Hibike! Euphonium – 10 Review
This moment has been hinted at a couple times before but this is the most extensive flashback of this defining moment for Kumiko. So there you go: Another thing to add to the giant pile of character-shit the next two episodes have to resolve somehow!
This time I review:
Hibike! Euphonium 10: Kumiko has a touching conversation with Senpai and the peace of the ensemble gets disturbed by malicious rumors accusing the teacher of unfairly choosing Reina to be the soloist. Reina denies it openly and (naturally) she explains the whole situation only to Kumiko.
Of course Midori would say that… This whole series’ dramatic sensibility is all about never letting things get too tense.
Looking at how much stuff this show is constantly juggling it’s no wonder that its source-material is a novel-series. Only in a novel you would cram this much characterization into a plot. What this gets you is a cast of diverse characters who all have their own problems and issues. The world really comes alive in shows when after establishing the identities of every group-member you can show them interacting in a very dynamic way. Except this series seldom gives you these moments of synergy where the plot moves forward in an almost effortless and natural manner. The plot is unfocused and so you never actually get any structure or momentum in this show.
By never committing to dramatic arcs or actually striving towards something thematically, the series’ storytelling remains very immediate and incidental. This series just doesn’t have enough time to address all the random stuff it introduces. You clearly see the series cherrypicking various things to focus on while leaving other stuff mostly untouched. This leads to weird stuff like the series barely dealing with Reina’s relationship with the teacher. There were some hints here and there about how she felt but the series never dramatized it and so you get to this episode where Reina just admits that she loves the guy to Kumiko. Of course, without this ever getting dramatized it’s hard to see why anyone should care about this. Reina’s way of talking about her love is so undramatic that you can only shrug in response to it. There’s literally nothing at stake here. Reina isn’t burning up with desire to get closer to the guy and the series stance towards her is so neutral and noncommittal that there isn’t any reason to get invested in the question whether she ends up with the guy or not. And at least this one got screentime… Shuichi’s love-troubles are SO off-screen that it’s easy to forget in this episode that apparently Kumiko and Shuichi are still fine with simply not talking to one another.
The romance in this series is really bad from a storytelling-perspective. Romance-plots rely on two things: One, convincing the audience that a couple should be together and two, creating a reason why the couple can’t be together which then has to be overcome. Naturally this is the template for an idealistic representation of romance but as undramatic as this show is often, you see why you usually need such stereotypes to spice things up. You can clearly make the case that Kumiko and Reina should be together but the series offers no reason why they can’t be together. Instead the series just randomly creates these other romantic plots that are all about people not being able to become a couple without ever investing in convincing the audience that they should be together. Hazuki’s relationship with Shuichi is naïve and its innocence may lead to something but the series quickly shoots that thing down before it ever develops a nice chemistry. Shuichi’s feelings for Kumiko don’t lead to anything romantic either. And except strongly hinting or just bluntly admitting it, Reina’s love for the teacher doesn’t lead to anything either. The only relationship where the series actually makes a case for why they should be together is the relationship between Reina and Kumiko – except that relationship doesn’t go anywhere either in literal sense. Mostly because it isn’t a real friendship at all.
Maybe this could be one of the main-themes of this series but there’s always SO much going on in each episode that it’s hard to find some theme that connects everything that happens.
The series started with Kumiko trying to clear the air between her and Reina because of an awkward moment they shared in the past. But how exactly does this become this weirdly romantic thing culminating in that episode-08-scene? They clearly didn’t have that dynamic in the past. It isn’t really clear how or why this dynamic only seemed to appear at the start of the series. And this is why Kumiko and Reina actually do have a romantic plot in contrast to Hazuki’s love for Shuichi, his love for Kumiko or Reina’s love for the teacher. Here you have Reina, a character defined by her strength and willpower, and she takes an interest in Kumiko who actually tries not to stand out too much. A person Kumiko admires is really interested in her and trusts her.
It’s especially romantic when you look at Reina’s characterization and realize just how easily you could turn her into a stereotypical male romantic lead-character. The sort of strength Reina exhibits is the kind of stuff you usually use to define masculinity. Her ambitions and the blunt way with which she pursues those while never showing a moment of doubt in front of everyone (except Kumiko), those are all romantic tropes you generally reserve for male characters. Just take this moment from the episode 08 where Kumiko asks Reina whether her feet hurt and Reina responds “They do. But I don’t mind the pain.” (or something along those lines). To just rush towards some goal without ever thinking about the consequences, to simply get shit done – that’s such a macho-attitude. Also stuff like Reina simply not giving a shit about what others think of her because all that matters is her being the best – that’s also a rather masculine attitude. So the reason why it’s so easy to ship Kumiko and Reina is that you can easily think of how most heterosexual romance-dynamics work and apply them to this relationship.
One of the stereotypes for why a woman falls in love with a man usually is admiration. Normally, the dude has to prove his worth and the woman has to prove she’s worthy of being pursued by the guy. In a good romance-story this doesn’t mean that the woman gets objectified but instead she simply has different objectives than the male counterpart. The dude has to slay the dragon but the woman has to be a great person basically. In a good romance the differences between the two lovers don’t become a matter of inequality but a matter of balance. Like, the man has his kind of strength and the woman has a different kind of strength. Now if you think of it that way, it becomes clear that Kumiko and Reina seem more like lovers than the other romantic entanglements on this show. Reina’s “I want to be special”-speech to Kumiko wasn’t about her challenging an equal to become better than her but rather she confesses this to Kumiko because to her she’s special in a different kind of way. And it’s this difference in what kind of strength the two show that attracts them to each other. It’s insane to even think that this is supposed to be a friendship-plot (which is problematic because the plot-hook certainly makes it seem like one). And of course the series does little to dramatize this obvious romance or even acknowledge how little their dynamic makes sense as a friendship.
The bad thing about the tenth episode’s plot is simply how it reveals its pacing to be unfit for a 1-cours-series. Hazuki and Midori barely appear in this episode and it focuses on different characters instead. It’s great that the series has such good characterization that it can effortlessly create a plot by using different characters who pursue their motivations. But the lack of focus and momentum makes the plot seem like it merely meanders at the end of the day. All the little, immediate stuff is great. Kumiko’s dialogue with that senpai is nice and then later the build-up surrounding the drama that gets created as someone finds out that Reina knew the teacher previous to the auditions is a good plothook. Then you get stuff like everybody turning against the teacher suddenly and you get a confrontation between Reina and the girl who started it all. And the other trumpet-player who wants to challenge Reina again is there too. Then the teacher gets inspired by this other teacher for a solution. There’s SO much going on. And the episode still disregards some plot-stuff from previous episodes or barely addresses other stuff built up by previous episodes. The problem with this approach is that the characters start to turn into storytelling-mechanics. If the series would have a better focus and more time to properly establish every character, an episode like this one would seem natural. But the way this series deals with it makes it seem like artificial storytelling-shenanigans. If the series weren’t so undramatic it actually would use that one girl’s misgivings about Reina getting the solo-part as a sideplot in the previous episode which would then turn her learning about Reina’s connection to the teacher into a cliffhanger. But once again the series just offhandedly introduces drama only to quickly resolve it and immediately set up a new dramatic scenario for the next episode.
It’s hard to see where this series wants to go because every episode feels like it should be going into ten different directions but then has only time to go into two or so. And the sad thing is that what this series pays attention to leads to great scenes. But the series’ complexity which makes most of its scenes so great is too demanding for a 1-cours-show. That and this series’ perplexing aversion to drama that lasts beyond an episode lead to a series that’s less than the sum of its parts.
- Another weird character-bit: Kumiko talking about Asuki having a mask she can’t see behind. There’s NO way this series will be able to resolve this in the next two episodes.
- The series claims that Kumiko and Reina have played in the same ensemble before and kinda knew each other. So why exactly does Kumiko not know that Reina’s father is a FAMOUS trumpet-player…?
- Shuichi apparently starred in his own spin-off-series “The Invisible Man” this week.
- So the whole class makes a fuss about the auditions because of how the teacher may have unfairly judged Reina. But apparently everybody thinks he was only unfair when he judged Reina for some reason. Somehow they convinced themselves to think bad of the teacher… but only to that degree that his unfairness regarding Reina is the exception to the rule. So at the end all these students raise their hand because they have a problem with the audition but when the teacher offers to do the audition again seemingly it’s only that one trumpet-girl who’s eager to take him up on that offer.
- While Taki, the teacher, is copying some documents this other teacher appears telling him about how his father used to say that one can’t lie about liking music. Uhm, I’m pretty sure you can. Especially when you ask a bunch of kids to criticize their friends. Like hell a kid can be objective to the same degree as a teacher.