by Nick Creamer,
There wasn't much of an arc to this episode, or at least not a central one. It was just one slow, rising build, starting in the silence of the morning and ending in crescendo and release. We opened with what's become a consistent Euphonium ritual, as a series of peaceful morning shots established a quiet and steady tone before Kumiko rose for the day of the performance. After checking her part one last time, she had a final confrontation with her sister, which was only appropriate. Her sister has always represented her insecurities about choosing her own path, and her original status as a “follower,” and so she basically had to appear one last time as Kumiko deals with her pre-performance nerves.
But Reina met her on the train, and they shared a cute moment together, and from there the episode began to build. Light piano accompanied a few shots of the various concert members collecting themselves before the whole band began to assemble. As the background song added strings and soft percussion, our stars began to fully wake up, the show's tone once again closely mirroring the headspace of its characters. By the time time Natsuki and the other sub members handed out a set of good-luck charms, the group was giddy with nerves, which prompted Taki-sensei to ask Haruka for a speech from the president. As Haruka briefly stammered, she got an unambiguous shout of support from Asuka, a moment that marked a key push for both of their characters. Haruka has grown into her presidency, and Asuka can occasionally let down the mask to help her friends. Given how well this show has established and added texture to its characters across these thirteen episodes, nearly every small turn of this episode represented a welcome resolution for all characters involved.
From there, the group moved to the performance venue, where Reina asked Kumiko to put up her hair in yet another tonally charged moment. Euphonium's acuity of body language has always been strong, but it was particularly on point this week, as also demonstrated in the next scene. Standing and waiting for their turn to come, Kumiko was startled by Shuuichi, finally bridging the gap that had emerged between them ever since the festival. Briefly put out by his gesture, Kumiko eventually returned his friendship, in a scene that conveyed nine-tenths of its emotional baggage through body language alone.
And then it was on to the performance, which opened with one more nudge forward for both Asuka and Kumiko (Asuka honestly reflecting on her feelings, Kumiko outright declaring they're going to Nationals) before the show began. The performance itself was wonderful, rich with character animation and energetic cuts and consistently beautiful, carefully realized instruments. From the small details like Midori glancing at her bass as she changed strings to the constant energy of Taki's motions, the animation here was far beyond anything you'd expect from a television anime. And that execution was met by in-performance character turns, as we finally heard Kumiko admit that she always had wanted to go to Nationals, but had been too afraid of hoping and failing to articulate that hope. But “wishes don't come true unless you wish out loud,” she thinks - only for that thought to be directly contrasted against Reina's beautiful solo.
Reina's solo was lovely, and the animation as careful as the rest of it, but the camera's eye actually spent most of her performance focusing on Kaori. This was appropriate, given what Sound! Euphonium really has to say. All through these episodes, we've focused on the fear of missing out on your chance, on the necessity of pursuing and “saying out loud” what you really want - but that won't always end in victory. For Kaori (and for Hazuki, comforted in the next shot by the ever-thoughtful Natsuki), giving it their best shot didn't earn them what they wanted. But they still made the attempt, still said it out loud, and so can still stand proud as the performance ends.
Sound! Euphonium ended where it began, with Kumiko and her friends tensely awaiting the judge's verdict. Actually invested this time, Kumiko sat anxiously, but her efforts were rewarded; Kitauji got the gold, allowing them to move on and prompting one giant cheer from all of the team. Reina even embraced Kumiko, and the show ended with a shot of them smiling together before the final cutaway. That might not be all the resolution the fans would have wanted, but I'd say the show gave people everything else they could ask for. This was a beautiful finale full of thematically charged character resolutions and gorgeous animation. Sound! Euphonium triumphs to the end.
Sound! Euphonium is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
discuss this in the forum (219 posts) |