Review-Roundup: Hibike! Euphonium 09, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 21
And the rest is, as they say, history…
This time I review:
Hibike! Euphonium 09: Auditions are happening and Kumiko is about to lose confidence… as her secret lover Reina appears and makes her swear to kick ass or something. Also, Hazuki still gives a shit about Shuichi. Neither Kumiko nor the series actually does so at this point.
F/SN: UBW 21: Archer loses because of all the feels and Gilgamesh blabbers about the end of the world. Because if the end of the world hadn’t been at stake Rin, Shirou and Saber just would’ve gone on a nice holiday instead of course!
Hibike! Euphonium 09 Review:
This is the kind of stuff which I would classify as too on-the-nose. This episode comes very close to suggesting something along those lines of Kumiko “losing her virginity” during the “date” with Reina. That’s where you usually go with these “Something happened and you seem more mature all of a sudden”-comments in fiction.
At this point anything other than an ending where Reina and Kumiko end up together in some form or other will be nonsensical. This series’ pseudo-romantical portrayal of Reina’s and Kumiko’s relationship culminated in last episode’s “date” at the top of a mountain and this episode clearly continues the theme of just further underlining the “deep” relationship between Kumiko and Reina. Actually it got to a point where it seems a little on-the-nose that characters spout cheesy lines like that Kumiko seems more mature now and has changed a little. Within the series’ universe that would make sense but for the audience it’s something akin to it stabbing you in the head and then asking whether you felt that. After all, this series constantly reminds you with each episode just how un-friendship-like and kinda-romantic Kumiko’s and Reina’s relationship is while never actually committing to making that a plotline. Nobody in this series even seems to be aware of this weird dynamic but whenever these two have a chance they act like they’re starring in their own little Romeo and Juliet production.
And this whole business feels doubly exaggerated because the rest of the series definitely doesn’t work like that. I’ve complained in my last review how this series constantly tries to find ways to eschew any responsibility to address dramatic situations and anything aside from Reina and Kumiko (once again) having some special “just you & me”-time, the series simply continues to characterize its drama with a lot of understated reactions and emotions just bubbling beneath the thin veneer, that is everybody’s vulnerable personality on this show.
In many regards this is a great series. The characterizations are good and despite a big cast each character has a distinctive personality. The animation is great in nailing the sentimental atmosphere of this series and making those emotions come to life in what perspective is when shown and how it’s shown. But story-wise it’s a bit difficult to see what the story is supposed to be right now. The music-thingy is more or less just a plot-hook and a metaphor for the hardships of growing up. It isn’t very clear where the series is going with its story. On one hand that’s a part of what makes this series so exciting but on the other hand it does feel like this is one of those series relying on withholding something in order to keep the drama going. And what this series withholds from the audience are confrontations. Nobody in this series butts heads with anyone. Sure, there’s tension but ultimately the series always finds a way to solve any issues without a conflict.
The series feels like a doku-soap in some regards. You have this fixed cast of characters bound to the doubly-limited perspective of this series: One is Kumiko’s perspective and the other is the school-ensemble. The focus of this show is very small. And the series’ bread and butter in terms of plot are little things related to a character doing something which has a ripple-effect which affects the entire cast in some way or other. You can’t get more slice-of-life than this. All the stories are sort-of incidental by nature and what’s driving it forward are the character-dynamics. In a great show you would still find ways to add themes and emotional complexity to the whole thing but it’s here where the show becomes too lighthearted. That’s why the series actually needs a romantic ending between Reina and Kumiko because that’s one of the few things in this show it has constantly devoted time to. As far as this show is concerned that relationship is meaningful and aside from the music-competition-angle, it’s the only thing that the show hasn’t immediately put aside for some new little plot-thingy that will influence an episode and get resolved through some neat script-writing.
Case in point: Shuichi. Normally you would’ve gotten a love-triangle with Hazuki, Kumiko and Shuichi. But here Kumiko does nothing and lets Hazuki confess. She gets rejected but IMMEDIATELY switches gears to wanting to help Shuichi win Kumiko’s heart. Kumiko is seemingly not interested in dating Shuichi AT ALL. And Shuichi has committed to pining for Kumiko. So what does happen…? They stop talking to each other. Just like that. Granted the episode never even covers why Shuichi is okay with this. And that’s where you start to wonder why this show even bothered with that if it devotes this little time to this. Right now, I pity Shuichi who must feel like a feel. He repeatedly tries to get closer to Kumiko but she always rejects him. Then to make things even more awkward she’s okay with one of her friends confessing to him and after he has rejected her, she just stopped talking to him. It doesn’t even make sense for him to actually confess his true feelings at this point! I mean, if anything he should be angry or at least wonder whether Kumiko actually hates him! Considering her cynical attitude I don’t think it’s hard to jump to the latter conclusion as Shuichi. You really need to pity Shuichi! Here’s this girl who openly confesses her love to him and he rejects her because he actually wants to win the heart of this girl who constantly insults him, acts distant and is cynical in general. What I’m saying is: I have no idea why he even likes Kumiko (or at least the Kumiko he sees when she’s with him)!
At this point this series NEEDS to end with Reina and Kumiko hooking up because otherwise their relationship is just ridiculous. That’s especially because the series never lets up reminding you that those two aren’t having a typical gal-friendship-relationship. Meanwhile somehow the whole Shuichi/Hazuki/Kumiko-love-triangle is still in play as if it isn’t completely absurd to imagine Shuichi and Kumiko ending up together at this point. As for the music-stuff… Actually it’s all fairly predictable and like usual the sentimental undertones of the whole thing are understated and get quickly resolved. There’s a lot to like about this show but it certainly has commitment-issues. The only thing this series commits to is creating yuri-esque scenes between Reina and Kumiko as a way to add sexual tension to their encounters. Other than that, you kinda wonder why this show bothers with a lot of that stuff if the series gets this little out of it.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 21 Review:
As good an excuse as any to end a discussion/fight that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
It would be one thing if this series actually had bad pacing. You know, just a simple case of not enough things happening in an episode or too many things happening at once. At least then you can still make yourself believe that with fewer or more episodes the whole thing could’ve turned out better. But the pacing in this series (especially this second half) is bad and it’s just that. It’s bad on a fundamental plot-level.
The fight between Shirou and Archer (finally) ends in this episode and it’s really ridiculous from a story-perspective. It isn’t even what the fight was about (which is already kinda stupid), what takes the cake is that ultimately the fighting was completely irrelevant. Instead the fight was decided by simply sentimentality. Archer lost because Shirou made him feel bad. That’s the kind of hackneyed action-writing one usually tries to make fun of when talking about shounen-series.
It already starts with the series filling this lengthy battle with a ton of talking that isn’t exactly a dialogue between Shirou and Archer. They’re talking AT each other instead of with each other. And ultimately nothing they say matters because what really matters is what they’re feeling, you know. But if their feelings are what really matters, then what the hell have they been talking about for nearly three episodes?! Nothing is the answer to that. Of course, it isn’t literally nothing but you never get the sense of anything meaningful being said. And it just becomes hilarious in this adaptation when Shirou and Archer exchange these blunt short lines that have NO subtext meaning it’s essentially just two dudes shouting at each other without getting anywhere. But this screaming/bitching-contest has one audience-member: Saber
Saber’s role in these three episodes is absolutely ludicrous. There’s this attempt of her rationalizing Shirou’s and Archer’s positions which is completely unnecessary. Since the dialogue between Archer and Shirou is already VERY blunt, Saber barely adds anything to that discussion. I mean, she doesn’t open her mouth anyway and is just silently commenting the whole thing for our benefit. What makes it even more absurd, though, is this attempt to link the moral struggles of Shirou/Archer to Saber’s past and since it’s a rather flimsy comparison the series just tries to make it count in terms of quantity. First Saber just hints at these parallels but her explanations of why she totally gets what’s going on just get longer and longer each time until she’s having a pseudo-flashback. And ALL she’s really saying that at one point she made the choice to draw Excalibur and it led her to a dark place in the end but if she hadn’t done that, maybe she would’ve had a nicer life. It’s like saying that you should use Schrödinger’s Cat as a guideline for evaluating moral quandaries. But all that stuff is there to underline what Shirou and Archer talk about and does little to further characterize Saber.
Shirou naturally wins the battle because Archer is overwhelmed by all the feels Shirou is evoking in him. The weird thing is that this is barely a resolution. After all, Archer is the living proof that Shirou should NOT become a hero but all this series offers as a counterargument is “Hey, remember why we wanted to become a hero in the first place…?”. With that kind of logic Scrooge should’ve just discounted the arguments of the ghost of Christmas Future because hey, there had to have been a reason why he had become such a grumpy person in the first place. Why change? Who cares if you’re destined to have a shitty life? That’s the part this battle never covers: Why is it okay to ignore Archer’s cynicism?
So the battle ends with a sentimental Archer letting Shirou win. And that’s when Gilgamesh suddenly appears and… he turns into a talking-head. The fight between Archer and Shirou had JUST ended and Rin had JUST joined Saber, Shirou and Archer but the series is already dropping this frigging infodump on the audience. And what a infodump it is! Gilgamesh reveals the truth about the Grail – in a series that rarely gave a shit about the whole Grail-War-thing. And the truth is connected to all these Fate/Zero-references, of course. But this series rarely relied on the Grail as a motivation for the characters (most of the time the motivations were more concerned with the immediate situation than making a wish with the help of the Grail) and so the whole “It’s actually just a weapon.”-business falls flat dramatically. Where things start to become laughable, though, is where Gilgamesh’s infodump suddenly ups the stakes for NO reason. All of a sudden, the Grail isn’t just a bad thing, no, it’ll destroy the world if it gets into the wrong hands! This series’ worldbuilding has already been pretty terrible but when you also have bad writing like just dropping this “Oh god, Earth’s fate is at stake now!”-business dropping on the audience shortly before the finale starts.
And just the stupid decision alone to have this infodump happening in the same episode as when this lengthy battle with Archer ends. Where’s the time to relieve the tension when you follow up a (supposedly) emotional end to a lengthy battle with an infodump already detailing the next danger while upping the stakes at the same time? I guess, Shirou has to deal with this Grail-bullshit now because who else is gonna deal with this shit, right? I assume Shirou doesn’t even give a shit about how the Grail turned out to not be a machine that grants wishes. Fate/Zero certainly had found a better story with this franchise’s premise.
Posted on June 3, 2015, in Anime, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Hibike! Euphonium, Reviews and tagged Anime, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Hibike! Euphonium, review, Sound! Euphonium. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.