Sound of Love (Part 11) – On Reina

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.

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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 9) – On Pushes

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.

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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 »

We the Fools

Owarimonogatari Ep. 6 – We the Fools

Fall 2015 is a season packed with mysteries, from the American serial-esque Beautiful Bones, to the recoated classic in Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider, to Tantei Team (which appears to be a short, shoujo detective series? I haven’t actually watched this yet). Of course, there’s also Owarimonogatari, a series we’ve become well-acquainted with over these past few weeks. Back in Episode 3, I looked at one way the series creates effective mystery. I could go on and on about the various ways –monogatari creates its mystery, but instead I want to use Episode 6 to focus on what the series does with its mystery.

I suppose, more accurately, I want to focus on what the series does to its viewers, and how mystery is sometimes the tool it uses to do so.

If you’ve watched or read any of the –monogatari series, you know the fourth wall might as well be a screen door. You also know that we as an audience are forced directly into Araragi’s perspective (excluding a few narratives told from other characters’ points-of-view). As we noticed in Episode 3, the mysteries in question often play with the knowledge that we’re identifying with, and viewing the story from, Araragi’s perspective. Back then, we thought we were one step ahead of our anchor character and thus slacked off by not thinking outside that character’s perspective. In Episode 6, there’s no tricks being played, but there is a game.

Quite literally, there’s a guessing game. Ougi and Hanekawa have solved the mystery of Oikura’s mother’s disappearance, but Araragi (we) haven’t been presented enough evidence to reach the same conclusion. At least, we haven’t had that evidence presented in such a way that we could reasonably reach the correct conclusion. These hints are aimed as much at the viewer as they are at Araragi. We are the “fool” Ougi talks about. The show doesn’t want to just have a character figure out the mystery and tell us the answer in some lame expository dialogue; we need to figure it out ourselves. Obviously, a character—Araragi—does figure it out and ‘tell’ us, but we’ll get to that.

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Moving Metaphor

Owarimonogatari Ep. 2 – Moving Metaphor

The –monogatari series has used surrealism and visual metaphor to express character intentions and emotions since Bakemonogatari. In fact, those moments of surrealism quite possibly define the series’ style better than anything else. There’s enough examples in every episode of the show to explain what I mean, but Episode 2 of Owarimonogatari stuck out to me. The proper introduction of a new character also makes it easier to get the point across. So let’s get into it.

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Cage of Reflection

Cage of Reflection (Owarimonogatari Ep. 1)

Owarimonogatari really impressed me right out of the gate, so I’ll be analyzing each episode as it airs from a specific perspective.  In order to keep these essays short and my sanity intact, I’ll be doing my best to remain focused on the singular topic I chose to discuss for each episode. There’s a lot more I could look at than what I will be discussing. Keep in mind that this is still a series directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, so there is a lot of inconclusive symbolism strewn about and I’ll have to carefully choose what shots to look at.

But enough of that. Ougi Formula is essentially a story about a trapped boy given no option for escape other than to reflect upon himself and his past. When we think of being trapped, we think of cages, chains, fences, boxes, so on. When we think of reflection, we think of mirrors or mirror-like surfaces. As we take a closer look at Owarimonogatari Episode 1, we’ll notice the episode’s shots are full of mirrors and cages—some more obvious than others.

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Reina’s Loneliness

Reina’s Loneliness – A Hibike! Euphonium Analysis

This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of character analyses for Hibike! Euphonium. The majority of Hibike’s drama comes from different character’s conflicting desires, or from characters fighting against external pressures. However, the show also dives deep into the internal and psychological struggles of these characters (including several minor characters), especially in its second half. Reina’s psychological struggle is perhaps the most masterfully executed of all the characters’.

Before we look into what Reina struggles with in the main story of Hibike, we have to understand who this high-school-aged Reina is, and where she came from. This opening scene tells us all we need to know. Kumiko enters the concert hall late and sits in an empty space between Reina and another girl. Later shots show us that no one was sitting near Reina’s other side, either. No one, other than Kumiko, even looks at Reina as she cries. Already we can tell that Reina is isolated from everyone else, and, specifically, everyone is avoiding her (not the other way around).

 

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To Take the Painful Path

To Take the Painful Path – A Hibike! Euphonium Analysis

Hibike! Euphonium received a lot of early praise for its background art and character expressions. While the art and animation are top class, Hibike’s greatest strengths lie in its dialogue and cinematography. This analysis  will focus on Kumiko and Reina’s hike from Episode 8, specifically an expansion of Reina’s character and a major development for Kumiko’s.

Let’s start at the start. The first time we see Reina, we get a panning shot of her white one-piece. Not a yukata, not some teenager’s casual-wear, but a formal, strapless dress. From earlier scenes of the night’s festival, we know everyone else is either wearing a traditional yukata or a casual outfit. If we don’t catch that ourselves, Kumiko points it out to us by saying Reina looks surprisingly cute, and then staring down at her own beaten sneakers. Right away, we are shown that Reina is different, special.

Now begins a series of symbolic visuals that will complement the girls’ hike, starting with the shot of bugs buzzing around a lamp. Just as Kumiko thinks about being “drawn to a beautiful thing”, we are shown the bugs drawn to the bright lamp. This parallels Reina and her white dress, bright against the night. This motif of Reina as shining light surrounded by darkness will play a major role throughout the episode (and the series as a whole).

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