「さいごのコンクール」 (Sai go no Konkuru)
“The Last Competition”
Why? Why? WHY?
What was this episode? It was a disappointment, that’s what is was. I feel like marching to the author, Takada Ayena, and everyone at KyoAni who worked on it, and asking them what the hell they were thinking? There were several shoddy elements to this week’s episode that prevented me from even enjoying it, but the most critical error is that we never got to see the band’s final performance together. That’s like have a sandwich without any filling. It’s like trying to make a gourmet meal with an empty fridge. It’s a slap in the face and I’m severely let down.
Last week’s impressions may have seemed pretty negative, but in comparison to this penultimate episode it was pretty damn great. Other than a few select scenes, this episode was one missed opportunity after another. It crammed in all the awkward character moments and confessions without a care for how ridiculous it all came across. I suppose I’ll start with the worst part of all: Kitauji’s performance. Because it didn’t fucking exist! We never got to see it. I almost can’t believe it – the most essential part of the series, the moment for several character arcs to come together in one grand finish, an oppertunity for the studio to show off why they’re the best in the business. Nope, nothing. Instead we get cuts to the aftermath and the third years talking about visiting the cafe. Disappointing is too soft a word for how I felt after that mid-way point.
Was this due to time constraints, or was there never intended to be focus on this performance in the first place? If it’s the first then that sucks, but they should have cut the scenes that feel useless in comparison (of which there are many). But if they never intended on showing Kitauji giving it their all then that’s just awful. I’m a major fan of this series – the first season is on my all-time top 10, after all. I’d award any given episode a 4.5 or 5 stars (out of 5). Last week was the first 4 stars. This week would be a solid 3 stars, and even then I’m being very generous. How are we supposed to care about something we never see? If the result wasn’t obvious already, the moment we skipped over the most essential moment of the series, it was set in stone. Kitauji got bronze, and that sucks. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they deserved gold or silver. But guess what: WE’LL NEVER FUCKING KNOW BECAUSE WE DIDN’T GET TO SEE THE PERFORMANCE.
Okay, so we skimmed over that scene. But what did we get instead? We got another thrilling conversation between Kumiko and Shuuichi by a vending machine where they talked about very little. It hinted towards the Mamiko situation – which I’ll get to in a moment – and alludes to the undeniable end these characters share together. Because of course they’re meant to be together. Just look at all their impactful interactions, their heartfelt confessions and scenes where they experienced highs and lows together, where they were each other’s rock and they stood by one another’s side through all their trials, and grew to know each other on a level that cements them as soulmates rather than just friends.
Oh, wait. I’m thinking about Kumiko and Reina! My bad, I just never expected the two characters who barely interacted through the course of the series to suddenly get their “romance” shoved in the very end. Is it because they’re childhood friends? Or because they’re a boy and a girl? For most of this second season Shuuichi has barely existed, and now we’re supposed to buy that they’re suddenly destined for each other? Even if we don’t see a confession or realisation next week, the fact that we wasted more time than we needed to on these two is enough to justify further disappointment.
And then there’s Mamiko. Why the hell did Mamiko just walk off from the concert without seeing her sister who she had travelled to watch perform? Seriously, I thought these two were supposed to be getting along now – and when they did encounter one another that was further confirmed – so why did it have to play out like this? The answer is simple: It’s rare in Hibike! Euphonium, but this moment was entirely contrived to get the most “drama” out of the scene as possible. We got to see Kumiko run after her sister and have that emotional confrontation and confession of love. It would have made sense if Mamiko still hadn’t forgiven Kumiko, and if Kumiko didn’t know her sister was coming, and was shocked to see her there and chasing after her because of that. But what we got was just contrived nonsense which rids it of all emotional payoff.
Speaking of confessions, Reina confessed her love to Taki-sensei not once, but twice. The first time was amusing, and not for the best of reasons. But when she actually went out and said it I just sighed and shook my head. Thankfully Taki-sensei turned her down and played it cool, but this whole subplot is still dumb, especially when it’s given so much attention. But that’s not all, there were a few other severe letdowns, like Asuka telling the first and second years to go on a do well without them next time around, and that they have to go and win gold. Too bad we’re never going to see any of that, just like this episode’s performance that actually mattered! And then you also have Hazuka and Midori being as useless as ever. I tend to find them funny, but the fact these two barely have a reason for existing only makes their scenes all the more aggravating. What was the point of them all along? Why are we getting these unfunny gags instead of… I don’t think I need to say it anymore, do I? You get the point.
Honestly, I think the only scenes I liked this week were Mizore’s. The first one that mirrors that scene from the premiere with her looking out the bus window was a nice call-back, especially since she’s back with her friend again. And the fistbump was pretty adorable as well. Asuka hearing the words of from her father was also a highlight. Oh, and Yuuko is also one of the least irritating characters of the series now, so I think she deserves a gold medal for what she’s accomplished this season! Even Kumiko didn’t do much this week, so there’s nothing else for me to latch on to. This episode was plain bad, but compared to the highs of this series, it was insultingly bad.
I’m going to forget it happened and hope the series finale somehow pulls it out of the bag. Talk about stumbling at the final hurdle…