Sound of Love (Part 12) – On Kumiko
While I don’t have any arguments I want to “correct” from my original analysis of Kumiko, I do have a lot to expand upon. In particular, we can take a deeper look at Kumiko’s first experience with true failure. This is the most pivotal moment for Kumiko’s development in Season 1, and Hibike puts maximum effort into growing its previously passive protagonist. Let’s take a look at all the elements that come together to create the emotional climax of Season 1.
Thus far, light has always been a motif for characters to strive after. Light is where passion and love lie and where characters move forward. We’ve always wanted characters to embrace the light. We might even assume light is purely benevolent, but this is not the case. Light is where passion lies, but—for Kumiko—that is exactly the problem. The new sequence that Taki asks the euphoniums to play is dizzyingly difficult for Kumiko, and the first challenge since her hike with Reina that she struggles to overcome. The old, detached Kumiko might avoid facing this challenge, but the Kumiko who wishes to become special must attack it head-on.Read More »
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.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 4) – On Unity
In his book, The Anatomy of Story, John Truby identifies a character archetype/event model he calls the “fake-ally”. The fake-ally joins or interacts with the protagonist under the guise of assistance, but in reality is working for the goals of the antagonist. Truby’s fake-ally is less a character and more a tool used to obstruct the path of the hero. Via the reveal of the fake-ally’s motives and true allegiance, the audience can be thrown for a loop, but, more importantly, the hero can learn something about themselves or their quest—typically something the fake-ally represents or makes clear.
To take an incredibly simple example (spoilers incoming for Frozen, the Disney film), Hans from Frozen betrays Anna by not kissing her to cure her frozen heart. Hans is a fake-ally who intends to take over Arandelle and only pretended to love Anna as part of his plan. Without getting too deep into it, Hans’ fakeness causes Anna to realize what true love is and where she found hers. In an easy reveal, the hero can experience a revelation and the story can deliver some kind of message to the audience, as well as swing the plot. Disney and Pixar love using fake-allies. A bit too much, honestly…
But what does any of this have to do with Hibike! Euphonium?Read More »
Ensemble in the Background – A Hibike! Euphonium Analysis
With the announcement of a second season, I decided to return to Hibike! Euphonium essays early. An aspect of Hibike! that is often mentioned in passing, but rarely truly appreciated is the ‘ensemble’ cast of the background characters. The physical setting of the world is beautified by stunning backdrops, but the social setting is dressed with equally vibrant feathers. Kitauji’s band is not a ghost town.
Now, Hibike! doesn’t have an ensemble cast. The story is told from Kumiko’s perspective and she clearly dominates the screentime. However, the background characters (namely everyone populating the band) aren’t simply stamped with the ‘everyone else’ role. They have (relatively) unique character designs, a specific instrument that they play, and a personality they always abide by. The band is alive, and all the background characters form a sub-level ensemble where they all seem to matter more than background characters typically do.
Take Knuckles, for example. He has maybe a minute of screentime the entire show, but he has a nickname! He’s the percussion section leader, and he loves playing percussion. We hardly get to see him, but I can say (perhaps with more certainty than I can say anything else about this show) that Knuckles loves percussion. He hypes his section up when introducing it to the first years. He also always carries around a towel, presumably because he plays so intensely that he needs to wipe his sweat. He’s always ready to give his all.
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Kumiko’s Indifference – A Hibike! Euphonium Analysis
After looking in-depth at Reina, it only makes sense to move to Kumiko next. Kumiko is Hibike’s true protagonist, and the only character whose thoughts we get to hear. I will say that there were several motifs and symbols that could be discussed when analyzing Kumiko, but (due to a gap between my understanding of these symbols and the cultural background of this story’s creators) I chose to focus on more universally understood details.
To no one’s surprise, we have to begin at the opening scene. We need to learn a history that leads into high-school-aged Kumiko. In middle school, Kumiko knows that the band set a goal to make Nationals, but she only puts one foot in the water. When the band gets dud gold, Kumiko has a moment of disappointment as she realizes they failed, only to hide from that feeling by shifting to her foot on dry land. Oh, we didn’t really stand a chance, so we can be proud of what we did accomplish, she thinks. She hides.
She is hiding from pain and passion. Reina’s reaction is everything that Kumiko hopes to avoid. Kumiko doesn’t want to cry or feel defeated because those feelings are scary. She won’t stay until the bitter end, she’d rather turn tail at the first sign of disappointment.
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