Having to say goodbye
|It’s a sad happy thing when a beloved show is ending, especially if it’s ending before it gets old.|
Time Marches On
At your service, milady
And two of the facets of high school life are 1) that it’s just a short window in everyone’s life, and 2) that the people you travel through it with aren’t necessarily on the same schedule as you are. The first is a theme that’s been prominent in Hibike! Euphonium throughout, with the focus on grasping the chance in front of them to earn gold at the National competition. But with the end of that storyline and the retirement of the 3rd years from the club, the second aspect is coming much more into focus. We get to see the way that the club selects its officers, with the 2nd years meeting to discuss it, but with nominations done by the 3rd years. Yuuko has been nominated to be the president, but she’s surprised to hear that Natsuki has been nominated by Asuka and the others to be vice-president.
Yuuko with the group she inherits
I think that not only did Asuka and Haruka keep that from Yuuko, but Natsuki kind of relishes the idea of surprising Yuuko with it. But you can also see that she’s a little worried about the reaction, so maybe she waited until the meeting to say so that she didn’t get in a big argument with Yuuko. Gotou’s thoughts that Asuka’s trolling the group are probably close to true, but I think it’s also fairly well known that despite Yuuko and Natsuki’s public spats, they can probably work together about as well as any two. Plus, like I said last week, Natsuki’s got the temperament to be in leadership, now that she’s engaged in the group.
Ownership and Permanence
The half of the group that’s leaving
One of the major themes that this episode really carried for me was the idea that even if that group of fellow travelers is changing every year, there’s a sense of ownership and continuation in the club that continues even after graduation, and it’s bought into by all the members. This is another one of those very Japanese ideas that is expressed through society. The individual’s wants are not as important as the continuation of the ethos of the group. So that’s why there’s always a push to keep a group continuing, to keep the same feel. To fail to do so is to let down those who came before you, and is shameful, even if it’s something that nobody would be interested in doing. Yuuko is feeling that pressure, looking over both the small group of 2nd years deciding the officers and the whole band, essentially gutted of a whole year of members. The band’s makeup was 28 3rd years (including Aoi), 14 2nd years (not including Nozomi), and 22 1st years. That’s why when the band gets together now, there are about half of the people there were, and why the sound is a lot thinner.
Michie-sensei can actually smile
But there’s another perspective raised in the conversation between Taki- and Michie-sensei: They agree that even though you spend so much work building it up, everything goes back to the start line every year. And as Michie-sensei has learned, there’s also a value in that. It’s what has allowed this year’s band to overcome the loss of the whole year last year, and it’s what allows all the members of a current year to feel a sense of ownership over what they have accomplished, without having all of their own effort claimed by those who came before. They did this, and even if some of their positioning was set up by the idea of the group that they’ve joined, it was their efforts who got them the results. And it’s with all of these feelings in mind that those who are not graduating are performing at their farewell party for the seniors at the end of the year. “You did your part, now we’re going to go from here. Thank you for all you have given us and we hope to pass that on to all those that follow us.”
Part of that sense of continuation, even when you’re missing the people who came before
Bringing It to the Personal Level
Kumiko’s smile when she can engage Asuka
Within all these feelings of the whole band, each individual has to sort out their own feelings, and we can’t forget that these are still high school students who are trying to do their own thing at the same time. And when these people who have been a big part of their lives for a significant time are moving on, they definitely get a feel of being left behind. This is also another thing that has certainly been affected by the lack of 2nd years in the club. Generally, the first years are looking up to the 2nd years, who have been the ones giving them attention. But with so few 2nd years, the 3rd years have to be not just the distant revered senpai to the first years, but the hands-on ones. Couple that with Natsuki’s disengagement at the beginning of the story, and the auditions which split Natsuki from Kumiko, and you have a situation where Kumiko’s focus senpai is graduating. Thinking about it, this might be rare even in this group, since most of the other first-years we know are attached more to 2nd years: Hazuki with Natsuki, Midori with Riko. Reina’s a special case, but even then, Yuuko has made the effort to be her senpai. The only other 3rd-1st pairing I know of is the two I brought up last week, Maina and Chieri (who got their own quick scene this episode – see below).
Leaving an empty spot next to her
And it’s really only after Asuka is gone from the band that Kumiko realizes how much she’s missing her. She got a bit of that feeling when Asuka had her troubles in the run up to Nationals (although that was Kumiko thinking more about Asuka’s feelings than her own), but now that she’s not around, it’s something that she’s understanding more and more, and especially with random run-ins with Asuka, like on the bridge with Aoi. Just as Kumiko’s getting into that old feeling of comfort, Asuka leaves, leaving Kumiko to realize what she’s missing. And having others mistake her playing for Asuka’s probably just sends it to her heart even more. There are also the things that just drive the message home, like Asuka just taking off after the graduates band party, and taking her euphonium home with her, leaving that hole on the shelf just like in her feelings. But Kumiko has her chances to get those feelings through to Asuka, like playing “her” solo part as the remaining band performs Crescent Moon Dance one more time. I don’t think that there’s any of that memetic “Notice me, senpai!” desperation, but knowing that Asuka’s eyes are only on her throughout the entire piece had to be nice.
Staring straight ahead, and looking right at Kumiko
Kumiko changes the script
But as Kumiko has been saying since her talk with Mamiko, she doesn’t want to have any regrets, which leads to her clear statement to Asuka about how she feels about her. I’m sure Kumiko was fearing that Asuka had run off again, and that she’d missed her last chance after graduation, where we saw so many others dealing with those feelings of parting. But I also wonder if Asuka had been waiting for Kumiko, waiting on the steps for her to come there to talk to her, and bringing that notebook to give to Kumiko. Asuka’s surprise in Kumiko’s change to the normal routine of their conversation, that yes, this time it’s about love, certainly throws her off, as does Kumiko’s confession that Asuka is someone that she loves, right after Asuka admits that she knew Kumiko didn’t really like her. But even knowing that, was Asuka a bit sad, wiping away a tear at the thought that Kumiko didn’t like her? And to hear that Kumiko really does care for her, cares for her true feelings, and wants to play like her, that probably makes Asuka pretty happy. Is there any way that these two ever run across each other in the future? I doubt it. It’s not like Kumiko’s going to be a stellar student and get into a great university like Asuka has. Sure, Asuka threatened to come back and pester the band into getting gold at Nationals next year, but she probably won’t have time. But it doesn’t matter, because they didn’t say “goodbye”, she said “see you later.”
Kumiko can’t really talk, but gets the message across
Relief and maybe some grief at a dreaded goodbye
I rather wish they’d have used a different translation for “Hibike” in this instance, as “Sound” is just too pedestrian. I like “Resonate” more.
These two have the idea, but it’s really not what Kumiko is thinking about
A couple of other things that I wanted to talk about, that are more about series direction. I like that they didn’t bring in an actual romantic relationship between Shuuichi and Kumiko, just more of the others making more of it than there is. Poor Shuuichi is actually taken aback by Kumiko’s almost accusing him of making more of his gift to her, when it was just Midori and Hazuki being overly supportive. Maybe sometime in the future Kumiko’s feelings for him will grow, but it’s also possible they won’t. And if that happens, then it really shouldn’t matter if Shuuichi has always been interested in her. But this show wasn’t about that, it was about Kumiko’s relationship with her euphonium, and the people who mattered the most in that were Reina, Mamiko, and Asuka. That’s why Kumiko ended up confessing to those three.
Just a little change from the original
I also like, in general, the way they presented the band performance in this episode. Once again, it followed close to the same shots as the previous two performances of the Crescent Moon Dance, with changes for different players, like showing the three tubas in order. There were also flashbacks thrown in, which I honestly felt were a little more than I wanted to see, like the reverse order of the entire SunFest back to the start of the year, although finishing that by showing their successful gold photo at the Kyoto competition was nice. But showing things like Mizore playing her solo line, and then Nozomi conducting, or Kumiko playing Asuka’s part with Asuka looking at her, or the slightly changed perspective of the shot of Reina playing her solo, shifted to include Kumiko, Natsuki, and the graduating seniors in the audience was a nice way to re-present the performance again.
Some More Goodbyes
This is my favorite series. I never got tired of it. I still watch all the episodes of it. I’ve watched every episode a minimum of three times, and the whole first series in order at least 3 times. Maybe because the two cours were split, I never felt that fatigue that I feel about most 2 cour series at around episode 18. Or maybe it’s just that good. There was plenty of story to fill 26 episodes without any filler, and there’s certainly more than that, since they had an OVA featuring Hazuki already, and I’d bet there will be another OVA with the BluRay release of season two. To my mind, everything about this series is superlative, from the underlying story, to the cinematic visuals, to the excellent music (I’ve been stuck on Overture from Orpheus in the Underworld from the first series lately, because that must be so much fun to play, because it’s recorded splendidly, and because I love the way they let the big brass just the littlest bit loose at the end, more than you usually hear).
The series has the right scope, the right characters for that scope, and brings wonderful feelings along with it. And even though I haven’t played in a concert band in over 25 years, it’s still something that’s dear to my heart, that was a huge part of who I was growing up, and seeing the way it was portrayed, even from halfway around the world and a quarter of a century later, made for the remembrance of wonderful memories and feelings. And I hope that there will be another show out there that becomes my favorite show, because I would love to watch something better than this.