Hibike Euphonium 10.1 – Natsuki-senpai and Kumiko-kouhai

Team sports  where I categorize concert band is a bit contradictory. They need to promote the dual values of cooperation and competition to be successful. Cooperation because concert band cannot be played with only one instrument. Competition to avoid breeding complacency (which we saw settling in the early episodes)  and to reach new heights.

The thing is  cooperation and competition aren’t always aligned. And nowhere is it perhaps more diametrically opposed as when a team is conducting an audition.

While they could be happily go hand in hand. If for example – those who are senior;Those who have put forth greater time and effort into the band are the ones who would be rewarded. But, that won’t happen everytime.

As Kumiko’s monologue put it:

Given that it’s an audition….

 It is not unusual for a senior to be rejected in favor of a junior.

But, whether that means everyone accepts the results without another complaint is another question.

And really, how everyone handles that particular scenario forms the foundation of this episode.

There is really a lot of things to talk about here. Let’s start with the most positive one – namely Natsuki and Kumiko.


If you’re wondering what is the reason why Kumiko is so cynical and apathetic regarding the Euphonium (when flashbacks she’s such an enthusiastic  little thing back then).

Meet exhibit number 1.

While, I do get where that senior is coming from. As its her last year to play with her friends. She probably thought she “deserve” that spot better than Kumiko does. Its not Kumiko’s fault that she doesn’t get it. And even if Kumiko wasn’t there as my previous post expounds, its not a sure thing that the senior would be chosen.

Still, while undeniably wrong, the senior is understandable.

After all, it is an entirely human reaction to blame someone for your failure. To be jealous when someone advanced while you stagnate. While, most of us would not take it as far as the senior did, I think most   would be at least mildly uncomfortable when someone that you are supposed to be mentoring surpassed you and we were left behind.

Remember when I mentioned in past posts that Kumiko seemed to be more comfortable with Asuka than Natsuki? This is even though, Natsuki has made overtures of friendship toward Kumiko and is probably infinitely  more approachable than Asuka.

Knowing what we know now, I think Kumiko is projecting her bad experience with her senpai on Natsuki.  At the beginning of the episodes, Kumiko really believed that Natsuki is going to lay it on her. Saying that Natsuki’s smile scare her and the vomiting excuses the moment that Natsuki opened the topic about the audition.

No, I think that was a fluke!

You’re better than I am, Natsuki-senpai!

No, I didn’t mean that in a condescending way! 

<Not very much on topic. but man, Kumiko sucks in directly lying. Her high pitched nervous voice betrays her there>

Kumiko probably thinks  that Natsuki’s friendship would be short-lived like what happened in the past. The moment that Kumiko is chosen and Natsuki is not, their easy camaraderie they disappear into thin air. Asuka, in consequence,  is miles ahead of Kumiko and ironically probably considered the “safer” senpai.  (Not to mention my pet theory regarding Kumiko and Asuka’s compatible personalities).

This sequence also sheds  light on why Kumiko is disturbed when she found Natsuki practicing hard and making beautiful music with her Euphonium. Its not just realizing that there is hefty competition. Its realizing that every one (Natsuki included) is putting a lot of effort in this. While that can galvanize the spirit, for someone like Kumiko who has bad experience in the past, its probably a realization that their carefree days will be gone after the audition.

At the end of the day, its more easy to disappointed – to be hurt – if you invest a lot of effort on something.

Which is also why, Reina saying that she’s going to do her best and expecting Kumiko to do her best  as well is the motivation that Kumiko needed at that time. Reina, at this point of time, is someone that Kumiko “admires” (and still admires actually).

Recall Kumiko’s monologue in the past episode, “how seeing Reina trying so hard despite the obstacles moved her.”

Its the same here.

Despite probably the tough times ahead, Kumiko can count on Reina moving ahead despite whatever obstacles on her way. And Reina is extending a metaphorical hand to Kumiko on that journey… Despite what apprehension Kumiko might have, how can she say no?

Still as wonderful and healthy Kumiko and Reina’s relationship is.  I think that this development with Natsuki is also something that Kumiko needed.  While Reina pushes Kumiko despite the obstacles that one can encounter in their path and make Kumiko believe in something.  Natsuki’s surprisingly positive reaction is something that Kumiko also needed to be less pessimistic in general.

After all, seniors doesn’t always let down their kouhai.

 Sometimes it is okay to believe in people.

I think this is the message that Natsuki is showing Kumiko.

[su_spoiler title=”Spoiler for Season 2″]Kumiko of season 2 is someone very different from the one we saw at the beginning of season 1. One thing that struck me at the end is how positive Kumiko is about the participants in the second year feud. Even implicitly rejecting Asuka’s assertion about how selfish Mizore is at the end. [/su_spoiler]

Natsuki is best  senpai!

Additional Notes: 

To think Kumiko’s simple invitation for Natsuki to participate in the  band practice came to this.

Its a bit heartening.

Sleepy-senpai as I dubbed her on episode 2 really has came a long way from her apathetic and lethargic self. Natsuki’s easily winning the best senpai award!

While not having any bad feelings due to the result of the audition is worthy a few points in my books. Natsuki gets a thousand more points for being perceptive enough to know  that its bothering Kumiko and doing something about it It shows a certain guidance that is every senpai/leader is supposed to have for their kouhai. (according to Japan culture as I understand it anyway)

Man, if I could campaign Natsuki to be elected as the club President next year, I freaking would. ^^

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