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Sound! Euphonium 3
Episode 8

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Sound! Euphonium 3 (TV 3) ?
Community score: 4.5

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The dramatic note finally drops. After all the setup, stress, and skirting around, this episode sees that mysterious mama Kuroe make her move. All she needs is one final push of encouragement from Kumiko. That big, shocking swerve comes at the end of this episode but the whole runtime is driving home how things are shifting. The entire foundation of the Kitauji band has changed as much as it did the day Kumiko enrolled. For better or worse, it's the efforts of her and her cohorts that have led to that.

This episode sees the Kitauji band head to their annual summer camp and the characters conspicuously remark on how different things are right away. Doing auditions before every show now necessitates holding those tryouts at the camp, which shuffles the whole schedule and amps up the tension. The summer camps in Sound! Euphonium had hardly ever been on vacations. However, the added x-factor of the auditions adds another layer of stress—to say nothing of differentiating this go-around from the two previous times the show has visited this activity. That's ostensibly good for the viewers at home who don't want the proceedings to get stale, while not-so-good for the band members who came out to try their best without all this added uncertainty.

That uncertainty has previously been seen in other members of the band with Kumiko having to coach and console them. Now, Kumiko finds herself in a similar situation with no one to help her through it. Maybe it's the added load of being club president plus worrying about her impending post-graduation plans. Maybe it's that Kuroe's abilities are naturally approaching a higher level. But regardless, Kumiko's playing has been slipping behind Kuroe's—to the point that everyone can see it.

There are several varied and engaging worries that come out of this. Kumiko herself silently ponders the point Mirei made in the last round—that Taki's choices for who is "best" might not necessarily support the group dynamic of the Kitauji band itself. Reina, meanwhile, stays true to her shamelessly confident selfishness, reiterating how much she wants to perform the soli with Kumiko specifically. Kumiko's caught in a battle with her own selfishness—she's trying to separate her desire to play from her belief in what's best for the band. Emotionally speaking, she doesn't seem to be doing a very good job.

This is all communicated primarily through Kumiko's interactions with Kuroe. As repetitive as some of Kuroue's voiced issues have gotten to be when they're on, they're on, and they culminated as strongly as I could have hoped for here. Part of that strength comes from how I still can't quite get a read on the girl, echoed in Kumiko's caution of her. Kuroe's stated concerns about taking Kumiko's spot away through the audition display a presumptuous dismissal of Kumiko's ability—one that Kumiko directly calls out. Does Kuroe secretly revel in her superior playing ability, only pressing a target like Kumiko for direct permission before she swoops in to dethrone her? The discussion of how Kuroe approaches auditions—and how she plays to what she knows are specifically Taki's preferences—highlights her as a sort of social chameleon. Kuroe is a calculating people-pleaser and by telling her that she should do what's best for the band, Kumiko effectively signs her death warrant.

Not to be dramatic, it's not like the subtlety of Sound! Euphonium itself has gone anywhere. Kuroe's sniping of Kumiko's soli is an obvious oncoming train of development and the anime still builds up around it to hammer the tension home. Midori's side-plot meeting with Motomu (and his potential confession) parallels the auditions and their cycle of making an effort, failing, and being consoled. As if that symbolism isn't apparent enough: this episode ends with a butterfly being caught in a spider's web, just in case viewers hadn't clocked how directly Kumiko and the rest of Kitauji had been caught by Kuroe to remake the band in her image. It's not quite at the level of the rat at the end of The Departed, but it did make me roll my eyes just a little.

That's always going to be a part of the Euphonium experience though and I'm as tuned into the anime's melodrama as ever that I can appreciate how it takes this next, necessary step. For all the outlandishness, the series still has sections of subtlety that land as well as ever. The second that Kumiko takes to realize she's lost the soli speaks volumes about how complacent she'd gotten about her place in her own story. It's a stunned silence, a beat that could be followed by anything in the following section. That's arguably the main reason this upset is unsurprising: it always had to happen at some point.

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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