「なやめるノクターン」 (Nayameru Nokutan)
“Troubled Nocturnes”

I find it hard to believe that even the staunchest Kyoto Animation hater wouldn’t be impressed by this episode.

In saying that, I’m likely to invite those who can claim otherwise, but then again if you’re a KyoAni hater and are still watching Hibike! Euphonium in its second season, I question just what you’re doing here. So chances are those individuals aren’t ever going to watch this episode, but I’d like to imagine they’d be impressed by the natural ebbs and flow of this continuing drama as we jump across the cast from familiar favourites, to previously underdeveloped characters, to new faces introduced this second season; everyone is getting their fair share of screen-time (unless you’re Shuuichi), backing up the confidence of the production that I mentioned in my premiere post. Of course, I’m biased in the fact that I have affection for the Kyoto Animation touch where others find it comparable to the downfall of modern anime. It’s a tricky topic where everyone has already made their mind up, so perhaps I’m thinking too positively of this episode to think it would change stubborn minds.

But this was, in my fair opinion, a damn good episode. The best of this new season, and up there with some of the better ones last season. This didn’t have a singular dramatic moment that’s going to get everyone buzzing, but rather continues unravelling the mystery of last year’s band drama from the perspective of a newcomer first-year who is finding out what really happened bit-by-bit, character-by-character. We’re seeing biases come through, and proof that there’s always more than one side to a story. Nozomi got her chance to explain her perspective last week – that she left the band last year due to unsavoury third years and wanted to actually do well in the competitions, which was impossible in the current state of the band, and now she wants back in to experience what she wanted in the first place. From her point of view, Asuka seemed cold-hearted and unwilling to compromise, but after Kumiko musters up the courage to question her for more information, and the result is surprising to say the least.

I thought this was going to be something more personal to Asuka, as she was acting so guarded in the recent episodes; I was expecting her to flat-out tell Kumiko: “I don’t like Nozomi”, which would be selfish, but believable if given the opportunity to flesh out their relationship more. Up until now, it’s been near impossible to get into Asuka’s head and understand what she really thinks about the band drama or whether she really cares at all. She’s an enigma, and seeing her forcefully keep up that fun-loving senpai mask up until Kumiko demands answers was refreshing. In the end, nobody comes out of this looking like a villain, which I appreciate. Poor Mizore is the cause of all this concern and she isn’t even aware of the effect it’s having on our fellow bandmates. Kumiko uncovering the truth is going to change everything going forward, and Nozomi and Natsuki have no idea that Mizore has this personal trauma. The fact that Asuka is just looking out for her only oboe player both makes sense and shows she has some empathy, but at the same time it doesn’t resolve the problems going on.

Nozomi isn’t going to give up, Kumiko won’t be able to keep quiet about this new information, Reina is going to keep on making advancements on Taki-sensei (who we learned was married and is now widowed), and Mizore is going to have to balance this interpersonal drama with the fact that she needs to find passion in her oboe playing. She’s coming off as an emotionally vulnerable robot, and by the looks of it things are going to erupt before too long. This episode even gave Ribbon-chan, who I liked quite a bit in the first season, some opportunity to reflect and defend her friend in what comes off as admirable despite her familiar outbursts. In comparison, Kumiko’s blunt way of saying “I don’t really like you,” is different from what I’d expect from the potentially hardened Asuka, but it makes her the brilliant character she is, and the best possible lead for this story as we uncover these band secrets along with her, every step of the way.

39 Comments

  1. I find Kumiko and Yuuko similar in the way that both of them like to help people they care about (even though that person didn’t ask for) and both can speak out their mind directly. Yuuko is like the very aggressive version of Kumiko.

    marina2
  2. kyoani has got this whole visual storytelling through animation thing down to a science; i dont even know how that could possibly be contested. For me personally, those who hate on kyo ani without truly understanding their methods dont have strong reasons (backed up sensically) for their hate. It’s a matter of ignorance. Im not saying you cannot dislike their approach because people are definitely allowed to and there’s nothing wrong with that; even i dont agree with everything kyo ani does but at least people should be sensible about their arguments when they sling shade at this studio

    sonicsenryaku
    1. For sure, not everything KyoAni does is good. But when they’ve got it nailed, I find it strange when people refuse to admit the craftsmanship that goes into their work. But that’s a whole other debate…

      Samu
  3. Only from this episode did I notice a certain good pattern when it comes to characterization within Hibike!
    All the major characters here have 2 faces. One is hidden from almost everyone else or at the very least, not a face the characters like to wear most of the time.

    For Kumiko, her dedication to the band and music is her usual face. Her other face is that which makes her just the right MC for this story, which is to question her band and strive for everyone to get a fare chance, even if there is nothing in it for her. Only those she confronted about it (Asuka in this episode) know about it, and they can be counted on one hand.

    For Reina, her dedication to the band and music is her usual face. Almost everything else about her is her other, hidden face, and because she’s only interested in special people like Kumiko, that face is only known to Kumiko and no one else.

    For Mizore, her robotic nature is her usual face, which doubles as a mask. Her yet unknown trauma because of Nozomi is her hidden face, and now we need to know what that’s all about. It could be due to anything related to competitions.

    For Yuko, her love and admiration for Kaori is her usual face. But her hidden face is no different from that of Nozomi’s usual (and perhaps true) face, that of someone who is upset of their loss, wants to win and would accept the best performers in her band, which means she’s maybe contradicting her usual face.

    And for Asuka, her genki yet stern nature as the vice president is her usual face, and unlike Mizore, I doubt that’s a mask, because it could be a result of her hidden face which, if the symphony she played at the end is any indication, is sad yet pushes forward because she wants to. Because I actually re-watched some of the 1st season episodes right after this one and I know that she cares about the band and is passionate about concert band music, I don’t think anything can deny that. Just what could it be I wonder?

    This is such complex characterization. I love it. I really do. It means none of these characters will ever run out of the potential to surprise you.

    I also love how the rather depressing nature of the competitions plays into these faces, both the usual and the hidden ones. Everyone has their own distinct opinion of them, ranging from positive to negative, further adding to their character.

    This show…you just CANNOT go wrong with it. No chance in hell.

    1. The multi-faced nature of the characters is what makes them so realistic. It’s always more interesting when they’re more than meets the eye, and every character is getting their chance to prove that in this season with the equal share of screen time. It’s pretty great stuff.

      Samu
    2. I rewatched season one as well, and I still get the impression that Asuka’s is strangely careless about the band. She cares enough to recruit members, and we see her instruct Kumiko and Hazuki. But she doesn’t care enough to bother with Natsuki. She storms off to play by herself when Sapphire has a bad day. She refuses the position of president. She refuses to take positions on conflicts. She constantly deflects questions. It’s as if she wants the band because it enables her to play, but she doesn’t care how good it is, or perhaps more accurately, she’ll take a good band if it falls into her lap, but it isn’t worth a lot of bother. Note how happy she is in S1E1 as the face of the awful performing band. Note in S1E2 that we never see her vote for a goal for the band. And note in S1E13 that she doesn’t expect the band to advance to regionals, and she seems downcast when it does. Asuka’s relationship with the band is something more complicated than “cares about the band”.

      proper1420
      1. True and true. When I said she cares about the band, perhaps I should’ve said that I meant she cares for it in a selfish sense. It’s all about her, not her band mates. She won’t let anything bad happen to the band’s integrity, but she also wouldn’t bother herself to try to improve it. My interpretation of her reaction in ep13 is that if they do move on, that will only add more trouble on her table. It’s not that she doesn’t wish to win (I think).
        Chances are, anything we assume about why she is the way she is wrong. We can only wait for her reveal to know for sure.

  4. I guess I would be one of those people you’re referring to Samu, in reference to the two opposing camps regarding KyoAni’s contribution to the industry. But to cut a long story short, what changed my mind about them was not just one or two episodes. It’s their recent series, namely Hibike and Free, which are some of the best slice of life I’ve seen and made me try out their past works.

    TL;DR

    During the height of Lucky Star and K-On (and the bajillion moe iyashikei that followed after their template), I was definitely in the camp that hated them with a passion of a thousand burning suns. I tried watching these series but couldn’t get past the first three episodes. It just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t curious trying any series from them after that since I just assumed that most of their works were not targeted to my demographic. Also, it doesn’t help that I’m not really fond of their preferred art style.

    Fast forward a couple of years later, and in 2013, they released Free! I was surprised because while I enjoyed the manservice, what I liked better was the development of the characters and the colorful art and animation. Liking Free! and its sequel made me also try out Hibike S1 when it first aired. Hibike blew me away on how very, very good they are on showing the small, little things that matter and makes the characters so real and grounded. I have no interest in band music but I was completely invested in their drama. Also, one of the things that they subtly but brilliantly pulled off is Kumiko’s character growth in S1. Most of the episodes in S1 didn’t even focus on her. It’s only on the second to last episode that we had a purely Kumiko-focus. Yet they did it and made it all the more real and believable.

    After Hibike ended, I tried out Hyouka. While I like the former better (IMO, Hibike has better plot), Hyouka also showed the same subtlety and well-developed characterization.

    I’ve tried watching their other works like Musaigen, but frankly, it’s not on the same level as the shows I’ve liked from them. Didn’t finish it. They’re still mostly hit-and-mss for me but what I’ve realized is that when I like their works, I find it to be really good, to the point that I can rewatch it many times without getting bored. I’m more willing to give their next series the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically skipping it if the premise doesn’t catch my interest.

    onceagain
    1. Musaigen is their worst work, imo. It’s really not worth watching. Clannad, Hyouka, Free!, Hibike and Amagi Brillant Park are honestly their best works. Tamako Market and Kyoukai no Kanata are good, too (their movie sequels are the best part of these two series).

      Crunchie
      1. Yea kyokai no kanata’s movie takes a dump on the original series. I had to ask myself while watching it if the same staff handling show handled the movie as well. Obviously one of the glaring flaws of the movie (and this is to no fault of the movie itself) is that part of the drama relies on the fact that you care about some of the conflicts that had been brewing in the original series; and as that didnt do a good job of fleshing many of the characters appropriately, it was hard to get into some of the more cathartic moments of the movie. Nevertheless, i could respect the work that went into pulling off those moments. For the first time watching the series, the movie made me feel like i was truly watching four damaged, closed up individuals who want to truly be happy but either dont know how or feel as if circumstances prevent them from doing so. There was a heavy melancholy draped around the movie that made it truly feel like this was a narrative with weight. Now if only the whole series had been that way. The kyokai no kanata movie was to the series what disappearance of haruhi suzumiya was to endless eight (although disappearance is the better movie).

        sonicsenryaku
    2. There’s a definite shift in KyoAni’s style and output which happens after 2009 when K-On! was released. Many people still hold the belief that “old” KyoAni is better, but I’m of the opinion that they’ve only improved with time and like you say, their focus on the smaller details in there recent shows pays off more than their earlier works. Plus, their shows just keep looking better each time, which is impressive in itself.

      Not everything they produce is to that high quality, of course. But I would recommend trying Tamako Market, even though it gets a lot of hate and is considered the worst KyoAni title by some. I couldn’t disagree more; it’s the perfect embodiment of a community that feels sweet and warm but also has its tense moments, and the movie sequel Tamako Love Story, is one of the best anime movies I’ve ever seen. It’s gorgeous and deserved the awards it won.

      Samu
      1. A lot of my favorite shows (Air, Clannad, Kanon, Haruhi, Lucky Star, Nichijou, and Chuunibyou) have been from “old” KyoAni. I still think a lot of their shows are good nowadays, but my favorites are from the earlier days. I even liked Musaigen Phantom World.

        The WP
      2. The big question is are more serious titles like Hibike profitable? Judging from the rankings of streaming sites like KissAnime it certainly does not appear Hibike is popular. To sustain that level of animation quality the studio needs to make a decent profit from it. Could they afford to make another one like that? Are they trying to produce for the Noitamina time slot?

        Season 1 was relatively popular, though not as commercially successful as the earlier KyoAni series — because it didn’t have as much drama. There’s also a good mix of fun episodes thanks to episodes on fun-loving Hazuki and cute Sapphire. This season we are well into the 3rd episode (that’s 2 hours of screen time) and we are still dealing with that one unresolved drama.

        I fear this is going to turn people off the same way the Endless Summer loop in Haruhi Season 2 did. Granted some people like the serious turn of events. But a lot of fans also watch anime primarily for entertainment and being reminded of real world problems is not exactly relaxing for us.

        KyoAni has been living off its past fame for a while now. Relying on people like us who have been fans of the studio since Clannad and FMP to buy their titles. How long can it last? Are they going to be adding new fans with Hibike? Kumiko is ‘real’ alright. As real as a high school girl. But is she charismatic or cute enough to be a fan favorite? I doubt so.

        sv-san
  5. i’m amazed with the characterization and their relationship building, while there is drama but it isn’t over dramatic and still enjoyable. i really like kumiko line “i don’t hate you, i just don’t really like you” it’s so funny and relatable haha

    mr.anderson
  6. Shuuichi was in this episode?? I had no idea lol. Same with Hazuki and Midori, it’s funny how the show has barely given them any screen time this season.

    Diving right in, it’s clear that this episode wasn’t meant to reveal Asuka as a character just yet, but they sure teased the heck out of us with that ending. I’m ready for something to give on that front, but I have a feeling it will take a bit longer. My guess is the next episode will focus on Mizore and her whole Nozomi-sickness lol

    I’m more interested in the Reina Kumiko Taki thing that’s going on right now. I’m not convinced that Reina is going to “make advancements” on Taki, because honestly what would that even look like? He’s her teacher and she’s 15. I’ve never gotten the feeling that she’s trying to rush anything on that front, probably because of their age difference. I’m also curious about how Reina will react to learning about Taki’s wife. If she wants to ultimately be with him, that’ll be a really difficult thing to get past since it’s apparent that he’s haunted by her loss.

    Kumiko’s in an interesting position regarding this because I think it’s pretty clear she doesn’t think Reina and Taki have much of a chance due to the age difference, yet she knows that this is really important to Reina. I think it speaks volumes of their friendship that Kumiko accepts Reina’s “love” for Taki as it is and tries to help her through it, whatever the end result may be. Obviously, this dynamic is even more intriguing if Kumiko has feelings for Reina, which it increasingly feels like she does. (Her disinterest with Shuuichi and fascination with Reina have reached new levels this week). At any rate, Kumiko’s going to have to tell Reina at some point about Taki’s marriage and I’m really looking forward to it.

    innerchihiro
      1. The anime will have a plan as well. Those sorts of things are decided far in advance in the pre-production stages, so it’s not like they’re making up the relationships as they go.

        Samu
      2. I did hear some interesting stuff about this episode being adapted differently than what the novels portray. Not really sure if it’s a spoiler since it’s been adapted already but just in case…
        Show Spoiler ▼

        innerchihiro
  7. Well now… I really do not know where and how to begin.

    I have to agree with Samu that Euphonuim II ep 3 was one of the best thus far that I’ve seen. It’s a serious contender for my Anime of the Season list. With Brave Witches coming second and AT Rifle witches coming 3rd.

    Euphonium may not be as explosive as 502nd and AT Rifle WItches but Euphonium’s charm is definitely the relations among the characters of which Asuka-senpai being the most enigmatic and most attractive of all.

    https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2034.jpg

    Asuka-senpai is definitely the type of people that makes me go head over heels over them, both romantically and literally go head over heels. If she has HItagi tendencies, all the more perfect she’ll be.

    https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2015.jpg

    Asuka herself is a personification of a tease and fanservice. You don’t need changing room scene to provide the fanservice but just Asuka being herself. Regardless the genki ASuka or the mysterious Asuka or melancholic Asuka or the stern and firm Asuka. Kudos to KyoAni for not making Asuka into a b- when she revealed to Oumae why she would not let the flutist rejoin the club. There are 2 sides to the coin and I am very much want to also see how was the flutist like when she was in the band. Granted that the lackadaisical attitude of 3rd years drove her to quitting though I do believe there might be some hidden reasons as well. I’d like to see how it’ll pan out.

    https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2032.jpg

    Reina Reina Reina… If Asuka was the personification of tease and fanservice in Euphonium, Reina would be the personification of a closet yuri tease. Really, there were many times since Euphonium II aired and we’ve been teased countless times by Reina x Oumae. I was really hoping that Reina would cross over to Oumae’s futon, tenderly cup her hands and lovingly express her flaming love for Oumae as well.

    Although… I don’t know how much of a shock would that be to Oumae as she clearly doesn’t look comfortable or willing to be in a yuri relationship… Or does she?

    https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2032.jpg
    Reina: Oumae, come to my futon. Let’s make this night magical and one to remember for posterity. I want both of us to be in a loving and endearing embrace
    https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2031.jpg
    Oumae: D-D-Dareka taskete…

    Velvet Scarlantina
  8. https://randomc.net/image/Hibike!%20Euphonium/Hibike!%20Euphonium%202%20-%2003%20-%20Large%2034.jpg

    <3<3<3

    Asuka is really taking the "dependable senpai" role quite seriously with clearly trying to look out for every side equally. The main problem though is that by continuing to keep quiet about the real reason behind not allowing Nozomi back in, it's pretty obvious that ones like Kumiko (who finally took the initiative), Nozomi herself, Natsuki, and such would only continue to push harder and harder until things just burst when the truth ends up revealed. Either way, it seems like a "lose-lose" situation given the band's position right now…

    HalfDemonInuyasha
  9. I’ll kind of be this guy, because I’m not terribly fond of Hibike Euphonium. However, I love KyoAni. Some of my favorite shows were made by them.

    Maybe Hibike would resonate with me more if I was in band, but I wasn’t. Never had interest is playing an instrument. I think I might even carry some resentment against band members from my school days, which might just be coloring this poorly for me.

    The other thing that doesn’t resonate with me is no one seems to be enjoying themselves. It feels like its all drama and angst. Hazuki and Sapphire seem to enjoy it, but they don’t get much focus anymore.

    The WP
    1. While I do understand where you’re coming from, I don’t really think you need relatablility in this kind of show in order for it to work for you. For example, I myself have never been interested in the sport volleyball, yet I’m a big fan of Haikyuu!!. What makes both of them work for me is that the story’s execution is such that the characters’ conflicts are pretty understandable and thus make the characters’ reaction towards them interesting at times, endearing at others. But that’s just me.

  10. I wonder if Mizore being robotic has something to do with her playing rhythm games with the sound off. She’s like what people expect Beethoven to be when he lost his hearing. Not saying that she’s deaf too, but more about the playing technique.

    Speaking of robots, I always wondered if they just used a Yamaha MIDI synthesizer for performances instead of using real humans. The number of students was the same as the number of voices on some of their products. I do believe that it was a real human playing Asuka’s song though.

    theirs
  11. I think the big resolution to this side story is going to come when someone, likely Kumiko, goes and actually fucking talks to Mizore.

    Everyone thinks they’re acting in her best interest without actually stopping to ask her what she wants to happen. Asuka thinks she’s protecting Mizore’s feelings, and on a more selfish note their lone oboe, while Nozomi is clueless enough about how her friend felt about her leaving that she seemingly hasn’t even told her she’s trying so hard to rejoin.

    If either side had actually said a word to Mizore about what’s going on they would have resolved this by now.

    qwert
  12. I am not going to lie – Kyoto Animation is my favourite anime studio. They produced one of my favourite series, they deliver the highest possible quality of animation, I just simply love them. As others, they had their ups and downs during last seasons, but looking at Hibike! Euphonium makes me feel just, well, so good.

    Interesting plot, great pacing, no overdramatic moments, multidimensional characters and their development, beautiful and stunning art. It has it all. Various relationships are building up, various events are coming up. We have Nozomi who is unable to understand why she is forbidden to rejoin the club, Mizore who was revealed to be the cause of the whole concern, Kumiko who knows the truth, Reina with her feelings and so many more. And judging from OP and this episode foreshadowing, we’re gonna get some Taki-sensei past for sure too. It feels like from this moment, this show can just get better and better. And I just can’t wait to see what happens next, this is truly KyoAni in their finest form and I enjoy it more than ever.

    Pyon

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