Hibike! Euphonium – 11

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I’m not good. I just love it.

Those are the words Yuko remembered Kaori saying when she first told her senpai how good she was at trumpet. They’re words she tried to put out of her mind in the midst of her crusade to elevate Kaori to the soloist’s chair, but nothing she can do can change the fact that Reina is better than Kaori. Even she can’t deny it anymore.

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On the eve of the second chance she nabbed Kaori—by besmirching Taki-sensei and devaluing Reina—and Kaori’s inevitable defeat, Yuko starts to realize she’s made a mistake. As Natsuki tells her, Kaori is the one who’s going to feel the worst when she loses to Reina a second time. Asuka, always businesslike in matter of music, can’t and won’t humor Kaori.

Kumiko, just as obsessed with Reina as Yuko is with Kaori, happens to be on the right side of objectivity as well. She sees Shuu practicing hard by the water on a part Taki warned him to get right tomorrow, only increasing her desire to get better herself. But notably, she doesn’t approach him, and not just because she doesn’t want to disturb him.

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For all the trouble she’s stirred up, Yuko isn’t quite done this week, as she tries to persuade Reina to take a fall in the audition for Kaori’s sake, reciting to her all the arguments for why Kaori should get the part, and is even willing to throw herself under the bus, telling Reina she can accuse her of bullying her, and she won’t deny it.

Kaori puts up a metered front: none of Yuko’s arguments have anything to do with her, and refuses her begging. Channeling Asuka, another no-nonsense musician, Reina assures Yuko that Taki will choose the trumpeter who plays best, even though she knows Yuko knows that, and is why she’s exploring…other options.

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The day arrives, with the two would-be soloists excused from set-up duty in their rented hall to practice and get in the zone for their auditions. Tension mounts, and their respective cornerwomen pay them visits. Notably, Asuka doesn’t visit Kaori, as she probably finds this whole exercise distasteful. Haruka does wish her luck, and even asks why Kaori is so obsessed with Asuka.

Kaori’s answer is clear: she feels like Asuka can see right through her and knows what she’s thinking, so she wants nothing more than to surprise her. This second audition affords her just that chance, but having heard Reina’s playing, it’s practically certain she’ll come up a bit short.

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That brings us to Reina, sitting alone in the gorgeously lit lobby of the concert hall when Kumiko approaches her. Reina’s had time to think about all of the things Yuko said about Kaori, and all of the things that will happen to her if she destroys her. She asks Kumiko if she’ll be upset if she loses, and Kumiko tells her she would: she is better than Kaori.

When Reina counters that winning would make her a villain, Kumiko promises to be a villain with her. Reina draws so very close to Kumiko, asking if she’ll really stay with her, and Kumiko tells her she can kill her if she doesn’t, stating her resolve as a confession of love, echoing Reina’s own confession up on the mountaintop.

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Reassured with Kumiko beyond doubt, Reina assures her that she never had any intention of losing anyway. But it certainly didn’t hurt to hear the strongest words yet of affection and solidarity from her dear friend. All Kumiko did was speak from the heart, but she said exactly what Reina needed to hear to take the stage with the utmost confidence.

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The tension builds again when the two trumpeters take that stage before the rest of the band, dwarfed by the massive music hall that still isn’t as big as the venue for the competition. Taki sets the rules: Kaori will play, then Reina, and the students will vote with applause.

Kaori really seems to rise to the occasion and plays beautifully, but when it’s Reina’s turn, the difference between them is considerable, even for these relatively untrained ears. Reina is crisper, louder, and seems far more in command of the instrument. Her solo fills the entire hall and resonates. It should be plain to any of the band members assembled that she’s the better soloist. It’s stirring stuff to boot; not even having to rely on weird trippy visuals like Violin Girl.

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Yet when it comes time to applaud, only Yuko and Haruka clap for Kaori, while only Kumiko and Hazuki clap for Reina: a tie. Taki, ostensibly the tiebreaker, calls Kaori’s name, asking if she’ll be the soloist for the competition. After a few moment’s introspection, Kaori herself refuses, saying it should be Reina.

Really, how could she not? As both Kumiko and I have remarked, Kaori is a good person. She’s taken things as far as she can, and knows when she’s been beaten. Even if a hysterical Yuko still can’t quite accept it, she must, as Kaori does. As for Taki-sensei, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he knew this was exactly how the audition would go down.

While no one other than Kumiko and later Hazuki volunteered to clap for Reina, nor did they clap for Kaori after hearing how good Reina is, choosing to abstain. I’m sure both Reina and Taki would have preferred not being accused of being the recipient and doler-outer of favoritism, but in the end merit and talent triumphed over sentiment and pity.

If Kitauji’s going to have a chance at the Nationals, this is how it has to be.

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Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – 12 (Fin)

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I’m not shy about my love for shows that are efficient enough to wrap everything up with an entire episode to spare, but this final DnH reminded me that yes, a show can wait until the last episode ever and still finish things in a satisfying manner without feeling rushed or overstuffed.

lot goes on this week, but it’s well-organized and well-paced. Virtually no time is wasted, and what idle time it does have it uses on nice character beats, which are also curtain calls here in the finale.

We start with Minafes(t), which we learn immediately turned out to be a great success with a huge turnout. Meanwhile, as karmic comeuppance for her attempts to poach Minafes patrons for her little symposium, Aoi’s auditorium is effectively deserted. Waah-waah…

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That idle time I mentioned above makes sense, because once Minafes is off and running, our club members are backstage spectators until their own performances. Kana and Senri spend it trying to cozy up to an unwitting, Kyoutarou before shooed off by Tamamo, who does the same exact thing.

It’s cute and true to all three characters, while also underlining that these three were always the more superficial of Kyou’s suitors, below Nagi and Tsugumi. Tsugumi, meanwhile, remains the only one of the club members who knows Kyou has become a Shepherd and will gradually disappear.

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Bitter over losing to Minafes, Aoi succumbs to pure mustache-twirling criminality, loosening the screws on the light assembly fated to fall upon Tsugumi. But she’s caught red-handed by the crack Shepherd team of Kyoutarou and Nagi, the latter of which makes good use of her strong legs and big breasts to subdue the perp.

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But while occupied with Aoi, the lights fall anyway, just as Tsugumi is below them. With just a moment to work with, Kyoutarou does the only thing he thinks he can to save her: use a book to transport himself, Nagi, Aoi, and the lights away. Tsugumi looks up at the now-empty catwalk, confused, but very alive. Success!

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Aoi ends up…somewhere else, and is so upset, she unleashes a vicious, incriminating tirade about how she just wants Kyou to disappear so she can create her perfect academy…and have President Mochizuki all to herself.

The camera stays close to her for the duration of the rant, but due both the lights above her and the reverb in her voice, I already knew she had been teleported onto the stage of her precious symposium!

What’s so deliciously awesome about this is that it not only punishes Aoi for all her misdeeds, but also ensures she won’t take any further action, since she’s now effectively confessed both to Mochizuki and a fair amount of the student body. The jig is up. Crime doesn’t pay, Aoi.

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With Tsugumi’s future saved and Aoi neutralized, it would seem our two young Shepherds are on a roll. But as they confer with their boss atop the school library, it’s clear they erred. Well, it’s clear they erred when they teleported onto a stage with dozens of people watching! They’re supposed to work in the shadows.

Kyou doesn’t care. He did what he felt he had to do to save Tsugumi, he doesn’t regret it, and he’d do it again. For those reasons, the boss laments that he’s not Shepherd material after all, even if Nagi is. The problem is, his book is already gone, so Shepherd or not, he’ll still disappear from everyone’s memories. Bummer.

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Tsugumi, neither as dumb as she looks or as weak as she says, knows what Kyou did for her and why. And even though she’s sad about losing him, she realizes The Show Must Go On. Compartmentalizing her pain, she takes the stage and delivers a hell of a speech about just how far her Happy Project went, thanks to teamwork, camaraderie, and love.

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She then passes the mic to Senri, who sings a beautiful but melancholy song that could serve as a lament for the loss of Kyou…who as it turns out got back in time to hear the speech and praise her for it.

He tells her his situation, but she assures him she won’t forget him, or let him go away, no matter what happened to his stupid book, and he draws her in for a big ‘ol hug. As it happens, his ex-boss re-makes his book for him, owning up to the fact he was wrong about Kyou being Shepherd material.

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Aoi formally apologizes, having been both chastened and moved by Tsugumi’s speech and under the forgiving Mochizuki’s guidance. The Happy Project gets its club room back (buh-bye, random guys!) and things return to normal. When Kyou comes home one day to find movers at Nagi’s old apartment, he looks a little sad, now that the newly-made Shepherd has moved on…

…But as it happens, Nagi is in his apartment, leaning on his bed watching the ‘tube as always. Turns out she was made Shepherd of Shiomi Academy, so she’s not going anywhere! Then Tsugumi and the rest of the club arrive at the door, and Nagi is eager to ‘make another scene’ to give them the wrong idea, and it’s medetashi medetashi.

But ‘Wait’, you might ask: ‘What about consequences?’ To which I’d respond: ‘lighten up!’ ita pleasant, charming rom-com that was always more about the threat of bad things happening and how to avoid them, not bad things actually happening. Besides, not being a Shepherd is a pretty big blow, and the fact Kyou still has to juggle six girls, and I’d say he still has challenges in store.

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