Here’s your obligatory cheesecake shot. Now let’s talk about the actual show.
It’s no new observation that Japan takes the hierarchy system very seriously compared to what we in the West are accustomed to. Being in an older grade is notable in the US as well, especially in certain private schools, but not to the extent that Japan and presumably other Eastern Asian countries uses age as a hierarchy. Generally being a senpai, or upperclassman as the English term goes, means you command a certain amount of respect from those that are younger than you. And when you combine that with the hierarchy that’s always going to be involved in club activities for a very good reason – especially sports – hopefully your senpai think the same way you do, because if they don’t, you’re going to have a rough year or two.
The reveal that Nozomi originally left the band along with some other students because the lazy girls of a higher age had no aspirations to make their school big is nowhere close to a surprise revelation, but it’s all the little details surrounding it that keep it from being just an obligatory plot point that’s there to make the story move a certain way. And most of what makes it stand out are the unique circumstances surrounding Nozomi, Asuka, and the small relationship they have with each other. As Kumiko said this week, Nozomi could easily rejoin the band if she just asked Taki-sensei or Haruka or just went through the formal procedure rather than go through all this back-and-forth with our controversial glasses-wearing sexual harasser, and yet our new girl is determined to do things her way. Why? Well, we get a little bit of an explanation, even though I don’t personally think it’s worth enough trouble for Kumiko herself to get personally involved.
Apparently, Nozomi respects Asuka because she tried to stop her from leaving and the former gained a certain respect for the latter because of that. And since this year is Asuka’s last chance to make it big into band before graduating, Nozomi wants to be supportive to her. Obviously, if the person doesn’t want your support, then there’s no point in providing it, and Nozomi is not a shonen protagonist who believes that doing helpful things for someone despite their constant denial that they want it is a surefire way to worm into that person’s heart. I mean it’s obvious that she doesn’t really consider herself all that important to the band given how it’s changed to the point that first years like Kumiko and Sapphire are playing in the regional competition and she hasn’t had the constant practice they’ve been having in regards to getting ready to qualify for the Nationals. Hell, she even says in this episode that she doesn’t mind that she can’t perform with Asuka as long as she can be useful in some way.
While I can’t say for sure, it’s very likely that said motivations are the very reason that Asuka is so hesitant in regards to accepting Nozomi back. First off, the Kitauji band’s biggest goal is to make it to the Nationals, and as such, that should be the main reason why anyone would be a part of the club in the first place. You can have all sorts of other reasons and benefits for playing instruments with other people, but the main one should be to put on the best musical performance possible. One of the important lessons that the characters learned in the first season was how results are the only thing that matter in regards to progress, and if you have other things weighing you down, then you’re only going to hinder said progress. Before Nozomi thinks about being helpful to a specific person that’s part of a team, she has to be helpful to the entire team in general. And to do that, she has to be helpful to herself by sharpening up her music skills and playing because she likes music. If she can’t do that, not only will she not be helpful to the person she respects, but she’ll drag down over fifty girls and five boys with her, which is clearly not a burden that she’s equipped to bear.
We’ve all heard the phrase “before you can help others, you must first help yourself” before, and whilst it’s mostly said by bad guys who take the latter part of that philosophy way too far, it’s a true statement that most people should live by. If you don’t take care of yourself, then you won’t be in any condition to help other people. And given how collaborative band is as a recreational activity to the point that one person doing a bad job can cause the whole thing to come crumbling down, especially when you’ve got a trained conductor keeping an eye on you, Nozomi currently has no business joining in on the fun. I mean has she practiced at all lately? Do we even know what instrument she uses? Is she even good? What exact sort of help did she have in mind, should Asuka have accepted her request in the first place?
And while it’s only because the band started to take their practicing seriously that she’s even asking to rejoin in the first place, something tells me that if Asuka wasn’t in it, she wouldn’t have bothered to show her face. Not even for other former friends/bandmates like Mizore, the girl with the blue-ish hair who stayed after all the bullying because none of it was directed towards along with a vague promise the two made to carry the band to the Nationals. It’s been hinted at throughout the first season that Asuka is having troubles of her own, and this week’s episode brought said hints to the forefront in a way that basically screams “plot twist incoming”. If I had to guess, she probably has something very important to do in the coming months to the point that she’ll have to leave the band similar to how Aoi left in order to focus on her studies. And if she leaves, then Nozomi will lose the one person she joined the band to help. And if that happens…well do I really need to explain where I’m going with this? Even if I’m wrong with my hypothesis, Asuka is definitely leaving the club by the end of this school year, and what exactly is Nozomi going to do when that happens? I doubt she even planned that far ahead, but I can definitely say that if she was to make a split decision, there’s a very low probability that she’d even consider staying as a third-year senpai.
It’s very likely that Asuka knows that Nozomi’s reasons for coming back are incredibly dependent on her being there. I mean, it’s hard not to notice when she wants her approval over someone with more authority. Last week, I stated that I supported her decision to turn Nozomi away, and based on this week’s episode, that support has only increased. I mean imagine in Hikaru no Go if Hikaru hadn’t developed his own passion for the game and let Sai control all his moves as he went up in the Go world. Not only would it gain him fame that’s too much for a boy of his age to deal with, but what would happen if Sai left because the manga made him realize what the Divine Move truly was in an alternate way? It’d be the Go-equivalent of what happened to M. Night Shyamalan or Eminem, and man would that suck. Sure that comparison breaks apart a little when you consider that none of the Kitauji band members want to become pro-instrument players in their futures (at least from what we know), but both activities demand a certain degree of individual seriousness. Once Nozomi proves she’s ready to demonstrate it, then I’ll support her comeback, and maybe Asuka will too. Until then, I’ll just watch Kumiko act as the middleman for everything that’s going on.
Anyways, that’s all I have to say about the most interesting factor in a surprisingly interesting episode. I mean I saw the beach image on the Crunchyroll stream and thought this would be a relaxation episode ala the pool OVA in Hyouka or any of the downtime in those Persona games, but boy was I wrong. In addition to all I described above, we get some screen time devoted to Reina’s teacher woes (which I don’t feel are important enough to dwell on at this point) as well as a little bit of insight into Mizore this week. Apparently, she likes rhythm games, hates Kumiko’s taste in music, and hates the idea the very nature of competitions in general. I mean yeah, practically all competitions are based on the judges’ personal taste and they invite some other unpleasant factors, but what can you do? I’m interested to see where that individual philosophy goes when it’s her time to shine, but for now, let’s look forward to Asuka explaining herself and proving my theories right or wrong next week, shall we?
- Am I the only one who thinks Reina’s crush on her teacher is a little bit creepy at this point? I mean it’s practically just being used as a convenient tool for yuri fetish fuel at this point.
- So are T-shirts that have English words on them a new fetish now?
- No captions under the images this time because the subs speak for themselves.