「あめふりコンダクター」 (Ame Furi Kondakuta)
The world may be grim right now, but Hibike! Euphonium is here to cheer us up. At least… for the most part. This was certainly an episode of two halves, with a positive very anime-like festival focus before we dive into the darker aspects of characters arc we’ve yet to explore. It’s a fair balance of pleasant smiles and hints for future developments. I don’t know about all of you reading, but a mix of world events and personal turmoil had me in a downer when I watched this episode, so when it turned out this was going to be an uncharacteristically upbeat episode of Hibike! Euphonium, I was pleasantly surprised. The fact is, the first 12 minutes or so of this episode were the weakest writing we’ve seen from this second season, but I definitely needed an opportunity to laugh and smile and just enjoy these characters be goofy with their festival. It wasn’t groundbreaking, nor was it especially gorgeous by KyoAni standards, but it was a nice breather between the two halves this second season looks to represent.
For the most part, nothing in the festival scenes really meant much – other than the cute outfits, endearing character interactions, and moments of comedy here and there – but the one scene that’s sure to get people talking is Kumiko and Shuuichi in the haunted house. I’m not deluded enough to believe Kumiko and Reina are going to be precious girlfriends by the end of it all, but the fact remains that Kumiko and Shuuichi’s relationship has been severely underdeveloped, and tagging this scene in now and expecting us to accept it as a hint for future romance isn’t the greatest. From what I understand, this comes from the source material, and unless KyoAni wanted to erase his character altogether (which, to be fair, is what it looks like they’ve done for the past five episodes), they are expected to include these scenes. Am I ecstatic about it? No. It simply wasn’t up to the same standard and execution that I’d expect from a series of this quality.
Thankfully, the second half of this episode was top-notch, proving why the drama in Hibike! Euphonium is often better than what most school life anime have to offer. In that short span of time we were introduced to three storylines that are sure to web together in the remaining seven episodes: Kumiko’s sister dropping out of college after encouraging Kumiko and telling her to study rather than focus on high school band; Taki-sensei’s relationship with his deceased wife and his memories of the past; and Asuka’s continued mystery as a family figure makes an appearance. All three have great potential, and although this episode featured little in the way of band performances, all these storylines are sure to come back to music in one way or another. Kumiko’s sister quit band when she was in school (from what I recall), and Kumiko’s drive to succeed is sure to unravel and cause further clashes between the two; Taki-sensei is set to get more spotlight as Reina hopefully realises they’re never meant to be, learning that teachers are real people with their own lives outside of a student’s fantasies; and it appears we’re finally going to learn the deal with Asuka. Kumiko knows more than anyone that something is bubbling beneath the surface, and the result is sure to be dramatic.
All in all, a loaded episode with a mix of humour, iffy romantic acknowledgements, and set up for three storylines that I’m excited to learn more about. Unlike the drama with Nozomi and Mizore, we know these characters who are going to get the focus now, so there’s every chance this could take it to a whole other level. The balancing act of Hibike! Euphonium’s large cast has been excellent so far this season, and I expect that to continue as we pass the half way mark.