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 7) – On Light

Sound of Love (Part 7) – On Light

In my character analysis of Reina, I spent a few paragraphs dissecting lighting in the moments before the audition for the trumpet solo. I explained light as representative of “being special”, which is admittedly a simplification of the truth, and relies on an understanding that Reina views band as a path towards specialness. In this essay, I’d like to begin to refine that idea, focusing primarily on Aoi and her decisions in Episode 7. We’ll revisit some concepts we establish this week in future essays with the assistance of other characters. Therefore: what does light mean in Hibike Euphonium?

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Motifs everywhere.

Hidden beneath the surface of that first question is a second one: what does lighting accomplish in Episode 7? We interpret symbols and motifs by assigning meaning to them (answering Question #1), but that meaning is meaningless without effect (what we look for in Question #2). If a symbol can’t be logically connected to a consistent idea throughout the story, or if a symbol connects to an idea irrelevant to the story, then it enhances nothing for the audience (regardless of whether the audience is viewing for entertainment or analysis). In rough analogy: if the hammer strikes the nail at random angles, or doesn’t strike the nail at all, why bother with the hammer?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 »