Sound! Euphonium 2 Episode 12
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Sound! Euphonium 2 ?
After two full seasons of buildup, I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the national competition to be goofy, lighthearted, and defiantly anticlimactic, but this is Sound! Euphonium in the end. It's not about getting the gold - it's about the passion of the journey and the feelings you shared with the people who walked beside you.
The opening scenes of this episode ended up foreshadowing its ultimate focus. We opened with young Kumiko once again drawing inspiration from her sister, before cutting to Yoroizuka sitting on the bus, quietly staring out the window as the competition approached. These shots directly mirrored the bus scene from halfway through this season's premiere, but drawing that parallel only emphasized the differences between the two scenes. While that premiere sequence depicted Yoroizuka and Nozomi overwhelmed by defeat, this time they seemed triumphant even before the competition had begun. Their friendship and passion had been repaired, and that was what really mattered.
After that, it was all a slow build to the performance. Unable to sleep the night before, Kumiko wandered out to get a drink and ended up having a surprisingly satisfying conversation with Shuichi. While Kumiko has grown closest to Reina and Asuka over this season, Shuichi is a much more conventionally supportive friend, and the degree of familiarity the two share was clear in both their body language and Tomoyo Kurosawa's brilliantly naturalistic voice acting. I've commented before that Kurosawa's voice acting for this show deserves particular notice, but it seemed even more natural in this scene, where her feelings of offhand familiarity with Shuichi were most clear in her small vocal gestures.
Many other characters also got small hat-tips in the build-up to that performance. Kumiko and Asuka shared some nice lines, which emphasized how those two have gotten perhaps the most satisfying growth of any characters this season. Even Yoroizuka got some very funny moments, as she confidently fist-bumped Kumiko and confided that this was her “best reed ever.” Then at last, it was time to play.
And then it was over. Sound! Euphonium's final performance, the nationals performance that this whole season had been leading up to, took place entirely during the episode's commercial break. I had to laugh at that - after all of this work, after performance sequences as stunning as last season's conclusion and this season's halfway point, it felt like an intentional flaunting of expectations to actually cut this one out. But while I certainly wouldn't have minded one more gorgeous full band highlight, I ultimately felt that this show's performances have already said all they needed to say. Euphonium has always been about finding a reason to perform; while getting the gold would have been nice in-universe, it makes sense that the rush of feelings surrounding this performance were more important than the performance itself. Asuka's dedication and feelings reached her father. Kumiko was able to express how her passion came from her sister. And Reina made a love confession to an entire auditorium.
The second half of this episode was silly, charming, and a generally lovely time. Reina remained proud and high-strung to the very end, but at this point, even people like Yuuko have learned to appreciate that about her. Asuka's feelings were beautifully portrayed through a quick sequence of hyper-close expressions, ending in a hug with Kumiko, who has really come into her own as well this season. Taki gracefully acknowledged and defused Reina's feelings, and Teppei-sensei learned that all his students thought he was very cute. It was endearing. It felt right.
This episode wasn't ultimately a highlight in the way the premiere, mid-season performance, or Asuka's arc were, but it was a sturdy episode that felt like a fitting conclusion to a broad array of character arcs. It was also extremely funny and seemed to understand that arcs like Reina's could probably stand to be deflated a little. Between that and the well-earned tears of characters like Asuka and Kumiko, I'm okay with Kitauji taking home the bronze.
Sound! Euphonium 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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