Sound of Love (Part 6) – On Tubas
Some important developments for both Kumiko and Reina occur in Episode 6, but I’ve talked those points to death in previous essays. Instead of our octopus-haired euphonium player, let’s talk about Hazuki. While we’re at it, let’s cheat a bit on the rules. The Team Monaka OVA doesn’t directly follow Episode 6 chronologically, but it does follow it thematically. Episode 6 and the OVA are really Hazuki’s episodes. Developing Hazuki as a band member allows for some growth on Kumiko’s part and invests the viewer more in her eventual confession arc with Shuichi, but Hibike doesn’t treat Hazuki as a simple tool. Her development is carefully arranged and is used as another angle to explore Hibike’s themes of instrument-as-identity.
Let’s figure out what’s so good about tubas—I mean, Hazuki.
At the start of Hibike, Hazuki is similar to Kumiko in that she doesn’t quite understand who she is or what she wants to do. Despite playing tennis all through middle school, she wants to try a whole bunch of different clubs in high school to see what she likes. In her quest to find herself, Hazuki ends up in concert band—though, unlike Kumiko, this is more a result of her desire to explore and be with her new friends than going with the flow.
When I discussed Romanticism, I mentioned that the main cast literally sees themselves in their instruments when they select them. Hazuki in particular had a magical ‘shoe fits’ moment that convinced her to play tuba. This will become clearer by the end of this essay, but Hazuki’s tuba comes to represent Hazuki (her role as a supportive friend, her own conflicts, and her own dreams) just as Kumiko’s euphonium represents herself and Reina’s trumpet represents herself. Hazuki did attach the Tuba-kun mascot to her schoolbag, after all.
Hazuki and friends go around in Episode 6 asking other band members about their instruments/identities. Riko explains tuba as being a beautiful burden (somehow), Goto describes the tuba’s struggle of “not [having] anything going for it” yet still trying hard, and Asuka approaches the issue by saying playing perfectly is the most fun for any instrument. While Asuka’s explanation tells us a lot about her as a character, Goto’s stands out the most in relation to Hazuki.
Earlier in the episode, Hazuki recalls how she could never play “how [she] wanted” in tennis, regardless of how much she practiced. Likewise, she currently can’t play how she wants in concert band. Hazuki’s response to this isn’t to give up, but to practice harder. She is slightly discouraged by her perceived lack of improvement, which is why she brings it up to Midori and Kumiko, but she continues to push forward. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Hazuki has nothing going for her, but she likely connects to Goto’s explanation of the tuba. After trying so hard and not seeing the results she wants, Hazuki must feel as if she has nothing going for her.
Goto later expands upon his feelings by saying that he only learned that he liked tuba once he played in an ensemble. Playing alone and practicing was never fun, but once he played with everyone else, he noticed how much he was contributing to the music. Only once he learned that his instrument wasn’t meant to be flashy, and how much his instrument holds together a piece, did he realize what was so great about tuba. At the end of the episode, Hazuki discovers that same joy while playing with Kumiko and Midori. Tuba will never be flashy and will always play “boring phrases”, but will also bring out the best in all the other instruments and support the music more than any other instrument.
Flash forward to Team Monaka. Hazuki didn’t make the cut to play on stage and is working to support the concert band from behind the scenes. Being that this is after her confession to Shuichi and she’s developed as a character since then, we can see how in line her current identity is with the tuba. When she meets Shuichi in the hall, she does her best to put aside whatever pain she’s feeling to earnestly wish him good luck at practice. When she talks to Midori about him, she again tries to hide her own pain and hopes that she didn’t make things awkward between Shuichi and Kumiko. I think her attitude is a bit problematic at this point, but luckily that’s what this OVA is for!
Natsuki mends some of Hazuki’s pain, and also offers a different perspective on supporting others, on their walk home from a Team Monaka meeting. Natsuki tells Hazuki to not “regret” her confession to Shuichi or, in other words, her attempts to chase after her own desires. In doing so, she reveals to Hazuki that you can support your friends and bandmates wholeheartedly without sacrificing or apologizing for what you yourself want. To put this in terms of instruments, we need look no further than Kumiko. Bass as a whole is a more supportive section—without the melodies or solos of something like brass or woodwinds—yet Kumiko chases her goals to be special without any regrets or apologies.
With this shift in attitude, Hazuki begins to talk to Kumiko and Shuichi with less reserve. She puts her heart into supporting her friend, and she acts like herself even around the boy she likes. Although the tuba is heavy, Hazuki carries it and takes pride in the fact that she plays it. Even if her position or situation isn’t desirable in the eyes of others, she’s going to give it her all, like Goto said. She’ll sprint to get Knuckle’s forgotten drumsticks even if she’s not playing in concert. She’ll reach out for the boy she likes even if he rejected her. Even if these trials are difficult, she’ll try her best and not regret her efforts. During her run, she finds her ultimate pride in who she is, saying, “Don’t you dare underestimate the lung capacity of a tuba.” Don’t you dare think that just because it’s hard to carry, or a bass instrument, or has “nothing going for it”, a tuba can’t be great.
And Hazuki certainly is a tuba.