Hibike! Euphonium – 07

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I’ve enjoyed how throughout Hibike! Euphonium’s run it’s found little moments where Shuuichi always seems to gravitate toward Kumiko, who typically acts stiff, even annoyed by her childhood friend’s presence. At the same time, I imagine she’s not just tolerating  it, but legitimately comforted by it.

As we’ll see in the very end of the episode, Kumiko may be taking her bond with Shuuichi, and the easy rapport they have, for granted, even if it’s not intentionally. Their relationship is just one patch of the complex and multi-layered emotional tapestry of Hibike! Euphonium, a tapestry I’ve loved wrapping myself in week to week.

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The band uses their collective souls and breath to create music. But those souls are constantly beset by emotional obstacles—past, present, and future—that undermine their ultimate goal of achieving the level of technical precision and group cohesion necessary to have a shot at the Nationals.

When Kumiko overhears that her longtime friend and neighbor Aoi is thinking of quitting, and Shuuichi confirms it, she won’t believe it. But then, in the middle of practice, Taki can sense her single-handedly “muddying” the rest of the ensemble and calls her out, giving her the perfect chance to announce she is indeed quitting.

She does it abruptly, but her absence from the band is like an open wound from which negative energy festers. The president, Haruka, overtakes Kumiko in running after Haruka, but can’t convince her to come back. Haruka, in turn, has a crisis of confidence that had been brewing long before this most recent setback.

She cries in front of her junior Kumiko, lamenting that none of this would have happened if only Asuka had been president instead of her. It’s Asuka who comes out to the hall with a hanky for her tears. She lays it out to Haruka in very Asuka-esque fashion: If she knew all along really wasn’t cut out to be president she should have refused, as she herself did.

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Haruka takes the next day off, and the wound widens as now two third-years are absent. The show goes on without them, but Taki now notices Kumiko isn’t playing up to snuff. Being troubled does that; and in the sea of raging hormone and emotions that is high school, being troubled is an unavoidable fact of life. But unavoidable and unmanageable aren’t the same thing.

Hibike gets more info from her fellow eupher Natsuki about the civil war that took place within the band right before Kumiko and the first years arrived.  Haruka, Aoi, and the band’s “Madonna” Kaori were combatants and still bear the emotional scars of that war. Natsuki came out of it with a greater sense of commitment to her art, while Asuka remained neutral the whole time, staying above the fray.

Natsuki’s “war stories” invokes a memory for Kumiko from middle school, in which a short-haired girl refuses to accept her. It’s something that haunts her just as her since-resolved estrangement from Reina once did, only she’s not telling anyone about it, despite the fact it haunts her still.

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Meanwhile, Kaori visits Haruka and shakes up her pity party with hot potatoes, milk, and encouragement. She speaks the truth: Asuka may have been “smart” for refusing the presidency, but that doesn’t make Haruka stupid. Well, not just stupid…it took courage, courage that Asuka, for all her perfection, didn’t have, perhaps because logic can do such a good job of legitimizing retreat.

Haruka wasn’t held back by logic. The band was in tatters, but she picked up the remaining pieces, moved forward, and put it back together. If it weren’t for Haruka, there’d be no band for Taki-sensei to conduct. It’s what Kaori believes—and it’s the truth. Aoi’s exit from the band isn’t an indictment on her. Whether Aoi’s genuinely worried she won’t be able to get into a college if she sticks with a band, or she’s just using that as an excuse to retreat, she made her own choice.

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Having obviously picked up on the fact Kumiko is troubled about something she’s not telling anyone about, before alighting from the train Hazuki tells her if she ever wants to talk, she can. Up to this point these two and Midori have largely goofed off and had fun, so it’s nice to see their frienship growing deeper.

But poor Hazuki gets to see firsthand that the universe seems predisposed to putting Shuuichi and Kumiko together again and again, and that Shuuichi doesn’t seem to mind that phenomenon one bit. Yet once he’s aboard and sitting next to Kumiko, she’s immediately scolding him for bringing up Haruka hypothetically quitting.

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Yet in spite of her typical oh my god why do I have to deal with Shuuichi aura, Kumiko is also unmistakably engaged with him. Be it on a bench, on a bus, under a shelter, or on the train, when they’re together it’s like there’s a bubble around them and they are their whole world.

This is reinforced by the fact neither of them notice Reina’s sitting right next to them on the train. Even the camera didn’t notice. Ninja Reina! Not that she cares. Perhaps she sees what I see!

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President Ogasawara returns the next day to applause and sighs of relief, and the band continues their march towards the competition. If there’s one problem I had with this episode, it’s that it was a bit…stingy with the actual presentation of music. But that’s a small problem, and in fact, it’s actually better for the show to be stingy now, as it’s building up anticipation for the official performance, which I’m hoping will be as powerful as their march at SunFes.

Still, it’s telling that the chair where Aoi once sat remains unoccupied; the other saxophonists didn’t form up around the gap. This is a visual symbol that though the bleeding has stopped, the wound is still there. And it may not be the only one the band suffers as things get more grueling.

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Not only that, we finally get Hazuki bringing Shuuichi up to Kumiko; specifically, working up the courage to ask straight up whether they’re going out. Ending the episode with Kumiko’s simple bemused reaction to the sudden query is perfection. Just as she’s starting to put Aoi’s departure behind her and trying to play up to the standard Taki-sensei demands, Hazuki unwitingly tosses a new wrench in the works.

I don’t quite buy that Kumiko’s has never once seen Shuu as a potential love interest, only as a non-romantic childhood friend and occasional nuisance. In fact, I think part of why she typically regards him somewhat coolly is a result of feelings she’s not quite sure what to do with. Her look at the end here may not be puzzlement so much as a wake up call. With Hazuki’s heart now in the game, it’s time for her to take a position. And that’s got to be terrifying.

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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

6 thoughts on “Hibike! Euphonium – 07”

  1. I absolutely agree with you’re assessment regarding Kumiko and shuuichi; there is plenty of subtle things depicting how lost they become in each other’s company when they are together and the fact that they didnt notice Reina was huge. There was also that moment in the rain where the camera focuses on their legs and you see Kumiko’s get closer to his as she becomes engaged in the conversation (tho that may have been because shuuichi mentioned Aoi and that foot tick was a concerned gesture). I think it would be ballsy if in the next ep kumiko just admits to Hazuki that she’s not going out with shuuichi but she does like him and that she tells hazuki that she gives him the cold shoulder because she’s still pissed at what he said to her in middle school

    1. I also like how Shuu brings up how he can’t help but wonder if the “too perfect” Asuka is hiding something, and it’s the same vibe Kumiko gets from her. These two are on the same wavelength in more ways than one, so I hope we see some movement on their relationship.

      Not that I expect it to come fast (this is a 24-ep show), but overly drawn-out will-they-won’t-they shenanigans typically irritate me. That’s why I like Hazuki’s episode-ending question to Kumiko so much—it moves things forward.

      I’d hate to see Hazuki hurt, but she has a crush on a handsome guy she doesn’t know. Kumiko and Shuu are more than that, but they’re still in a chrysalis, so to speak.

  2. Nice recap! This episode really got me–it touched on such familiar issues that I’ve struggled in my own life, even though I’ve never played in a marching band. It’s hard for us to say no, but sometimes it’s necessary if saying no is the right thing for us—i’m so THANKFUL that the show brought this up! Such wisdom! :)

    1. I’m of the mind that Aoi’s back was against the wall and that she made the right decision to quit the band. While the last couple episodes have casted a virtual rain cloud over her, it was more an expression of her struggles with the decsion, not whether it’s right or wrong.

      I also liked how this episode made Haruka wrong for trying to blame herself for every departure as if it were her fault. In reality, it had nothing to do with Haruka’s leadership, which nobody questions anymore.

  3. 1 Asuka is an interesting character. I don’t think we know yet why she refused to lead the band. I am thinking there is method to her madness, though what that may be i do not know. I don’t think courage is much of a factor. If it were, it would make no sense to me. We have yet to see Asuka flustered or anxious. On the contrary, she always knows what to say and how to say it, which is what makes her seem “perfect”–she’s certainly not perfect academically. Everyone knows she is the alpha dog of this entire large group. That is why she was the sole candidate chosen by the others for leadership in the first place. A large group doesn’t nominate a timid person to lead it.

    Everyone acknowledges that she can treat the rest of them any way she wants. That is why she is drum major. It’s very strange for the drum major not to be the leader. It is the position of leadership. It is also a showy role in which, unlike with most in the band, a mistake is visible to all. What all this means is that she is comfortable and experienced in leading a large group. She is not lacking in perceptiveness, courage, or leadership ability. What I’m wondering is whether she intentionally stepped aside because she saw that Haruka needed or actually wanted the opportunity.

    2 The ED strongly indicates that the central relationship in HIBIKE! is between Kumiko-chan and Kousaka-san. The red string in the ED reminds me of the fate that ties in PENGUINDRUM’s EDs. But so far there is hardly any relationship there. What’s really interesting about the positioning of the characters in the ED is that it strongly suggests that Kumiko plays the leader and Kousaka follows in a kind of acquiescent Yamato nadeshiko-form gazing with determination at Kumiko who instead gazes with confidence into the horizon with its possibilities. But what we have so far is completely backwards. Kousaka plays independent and ambitious lone wolf; pushover and somewhat aimless Kumiko observes her from afar intimidated and struck with admiration. And now the cours is half over.

    3 Poor adorable Hazuki! She plays the comic fool in this show. That last scene reminds me of the moment when Harriet Smith admits her feelings for George Knightley to disbelieving Emma Woodhouse. And as in EMMA, there is no way Shuuichi can return those feelings. Hazuki is stupid, gullible, and oblivious. She is the sort of comic character we laugh at in disbelief and astonishment. We are charmed by her despite this because she is extremely cute, sincere, and friendly. But it’s another thing to want to date her.

    4 I totally agree that it’s good to see the story move forward on the Kumiko-Shuuichi relationship before it becomes uninteresting.

    If I am reading the show right, their relationship got stuck in part because of Kumiko’s main characteristic flaws: she is a mostly desultory girl who develops mild fixations around impropriety. The emphasis is on mild; Kumiko has a compulsion to want to forgive and be forgiven, which is why Shuuichi is very fortunate.

    In episode 1 we learn that in the previous school term he publicly humiliated her. Kumiko probably understands why he did so. He was in that phase most boys go through during which they feel extreme embarrassment to be known to have young girls as intimate companions. When she revealed to the wrong people that they stay over at each other’s house, he publicly rebuked and dismissed her. He was wrong to do so. His behavior may be understandable but he owes her an apology.

    And Shuuichi has yet to apologize. Instead he uses his friendly personality, their history together, and her forgiving nature to try to regain her confidence without having to apologize. He certainly knows he hurt her and he lamely tries to pass it off. Kumiko tries to give him the cold shoulder and silent treatment. But so far we have seen how futile this is.for her. She’s just not a strong enough person to do this. So as long as she is willing to tolerate his return without an apology the relationship must experience constant friction.

    Her inability also speaks to the weakness of her character–in essence, she does not have enough self-respect to demand he treat her as she would like to be. This is a shame because even as she wants to grow closer to him he too wants to grow closer to her. She has nothing to lose and a peace of mind to gain by directing him to atone properly. As with Natsuki when Kumiko asked her to join practice and with Kousaka when Kumiko spoke honestly with her, Kumiko is too frightened to push what she wants even when she has nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

    She likely understands this, but this fear is what keeps her aimless. She cannot take the smart initiative and must accept the disappointment of her sister and mother for this weakness. If the ED is telling the truth, then the arc of Kumiko’s story should take us to a place in which Kumiko can tighten her hands in determination with a goal in mind. The Kumiko in the ED seems more like Asuka–someone who would know what to say to forcefully unstick the relationship with Shuuichi.

    5 The most interesting revelation for me so far in the story is Kumiko’s memory of being rejected by another girl. This may likely be the cause of her most neurotic behavior which notably involves her attempts to be accepted by Kousaka.

    I think Kumiko has long been dazzled by Kousaka. I don’t know why else Kumiko would desperately want and struggle to apologize to Kousaka even though an apology is neither appropriate or expected. Kousaka herself never felt wronged by Kumiko. This is because obviously Kumiko has never insulted or harmed Kousaka. Ever.

    So why did she feel the need to apologize? I think what she is really apologizing for is for not measuring up to her idealized image of the dazzling Kousaka. And we see this increasingly as Kousaka and Kumiko open up to each other.

    So then why is she dazzled by Kousaka? Well, Kousaka is beautiful and sexy. She is a high quality young musician. But I think what is most important for Kumiko is that Kousaka has ambitions and may actually achieve them. We see that Kumiko, for all her reluctance to join the band, actively studies music. Most people simply do not open up sheet music and make serious interpretive notations. In some ways she is doing what she actually wants. She is not so much being pushed to do this or that as much as she is allowing things to take her in the general vicinity of where she wants to go. But this is not the same as Asuka’s or Kousaka’s directed behavior.

    Ultimately, if Kumiko is to grow, she needs to move past her desultory phase. And I think she is looking to Kousaka to learn how she might discover how to want for herself.

    1. EDIT 1: Obviously Kumiko is NOT “TOO frightened to push what she wants even when she has nothing to lose and a lot to gain.” I mean she just gets scared when she wants to ask for what she really wants.

      EDIT 2: What we see when “Kousaka and Kumiko open up to each other” is that Kumiko really admires Kousaka and wants to be thought well of by her. Incidentally, the two most dazzling shots in the show for me both involve Kumiko staring at Kousaka: the one in which Kousaka astonishes Kumiko by crying and the one in which Kousaka brushes back her hair with bokeh providing lovely backlight. What both have in common is that they show why Kumiko finds Kousaka compelling.

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