Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

Euphonium S2 - head down

One’s affected more than the others

winter15-highw Hibike! Euphonium might mostly focus on one thing in an episode, but just doesn’t do only one thing.

First The Other Thing

Euphonium S2 - Reina flutters

Someone’s heart is fluttering

Most of the episode was about Asuka, but before we get to that, I just wanna touch really quickly on the significant bit for Reina this episode. Kumiko has known for quite a long time at this point, approximately 2 months, about Taki-sensei’s being married, and his wife passing away. But she hasn’t told Reina. And it hasn’t even been something that she’s wanted to do, without the chance. It’s been something that she just wants to keep a lid on. But as Reina and Kumiko encounter a napping Taki-sensei in the staff room, you can tell Reina is having some major crush butterflies. Especially as he takes the key from her hands, perhaps the first time he’s actually touched her. Saved from actually having to talk to him by the attention going to Kumiko helping Natsuki, that might be the kind of thing that convinces Reina that she needs to be more forward with Taki-sensei, but I think that’ll wait until after the Nationals.

And Now, The Main Event

Euphonium S2 - Natsuki's not so confident

Natsuki’s got total confidence in you, so much that she can’t even look at you

Apart from that very brief bit, the subject of the show was Kumiko’s visit with Asuka. And it’s not a secret. Everyone knows that she’s going to visit, and despite what I speculated last week, it’s probably not the first time someone’s visited. We have a lot of activity from Kaori, who is finally being shown in that “Madonna of the Concert Band” role that was alluded to in the first series. She knows Asuka’s mom’s favorite snack, and she is spearheading the “Operation Bring Back Asuka-senpai” (showing naming sense reminiscent of Miho Nishizumi) effort. Even to the point of bringing said snack, steamed chestnut buns from near the station, and hurrying to meet Kumiko and Asuka as they walk home. But it’s not just Kaori that’s interested in bringing Asuka back. It’s something everyone wants, and everyone’s putting pressure on Kumiko to do something about it. And it’s gone past what we saw back in the first season’s episode 10, where Natsuki and the others give voice to the idea that Asuka treats Kumiko differently from the others. The people involved have noticed that Kumiko is around when things happen, and is always good at getting through things.

Euphonium S2 - Reina

But Reina loves Kumiko’s efforts

The most in-depth exploration of that is with Reina, who’s been helped by Kumiko not just to stay strong through the solo part, but I think that Reina might feel that Kumiko has been her real touchstone to the rest of the concert band. Someone who seems to listen and say what’s expected… except when she doesn’t. Someone who seems to see through people and problems. I think it’s interesting having the others cast Kumiko in this kind of ‘fixer’ role, because as we’ve heard from Kumiko’s thoughts, she’s frequently just as confused or unsure about things as others. But one thing that Kumiko always seems to do, as Reina says, is have the right words to say. I personally think that she’s got this total knack for knowing when to bend and when to stiffen, when to come out what the innocent “What’s that supposed to mean?” (“nani sore…”) and when hit someone with what she’s really thinking.

Giving Permission

Euphonium S2 - Puts up with it, but doesn't like it

Asuka just doesn’t care for it

I don’t know that there was really anything particularly earth-shaking that was revealed with Kumiko’s visit. Instead, it was more of us just finding the details out, along with Kumiko. I found it interesting the way Asuka acts with Kaori’s overly-mothering trying-to-be-nice, as if she’s putting up with it because she knows Kaori’s a nice person, but really doesn’t like it, as Kumiko notices the look on her face as Kaori ties her shoes. Then there’s more of the Asuka-Kumiko interaction we’ve gotten used to, as Asuka helps Kumiko out with her math. And then we get to the real thing, when Asuka admits that the reason she invited her over to study was to talk to her.

Euphonium S2 - That's not important right now

That’s not important right now!

Learning the details behind Asuka’s reason for playing euphonium – that her father is a famous euphonist, but is not part of her life after divorcing her mother 15 years ago – filled in the picture, but the really interesting thing happens when Asuka talks about the role her mother has played in her life, and says the standard “Oh, I owe so much to my mother, she’s raised me. I don’t hate her at all.” Here’s where the “real” Kumiko takes over, rejecting this transparent attempt at fake filial piety, and asking Asuka straight: “You say you don’t hate her, but you really do hate her, don’t you?” To me, it feels like that’s the whole pivot of the episode. That’s where it goes from Asuka explaining her situation to Asuka getting the support that maybe she was hoping she could get from Kumiko. Asuka never denies it, she just talks about how it’s not going to change. But more than that, it feels like Kumiko’s question gives Asuka permission to say what she’s really thinking, for maybe the first time in the show. And it’s interesting to me that Asuka felt she had to bring Kumiko to her house for this kind of talk. Maybe it’s because she is more comfortable there, but I also think that it’s because Asuka didn’t want to risk turning “Asuka, the vice president band booster” off at school.

Euphonium S2 - Kumiko stands up for what she loves

Kumiko goes for it. 

The final kicker that is really crushing Asuka’s happiness about it is that she knows that her father is one of the judges at the Nationals. Someone she’s never really met, someone her mother has kept her away from, but who has had a big influence in what she’s chosen to do, and she could finally play for him, only to have her mother throw a big fuss and make her quit the band (I wonder if her mother knows that he will be at the Nationals as well, and that’s one reason she’s so adamant about quitting?). But once again, Kumiko stands up for what she loves. This is the third time we’ve seen her make a stand. The first was for Reina, giving her that little push to do her best at the audition. The second time was for the euphonium and concert band. And this time it’s for Asuka and the way she plays. This isn’t different for Kumiko, she’s right that the person acting differently is Asuka, who’s allowed the facade to drop and actually talk to Kumiko.

Euphonium S2 - genuine smile

And I don’t do it much, but I wanted to talk about how much I love the way that they drew Asuka here, the little changes that make this feel like the completely different personality, that smile that she’d never shown. Her posture here is just different. Usually she’s got her shoulders back, upright, taller than you, imposing with her head inclined. They never show her teeth even when she’s smiling. And her smile is always a bit arch: mischievous or smug, leading or superior, always for effect. This is a smile for happiness. Cheeks naturally high, chin and shoulders forward, not trying to be in charge. And one more shout out for the line just a few before that, Tomoyo Kurosawa’s “Hai!” when Asuka asks if she really wants to hear her play. It’s just pure “yes!”: higher pitched than normal, no guile, no “of course I do” or “didn’t I already say so?” or anything else.


We don’t know what the impact will be of Kumiko visiting Asuka, but I wonder if to Asuka it felt like finally getting some of the love she’s professed for the Euphonium back. She describes Kumiko as “euphonium-like”, and maybe having someone who feels like the Euphonium itself tell her that she likes the way she plays is the validation she might need. I think the band is going to have Asuka play for the competition, because that’s a good story. And they set that up here, not just with Asuka but also with Natsuki sincerely saying that she doesn’t want to play. I think Natsuki truly does feel like Asuka needs to be there, and that the band needs to do the best that it can, and that her role to play now is to support.

And here, go listen to this for more fun. “hai!” indeed


Proving that you don't have to be young to love anime, I enjoy all genres and styles of shows. If it's not hurting anyone else, you should never be ashamed of what you like!
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5 Responses to “Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09”

  1. HannoX says:

    The best episode this season. We finally got to see behind Asuka’s façade.

    I think Kumiko has given Asuka the push/support she was looking for in order to stand up to her mother and say she will stay in concert band and play for her father at the Nationals. My bet is that her mother does know her father is one of the judges.

    I have to wonder if Asuka’s mother was telling the truth when she claimed to be her sole support. That was a pretty nice looking house they have. Maybe it’s her mother’s family house, but maybe her father provided it and sends money to support his daughter, but her mother refuses to acknowledge it.

    • Highway says:

      My understanding is that Divorce in Japan is a lot more complete and final than in the US. In the US, there’s usually still co-parenting, alimony, child support, etc. In Japan, there’s the divorce settlement and pretty much nothing else. And normally, the non-custodial parent is not only discouraged from contacting the child, but is legally barred from doing so. Hence that big dog ruse that was used in HaruChika. So it’s really unlikely that Asuka’s mother is getting child support from her father. There might be assistance from her family or something, but I dunno that that’s really evidence she was embellishing.

      I think it’s more likely that Asuka’s mother knows about her ex being a judge at the competition. Of course, my thoughts turn to conflict of interest. But perhaps he doesn’t know about her group getting there. It’s likely he could find out, tho.

      • HannoX says:

        I understand the same about divorce in Japan. But part of the settlement could be that nice house they live in. I don’t know what rents or house costs in Japan are like, but I’d imagine in the cities they run on the high side. Not having to pay for where they live would be a big help for Asuka’s mother to make ends meet, which would mean she hasn’t supported Asuka on her own.

  2. HannoX says:


  3. skylion says:

    Here’s where the “real” Kumiko takes over, rejecting this transparent attempt at fake filial piety, and asking Asuka straight: “You say you don’t hate her, but you really do hate her, don’t you?” To me, it feels like that’s the whole pivot of the episode

    Feels like a great microcosm of the band too. Why are they competing, what’s it for, and for who or whom? It feels like they are pointing out a huge personality roadblock here to draw some larger comparison to issues the rest of her bandmates could face. Or something like that…?

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