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Sound! Euphonium 3
Episode 11

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Sound! Euphonium 3 (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.4

Preoccupied as it always is with "the next piece," Sound! Euphonium this week finds itself following up on the question of what comes next. That's hardly a fresh subject; this season has harped on the subject of stuff like Kumiko's post-graduation plans practically non-stop through its run. It'd be a running gag if it weren't also a serious consideration that our favorite fluffy euphonium player was staring down like an oncoming train. So when Kumiko does reach some sort of decision by the end of this episode, it feels like a final breakthrough, and it's only just one of many resolutions arrived at. Being so close to the end of the season, it bloody well ought to be.

That is, it would seem that Kumiko has definitely decided she is not going to be attending a music school. The possibility was teased, particularly with the idea that she might do so specifically to accompany Reina. But with her other half revealing that she will be heading overseas to further her musical studies, Kumiko grasps that that will not be as feasible as she might have hoped. With that point, there's the lingering question of whether Kumiko could attend a music school entirely for the sake of her abilities—and the returning Mizore puts the final nail in that coffin. It just wouldn't be Kumiko's style—and even with her drive and desire to improve her abilities, to get good enough to retake her place in the band and play solo with Reina in the Nationals is about where the extent of her ambitions would end.

It's a bittersweet breakthrough, especially knowing narratively what it might mean for the Kumiko/Reina power couple. Reina grasps this immediately, effectively attempting to break up with Kumiko towards this episode's end out of fear of them anticlimacticly growing apart without music holding them together. Kumiko, being more of a realist, isn't having it, and resolves to hold onto their connection somehow, regardless. They've certainly weathered more dramatic storms, to be sure.

Case in point: the resolution of Kumiko and Reina's disagreement which comes earlier in this episode. It's similarly realistic in the way these spats usually work out between friends. Reina realizes she'd been harsh in her initial reaction to Kumiko's questions—and the speech that Kumiko gave to the band last week and their resultant winning performance effectively proved she was right. Still, it's recognizably a lot to get an apology like that out of Reina, something she'd clearly been meditating on the past couple of episodes. It's a quietly climactic sign of how unbreakable the bond between these two really is—sealed with one of the most intimately adorably animated hugs I've seen in anime in a minute. Kumiko's right and Reina's not thinking straight if she believes that little things like not playing music together or traveling to another country can break them up.

Not that their connection isn't being tested in other ways. Kuroe playing the soli with Reina has resulted in Kumiko experiencing what can only be described as "euphonium NTR" as audiences and classmates heap praise on their performance. This too is an additional spoke on Kuroe's web and Euphonium continues to refuse to be subtle about it. Kumiko thinks she has to hammer into Kuroe her desire for fair competition for the umpteenth time but Kanade pops in to inform her (and any audience members still not getting it) of what's really going on. Kuroe's accommodating facade, her willingness if not desire to forfeit the soli to Kumiko is emotional manipulation of the highest caliber to bend the band to her machinations. She's taken the auditions and now seeks to control the President's decisions as well. This late in the story it's a sledgehammer of a point to have Kumiko come to understand, flashing back to all of Kuroe's softly smiling setups.

As I said, these are resolutions that Sound! Euphonium needed to arrive at this late in the game, even if they're not all created equal. Taki talks his way out of the capriciousness of his audition decisions but the ultimate point feels like a shrug. The fallibility of adults in her life was something Kumiko had to learn growing up, yes. But there's little updating here apart from Taki admitting that he can be misguided sometimes and seeming to excuse it with "But teaching band is hard, am I right?" It's understandably human in some respects but it also lands flatly compared to the other emotional milestones achieved in this episode.

Of course, my biggest criticism of this episode of Sound! Euphonium is that only some of its realizations are certified bangers, making it a resounding success. Taki can stack rocks—this story has reached milestones in Kumiko's arc that resonate even as she still hasn't properly decided what she will do after school. She knows what she's not doing, and that's enough for now, at least. Yuko and Natsuki also appeared again in this episode, and Natsuki even wore a snappy suit! You can't convince me that doesn't make this great television.


Sound! Euphonium 3 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris was in drama rather than band in high school, but he presumes the dynamics were similar. You can catch what he's conducting over on Twitter, or push your way into the orchestra pit that is his blog.

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