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Sound! Euphonium 3
Episode 13

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Sound! Euphonium 3 (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.7

The stone-cold stunner that was last week's penultimate Sound! Euphonium episode did a phenomenal job closing many of the story's narrative loops. Despite diverging from the novels, it felt like precisely the point the series had been building to all along. It was a triumph that then, naturally, left the finale proper this week to serve as but a victory lap after everything else this whole series has accomplished. Driving point as it is, the competition win for Kitauji might as well be a foregone conclusion by now—they've already won all the hearts and minds they ever could.

That isn't to diminish what this final episode accomplishes on its own, nor the significance of the band's in-story victory. Kitauji taking the gold at Nationals is every bit the cheering, fist-pumping moment that viewers could have hoped for after all this time arriving at it. But the true strength of Sound! Euphonium's finale is in the ways it acknowledges and pays tribute to that passage of time. Some of that could be easily expected from the format; the band's final competition performance is accompanied by flashbacks to all the years that Kumiko and Co. spent across the story. That's a strong, evocative way to define and differentiate this competition performance from previous ones that tended to meditate on the playing of the pieces themselves. It provides one particular reason for why this performance takes home the gold where previous ones have faltered, embodying everything that brought Kitauji here.

But the power of those three years of high school feeling like a lifetime is apparent virtually everywhere else in this final chapter. Kumiko's practice corner is one effective example. She's returned here time and again, the image of her sitting and rehearsing being a recurring visual that's ostensibly static—being in the same place over and over. But the state of the place has been ever-changing, disrupted in ongoing ways this season—particularly by Kuroe, whose intrusions waved with the shadows over Kumiko's spot. Now here, in the end, as the dust has properly settled between the euphonium players, Kumiko is able to allow Kuroe in—changing the place of the practice spot one last time. And Kanade gets to come too so that Kumiko can properly pass down Asuka's piece to the next generation. "Sound! Euphonium" will continue, it's confirmed here. That's pretty beautiful, in-context.

Much of this finale is like that: cherishing these last moments that can be spent with these characters. Taking the time to hang out in these everyday scenes is the sort of material that Kyoto Animation has always excelled at—and it's no less beautiful this last time than it was the first dozen times, here or in their other anime. Seeing Kumiko and Reina together up on the mountain doesn't have the same vicious anguish that rang out in last week's episode but instead punctuates their time spent together one last time as they resolve to continue towards the futures they laid out. These simple moments with those you love are what you miss most when you move on from high school—and it's what the audience will miss most now that their time with Kumiko and Reina in high school has ended.

It is, of course, never really the end. Sound! Euphonium's final piece passes as quickly as all treasured times do, wrapping with a flash-forward coda to bring everything full circle. Those aforementioned flashbacks and revisits to mainstay locations already did that conceptually but it is here that we get the most concrete connective closure. For all the agonized effort spent across the season on deciding it, Kumiko's ultimate future as a teacher at Kitauji was always the natural choice. It's the perfect way to resolve her issues with her choices throughout the season—as an advisor to the band, she's still able to interface with music, which she does love, in her adult life and career. And her time spent as president proved her leadership abilities and resolve. Just as Kumiko couldn't help but return to the band after middle school, she must also return to it after high school. This isn't framed as a begrudging inevitability but instead as her triumphantly striding into where she's always belonged. It's like her practice corner: the place is technically the same but the context has moved it across mountains.

It's been a powerful journey for KyoAni and Sound! Euphonium. Getting to see it unfold as it was released in real-time has been a privilege that lent so much weight to arriving at this ending. But I believe going back and watching the anime all at once will be just as kind to its qualities. The series' healthy respect for the passage of time—and people's perception of it—is what makes it feel like the everyday epic it is. It's not immaculate all the way through and even this wonderful finale was pointedly outclassed by its preceding piece. But it can still be confirmed as an overall outstanding triumph now that it's concluded. And it might just be Kyoto Animation's finest work.


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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