Sound of Love (Part 10) – On Mirrors
We can attack Episode 10 from a few different angles. Characters like Asuka and Kaori get some needed development; a new conflict for the band is born; some interesting directing stuff is going on. But as interesting a topic of Asuka is at this point, I still don’t feel like there’s enough evidence to properly analyze her/her actions (especially considering how large a role she’ll play in Season 2). I also feel that any analysis of other specific topics would be redundant at this point. Instead, Episode 10 is best investigated as a figurative mirror of past conflicts and drama.
This mirror is most apparent in the main conflict of the episode: the band’s suspicion that Taki played favorites in the audition for the trumpet solo. Back when Taki threatened to keep the band out of SunFes, the band reached an impasse where practice halted and the section leaders met to plan their course of action. The band (with a few exceptions) unified against Taki until the conflict was resolved. In Episode 10, the band has likewise reached an impasse and has returned to playing in sectionals. What is different from last time is that a band member (Reina) is also a target for the band’s animosity. Additionally, Taki was in control of the band at the start of the season, but has lost control of the audition situation.
There was conflict before, but Taki created it willingly and used it to his advantage by unifying and motivating the band. This new conflict is out of control, largely because of the band’s increased passions towards music. As the band members walk along the painful path, the stakes of their journey increase. They care more about the music they make and the chances they’re given. Yuko doesn’t make a fuss about the audition simply because her friend didn’t win, but rather because Kaori’s dream was (presumably) related to playing the solo in her third year.
In this way, the mirrors of Episode 10 exemplify the struggles of failure and setback that one encounters on the painful path. As Kumiko says, the characters learn “how arduous it is to try to be strong, to try to be special.” True as that may be, these characters don’t encounter only failure on their paths. Let’s look at a few more mirrored moments to clarify.
Although I don’t wish to analyze Asuka just yet, we can spend some time on Haruka. We know that Haruka only took the position of club president because Asuka wouldn’t and that (from her breakdown when Aoi quit) Haruka doesn’t feel she lives up to the position. This feeling still plagues Haruka in Episode 10, but she does begin to step forward despite it. She sees that Asuka doesn’t care about the conflict over the trumpet solo, so she accepts that she’ll have to handle the situation alone. We never learn whether she’d fully follow through with her plan because she’s interrupted by Taki before getting a chance to speak to the band. Still, Haruka’s certainly improved from earlier when all she could do was doubt herself and stay at home. I do feel Haruka is cheated out of part of her development here, but it’s a nice precursor to someone who does clearly develop.
Kumiko, of course, takes a major step forward this episode. She actually has two mirrors associated with her, and both resolve cleanly. The first comes in the form of a flashback to middle school when an upperclassman raged at Kumiko for making the “A” group while she did not. This informs Kumiko’s expectations of Natsuki’s reaction to the same situation this year. However, Natsuki does not lash out at Kumiko and, in fact, cheers Kumiko on. This is partly because Natsuki inherently isn’t the kind of person to act that way, but also because of Kumiko’s actions earlier in the series. Kumiko was the main force that inspired Natsuki to start practicing, so she’s “glad” that Kumiko received the just reward for her hard work.
Natsuki’s talk reinforces the belief that reaching out to others will enable you both to step forward in life (in Kumiko’s mind certainly, if not also ours). Thus, when Kumiko encounters her second mirrored moment—Reina storming out of practice—she reaches out once more. This scene mirrors Aoi’s departure from the band in both action and direction. This time, as Kumiko runs out of the band room, she’s able to respond to Reina’s emotions. Whereas she couldn’t provide a reason for Aoi to stay in band, nor an attribute that made Haruka a good president, she does provide support for Reina. The lighting in this scene actually helps display this difference, too. Kumiko again approaches from the light, and she and Reina hug just at the edge of the shadows. Previously, Aoi retreated to darkness as Kumiko could do nothing.
So, these mirrored moments prove that the path towards being special is difficult, but also show that there are victories to be had on the way. Those little victories are what allow us to continue down this “arduous” and painful path. A brief execution of the perfect play can make months of training worth it to an athlete. A single moment where you succeed where you previously failed can give you the strength to carry on into the future. Sometimes all the motivation you need can be found in a mirror, where you see a brand new you. Where does that motivation take you? Into the next piece, of course.