Hibike! Euphonium – 10

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Not that it wasn’t going to anyway, Hibike! got on my good side early this week by elaborating on that dark flashback Kumiko keeps thinking of. Turns out she beat one of her senpais in auditions, and the senpai chewed her out, saying she’d be in the competition if only Kumiko…didn’t exist.

That’s a harsh thing for someone like Kumiko to hear, and it’s clearly stayed with her, because when Natsuki asks to talk, she’s worried she’s going to get it again.

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It’s not that Kumiko doesn’t believe she deserves her spot, it’s that she can’t help but feel in the way of a senpai. She deals with her objective supriority by recoiling almost apologeticaly before the one she beat. Fortunately, Natsuki is, as Kumiko aptly puts it, “a nice person.”

That is, she doesn’t hold it against Kumiko for winning the seat. On the contrary, she’s only been playing a year and didn’t expect to win, and knew she wouldn’t be able to hide either fact from Taki-sensei. So while she’s her senpai in age, Kumiko is her senpai in Euph experience, by six years!

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While I believe Natsuki when she says she didn’t have high hopes, Kaori is another story entirely. She really wanted the solo part in her final year, and while it’s clear she hasn’t made her peace with the fact she didn’t get it, she’s willing to accept the decision out of respect both for Taki-sensei, Reina, and the system.

But then rumors spread of Taki and Reina knowing each other, introducing suspicions of favoritism. Yuko relays these rumors second-hand to Kaori, and while I know she’s just trying to be a loyal and caring friend, she only made things worse in terms of Kaori getting over things, because things may not be on the straight and narrow.

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What’s disappointing is how indelicately Yuko brings the issue before Taki-sensei, in front of everyone. He doesn’t deny knowing Reina, but insists he showed no favoritism. When Yuko presses, Reina can no longer hold her tongue. Both she and Taki make things worse by refusing to to anything about it.

Reina storms out, followed closely by Kumiko, but rather than find Reina depressed or crying, Reina is simply frikkin’ PISSED OFF, unable to stand Yuko’s presence any longer. She gathers Kumiko in a big warm hug, seeking assurance that she’s right about being the best trumpeter for the soloist part. Kumiko gives it to her, not just because they’re friends, but because she believes it herself.

And because these two are so close and open now, Reina also informs Kumiko that she attended this school because she knew Taki would be directing the band. She probably knew rumors would surface, but they’d come from what amounts to sore losers, and she’d simply barrel through them and press forward. (Does this confirmation of her love for Taki mean Reina and Kumiko don’t have a yuri future? I guess we’ll see.)

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But that’s going to be tricky. As good as Reina is, the controversy has had a profound effect on band cohesion, with people taking sides all over again, and talking about everything behind Taki’s back. The bassists send Kumiko to try to get Asuka’s opinion on the matter, but off the record (and in confidence) Asuka admits she doesn’t care either way; insinuating she’s focused on her own path. Kumiko can’t tell if she’s putting up a facade; neither can we. Asuka remains wonderfully enigmatic.

Less enigmatic but still wonderful is Haruka, who can’t rely on Kaori again (since Kaori is mired in the middle of this) nor the ever-neutral Asuka. She knows that she, the president, needs to get the band back on track. So before Taki arrives, she addresses them, and gets a show of hands for those with problems with the auditions.

She gets a number of hands, but can’t do anything with them as Taki-sensei enters, having just gotten a brief talk with the faculty adviser, who also happened to know his father. She knows that he can’t help but be honest and only care about music when it’s good enough. But in this situation, he has to be more than a greatness detector: he has to regain his band’s trust, even if it means screwing over those who already won.

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To this end, he too breaks the silence about the controversy, and offers a second audition to anyone who wants one, only this time it will be held in the concert hall he rented, in front of the whole band. The first to raise her hand is Kaori, which we know has nothing to do with her thinking she’s better than Reina or believing Taki played favorites. I don’t think she believes either.

This is, as her friend said, about accepting herself, something she won’t be able to do if she doesn’t take this opportunity. Reina’s disappointment is clear and justified, but knowing her, she’ll take this as a fresh challenge on her path to become truly special. Even if she doesn’t care what others think of her, she can’t get to the nationals without the rest of the band.

I don’t think she’ll ever win the love Yuko and others have for Kaori, and it’s possible she’ll beat Kaori so badly they’ll still be against her. But who knows, perhaps this time, out in the open, she can convince them beyond doubt she deserves the solo part. It isn’t something she should have to do, but she has to all the same.

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Author: sesameacrylic

Zane Kalish is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

4 thoughts on “Hibike! Euphonium – 10”

  1. I like how this ep in some ways makes the viewer question if taki perhaps did favor Reina. I mean think about it; this guy has been around Reina’s musical talent so he’s more than sure that Reina was much more deserving having listened to Kaori play before auditions. But that predisposed thinking could have affected his judgment. I personally think taki judged fairly and i assume the show wants us to think that as well, but at the same time, it wants us to have that doubt that maybe somewhere deep down, his subconscious did lean towards Reina, because you know what, I think taki himself feels that way too. To prove to himself as well as the others that things were fair, he’s doing the second audition.

    It’s also important to mention that taki is starting to realize that he understands music very well but he also has to take the bands feelings into consideration as much as i think they actually bullied him into caving. It sort of creates a divided feeling for the viewer: should they be happy that people’s voices can be heard if they feel as if they were treated unfairly; that they make a difference or should they feel like Reina was treated unfairly because she already won; Why does she have to give someone a second chance to usurp her when she already reached am opportunity she had been seeking

    1. That’s what impressed me: there’s no good guys or bad guys here, just flawed human beings. Yuko seemed like she’d be an infuriating pest, but actually grew more sympathetic as the episode progressed.

      She took up the mantle of Kaori’s champion and admirably held her ground in the face of Taki’s ambiguity. It took loyalty and courage to do what she did, not just selfishness.

      I was certain Reina would be the soloist last week, and that was it. I still think she’ll be the soloist. But the institution of “second auditions” is a welcome acknowledgement that Taki is not infallible, and may not even be innocent of subconscious favoritism. The fact we can’t know for certain provides us the opening to root for everyone.

      While we can look back and think all this might have been avoided if Taki had revealed, pre-auditions, that he knew Reina and her dad before she joined the band, he didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, nor the experience of dealing with a large and volatile group of personalities with their own alliances within the band proper.

      The boys and girls in the band aren’t the only ones learning; so is Taki.

    2. The reason we don’t know who is better is because we literally don’t know. Kyoani hasn’t meaningfully shown us the extent of anyone’s abilities.

      Having said that, I am feeling pessimistic about Kaori sempai’s chances. This second audition is better described as a duel. If it were the case that the skills were roughly equal then you would have to judge by musicianship, which can only be judged subjectively. Arguments of subjectivity are not the kind that leads to decisive conclusions. Who really performed better in 1998 at Nagano: Tara Lipinski or Michelle Kwan. Who sang NESSUN DORMA better: Placido or Pavarotti. I have my own views but I don’t think that’s the point here.

      What inspired Taki to hold the duel was a reminder of his father’s belief that music doesn’t lie. Why would Matsumoto sensei remind Taki of that if she didn’t feel the same way he did? Remember, she was the co-judge. If she thought that Kaori was better, she would have had a different sort of conversation with him. Instead, she simply nudged him to let the girls’ skills speak for themselves in a transparent manner. In other words, it is likely she thinks Kousaka’s skills will obviously win out. She too must have judged Kousaka as noticeably superior.

      Matters of subjectivity lead to debate and not to settlement. And if Kousaka turns out to be not obviously superior then this plot will not advance smoothly because Taki’s credibility will have been irreparably damaged with this group.

  2. Other things I thought worked really well:

    – Asuka looks like the shrewdest person in the band right now, but her persistent neutrality has its own costs, which I hope to see more of in future episodes.

    – While Kaori had a loud champion in Yuko, essentially demanding a redo, Kumiko did not stand up and argue for Reina in the same way, yet Reina doesn’t hold this against her at all.

    Why? Beyond the fact Reina knows that’s not Kumiko’s style, nor did she want to get drawn into a time and energy-wasting battle, the fact of the matter is, she can’t become “special” if the band doesn’t win the nationals, and they can’t get to the nationals if it’s tearing itself apart.

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