Hibike! Euphonium S2 – 04 Review

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I guess, this robot’s AI still needs some work.

Hibike! Euphonium S2 04: For a moment, I really feared that Yoroizuka’s problems won’t ever get resolved. Especially since her BFF turned out to be a huge asshole. It’s incredible how much Nozomi thinks doesn’t need to be said. But somehow, it’s still Yoroizuka’s fault for not getting that, of course. How dare she make assumptions about Nozomi’s opinion, right?! When someone isn’t talking to you and suddenly does something drastic and surprising, you go to that person and demand answers!

Oh, and if you’re the person who decided to do something drastic and surprising… Well, you just sit back and have fun! Nothing wrong with that!

Review:

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It’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? What are you supposed to do when you want to quit a club and your friend still looks like she’s having fun…? What a relatable problem (Naturally,LeavingYourFriendBehindAndNotAskingYourFriendIsOkay)!

Where is the line between friendship and intimacy? How do you differentiate your feelings for one person from your feelings for another? What determines who matters in your life? With the ending to the Yoroizuka-story-arc, the series has once again entered the arena of bafflingly oblivious yuri-storytelling.

Yoroizuka is finally being honest about her feelings. And of course, it all happens because Nozomi has finally decided to go talk to her. From a plot-standpoint, this story-arc couldn’t have ended less clumsily. Nozomi wants to talk to Yoroizuka, the latter flees, Kumiko finds her and then Yoroizuka just confesses to everything. Nothing Kumiko has done has led to this moment and she’s adding nothing to this scene. All she does is there to witness Yoroizuka’s emotional outburst. And that outburst could’ve easily happened at the end of the very first double-episode as all the series really needed to resolve the story was for Yoroizuka and Nozomi to talk to one another. That’s why I had called it an idiot-plot: The most obvious solution (them having an honest talk) is what the series frantically tried to avoid for four episodes while Kumiko was running between all the relevant characters to hear about the story. What makes it even more frustrating is that these four episodes had nothing else going on. Everything else this series has dealt with was incidental or just vague build-up for future story-arcs. There was no B-plot to fill the time until the Yoroizuka-thing had been resolved. This series has needed four episodes to get somewhere it could’ve gotten to easily right at the beginning.

What makes it even more frustrating is how the series chooses to resolve the issues between Nozomi and Yoroizuka. It has nothing to do with competitions, it has nothing to do with music, it has nothing to do with professionalism. What Asuka calls “selfishness” at the end of the episode rightly clarifies what this all has been about: A misunderstanding in a very intimate relationship.

Here’s where the whole yuri-angle has to be mentioned again. People often describe stuff like the relationship between Kumiko and Reina as yuribait. “It looks like yuri – but it isn’t really.” is what that means. But in my opinion, there’s no such thing as yuribait. It’s either subtext (that doesn’t get acknowledged) or the potential for an ALTERNATIVE interpretation (i.e., the series offers a satisfying non-yuri-explanation as well). What this series is doing, though, is offering some of the weirdest relationship-dynamics I’ve ever seen. This series’ definition of what friendship between girls looks like isn’t about them finding fun and support in such relationships. No, what this series seems to propose is that true friendships are these monogamous soul-bonding relationships. The same way Kumiko obsessively chased Reina during the first season, Yoroizuka has been chasing Nozomi in her own way the entire time.

The writing does little to define Yoroizuka’s relationship with Nozomi as a mere friendship. As she’s talking to Kumiko, her complaints start with jealousy. For her, Nozomi had been her best friend but to Nozomi she was just one of many friends (Yoroizuka feared she didn’t matter as much to Nozomi as Nozomi mattered to her). And when Nozomi didn’t talk to Yoroizuka about her quitting, she feared even more that Nozomi didn’t care about her. But instead of hating Nozomi for that, she clung to music as the last bit of connection she had with her. That isn’t how stories of broken trust and friendship go. Normally, the hurt party doesn’t continue pining for the lost friend. Also, the hurt party usually is angry over the perceived betrayal instead of fearing rejection (to the point of having severe anxiety-attacks). Once again, the series favors intimacy here over just showing trust.

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I’m sure everyone can remember yelling this at a “friend” during adolescence. What realism!

Where the episode lost me, was Nozomi’s explanation of why she didn’t talk to Yoroizuka. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask you to leave with me.” – wait, that’s it?! And the entire thing gets resolved because Nozomi hasn’t rejected Yoroizuka as the latter had feared. Nobody chastises Nozomi for her actions and she doesn’t seem overly apologetic and sad either. It comes back to the series weird stance on happiness. As long as people enthusiastically and directly tell the truth, everything is fine. With that logic in mind, Nozomi telling Yoroizuka how she had loved her music since middle-school and wants to hear her play is enough to fix the situation. This moment of truth is what ends the misunderstanding and it’s implied that everybody’s ready now to move on.

In a way, it’s the series’ focus on intimacy that gives the series’ drama its emotional beats. Moments like when for example Yoroizuka confesses to Kumiko or when Yuuko confronts Yoroizuka are what this series lives for. A big reason why so much of Hibike Euphonium’s relationships seem so intimate is how every emotional issue is treated like it’s high-stakes-drama for the involved characters. The stake in this first arc is solely the friendship between Yoroizuka and Nozomi but to Yoroizuka it’s all that matters. This kind of single-mindedness is something stories reserve for the most important relationships (which usually are romantic in nature). And you want to establish a hierarchy or at least a variation of relationships that are different in nature (Character A has a friend A and B and a lover A and ex-lover B, for example). This series, though, usually isn’t about multiple characters having to navigate their relationships to each other at the same time. The essential relationship that matters and is portrayed with intimacy and/or drama is between two characters. It’s why nothing in this series ever feels complicated. And it’s why being honest and direct is all the solution the story seems to need every time. It leads to a kind of storytelling that favors one-on-one-scenes and highly emotional outbursts/confessions as a way to resolve the tension.

Hibike Euphonium has a small bag of tricks for its storytelling. Emotional intimacy and exaggerated personal drama seems to be the end-point of everything the series does. It’s striking how every problem keeps the ensemble from being the best musicians who ever lived and how every solution turns the affected characters into complete professionals (with the exception of that one girl in S1 who couldn’t keep up with the practice and therefore decided to leave without any fuss).

Episode-Rating: 5.5/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Yuuko has really bad luck when it comes to her friends. First Kaori, now Yoroizuka: Yuuko always gets so invested in these friendships and then gets nothing in return. Kaori has left and all Yoroizuka cared about was Nozomi. Of course, this is another weird moment where the series supposedly talks about friendship and then you get lines like Yuuko saying “I guess, I lost to Nozomi. I was with Yoroizuka for a year…”. This shouldn’t be a competition! And yet it actually does feel like Yuuko lost to Nozomi. Nothing Yuuko has said or done as a friend had helped Yoroizuka – but one short talk with Nozomi and everything’s fixed!
  • I guess, the next arc is about Asuka. This is gonna be interesting. Asuka is probably the only character in the entire cast that I honestly like. This is a character who shows depth but doesn’t get punished for having a melancholic, cynical side she shows sometimes and her usual, cheerful craziness.

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on November 1, 2016, in Anime, Hibike! Euphonium, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Mizore and Nozomi relationship is actually mean to view as something more than normal friendship, unlike Kumiko and Reina’s. Mizore says that she is obsessed with Nozomi in novel (cut-out in anime). Some novel readers even consider Mizore and Nozomi to be the canon yuri pair.

    On Nozomi and Mizore relationship, the important point is what Mizore said: She’s just one of Nozomi’s many friends.

    In Mizore, the friendless person, viewpoint, Nozomi is like the bright light that came into her life ,so she sees Nozomi as someone special to her. However, for Nozomi, she only see Mizore as one of many firends she has. Beside Mizore, Nozomi probably also invited many of her friends to join the band. When Nozomi decides to quit, she talked with many of her friends from the same middle school to quit with her. When she saw “one of her friends” (Mizore) who was enjoying the band life, she decided to not asked her to qut with her.

    I actually enjoy their story and conclusion to it. Mizore’s feeling is something that I can relate too and I understand why see can’t bring herself to ask Nozomi about it before. Yuuko also get good character development.

    Also, It’s good thing to see that the MC (Kumiko) is not always the one who can fix everything. What Kumiko got in return for her involvement in this drama is the relationship that she buit up with Nozomi, Mizore, Natsuki and Yuuko and getting know Reina and Asuka more on their viewpoint toward the band life.

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    • “Mizore says that she is obsessed with Nozomi in novel (cut-out in anime). Some novel readers even consider Mizore and Nozomi to be the canon yuri pair.”

      And THAT is precisely what distinguishes that relationship from what has otherwise been a very dull story of a broken friendship based on a misunderstanding. Besides that obsession, this story-arc had nothing to offer. Two people had a problem, the story clarified the problem, an honest conversation solved the problem: That’s all that happened here. What changes this story, though, is how intense Mizore’s feelings are in this matter. She not only avoided Nozomi but also became withdrawn and had severe anxiety attacks. That’s serious stuff.

      Therefore it’s strange how quickly Nozomi is forgiven for not noticing what was happening. Even if Mizore had been just one of many friends, her ignorance in that matter has caused emotional suffering! And what kind of bullshit excuse is that anyway “Oh, sorry, I just have way too many other friends to talk to you about my life. Wait… Did you feel left out when I just left the club you were also in without telling you…?”. I would’ve understood it if Nozomi had later tried to talk to Mizore after quitting but the latter already had started avoiding her. But for Nozomi to not understand the problematic nature of her actions and then to get away with it by saying a quick “I’m sorry.” just feels inadequate in light of Nozomi’s feelings.

      “Also, It’s good thing to see that the MC (Kumiko) is not always the one who can fix everything.”

      That’s true. But it also left Kumiko in a position where she had only a marginal role to play in the story-arc while also being the character who we follow the whole time. And that combination has led to a very slow-progressing plot wherein Kumiko mostly has been there to simply listen and watch. I mean, it says a lot that after Mizore had confessed to her, we hear her internal monolog saying something like “I didn’t know what to say to that.” Well, that isn’t something you necessarily want to hear from the protagonist in such an important scene…

      “What Kumiko got in return for her involvement in this drama is the relationship that she buit up with Nozomi, Mizore, Natsuki and Yuuko and getting know Reina and Asuka more on their viewpoint toward the band life.”

      Hmm, certainly. Although my personal view on it is a bit more pessimistic. After all, two of those character she established relationships with only really became relevant in this story-arc. And Kumiko’s relationship with Natsuki and Yuuko wasn’t problematic or anything. That stuff already got resolved during the first season, I would say. Sure, they aren’t friends on the same level as Reina, Sapphire and… that other one (forgot her name…) but there isn’t anything in their relationships that needed to be resolved while they also haven’t grown closer to an extent where they would regularly join Kumiko’s group of friends now.

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  2. God do I find this show to be a chore to watch.

    Hyouka was a high school show about growing up and coming to grips with your talents and place in the world. Euphonium strikes me as being about nothing but petty high school grievances, where the stakes couldn’t possibly be lower. At one point I chalked up my dislike to not having been in a high school band. But I don’t really think that’s it. Euphonium is simply dull and small-minded, and I’m only continuing to watch because I’m a Kyoto Animation completist.

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    • “Euphonium strikes me as being about nothing but petty high school grievances, where the stakes couldn’t possibly be lower.”

      Well, besides the petty little personal grievances from time to time, most of the ensemble are already wholesome professionals when it comes to their music. They practice regularly, are fine with receiving criticism, their focus is on technique and they look at competitions with only a slight hint of nervousness and weariness.

      “Euphonium is simply dull and small-minded”

      How the show is being small-minded strikes me as the weirdest part of its storytelling. I described their story as “Sisyphean” because it’s really this existential cycle of winning competitions just to then enter the next competition. And there’s nothing else to this. Those kids don’t even try to find more meaning in their rigorous practicing and ambition.

      The series constantly wants to show weird Reina is (with her naked selfish ambition and her love for Taki) but besides Asuka, she’s the only character where I can understand why they would try SO hard and be that ambitious. The rest acts like it’s entirely normal for a teenager to be THAT invested in how far you get with your school-ensemble in the competitions.

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  3. The show continues to disappoint me. This second-year problem is like the audition arc in the first season: annoying and there is too much drama for nothing. I mean, the problem should have been solve simply if Nozomi and Mizore talked to each other. But we just have to understand that Mizore was too shy/afraid to ask Nozomi and this one couldn’t tell Mizore that she was leaving the club…

    Even Kumiko’s feelings are overdone. It’s just a problem between friends, why do they have to put so much drama into it as if someone died ? It was just a small misunderstanding after all! I don’t really understand the show. It seems like Kyo Ani wants to emphasize friendship between girls but everything is so exagerrated, and shoujo-ai like (the Mizore-Yuuko scene for example). Even shoujo manga are more realistic when it comes to friendship between girls!
    Don’t really dislike Yuuko as in the first season but she really is a drama queen… Although she doesn’t have luck with her friends…

    Hopefully, the next episodes will be centered on Asuka =)

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    • “It seems like Kyo Ani wants to emphasize friendship between girls but everything is so exaggerated, and shoujo-ai like (the Mizore-Yuuko scene for example). Even shoujo manga are more realistic when it comes to friendship between girls!”

      Absolutely! I’m fine with a series being overly melodramatic or theatrical but the show needs to be aware of that. The way girls interact with each other is so over-the-top and dramatic that it’s no wonder you’d start to think of yuri. And it also further diminishes the relationship between Shuu and Kumiko. I mean, in a down-to-earth series, Kumiko’s disinterest and Shuu’s awkward attraction to might work but here that seems really inconsequential when compared to how girls usually interact. Nothing Shuu has ever done in Kumiko’s presence comes even close to how Reina and Kumiko have interacted in the past.

      But Hibike Euphonium doesn’t show any sign of self-awareness within the series. I’m sure, the creators of the series are aware (which makes the whole thing even worse) but you really gotta ask: How is this show ever gonna seriously talk about love with this kind of obliviousness…?

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  4. completely agree with you about the friendships between girls in this show! kumiko and reina were NEVER intended to be a couple no matter how many “scenes” they’ve had together. if that were the case why didn’t kyoani just adapt a yuri manga or light novel from the start why do they keep doing heterosexual content most of the time? most fans of this series are looking at it with the glass half full.

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