「きせきのハーモニー」 (Kise ki no Hamoni)
This episode of Hibike! Euphonium speaks for itself, dedicating the second half to the performance that’s been practiced and stressed over for the past four weeks. The payoff is immense, gorgeous, and you could argue challenges the limits of TV anime. Frankly, nothing else this season is as consistent as Hibike! Euphonium, which is exactly how I felt last year. There are plenty of other shows with bursts or creativity or certain episodes that stand out, but week-in-week-out, Kyoto Animation delivers the goods as if it’s an expectation and not an anomaly. They’re on their own trajectory when it comes to producing high quality output, and it’s almost unfair that in comparison so few shows out there can compete on the same playing field.
The effort and detail put into this grand performance was essential in selling their earned success to the audience. They had to do what they always succeed at doing: showing, not telling. They’re the best studio for the job, who understand the importance of the little moments, of slight character animation, and changes in expressions. Here, they had to meld that understanding into the music and the characters’ performances. Kumiko’s confidence has increased this season, as she’s given more to show of and has proven herself when it comes to Taki-sensei (especially compared to the harsh words he had for her throughout the first season). Yet there was a brief moment when Asuka and Kumiko were playing together when Asuka gave her a look that I read as distasteful, as if Kumiko made an error. That never came across thereafter, but it’s a brief moment that stood out to me that perhaps just hints at the underlying mystery behind Asuka’s mannerisms and true character.
Mizore and Nozomi’s arcs have been the key focus of the past few episodes, and their efforts are shown in this performance, both on the stage and off it. After the big moment last week, Mizore seems to have regained her passion and is able to express emotion in her oboe playing; that certainly felt true in her solo, which was pleasant on the ear and rewarding to watch. We’ve only known this character for a few episodes yet I’m glad she’s come full circle and is giving the best she can. Similarly, Nozomi’s assistance from behind the scenes is important and effective, especially since she’s literally welcoming us onto the stage. While everyone else listens on with teary eyes and visible anxiety, Nozomi is calm, enjoying every moment of the performance with confidence. We haven’t delved too far into her character past the surface drama, and I doubt we ever will, but her being part of the group again and being able to experience victory, even if as a support figure rather than performing on stage herself, is a satisfying end to her arc.
Throughout the episode there was a real sense of tension accompanied by the oppressing summer heat, as even Taki-sensei was sweating during the performances. It’s a perfect opportunity to combine the heat of summer with the impending nerves as they approach their performance. And then by the end of the episode we’re stuck in the dark seats far from the stage as they awaits the results, which provides a nice contrast in atmosphere. In the end, it was obvious they were going to win and progress through to nationals, but the fact that we can feel tense awaiting what seems like an obvious conclusion is testament to how well crafted this episode was in building up to that one moment. Sure, there may have been some scenes that were recycled from last year’s finale, but there was so much more on offer this time around that I can’t complain. I hope they perform a new song for nationals and we get something completely different from what we’ve seen from now, but for the time being Kitauji’s golden win is earned and I’m rooting for them to continue to improve, and can’t wait to see what drama awaits.