Alright, to start this episode review off I think I’m going to go ahead and bring focus on something that I haven’t really talked about until this point: Side characters! There sure are a lot of them in this show, and KyoAni never ceases to subtly remind us they exist, even though most of them hold very little significance in the actual narrative. Shuichi is the childhood friendboy of Kumiko, and he shows up maybe once every 4 episodes to casually chat with her for a couple of minutes. In this episode, they end up bumping into each other when heading out of the sleeping quarters at night. As they talk while drinking vending machine beverages, he simply acknowledges that he’s noticed her seem a little depressed about her older sister Mamiko. Shuichi also gives her a pretty flower hairpin as a late birthday present, but it’s not taken as some sort of romantic gesture as it’s made pretty clear that Midori was the one that pushed him to do it.
Onto Mamiko, her value as a character is pretty low, and because Kumiko’s personal struggles are not nearly stressed as much as say Reina for example, Mamiko’s usefulness pretty much runs out after being the example Kumiko needed to understand how to put Asuka back on the right track. Sure, she could be considered motivation for Kumiko to play at Nationals, but that wasn’t motivation she even needed, because there was no emotional turmoil keeping her from playing and doing her best. In the end she was more of an unnecessary reward for Kumiko than anything else.
There are more characters I’d like look critically upon, but it would probably be best left for the final review, as it would have to get even farther away from the episode at hand to explain my thoughts about them. Moving on to the pep talks before their performance, there’s a very interesting pattern and choice being made about how these moments are portrayed. If you’ve noticed, and maybe it’s just me, the speeches themselves don’t feel very inspirational at all. Though the writing doesn’t feel hackneyed, the idea of a pregame “get hyped” address kind of does. It’s not that these moments are lackluster, the show’s just trying not to be what we might expect. Taki-sensei, the student president, and Asuka all say a few words as the band waits in the back area before taking the stage. Nothing about the way the scene was shot or edited portrays a sense of heightened emotion. There were no extreme close-ups, cuts were not sequenced in any emotionally intended way, and even the music didn’t feature some sort of a massive swell or sharp notes timed with particular shots and dialogue.
KyoAni knows how to make powerful moments through utilizing every aspect of film form, they’ve proven it so many times throughout this season alone. So what that simply tells me is that scenes like these are meant to set tepid expectations. It is a lot easier to blow expectations out of the water when you set the bar low, after all. However, what’s interesting about the approach in regards to this episode is that it doesn’t lead us to the grand finale. Their performance isn’t shown at all, instead the show leaps forward in time to the results. What is this supposed to mean? I’m stilling mulling it over, but perhaps it’s because the performance ended up being one not worth experiencing. They won bronze, so was it not a concert worthy of being seen? Whatever it was, it certainly was not an awe-inspiring finish that the characters had strived for, and maybe that’s because the show’s not over and they still haven’t reached the point where they deserve it.
Now, it would be remiss of me to end this post without mentioning the series’ most undoubtedly glorious scene, one that has easily shot right up into my top five anime moments of all time, and believe you me that’s a pretty damn prestigious list to be on. Needless to say, I physically jumped out of my seat and screamed. I couldn’t help it, it was so brilliant and unexpected. Reina’s confession was truly one for the history books. I would normally try to go into actual detail and not just gush about it for a whole paragraph, but to be honest I could probably write an entire feature about it. Similar to my feature about a confession in Kokoro Connect now that I think about it.
And with a few more loose ends tied up before the ending theme, another fantastic episode for Sound! Euphonium comes to a close. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by how brilliant this show can be by now, but then again, the show’s so good at playing with expectations that I really have no choice. Only one episode left in the season, and it certainly seems like there’s going to be another planned in our future. And that makes me pretty happy.