Sound of Love (Part 9) – On Pushes
An underlying and unspoken message drove my analyses of Kumiko and Reina to their conclusion. Last week, we began to tie together some themes from earlier episodes by investigating the idea of “abandon”. In Episode 9, we can further unify all of my previous essays into one web created by that underlying message. Hibike has something to say about the themes it deals with—the path to specialness and the abandon required to walk that path. We saw glimpses of this message back when Taki unified the band and when Aoi quit the band, but now we can give it our direct attention.
No one can walk the painful path alone, no matter how special they wish to be or how high they aspire to reach. This was where Reina’s social troubles stem from: she winds up isolating herself by her attempts to achieve specialness. I ended my analysis of Reina by saying she can become special not by pushing other people away, but by reaching out to them. That is the core of Hibike’s message. Let’s see if Episode 9 can clarify what I mean.
Hazuki talks to Midori after seeing how depressed Midori was about the events of the festival. Although Midori wishes she could take back everything she said about love, Hazuki explains she’s glad things wound up this way. She says, “If you’re alone, you never have the courage to do something about [your feelings], and you end up thinking about it forever.” You may have noticed that Hazuki has a habit of kind of spelling out what I’m trying to express in these huge essays. That aside, she tells us that having Midori (and Kumiko, in some ways) by her side helped her take a step down the painful path of growth. She got rejected, but she prefers that to endlessly debating whether she should step forward at all. Hazuki is “glad [Midori] gave [her] a push.”
Hazuki attributes her ability to move forward to having a friend by her side, but what about our protagonist? Well, later that night, Midori says that Kumiko’s “kind of grown up.” Kumiko just finished explaining how Hazuki must feel and giving some sensitive advice and how to help—which, of course, she never would’ve been able to do at the start of the season. Midori’s phrasing—that Kumiko has “grown up”—holds an interesting connection to Kumiko’s hike with Reina. Reina said she preferred the second shrine they walked past because it felt more “grown up”. That statement has a lot to do with Reina’s affection for an older man and her own desire to stand out, but it now also implies that Kumiko’s change came straight from that hike.
Obviously we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) rely on mirrored words to make that connection, but it’s interesting. Kumiko confirms that implication by saying the change occurred “because of that night with Reina.” But don’t let that take away from the importance of words! Kumiko actually uses some language I’ve been using myself when she thinks about how Reina was trying to “move forward” along the painful path. So, even down to her inner monologue, Kumiko has been set in motion by her interactions with Reina.
Admittedly, Kumiko hasn’t quite begun to walk the painful path herself yet. We do, however, see the very beginnings of her first step in Episode 9. Kumiko notices Natsuki is practicing hard for the audition and begins to get nervous about succeeding at the audition while her upperclassmen fail. We see flashbacks to a time in middle school where Kumiko had taken a performance spot from an upperlcassman and was berated for it. This causes Kumiko to stop practicing and (though she doesn’t quite understand her goal yet) run from her goal becoming special via playing the euphonium.
Kumiko likely wouldn’t be able to enter the audition with as much drive or determination if Reina doesn’t speak to her as she puts away her euphonium. Reina makes Kumiko promise to do her best, effectively giving her the same push that Midori gave Hazuki. Instead of leaving Kumiko to think about the audition alone, Reina encourages her to take that step forward whether or not all will end happily for everyone involved. Just as Hazuki can’t sit idly by so that she doesn’t get rejected or interfere with Shuichi’s feelings for Kumiko, Kumiko can’t sit by so that she doesn’t succeed where Natsuki fails.
When asked to play a part she hadn’t practiced, Kumiko remembers her promise with Reina (indicated by an image that flashes through her mind). This, too, is a challenge Kumiko may have backed down from if not for Reina’s support. By knowing she has someone to rely on and a promise to keep, Kumiko is able to continue forward in the face of adversity. She will hold Reina’s hand as she walks down this path and, as we’ll see in future episodes, Reina will hold hers.
This message isn’t woven or proven only in Episode 9, either. Thinking back to moments we discussed before, we can begin to see these little pushes forward everywhere. Kumiko becomes a little more outgoing because of Reina’s apology. Natsuki begins to work hard at band because of Kumiko asking her to practice. Taking this idea literally, Kumiko first speaks to Reina because Hazuki physically pushes her. Quite clearly, the story of Hibike is a series of pushes—a domino effect in both meaning and mechanism.
As with all ideas worth pondering, the reality is not so cut and dry. Just as not everyone will find immediate success by acting with abandon, not everyone will move immediately forward because of a push. Some characters, such as Reina, will struggle with each step forward. Others, such as Asuka, may reject every hand that reaches out to them. How do these characters move forward, despite their differences? That, as always, is a question for when the next piece begins.