「ほうかごオブリガート」 (Hokago Oburigato)
And that’s how you finish off two thematically linked character arcs. Everyone else, take notes. Both the Mamiko and Asuka storylines got wrapped up with this episode, and I don’t have any complaints. Poor Kumiko has these two issues to handle, with one that comes from acceptance and the other from being proactive and taking a stand, and the result is just as rewarding as I’d hoped.
Firstly there’s the Mamiko storyline, which has been the lesser of the two, but seeing the once broken bonds of these sisters come together again is lovely to watch, even if it feels like things aren’t going to be exactly as they’d like. Mamiko is moving out, but her and Kumiko share a moment in the kitchen that proves that Hibike! Euphonium knows how to depict siblings. Lots of anime just don’t, but here we have sisters that feel like sisters. There’s a noticeable age gap which likely prevented them from being especially close as Mamiko entered high school, but now we know that Mamiko was jealous and held resentment because Kumiko was able to pursue her passions without the pressure of their parents. I mentioned before about the struggles of being the eldest child, and that is certainly the case here.
I feel for Mamiko and don’t blame her for lashing out in previous episodes, nor do I blame Kumiko for not understanding her sister’s point of view until everything became clear. They’ve barely interacted for so long, so now that they’re on talking terms again and are showing genuine affection for one another, they’re understanding where each is coming from. But the best scene comes when Kumiko heads to school the next morning and gets a moment to reflect on her sister leaving for good, and the tears spill in traditional Kyoto Animation fashion. The unhelpful stares from strangers only make the situation more painful to watch. It was saddening seeing Kumiko get emotional over her sister for what is likely the first time since she was a little girl. Or ever.
The Asuka storyline also delivers the goods, and it’s all because of the dynamic between Kumiko and Asuka. Unlike with her sister, Kumiko has the chance to change how things are playing out; that link between these two family dramas is what makes this work so effectively, and after being a bystander for so long, Kumiko finally a steps up and screams out in a fit of emotional fury. Asuka played the villain for several minutes by getting into her face and hiding behind that mask of hers, but everything became far more real than she expected. It didn’t quite reach the peak of last week’s encounter, but this time was louder and Kumiko said everything she was holding in. And Asuka is finally giving us some genuine reactions, this time to Kumiko being so assertive; yet it’s telling that the one time where Asuka is at her weakest, neither we nor Kumiko are allowed to see her face. I wish we could, but it was a stellar shot that told us everything we needed to know while still keeping mystery.
But there’s one problem in all of this, which I brought up last week: Reina. She’s been MIA for a lot of this season, and this episode finally acknowledged that, which has me worried. That final stare she gave Kumiko doesn’t inspire much hope, so I expect things to shift to Kumiko/Reina next week. If it’s anything to do with Shuuichi, I’m not gonna be over the moon… but we’ll have to wait and see. More Reina is always better, usually. Let’s see how it compares to the Mamiko and Asuka storylines that seem to have wrapped up neatly this week.