version 9999, she doesn’t have unrealistic idealism that the archetype usually have. So even though, Hazuki may fail the audition, you get the sense that she won’t be moping about it.
Lastly, for Kumiko, we see that she have some past issue with the audition part as shown by the PTSD style flashback You can sort of get some idea what its about as well since it occurred after Hazuki remarked to Kumiko that the, “three euphonium are sure to make it”. And yeah, later episodes will confirm that some asshole senpai decided to blame Kumiko because she didn’t cut the audition. And I think Kumiko has certain hang-ups about that still.
Remember the scene wherein Asuka managed to play the euphonium part to near perfection? And the past scene wherein Asuka managed to draw good sounds just from the mouthpiece?
Hazuki being Hazuki of course asked Kumiko if she can do it, too.
Notice that Kumiko’s answer is usually self-effacing. “Yeah. Not as well as she [Asuka] did, though.” Or even in the past episode when Kumiko gave a non-answer when its confirmed that Natsuki can’t do it.
Due to said incident, Kumiko probably learned that being compared favorably to her senpai is a bad idea. With Asuka that is easy; It is beaten to us in the head that Asuka is a superb euphonium player and perhaps even the best player in the band.
So yeah, in some ways, Kumiko is a lot more guarded against Natsuki than Asuka who she seemed to be actually comfortable with.
As for Natsuki senpai, hearing Kumiko play seems to have lit a fire on her. Notice that this is the first time that Natsuki volunteered to practice more.
Natsuki maybe easy going but she does have some pride as a senpai. As I’ve said before, Asuka is so far out of reach and so expected to be superior that Natsuki might have never felt any need to catch up. On the other hand, Kumiko is a kouhai and while more experienced than Natsuki, is also more relatable and “catchable”.
And of course, no episode is complete without some Kumiko-Reina interaction. I wasn’t kidding when I said that relationship is basically plot B. Their relationship is progressing quietly in the background for every.freaking. episode.
This time, we can see that Kumiko is getting comfortable enough to
flirt joke around with Reina. There is still some evidence of Kumiko’s crush there – her voice is just a tad too tense. On the other hand, Kumiko isn’t acting like a clueless dork that can’t even say anything like in the early episodes.
The dialogue as always between the two is interesting.
Reina: A soft tuba case?
Kumiko: Yeah. Hazuki-chan wants to practice more at home. I thought maybe you’d know, since you’re in charge of managing instruments…
…. Heh. This is interesting.
As I’ve noted earlier, Reina is very involved in the band. She has the ensemble note duty in the SunFes and now we learn that Reina is perhaps the person in charge of the instruments.
Also, I wonder if I’m reading too much into this. But, you know how Shuuichi use Reina as topic to bait Kumiko in having conversations with him? Now, I wonder if the shoe is on the other foot with Kumiko doing the same tactic. Using the pretense of getting a soft tuba case to talk to Reina. lol
Reina: Hang on, I’ll check.
Reina: There’s just one.
Reina: I’ll write it down, so she can take it home.
Kumiko: (trying to draw Reina into a conversation) Individual practice?
Reina: Yeah, trumpet. We have solos too.
Kumiko: (Surprised) You’re going to play a solo?
Reina: I don’t know, but Taki-sensei said he’d decide in the audition, right?
Kumiko: Oh, yeah.
This one is kinda a bit self-explanatory. Kumiko is trying to draw Reina into small talk like on episode 5. This time though, Reina is allowing herself to be drawn and not saying monosyllabic “yeah” answers.
We find out that Reina is practicing the solo as well. Kumiko is, of course, surprised. Reina, no matter how talented, is an underclassman. A first year even. Its kinda expected until recently that they won’t be getting a solo. Some might find it arrogant for Reina to even try.
And then, it get interesting.
<Kaori is then heard playing>
Kumiko: She’s good.
Reina: Among our sempais, yeah. She can play the high notes clearly, too.
<Kumiko turns to Reina a little bit shocked by the comment>
Reina <continuing. finished recording. > : She can take it home now.
Kumiko<steems to settle onto something> : That seems to be something you’d say.
<flashback to the street scene wherein Reina said something similar>
Reina: <small blush visible> Payback?
Kumiko: <smiles good-naturedly> Maybe.
Kumiko: Thanks for the case. < coyly runs away>
Reina: <FULL ON BLUSH TO THE EARS WITH SHINING EYES>
Now, this is interesting. In the case of Kumiko, this is the first time that she mirrors Reina’s action to great effect. And it has great effect! Reina ended the encounter blushing so much that it reached her ears.
The question is why?
It seems like such an innocuous comment at first glance and Reina is the stoic in normal situations.
First, let’s look at the statement which Kumiko reacted to, “Among our sempais yeah. She can play the high notes clearly, too.”
This, by the way, is a comment to Kumiko’s observation about Kaori being good.
Reina’s comment can be quite condescending. With the way, Reina phrased it, “among our sempai”, Kaori is only good when compared among the upperclassman. We can further infer that Reina doesn’t think very highly of her upperclassman and there is also the subtle suggestion that “I’m better” somewhere in there.
And even if that translation is somehow phrased wrong. Reina is still going after the solo spot against skilled competition. And with most of the band or at the very least those she have contact with like the other trumpeter quietly disapproving in the background.
Kumiko’s comment is probably the first positive thing she has heard regarding her tackling the solo. And Kumiko also managed to do it using Reina’s own words is only a bonus.
Also considering the past reference and Kumiko’s own gestures, there is the implicit “I like that side of you” to the words.
In any case, with soft case tuba resolved.
Our gang eats a snack at the riverbank while Hazuki is busy playing the tuba and getting frustrated at how bad she is.
“When I was in middle school, I couldn’t play the way I wanted to at the tennis club either. I didn’t want to be half-baked so I practiced a lot. But, I still couldn’t.”
” I couldn’t win at the final competition.”
“So I want to get good at tuba. Until, I’m satisfied with myself.”
You know at the start of the show, I was expecting a very melodramatic backstory for most of the cast but this is surprisingly down to earth and relatable.
I know everyone has at least experienced the same frustration when we pour so much effort at something and we get nothing for it. Whether its music, writing, heck learning a new language.
When we don’t seem to improve even a bit, we easily get discouraged. And then, we quit and feel very disappointed with ourselves. Sometimes we try it again. Sometimes we just quit and sometimes we channel that into a new task like Hazuki-kun, hoping it would give more gains for her effort.
I think this nice background with Hazuki’s personality as well. Like in tennis, Hazuki tried very hard but she’s not that hardheaded (or perhaps easily disappointed?) that she’ll keep bumping her head into a stone wall. Hazuki is also the type of person to bounce back.
Also loved her friend’s reaction.
Midori is very very visibly touched by Hazuki’s backstory and as the show’s resident romanticist declared that “People can change anything. Anything in the world!”. Kumiko, on the other hand, gave a more subdued reaction and just watched them happily clowning around with a contented expression. Kumiko didn’t even move from her position and her only comment is a soft “Let’s get good.”
…. There is a reason why I think Reina’s charge of Kumiko being distant has a lot of merit. lol
On the other hand, being distant and cynical doesn’t mean that Kumiko doesn’t care for her friends.
Because she does.
Its revealed later with Riko’s question on why they are suddenly worried about Hazuki that Kumiko might be the one that instigated the line of thought of getting more motivation from the other players. Because Kumiko is worried that Hazuki might get sick of playing the tuba (like what happened in tennis) if Hazuki didn’t find any motivation.
Kumiko might be distant but she does care. (Kinda a bit opposite of Asuka in some respects)
And speaking of Asuka. She has some interesting lines this episodes.
Asuka <clowning around> : That’s perfect. We made it for the school festival last year. So when Katou-chan gets here, say, “I’m Tubacabra. You were born to blow me.”
Kumiko: Am I being tricked here?
Asuka: Its all for Katou-chan.
Asuka: How dare you talk back?
Kumiko: You’re totally having fun with this.
And this isn’t Tubacabra… its Tuba-kun.
<They then commiserate about the unknown status of the euphonium>
Notice the bolded line. Asuka’s voice changed.
And if Kumiko probably have heard that line from anyone but Asuka, she might be backpedaling. (Or really vice-versa like Asuka saying that to Midori…. can you already see Midori scrambling to obey? Heh. )
But, as I’ve said before Kumiko feels comfortable regarding Asuka-senpai that she barely registers it.
Also, notice how the upperclassman answered why they like the tuba and how much that reveals about them. For Goto, its playing with others is where the tuba shines; as someone that enjoy supporting others I suppose?
Asuka’s solution is to give Hazuki a piece that she can play. Expecting that playing anything is motivational enough. Heh. For Asuka, maybe, that is true.
In the end, Kumiko, Hazuki and Midori play an ensemble together. Hazuki trips and was helped by Shuuichi furthering her crush. And, we get a shot of Aoi and more foreshadowing for the next subplot.
….And oh look, there is a lone star in the sky probably representing Kumiko.
Subtle. Guys. Subtle.
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