by Nick Creamer,
The rain came down all episode long. It was a constant presence in frame, from shots of the cast wandering in umbrellas and waiting at bus stops, to indoor scenes that nonetheless were lit to emphasize the grey skies above. Characters were caught alone in distant shots, or framed as hemmed in by seats or stationary. Kumiko's face would be positioned in a small corner of the frame, with the rest of the shot given up to dampened scenery and dreary memories.
Aoi finally left this week, but Aoi's actions were just the centerpiece of a melancholy and doubt that gripped all of the cast. The president Haruka experienced the worst of this, as Aoi's decision to quit resulted in her losing what small faith she had in her leadership talents. At the end of a scene marked by more of those alienating distant shots and half-framed characters, Kumiko attempted to comfort her leader, halfheartedly listing her qualifications - but Haruka rightly dismissed her kindness as “words you say to someone when there's nothing else to say.” Kumiko doesn't really know Haruka, and she can't help her find her strength. Being "nice" is ultimately worth a great deal, but it's not what Haruka needs right now.
Taki-sensei also got his share of sad, isolating shots this week, though his actions were really just an extension of what he's been doing all along. Upon noticing Aoi wasn't keeping up with her part, he began prodding her just as he did two episodes ago. Taki is himself at all times - when a student doesn't get a part, he does not gloss over it, but sits and waits for them to rejoin the group. Unfortunately, it was only her being glossed over that was keeping Aoi in the band at all, and when she's put on the spotlight, she chooses cram school over music. “They say music vanishes once it's played, and you can never get it back. You always have to play like you mean it.” Midori intends for these words to inspire Kumiko, but they work just as well for Aoi's choices. She was dragged along last year, but that's not happening again. Her choice may seem sad to others, but she made it for herself.
It's not all sadness and regrets this week, though. When Haruka takes a day off to consider her own choices, trumpet lead Kaori ends up reaching out to her, and providing the reassurance she needs. Though Haruka thinks she's simply inferior to Asuka, Kaori rightly points out that the fact that she took the presidency at all means she has a real courage. It's not a list of qualifications that makes you the right person for the job, it's getting out there and doing it, playing the music before it vanishes. And though it seems Kumiko feels like she's losing a friend this week, the positive consequences of her own actions keep popping up as well, from Natsuki's newly motivated behavior to Hazuki's final, welcome “let me know if you ever want to talk.” The rain prompts reflection, but the rain ends.
The characters ended this week all shifted slightly, more secure in some friendships and more committed to some choices. The ensemble character work continues to pay off beautifully, with the cast only becoming more engaging in the ways they all affect and carry one another. And the production has never been better - the tone was vividly set through a long series of alienating shots and scenes framed to emphasize the small-scale drama, the sound design was understated and rehearsals appropriately uneven, and the animation was consistent and expressive throughout. Even Euphonium's rainy days demonstrate that it is a very special show.
Sound! Euphonium is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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