Patchwork Confession

Patchwork Confession (A Toradora Analysis)

Around this time last year, I wrote about three symbols in the Christmas party episode of Toradora. Apparently cold weather and Christmas lights put me in the mood for symbolism, because I want to explore another Toradora symbol this year. Although this symbol first shows up in Episode 1, I’ll be talking about the series as a whole and assuming you’ve seen it in its entirety. You can consider this the start of my love letter to Toradora.

But hopefully my letter has a little more substance to it than Taiga’s.

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Taiga attempts to put a love letter in Kitamura’s bag, but mixes his up with Ryuji’s. Ryuji then finds this letter, only to discover it is empty. All of this confusion results in Taiga attacking Ryuji and Ryuji winding up with Taiga’s empty envelope. Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Taiga’s mix-up with Ryuji and Kitamura’s bags is a foreshadowing of her initial crush on Kitamura giving way to her love for Ryuji. I called it obvious, but this is certainly an important interpretation (and probably the main intended one). However, Toradora is not satisfied until it’s packed every bit of meaning into a symbol as it can.Read More »

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Sound of Love – A Reflection

Sound of Love – A Reflection

When you decide to write 13 essays in 13 weeks about the same show, limiting yourself to an episode per essay, you inevitably ask yourself: “Are you stupid?” You then realize that question leads nowhere so you switch to: “Why are you so stupid?” That question hurts a bit more, but the path is supposed to be a painful one, isn’t it?

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I’ve endured this method of writing once before with Owarimonogatari. However, -monogatari (Bake and Owari especially) is aggressively interesting. The series attacks you with unusual shots and editing and drowns you in labyrinthine dialogue. Sure, some of it is just artistic flexing, but you can’t help but want to think about it. Hibike! is not aggressively interesting. It’s fun and gorgeous and moving, but it does not command you to think about it. Yet, it did always encourage me to fawn over it. That fawning—I think—is the reason I made it out of this process with my brain and fingers intact.Read More »

Sound of Love (Part 13) – On Endings

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.

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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

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.

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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

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 8) – On Abandon

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.

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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 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 »