Sound! Euphonium 2
Episode 11

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Sound! Euphonium 2 ?

This week's Sound! Euphonium revolved around a nearly impossible task: making the audience care about Reina's feelings for Taki.

Reina's crush on their teacher has been a bit of an albatross for Sound! Euphonium. Beyond at times appearing like an artificial indicator that Kumiko and Reina's relationship isn't romantic, it's also just been hard to invest in for its own sake. Everything we know about Reina comes down to her pride, her confidence, and her drive to be a “special person.” Her feelings for Taki don't emerge naturally out of that drive, and up until this episode, we've had no real explanation for those feelings at all. In order to invest in one character's feelings for another, we have to understand what those feelings mean to that character, so our existing fondness for that character can act as a conduit to help us sympathize with those emotions.

The fact that Reina is a student and Taki is a teacher has actually been less of a problem for me than simply not understanding what brought Reina to have feelings for him. I certainly wouldn't approve of a relationship between them, but the idea that Reina would have a crush on a significantly older man makes sense to me in general terms, given what we know about her. Reina's personality is somewhat contradictory, and this kind of crush is a perfect representation of that contradiction. She considers herself special and unique, and thus would likely only be interested in someone who exemplifies maturity, self-confidence, and “specialness” - Taki easily fits the bill. But in addition to that, Reina is also deeply, self-destructively immature. She throws tantrums, she sulks, she thinks in terms of “I have to be more special than anyone else.” A teenager with Reina's tremendous ego would be exactly the kind of person to have a crush on an adult, and only a teenager with Reina's profound immaturity would not immediately realize that's a terrible, useless idea.

But let's start at the beginning. This week's Euphonium opened with the show's usual grace, drawing Asuka back into the band's world through some lovely shots of her practicing in the hallway. Euphonium is a show that consistently rebels against being defined in terms of base narrative events, and this sequence was a great example of that. We didn't just see Natsuki come trade banter with Asuka (an event that was already laden with subtext, given that Natsuki was scheduled to replace Asuka) - we opened with a series of shots placing Asuka specifically in the context of the school, set against her practicing the familiar score, concluding with a closeup shot of her fingers lifting from the euphonium. Even if that scene hadn't declared that she was slotting back into the band in a narrative sense, that intent was still clear in the way the framing treated her as a natural component of the school setting.

After that, it was Reina and Kumiko from start to finish. After brushing Kumiko off several times, Reina finally invited her out to the mountains, in a scene clearly intended to mirror their trip from the first season. Directly echoing that scene allowed the differences in their overall relationship to come through that much more clearly. Instead of wonder, warmth, and mystery, there was now an air of trust betrayed, made clear through the sharper, darker colors and the curt exchanges between the two.

After letting out one more howl of frustration at the top, Reina revealed why she was angry; not only had she learned about Taki's wife, but she'd also learned that Kumiko knew and hadn't told her. This segment of the episode was basically gorgeous execution trying to lift Euphonium's weakest narrative link. The visceral nature of this exchange and the well-chosen dialogue parsed as very real, but Reina's underlying feelings still felt childish and inexplicable. With no explanation for where Reina's feelings came from, the audience has no reason to sympathize with her, even in terms of “this dumb kid with her hopeless crush.” Her crush is ridiculous, and that's all it is.

Fortunately, the episode didn't end there. Much of the episode's second half was consumed by a smart sequence of flashbacks, where we witnessed a series of interactions between Reina and Taki across her early life. Taking Reina's perspective allowed us to actually see these as formative moments, where it always felt like Taki was pushing her forward and encouraging her ambitions. But even though the camera largely validated Reina's view, it was also still clear that Taki saw far less significance in these events, being generally preoccupied with other things. Though this sequence didn't necessarily make Reina's long-term feelings believable and certainly didn't make them sympathetic, it at least offered somecontext to explain Euphonium's by-far weakest conflict.

The episode concluded with Reina learning why Taki became a teacher and coming to terms with the fact that she'd always be far behind him. As with the rest of this episode, gorgeous execution couldn't quite sell Reina's unrealistic feelings, but it certainly did its best. Reina's crush has been Euphonium's least convincing note from start to finish - the show's staff tried, but sometimes there's only so much you can do.

Overall: B-

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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