Sound of Love (Part 6) – On Tubas

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.

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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 5) – On Steps

Sound of Love (Part 5) – On Steps

Episode 5 provides the perfect opportunity to discuss one of Hibike Euphonium’s most prominent motifs: steps. Steps and feet. Although we never see or hear of marching band again after this episode, the importance of steps and feet only builds throughout the series. We should establish some background on the topic, and there’s no better place to do so than an episode about marching band—an activity based on steps. Moving forward, let’s figure out what movement can convey in Episode 5 of Hibike Euphonium.

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As the band practices marching together, the camera shoots from a low angle where the band members’ feet constantly pass through the foreground. This draws our attention to two ideas: one that enhances our understanding of marching band, and one that hones the focus of the episode as a whole. The ever-passing feet, combined with Kumiko’s explanation of marching, inform us that the focus of marching band is ultimately on the feet. For the band to stay coordinated and in line, they must match each other’s feet. Additionally, or by proxy, this focuses the episode as a whole on feet and steps.Read More »

Sound of Love (Part 4) – On Unity

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…

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But what does any of this have to do with Hibike! Euphonium?Read More »

Sound of Love (Part 3) – On Romance

Sound of Love (Part 3) – On Romance

Come Episode 3, we can finally begin to explore some of Hibike’s more interesting and intricate qualities. Primarily, this episode reveals the series to be a Romantic one (as in my Spice and Wolf essay, this is not necessarily lower-case romance—though we’ll get to that…) and crafts some complexity into Kumiko and Reina. The overarching conflict of the season is finally explained, and with perfect timing considering how the tone of the show begins to shift this episode. Let’s figure out how exactly these changes in story and statement work together.

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Hibike’s Romantic side first shows in its background music. In particular, the track “Sprouting of Senses” accompanies any moment Kumiko and the viewer contemplate what concert band and playing an instrument means for a high schooler. We hear this track in Episode 1 when Kumiko thinks back on Reina’s middle school frustration. Kumiko acts out a conversation between her and Reina, wherein she attempts to explain her feelings about band. In Episode 3, the song plays again as Kumiko and friends pick out their instruments. The three first years see themselves in their instruments—quite literally, they see their reflections—and their instruments look back at them.Read More »

Sound of Love (Part 2) – On Laughs

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.

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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 »

Sound of Love (Part 1) – On Beginnings

Sound of Love (Part 1) – On Beginnings

With Season 2 of Hibike Euphonium just a few months away, and given my infatuation with the show, I’ll be writing through every episode of the first season. This will be different from my Owarimonogatari series in that each essay most likely won’t focus on a single particular topic. I’ll just be detailing whatever stands out to me in the directing, animation, story, or sound as I watch, and trying to expand upon my earlier essays on this show. I’ll being referencing and linking to those essays a lot. By going episode by episode, I can point to details that didn’t fit in the original essays, as well as moments that are worth talking about, but don’t warrant an entire essay.

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I never get tired of this scene.

So although this series will be rather analytical in nature, it’s really more of a confession of love. Hibike is a masterpiece in so many ways, and hopefully throughout this series I can share with you some of what makes it so special to me. This first post will be on the shorter side since the first episode can only do so much, but there’s still plenty to talk about. On that note, it’s only right to start the same way as always: let’s figure out Episode 1 of Hibike Euphonium.Read More »

2015 Retrospective

2015 Retrospective

There are spoilers ahead. If you see a show title you haven’t watched yet, you might want to skip it until you have.

I tend to stay away from stuff like this because the Internet is suffering enough as it is. Are my opinions really so important that I need to piss them into the polluted waters of the Anime Review Lake? Probably not. Not to mention, most people are too lazy to take enough screenshots to form an analysis article, so the competition stays relatively low on that side of things. It’s way easier to just Google ‘anime memes’ and paste the first K-On/pop-culture crossover you find. Plus Print-screen is in such an awkward spot on the keyboard—who has time for that?

This was going to be a meme but they hurt my soul, so have a Kyoko instead.

Yet, a new year is approaching, and I’ve decided it’s time to put that pessimism behind me. It’s time to subject you to my opinions. Out of the many shows of this past year, I chose five that best represented 2015 for me. This is by no means a top five for the year (it is absolutely not a top five), but simply the five shows I felt I’d remember the most after this year—for better or worse. I chose to exclude shows with seasons that aired prior to 2015 from my list (i.e. Haikyuu, Shirobako, Owarimonogatari,etc. were not considered).

Enjoy.

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Ensemble in the Background

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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