Hibike! Euphonium – 08

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Now THAT, ladies and gentleman, is how it’s done. All hail KyoAni. Nagato Who-ki?

You’ll have to forgive all the incoming gushing, as I’m still a little overcome with ALL THE FEELS from this latest, greatest episode of Hibike! Euphonium, which also happens to be the best thing I’ve seen all Spring; maybe all year.

This episode was every bit a carefully, lovingly composed masterpiece with nary a note out of place, starting with not letting Kumiko off the hook. We’re right back at those desks with Hazuki, having dredged up the courage (and you can see her nervousness in the way her feet shift below that desks).

Kumiko has no clue what’s going on, but she’s about to. Surprising candidate for class yenta Sapphire takes Kumiko’s noncommittal attitude as tacit approval for Hazuki to ask Shuu out for the upcoming Agata Festival, a traditional ceremony of pairing-off for her peers.

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But as we’ve seen, Shuu isn’t interested in any other girls. He asks Kumiko out, and she again acts like a deer in the headlights. As she makes the transition from dark winter to more cheery summer uniform, the sky is appropriately as cloudy as her muddle of racing thoughts. He told her to think about it, but she’s having trouble thinking about anything. This state of mind is totally new for her, and it seems equal parts frightening and exhilarating.

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Kumiko didn’t ask to be thrown into a love triangle, which she literally draws out in her notebook just so she can behold it in a space other than the inside of her reeling head. Nor did she want to be put in a position where her chipper friend Hazuki gets hurt. But the aggressive Sapphire literally pushes Hazuki into doing what she wants to do and would probably regret not doing.

In a sign that Shuu simply isn’t on the same wavelength as her, he misjudges Kumiko’s efforts to slink away from him as a signal for him to follow her. Literally cornered, she grabs the arm of the first person to exit the practice room, who as fate would have it, is Reina! Hazuki also comes out, and asks Shuu for a moment; Shuu asks Kumiko if it’s really “okay”, and she tells him it is.

But it isn’t. Of course it isn’t. It’s almost not fair!

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I say almost, because Kumiko’s “consolation” prize is no consolation at all; but the jackpot; she just doesn’t know it yet. She may have grabbed Reina at random, but Reina considers the act a binding contract, and Kumiko’s in no position to argue. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kumiko was looking more forward to going with Reina, who’s telling her they’re going, than Shuu, whom she would’ve had to say “yes” to— something she’s apparently not ready for.

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I liked the episode’s inclusion of the normal couple Riko and Gotou as a sign that not everyone is locked in fraught triangles at school. But I also like how the show doesn’t play favorites for any particular vertex of the triangle we think is in play. Because of that, I was still rooting for the super-cute Hazuki, who eschews a yukata for a miniskirt and short-crop tee.

As for Reina, well…what is there to say? She’s hauntingly gorgeous, so much so that a more slapsticky show would have almost certainly gone inside an SD Kumiko’s head as she gulps comically loudly. Kumiko is also dressed decidedly boyishly compared to Reina’s ethereal snow-white one piece. But on this date, it’s Reina who leads: up a mountain and into another entirely new world for Kumiko; one she never saw coming.

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Like I said, I wanted to root for Hazuki and Shuu, but as cute as she is, the spark just isn’t there. At least Hazuki has the good sense to be quick and efficient about things, so that when Shuu does gently but firmly reject her, it doesn’t feel quite as sudden when she’s suddenly resolving to get him and Kumiko together, despite his claim there’s nothing there. Still, that shot of Hazuki from behind, gazing at the shimmering moonlit water that may as well be her tears, is a powerful image.

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This must be how it feels to lose your life, drawn to a beautiful thing, despite your fears.

As good as Hazuki’s failed confession was, it is quickly overshadowed by Kumiko’s date with Reina, as they trudge up the mountain, periodically switching instruments so they share the load.

Seeing you in that white one-piece, holding my euphonium, seems so wrong.

On this trek, far from all the other festival-goers Reina fearlessly lays her feelings for Kumiko bare.

—Don’t your feet hurt?
—They hurt. But I don’t hate pain.
—What? That’s kind of hot.
—Freak.

It would have been easy for Shuu to accept Hazuki’s confession and go out with her, having been spurned by Kumiko in a golden opportunity passed by. But the true love triangle doesn’t involve Hazuki at all; we now know it’s between Shuu, Kumiko, and Reina.

It’s like you put on a kind, good-girl face, but inside, you’re actually really distant. It makes me want to peel that good-girl skin off of you.

Bandmate Natsuki also remarked that Kumiko “is kind of distant like that”, and it’s true. It’s why we hear Kumiko narrating to us all the time: not just to explain how the concert band works, but she’s observing and reporting on her life, all the while keeping it at arm’s length.

It’s a side she didn’t know anyone noticed—heck, it might be a side she didn’t even know she had. But Reina has seen it. Reina stays away from people who “don’t interest her”, and believes fitting in, and being relieved about being the same as someone else is “stupid.”

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It was pretty ingenious how effortlessly Reina scooped Reina up and put her under her spell. I must say I did not expect a confession of romantic love, nor was there an indication the show would take a yuri turn so soon, but hey, it is Springtime, and by the time they’d finally reached the summit and seen the entire town and festival at their feet, as if they were standing in heaven, I wasn’t ruling out a kiss. Reina’s “not the same as the others” line seems to underline the fact that no guy in her life interests her as much as Kumiko does.

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On the one hand I couldn’t help but think Reina seems awfully happy to have found a kind of kindred spirit in Kumiko, which some might say makes her a hypocrite, only with different taste than most. But on the other, I really like her belief a life without pain or struggle isn’t a life at all. One only needs to see Hazuki’s struggles this week to understand that. She’s all smiles when she meets back up with Sapphire…until she isn’t. But she tried; she put her heart on the line. That matters.

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Kumiko’s life isn’t made any simpler by Reina’s confession—she’s still in a love triangle, just not the one she drew—but that hardly matters right now. On this particular night, she and Reina play the same song they played in middle school—because Reina likes it—and they play beautifully and in perfect harmony. As Sapphire said, all music begins with love, and Reina’s desire to be “special”, even more special than she already is, is also fueled by love.

In her narration, Kumiko admits to being “sucked in” by this “snow maiden”, and feeling like she wouldn’t mind “losing her life” to her. Only Reina isn’t a yuki-onna; she’s a girl who just confessed to her. Kumiko’s lack of a good reaction makes Reina repeat her assertion that Kumiko has a “terrible personality”, but she means it as a compliment; Reina doesn’t want perfect. And reaction or no, Kumiko now knows what it feels like to want or need to go out on a limb; take a risk; lay one’s heart bare, even if it might hurt or not work out. I daresay Kumiko lost her innocence this week. So…what will she do now?

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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

4 thoughts on “Hibike! Euphonium – 08”

  1. Awesome write-up. And awarding two level 10 class episodes in a week is proper. After outstanding episodes from OREGAIRU, DANMACHI, FATE, and now HIBIKE!, this past week of anime viewing has been one of my favorites ever.

    1 I was wrong about her. Hazuki is not just some clown. She’s kind of amazing. She’s fearless around people.

    But will she want to stick around band now? And what will Asuka do to console her Hazuki?

    2 I was wrong on another point. Shuu is out of Kumiko’s mind. Either that or she’s even more unreliable as narrator than I had thought. I am leaning towards the latter view for now. In my defense, Kumiko’s friends think there is something there too. But after this episode, it does seem that we are wrong. Kumiko is actually looking to someone else.

    The surprise is that the central love of the show–whether romantic or not–is indeed between Kumiko and Kousaka as indicated in the ED. This love is more than just some effect from a powerful desire to befriend each other. They are utterly fascinated by each other. I did not expect any of the sexual tension or attraction. There have been hints all along that something was there but only now have the girls allowed themselves to communicate their true feelings. In this episode were 1 innuendos, 2 the dress, 3 the indifference to heals that bite into ankles but impress, 4 the declaration of love, 5 the wish to be killed by the snow maiden, 6 the romantic view from a classic date spot, 7 the wrist grab during the rejection of Shuu, 8 the sidling up during the rejection of Shuu, 9 the willing acceptance to have a wrist grabbed, 10 the finger that runs down to the lip, 11 the eager acceptance to have her face and lip fingered, and 12 Kousaka’s successful seduction of Kumiko. This series of behavior and past hints indicate a latent desire to literally own each other and not just merely to seize each other to bond in friendship.

    3 This episode was better done that the OREGAIRU episode and provides ample proof of how significantly KyoAni outclasses Feel when both have wonderful dramatic materials to work with.

    4 This episode may have included the most beautiful series of bokeh, water, and water lighting effects I have ever seen in anime. It reminds me of Ufotable’s stuff.

    5 I also love the music track they use as they begin their ascent up the hill. It is the one that is most obviously Joe Hisaishi-influenced. It starts with a simple piano theme, develops, then is joined intermittently by strings in Ravel’s style. Hisaishi’s style is most magical when it seems to make a sound nostalgia might make were it music. Every time I hear this theme, it makes me feel as if I am either watching Kumiko’s memory in the future. Or SEN TO CHIHIRO.

    6 I agree that this was the best anime episode recently produced. Finally Kousaka and Kumiko have their bonding moment and it went way better than I was expecting. As gorgeous as the music and animation were, the writing was inspired in comparison. The writing here may have been the best piece of dialogue KyoAni has ever been handed and for me it even topped OREGAIRU’s awesome latest–something I was not expecting.

    Up to now, Kousaka has been presented as someone who can be more ethereal than any girl in YURI KUMA. But we find in our first real glimpse into Kousaka’s inner life that it is as wonderful. It is eccentric, playful, lonely, determined, and proud. The way KyoAni handles Kousaka is compelling stuff. In just a few brief moments with Kumiko strung out over 8 episodes, Kousaka became my favorite character of the season, surprisingly bumping down Hikigaya, Yukino, Archer, and Rin.

  2. The most interesting facet to the Kumiko-Kousaka relationship for me is that it is one of seducer-seduced. I was trying to remember the last anime I saw depicting such a relationship in as compelling a way. And I can’t recall off the top of my head.

    AKATSUKI NO YONA doesn’t quite count because the two cours only show the beginning of Hak’s increasing inability to restrain himself from his reluctant seduction of the unexpecting but likely winnable princess. Hopefully a second pair or third pair of cours will show why Hak is one of manga’s best romantic heroes in the making.

    Anime provides many seducers and many seduced but usually not outside of comedy, not in an unconditionally positive way, or not in the almost straight-up mutually willing pairing as in HIBIKE! When it comes to anime amorous seduction, you usually get inadvertent seduction, where the seducer is unaware, or understandably strong resistance from the target even if willing. So Kumiko and Kousaka seem to be an uncommon pair.

  3. Reblogged this on In air and commented:
    This post. It’s unanimous! This week has been a great week so far and Hibike! is also doing really well animation wise. I love kumiko and reina’s banter/exchanges (my shameless highlight lol)

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