Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 11

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All we needed was the slightest look from Reina to know, with relative confidence what was amiss and why: Thanks to Hashimoto, Reina learns that Kumiko knew about Taki’s wife before she did, and she’s angry Kumiko never told her.

Whether Kumiko was busy with Asuka and the other girls, and was going to eventually tell Reina, we’ll never know. But we do know that Kumiko hesitated as long as she did because she didn’t want to hurt Reina.

During Reina’s suitably elaborate procedure for confronting Kumiko – by going to the summit of the mountain that seems to accentuate Reina’s beauty – Reina yells at the top of her lungs, asks Kumiko why, and gets the answer she already knew.

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Reina turns out not to be that mad at Kumiko after all, but at herself: at the weakness she exhibits upon hearing this news; the fact she didn’t know. Her armor has cracked just as the Nationals approach, and while she can say she’s going to “forget about it” until they’re over, it’s likely she’s not 100% sure she can follow through.

Kumiko, for her part, tells her she’s still rooting for her, making sure Reina hears that Taki isn’t married anymore, even if it’s hard both to say and hear. She’s almost making up for not telling her to begin with.

It’s another wonderful scene between the two friends, and a very welcome one after Reina’s presence had dwindled in recent eps. Both the animation and the voice performances soar.

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In a quick flashback, we see a young Reina first lay eyes on Taki and fall for him right then and there. She quickly finds how hard it is to follow through, having an elaborate, warm daydream in which Taki compliments her playing and gives her a piece just for her to play.

She’s ripped from her reverie by the real Taki-sensei calling her playing “weak.” She needs to get it together. But how?

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Reina finds a way. While delivering the practice room key back to Taki at the end of the day with Kumiko, Reina asks him about his wife. Not about where she went to school or who she knew, but what she was like.

Taki opens up to her, and confirms what Reina had suspected, but wasn’t ready to face until now, when her playing is being effected by the doubt. There is not doubt; Taki still loves his wife, and he very likely became their director for his wife’s sake. He wants to go to the Nationals and win Gold for her sake.

And so, we see both Reina and Taki at their most vulnerable and emotional this week. I guess Christmas came early!

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Having gotten all the answers and confirmations she needed for the time being, Reina returns to normal, and starts playing the way she and everyone else have come to expect. Niiyama gives her the location of Taki’s wife’s grave, where takes Kumiko and prays.

That flashback was the beginning of Reina wishing time would move faster for her, so she could catch up to Taki. But now she has another goal to set her sights on, something that she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if she was his age: She’s going to help Taki win Gold.

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 03

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This week both Kumiko and Reina have to have potentially uncomfortable (and in Reina’s case, catastrophic) conversations with people who are by nature hard to approach: Asuka and Taki-sensei, respectively. Reina is open with Kumiko about what she must do, and tacitly seeks support; Kumiko doesn’t tell Reina what she’s up to regarding Asuka and Nozomi.

Also, Reina’s is a simply matter of love. Kumiko feels she has to take an active role in the repair the frayed ends of the band before they get worse. She may have been sparing Reina extra stress, but perhaps she’s also keeping things quiet because she’s still not sure she can succeed.

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After a day of grueling, repetitive practice with short breaks for bathing and eating, Kumiko is already at a physical disadvantage in her long-awaited chat with Asuka (who has far more stamina). But Kumiko remains focused, as she must, to keep their talk on track.

Asuka wants to steer Kumiko away at every turn, but once she sees how committed Kumiko is, she isn’t shy about explaining why she can’t support Nozomi joining the band. In short, because their only oboist, Yoroizuka, wouldn’t be able to play.

It’s plain old logic: you already have some flutes, but only one oboe. So Asuka does what needs to be done for that oboist to be able to perform optimally—and even when Hashimoto says she plays like a robot, she’s still very good.

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Asuka warned Kumiko that possessing this knowledge would only make her miserable: how is she going to keep her promise by telling Nozomi…that? It wouldn’t just be a blow to her as a musician, but also completely upend her perspective on her relationship with Yoroizuka.

Sure enough, Kumiko isn’t in the best of moods, but Reina shows up with sparklers, and suddenly Kumiko has a worthy diversion: taking Reina by her perfectly constructed cheeks and giving her a wordless look after Reina hesitates asking Taki if he’s dating Niiyama.

Proving she’s simply a magnet for personal information and probably has a bright future in talk therapy, after Reina strides off, Hashimoto sits beside Kumiko and lets slip that Taki is a widower; his wife died five years ago and he’s been a “husk” ever since. But he’s happy Taki took the job at Kitauji, and even happier when he asked him to join him.

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When I heard Reina say Taki and Niiyama aren’t dating, I knew she’d sleep soundly that night. Sure enough, she’s blissfully dozing away, but Kumiko is restless, unsure of whether to tell her about Taki’s wife.

Her night wandering leads to her eavesdropping on Yuko and Natsuki, with the later confused about why Nozomi can’t join the band and the former unwilling to let too much slip, partly because she doesn’t want a big mess on her hands.

Yuko saw Kumiko try to hide, and treats her to a juice and a chat of their own. Yuko, like Asuka and now Kumiko, knows the truth about Yoroizuka and Nozomi, but doesn’t want Natsuki involved. Kumiko steers the talk to what Yuko herself thinks of competitions. She doesn’t like them, but if she has to be in one, she wants Gold.

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Kumiko returns to her futon and a now half-awake Reina (nice job with both seiyus modifying their voices to sound tired, discreet, and like they’re lying on their sides, which they are). Reina’s first thought of where Kumiko was is Tsukimoto, who has a hilariously tiny role so far this season, commensurate to the amount of shits Kumiko cares about him.

After honestly asserting that her childhood friend has “nothing to do with it”, Kumiko changes the subject, asking Reina the same thing she asked Yuko, and getting a predictably different and very Reina response: most people complaining about competitions is sour grapes, and all one can really do is to “get good.”

Besides, she likes playing in front of people, and competitions offer her that chance. For the record, she likes ’em. Then she nods back off, no longer troubled about Taki.

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The episode ends quietly and beautifully, not with another frank discussion on how someone feels about competitions, but with a sleep-deprived Kumiko striking out into the dawn with trusty euph in hand, and coming upon a “strange, warm, lonely piece” being played by Asuka in the middle of a grassy field.

Honestly, it sounded Ghibli-esque to me, like something Pazu might play on his trumpet for his doves. It’s a lovely scene, and a reminder to Kumiko that Asuka carries in her a “myriad of emotions” she releases in her music. While that might make her the opposite of Yoroizuka, well…they still need an oboe, and she’s it.

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Re-Kan! – 06

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Amami Hibiki is a lovely young woman, but let’s be honest: she’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes, at an age when she’ll be forgiven for letting her hair down and misbehaving now and again. After Narumi (no slouch in the goody two-shoes dept. herself) wonders out loud (and loudly) why Hibiki can’t ever act like a “normal high school girl”, we’re introduced to a whole new Hibiki—a Kogal Hibiki!

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The sight of Hibiki all Kogal’d out—and Kido Ibuki ditching the good girl voice for one of constant irritation—is already worth the price of admission. But what makes this another quintessentially Re-Kan! episode is that Hibiki’s new look and act is the result of the ghost of a high school girl from ten years ago possessing her.

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The deal is, the Gal-ghost will make Hibiki more like a “normal high schooler”, which isn’t really possible since the high school world has moved on in the last decade, but never mind; and in exchange Hibiki will lend the ghost her body so she can “pass on.”

Until then, Gal-Hibiki’s attempts to act aloof and cool and use outdated lingo provide entertainment to her friends, including the group’s journalist, Uehara Kana, who is always snapping pics and documenting her encounters with ghosts on her blog, following the journalistic tradition of her parents, for which she’s secretly proud.

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Worried about what the Gal-ghost will do in Hibiki’s body, her friends follow her, discovering she’s summoning someone to meet her. When she discovers she’s being followed, she’s annoyed and a little embarrassed, as they observe her actions and explanations increasingly out of step with her ko-gal persona.

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All is revealed when the day of the meeting arrives. The person who meets her is her mom, who coincidentally is one of Hibiki’s shopping buddies, whom she shopped with the day before in Hibiki’s body. The Gal-ghost is angry that her mother hasn’t moved on from her untimely death, or had a new daughter, and is even still making enough dinner for three ten years later.

But the Gal’s host, Hibiki, explains to her that a mother will never forget their child no matter how many years pass, nor will she ever see her departed daughter as worthless. The mom catches up to her and beautiful catharsis ensues. No longer guilty for dying so soon without accomplishing anything in life or giving anything back her her mom (a false charge on her part), she’s able to pass on.

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Before she does, sticks around within Hibiki just long enough to make sure Kana doesn’t make the same mistakes she did. Kana organized a Christmas party for everyone, despite the fact what she wanted most was to hang out with her parents, who are always busy. The Gal-ghost orders her home, and to Kana’s surprise, her folks are there waiting for her.

By serving as the Gal-ghost’s vessel, Hibiki not only got some rad fashion tips and education in early 2000’s jargon, but was able to help Gal forgive herself and pass on, but through Gal, helps her still-living friend re-connect with her parents.

So it’s a good thing for both of them Hibiki isn’t just another normal high school girl!

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Re-Kan! – 05

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After working hard on getting their haunted house ready for the cultural festival, Hibiki’s crew meets her dad Asahi, a widower with white hair from “being through a lot”, but who is grateful Hibiki has such kind friends to depend on. He and Narumi tend to get frightened by the same things, which is to say anything involving Hibiki.

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Of course, Hibiki’s dad knew what he was signing up for the day he met her mom Yuuhi, who was just as beautiful and mysterious as their daughter would turn out to be. It was the ghost of a pigeon that brought them together, warning Yuuhi that a young man was going to get hit by a car trying to recover his pigeon corpse.

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The next day at the festival, Narumi (in Sadako cosplay) is the first to encounter Hibiki’s dad, and they have a nice chat about Hibiki. Specifically, Yuuhi’s ability to not only see ghosts, but see the future.

Yuuhi knew she would die shortly after giving birth to Hibiki, and she knew Hibiki would go through pain and anguish, but she also knew she’d find friends. As scary as it was and is to live with the ladies in his life, Asahi wouldn’t give it up for the world, and is elated that his late wife was right.

Narumi is modest and bashful about praise, as always, but she also feels bad about being so hostile about Hibiki’s sixth sense, now that she knows it was passed down to her and is actually a pretty amazing gift.

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Unfortunately for Harumi, when she’s wearing her Sadako wig all the school ghosts think she’s Hibiki, and put her and Asahi through a haunted gauntlet that results in her hair turning white like Asahi’s; not from fear, but from an incident at the okonomiyaki booth.

Another fine effort from Re-Kan: blending personality-based comedy and slapstick with a good dose of feels.

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Nagi no Asukara – 04

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Hikari refuses Miuna’s request to help break up his sister and her dad; prejudiced surface dwellers refuse the sea dwellers’ food; Hikari gets in a fight when he suspects they vandalized the Ojoshi-sama. He’s sent home, and Manaka follows; they rescue Miuna’s dad Itaru from drowning and take him home, where Hikari learns he’s a widower; Miuna confesses to ruining Ojoshi-sama. While visitng Uroko, Akari goes over how she met Itaru’s family and wanted to fill the void his late wife Miori left behind. Manaka tells Hikari she wants to start protecting him, and convinces him to apologize to the kids he wrongly accused; the next day he and Manaka get on their knees, and are both forgiven. Kaname catches Miuna’s friend Sayu – the real Ojoshi vandal – and makes her apologize to Hikari.

The focus returns to Hikari this week, as he’s called an octopus on not one but two occasions. The landlubber Sayu means it as a derogatory term, but Manaka uses it more thoughtfully: like Octopi, Hikari tends to “spit out ink” at “unfamiliar fish”. Rather than try to settle problems with the landies, he lashes out at them and jumps to conclusions. It’s a pattern of behavior that was likely to further isolate him at school had someone not stepped in to steer him right, and to his surprise, it’s Manaka. She used to hide behind everyone else, but she’s becoming stronger and more assertive week by week, even if she still cries a lot. Hikari can’t help but attribute at least part of that growth to Tsumugu’s influence, as he certainly didn’t do anything to incite it. Hikari is understandably conflicted about this.

Still, hotheaded chural that he can be, he does ultimately arrive at a detente with the surface-dwellers, and even if they’re not BFFs, they at least understand each other a little more. The balance of this episode filled in the blanks of the Itaru/Miuna/Akari picture. Miuna’s bluish eyes were an early sign that her late mother was indeed a sea-dweller, meaning Miuna faced the same kind of bullying as Hikari and the others, only at a younger age. But Sayu, a surface-dweller, eventually befriended her, admiring her ability – no doubt developed by necessity in a harsh social environment – to not let the abuse of her peers get to her. Miuna only cares about the opinions of people who care about her. At the same time, Akari cares about Miuna and loves her father, but can’t so easily fill the void left by her mother.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We thought Sayu and Miuna sounded familiar, because they are: we know Sayu’s seiyu as Madoka from Lagrange, and Miuna’s as Captain Marilka from Mouretsu Pirates.
  • Sayu really did a number on that Ojoshi-sama. Ya went too far, kid.
  • Had Itaru succeeded in using his borrowed diving equipment properly, would it have been fair to call his actions “SCUBA-stalking?”
  • What was that about Chisaki saying she’s “big?” ‘Cause she really isn’t. Either a case of skewed body image on her part, or a disconnect between writers and character designers who can only draw ridiculously pretty characters.