Hibike! Euphonium – 04

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Things couldn’t get much lower than they got last week, with the band unable to play together and various factions disputing whether to continue complaining to Taki or give in to his very new way of doing things.

Perhaps demonstrating her future as a diplomat, Haruka manages to work a weeklong ceasefire, during which time they’ll practice and attempt to get to a point where Taki will at least call them an ensemble, and only complain if he still doesn’t allow them to go to their precious SunFes.

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While all the negotiating takes place, Reina pretty much floats above it all, blasting her trumpet for all the school to hear. As narrator Kumiko puts it, this is Reina’s way of expressing her apathy for all this political bullshit…and I’m with Reina! They’re a band, for crying out loud; not a social club. If they want to go to SunFes, they need to be good enough to go, and the only way to do that is to knock off all the nonsense and get playin’.

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The accord thus reached, the more whiny of the band members are subjected to more of Taki-sensei’s abrasive tutelage; having them run laps before playing to build up their hearts and lungs; giving them semi-meditative breathing exercises, and singing solfège prior to creating overtones in group practice. In spite of their resentment for the man dishing out all this work, the band steadily gets better.

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Did I mention how much I love the relationship between Kumiko and Shuichi? She’s surly with him on the surface as usual—especially when he gets a dig in about her being cynical…which is true, by the way!—yet she still goes with him and hears him out about Reina getting into trouble with the seniors.

They do this in a very romantic spot, like that bench in the first ep, and even if the content of their conversation will never be accused of being lovey-dovey, the simple fact they can interact so casually and comfortably speaks volumes. There’s something there, but unlike other things this week, it’s left unsaid; whether it will remain unsaid all season remains to be seen.

Then they get in trouble when Shuichi blames Taki for not defending Reina—just when Reina is passing by on a bike on her way home. This is a bit of a coincidence, but I’ll allow it, because Kumiko realizes she made the same blunder she did back in that flashback that started her “rift” with Reina. She knows she can blame Shuichi for stating the behind-the-back talking, but she can’t deny that she agrees with his doubts about Taki.

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Kumiko’s fresh error vexes her during her parent-teacher conference (where we learn she followed her older sister into concert band, but her sister eventually quit), and when Reina asks Kumiko to join her in a dark and secluded corner of the schoolyard, she’s afraid of vicious retribution for that error.

Thankfully, Reina isn’t that kind of person. She apologizes, in her curt way, for saying too much. But that simple honesty broke the ice, allowing Kumiko to come out and say a lot of things to Reina she could never get around to saying until that moment: she’s sorry; she won’t say things about people behind their back; she’ll practice hard; she was inspired to work harder and aim higher by Reina’s Dvorak.

Kumiko saw the opportunity to say these things, and while she fears Reina will think she’s creepy now, she still feels good about saying them. For her part, Reina seemed moved by Kumiko’s sudden torrent of spoken feelings. Two episodes ago she made initial contact; now a dialogue is open, and they’re on their way to something resembling friendship.

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Kumiko decides not to keep quiet again in practice, encouraging a sleeping bandmate to join them in playing together, and surprised when she agrees. The rest of the band is able to channel the energy from their mutual dissatisfaction with Taki-sensei into becoming a better band, which may have been Taki’s intention all along.

When their week is up, the ensemble doesn’t sound perfect, but it does sound like an ensemble. They’re playing together. They can hear each other, and they’re playing like they have something to prove. The school hears them too, and are impressed. So SunFes is on, complete with a grueling, no-holds-barred practice schedule. I know it won’t be smooth sailing from here on in, but the progress both Kumiko and the band showed this week was very heartening. And hey, no one’s dying of an unspecified illness!

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 04

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Remember kids, if you don’t smile properly, your mother will pick your perfect little brother who can and run off, leaving you with your dad!

This episode wasn’t just about Eruna developing her powers in preparation for the rookie bracket battle, but about her making friends with the drama club rookies and their leader Akama Yuuto, whom she learns is hiding his true nature from her and everyone else. Oooo…

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First, I wanted to just mention the genius of Eruna having a very pleasant dream about unzipping Seisa’s dress in her bedchamber, but it’s really only the zipper of her sleeping bag in the hallway. Seisa’s maid doesn’t like Eruna, but if Seisa really didn’t want Eruna there, she wouldn’t be there, so I don’t buy for an instant that Eruna doesn’t interest her…nor are we supposed to buy it.

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The “After-School Six” are a colorful bunch that Eruna fits right in with, even if her nickname and persona isn’t an animal (though gorilla is tossed out there). As I said it’s not surprising she’d find and make friends fast at this school; she just has a naturally magnetic personality, even if she can be a tad aggressive with the girls, with three guys in the club there’s a nice balance.

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That personality is something that just comes naturally to Eruna, but it isn’t the same for the seemingly chipper Yuuto, who has to work hard to smile, and feels he must maintain an outer shell of amicability, lest everyone abandon him, as his mother and little brother did. That trauma is brought to the surface because Asuhi reminds him so much of that brother.

This show found a nice dynamic in its character pairings last week with Kyouma cheering up Eruna after her loss to Seisa. This time it’s Seisa, who no doubt shares some of Yuuto’s social awkwardness, who suggests, based on her own experience, to simply forget the things that make him suffer ever happened.

I was even reminded of the iconic Don Draper line: “It will shock you how much it never happened.”

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Without quite knowing what to do, Eruna still waits for an opportunity to be alone with Yuuto. Maybe her plan was really to let him say his piece, since Eruna knew something was amiss, and he knew she knew. He does start, asking why she didn’t simply leave him when she figured out he was “acting”, and Eruna’s response is wonderful: just because she realized that doesn’t mean they’re not friends.

Eruna is fine being friends with whatever Yuuto Yuuto is comfortable presenting to the world, because there’s more to being friends than exchanging smiles and laughs, but helping and supporting each other. When Eruna was down, Yuuto took her into the drama club. Now she’s making clear she’ll stand with him whatever his problems.

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Eruna’s first matchup with Katai Meika in the bracket is also inspired, because it gets back to Eruna’s equal-opportunity policy when it comes to friends. Katai is inspired by Eruna, but also wants to exact revenge for her senpai Himi. And perhaps because this time she’s battling someone more on her level (and both are having a ton of fun dueling), Eruna is able to activate her Toy Gun when she needs it the most. Katai is graceful and gracious in defeat, and will be rooting for Eruna to win it all. So will I!

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