Kumiko’s Indifference

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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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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