Flip Flappers’s Chrono-Complex
Possible speculative spoilers for Flip Flappers ahead!
I feel like I shouldn’t write this post just yet, since I’ll be hemmed by speculation, but I’m going to do it anyway. This seems like the best time to point out a powerful storytelling technique—as we are all experiencing it live. I want to emphasize: this essay’s primary purpose is not to analyze the show, but to analyze the meta and mechanics behind the story.
Every episode of Flip Flappers has been a goldmine for analysis of symbolism, subtext, color, and allusion, but (and I don’t mean to belittle any of that analysis) all of that been relatively surface-level. That is, the show wants us to notice all of it. You can say: Cocona and Papika are like two halves to a whole—they swap hair color when they transform, they can only enter Pure Illusion with the other’s help, one is super energetic while the other is reserved. Yes, definitely, and that is worth talking about, but I don’t think any of that is something viewers are meant to dig for. It’s all right there, immediately accessible, as if Flip Flappers is pushing all of its latent content to the mainstage alongside its plot. As a result, the show can be playful in its storytelling. By first investigating the way Flip Flappers tells its sub-stories, we can uncover a complexity that shapes the show as a whole.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 13) – On Endings
Way back at the start of this series, I described the many gears Hibike! established in order to keep the story moving in an entertaining and meaningful way. Now we’ve reached the end of that story (sort of…) and can see where those gears have led us. As we take a look at the end of Season 1, we’ll see how Hibike! resolves (most of) its remaining conflicts and shuts the door on a successful season.
Naturally, the entirety of Episode 13 is a build-up to the band’s performance and consequential success or failure. I think Hibike! spent the whole season getting us invested in its characters and this performance, but the show goes the extra mile to ensure we’re glued to the edges of our seats. How does it do so? By removing the very subject of our anticipation: sound and music.Read More »
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 11) – On Reina
In my character analysis of Reina, I painted her as an actively manipulative person. While I don’t believe that analysis is entirely wrong, I do think it is an unfair interpretation that misses out on a few key details of her character. These misinterpretations are centered around Episode 11, so this is the perfect opportunity to revise some arguments made in that original essay. This essay (combined with the original character analysis) will provide a much more accurate and nuanced understanding of Reina. Or so I hope.
Rather than actively manipulating Kumiko for self-satisfaction, Reina is seeking support without the emotional toolkit to effectively do so. In the previous episode, Reina declares she’d “double down” on her trumpet solo. She absolutely won’t give up what she worked so hard for, regardless of what she has to endure. But if she declares her determination so clearly, then why does she show moments of insecurity to Kumiko—her letting it slip that Kaori being a “good person” makes taking the solo “a bit hard”, for example? Reina gives us a hint on the night of the festival: she doesn’t get close to most people. She builds walls around herself.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 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.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 8) – On Abandon
Although Episode 8 begins to connect all the motifs and themes we’ve been looking at so far, there’s still a key ingredient missing before we should tie all those ideas together. I’ve alluded to it when discussing Romanticism and light and several characters, so now is the perfect time to flesh out the idea of “abandon”. Taki stops practice in order to demonstrate the “abandon and shamelessness” that the band should play the “Moon Crescent Dance” with. Perhaps you can already see the connections to what we’ve discussed before: the pursuit of passion requires reckless abandon. From Kumiko to Hazuki to Aoi, Hibike suggests that a solution to their troubles is to act with abandon.
Even Goto and Riko come to illustrate this idea. We saw before that Goto was reserved when talking about why he loved tuba—a fact we can infer is related to his shyness about dating Riko. This shyness pops up again in Episode 8 when the duo gets embarrassed over their “secret” relationship being talked about publicly. Goto gets slightly distressed when Riko tries to hide the fact they’re dating and—though I wouldn’t call this a strain on their relationship, considering they seem equally shy about it—they misunderstand each other. This is obviously the tiniest of tiny romantic subplots, so it gets a tiny resolution when the pair attends the festival together and Goto acts with a bit of abandon by straightforwardly complimenting Riko. The look on her face tells us this is the first time Goto has been so straightforward, and thus it’s a special progression in their relationship.Read More »
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.Read More »
Sound of Love (Part 2) – On Laughs
Episode 2 of Hibike Euphonium sets the plot ball rolling a bit, while also improving upon some of the cool details we discussed in Episode 1. Once again, I have to admit that a hypothetical first time viewer wouldn’t quite understand the full scope of the season’s conflict, although a lot is done in Episode 2 to build credibility and emotional stakes for later. But we’ll get to that. Let’s start by appreciating some comedy and directing.
All the effort put into the voice acting and animation that I pointed out last episode really comes in handy when trying to fill realistic, grounded high school scenes with comedy. If we take a look at the opening scene, Kumiko’s chipper fantasy plays out nothing like reality—her awkward battle pose and cracking voice fail to gain Reina’s attention entirely, nevermind inciting a hug. Immediately after, the main cast shows off their acting snuff. Hazuki’s catchy and alliterated (in Japanese) “Go, Kumiko!”—with even the effort of her push accented with a “ka” sound—segues perfectly into the sound of Kumiko sliding across the floor and Reina’s sensitive “What’s wrong?” That is then played for laughs via Kumiko’s ridiculously awkward “I’m okay” that grows even funnier the second time she says it.Read More »
Flip or Flub (Bungo Stray Dogs Ep. 1)
Bungo Stray Dogs started the season strong with an episode that kept your eyes on the screen (really this whole season is super diverse and interesting so far; hopefully the quality keeps up). Stray Dogs kept viewers interested due in part to its execution of mystery, but also possibly flubbed in that execution. Let’s figure out how this show succeeded and flubbed, and why flubbing in the first episode might actually be a great idea.
Let’s get to the point: Stray Dogs eventually makes it obvious Atsushi is the man-eating tiger. The first sign of his ability comes in the first scene. When waiting for a passerby to rob, Atsuhsi’s eyes flare as his senses pick up the presence of different humans. Although this is just used for a joke, his awareness certainly gives off the vibe that he has some sort of power.Read More »