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Sound! Euphonium 3
Episode 3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Sound! Euphonium 3 (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.5

se3031
Sound! Euphonium has long been a series about teenagers in the tumultuous time of high school asking biting questions about that period of life. What are you going to do in the future? What does it mean to grow up? Do you actually enjoy this serious-business band club? Musings like these shaped Kumiko's experiences in previous years with the band, but now, as president, she finds it necessary to navigate them for other people as well. To answer one of those biting questions, shouldering that kind of responsibility is part of growing up.

It turns out that, for all the growth the central characters of Sound! Euphonium has experienced in these three years, the struggles of the club may simply be cyclical. The pressure to perform is noticeable in the first-year recruits, driven by that established desire for a Gold at Nationals. The lead trio of the band seems to think they've got the emotional labor divided up effectively, with Reina pointedly taking the "bad cop" role as the one who gets tough and pushes people during practice. She makes a girl cry in this episode! While there are indications that Reina is struggling with self-consciousness about how she's perceived, that part of her is relegated to some evocative reactions and facial expressions. Perhaps that will be followed up later, but this episode is more about how that affects the others in the club and the ways it necessitates Kumiko to react to it.

Pointedly, the push and pull between the students and their struggles forebodes a repeat of the scenario that occurred before Euphonium's first season: a mass exodus by disaffected first-years gutting the band. Kumiko's been quite familiar with the aftermath of that which led to the club being rebuilt up the way it is today but as she hones in on Sally, the struggling character at the center of this episode, she starts to understand how those cracks could have formed in the first place. Being a leader, ostensibly of the understanding flip-side to Reina's tough approach, means Kumiko can't just ignore the drama and hope someone else works it out. That too is part of growing up.

In this episode, Taki muses that growing up, the state of adulthood, may defined by one's environment. It's relevant to everyone's struggles that he confesses that he still feels like an overgrown child pretending to be an adult at times, that's a feeling I think a lot of people can relate to. Kumiko needing to step up as president is one instance of being forced into the feeling of adulthood. It's reflected in other characters and their interactions as well. It turns out Sally's working with the other struggling students wasn't a prelude to her spurring a walk-out by the first-years, but rather she was trying to help keep them in the club—that's an example of growth in an environment. Sally's confidant, Suzume, took her interactions with Kumiko in the previous episode to heart, learning the value of simply listening, in another instance of growth.

Still being relatively early in the story, Kumiko has hardly resolved all the simmering issues by the end of this episode. She admits as much in her conversation with Sally, even as that simple act of listening has helped. Thanking Sally for her efforts cements that she does have a place in the band, and could be what lets her step up further to increase cohesion. After all, it's important that a band has everyone capable of working in concert.

Whether Kumiko can talk through all the other oncoming issues as effectively as she did this one remains to be seen. Kuroe remains an ominous x-factor, for one thing. Her pragmatic opinion on students potentially quitting contrasts with the desire to maintain membership espoused by all the established members. It fits thematically at the moment, prompting questions about what kind of environment Kuroe previously occupied that caused her to grow up in her way. If just one person's persistence like Sally's was enough to keep students in the club now, does that mean it would similarly take only a few stray actions from someone like Kuroe to shatter things?

That will likely get more detailed as the series goes, with Euphonium hopefully also finding time to balance its established cast among all the new faces. Some of the cordoning out of the characters in this episode is mildly jarring—Shuuichi barely appears despite being at the center of an (admittedly funny) gag conversation between Kumiko and Suzume. You'd think he might've had some advice as vice president that would have benefitted Kumiko in her struggles here, but there just wasn't space. Similarly, Reina's role as more of an inciting drama device for this conflict than a person with an actual stake in it shortchanges her. There are signs they might analyze her feelings later but now she's mainly here to see students like Sally react with (extremely effectively animated) personal fear.

That kind of character animation exemplifies Euphonium continuing to be on-point in the looks department. I almost think KyoAni's approach is more ostentatious than usual this week. The weather in particular is comically reactive to the characters' struggles, with clouds, rain, and sunshine cycling dramatically depending on the stages of conflict and resolution people stand in. Still, it looks great, supplying the episode with moods and hues, ensuring that the audience fully feels the vibes of a given moment. It's arguable as an emotional railroading in line with the sledgehammer-like lack of subtlety expected from Euphonium. That also speaks to how strongly the anime has developed its identity. The series, like Kumiko, has noticeably grown up within its environment.

Rating:

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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