Play For Yourself, First and Foremost — A Sound Euphonium Post

So, when are we going to focus on these two again?

Well that was a pretty deflating conclusion after all the good buildup to reach that point. Yes, I saw the warning signs that this would happen, but I’m still disappointed that Euphonium – a show that’s usually so good at school life drama without making it come off as too light or too heavy – decided to make “lack of communication” the main focus for why Nozumi wasn’t allowed to come back and ruin Mizore’s oboe playing, as well as having said communication itself be the solution to this current arc. Not to mention, it doesn’t make sense why the other girls would go along with keeping the two apart for the reason Mizore didn’t want to meet Nozumi, let alone how they found out said reason to begin with. I know Japanese girls have issues and all that, but there’s a difference between what works in real life and what works in fiction, and Euphonium sort of dropped the ball there.

I really hope this was just a hiccup. Normally I’d dismiss it as such since it looks like the rest of the series will focus on the old characters who at this point have already gone through way more development than the new kids ever will so they have more of an advantage, but…well let’s just say that I haven’t added anything to my favorite anime list this year on account of very few shows starting with a good grounding point, and pretty much all of the ones who did had trouble sticking the landing. I really don’t want to add Euphonium to that list of “could-have-beens”, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes. For now, let’s talk about what happened this week.

You guys remember how I said two weeks ago that my problem with Nozumi coming back to the band was because it seemed like she was doing it for Asuka rather than herself? And that if you want to support the band fully, you need to focus on yourself first, because otherwise you’d just drag the whole group down and nobody wins? Well it seems Euphonium had the same idea, but a different opinion than me in regards to how to execute said message, because the show decided that the one to learn this lesson would be Mizore. Not Nozumi, the girl who we’ve spent the last three episodes getting to know. Mizore, the girl who barely had any screen time up till now. Who we mostly only knew from other people talking about her, so when she has to carry the majority of the end drama, it rings kinda false. Who is probably not going to be mentioned again after this except when someone calls on the oboe player to do a piece. Yeah, I’m having trouble following the logic in regards to that thought process.

I mean before this episode, all we knew about Mizore is that she hates competitions, hates a certain type of music, and supposedly hated Nozumi. At no point did the show bother to actually give her any characterization, only making her pour out her feelings when seeing Nozumi again triggered a switch in her. Afterwards, she pretty much bawls to Kumiko that she didn’t really hate Nozumi, so much as she was ashamed to be around her because she was so focused on her own thing that she didn’t notice that the girl who became the main reason for her joining the band in the first place had quit until it was too late. Kind of a dumb thing to get hung up on, but I’ll take it if it actually goes somewhere interesting. I mean if one of my work friends had quit his job and I didn’t notice until several weeks later because I was too busy on a project, I’d feel guilty too. But of course, I wouldn’t be so down on this episode if that was the case.

The conflict sort of stops after it gets to that reveal with Nozumi overhearing Mizore’s problem and reassuring her that she doesn’t have any hard feelings towards her. She then gives a speech regarding how it’s okay for Mizore to play music because she likes it rather than for another person because that’s how it should be. Neat, but Euphonium once again puts the brakes before the writing can delve into why you should just play for yourself. Namely, because otherwise you’re going to drag all the other members down with you if you don’t? You could argue that this was implied by the occasional discussions the music teachers have had with Mizore throughout this arc’s run time, but it was never brought up enough to really matter. And it didn’t exactly help that the female teacher mostly encouraged her this week rather than criticized her.

Once again, the incident with the seniors is brought up and tied into the current issue. And at this point, I think the show is relying too much on that vague yet simplistic conflict for its dramatic chops. I’m fine with it being used as a reason for the girls to succeed in the Nationals before they have to graduate, but that’s it. When you use it for a reason completely divorced from that, it just looks as silly as raising the stakes by saying “the planet is dying”. Maybe I’d give it more of a pass if any of these seniors had gotten any sort of development, but I’d rather they just drop the issue entirely except for when Asuka inevitably goes through her dramatic arc.

Speaking of which, if there was any arc where Asuka needed to play an important role in an arc finale, it’s here. After all, didn’t Nozumi say she wouldn’t rejoin the band until Asuka gave permission? And then our VP just acts as even less of an observer than Kumiko? Yeah…no.

Also, why is Yuko joining in on the waterworks? When did these two ever interact in the show? And even if they had, were any of those interactions memorable in a way that my obviously retarded brain should have retained?

Visual direction was nice though.

My main problem with this episode is that they concluded all this buildup on a character I didn’t give two shits about before now and still don’t care about after everything was resolved. That, and the fact that Euphonium’s drama shines because of the harsh yet fair compromises that result from it, but here, the resolution is pretty hunky dorry. Nozumi had already decided not to bother with the band on her own before this bawlfest, and nobody loses anything as a result of it either. All we got was a fixed friendship and the lesson that you need to play music for yourself without any grit added to it. I’m not saying the entire arc was retroactively tainted by this conclusion since everything I praised regarding the harshness of band practice and the characters struggling to be special in the eyes of themselves still holds true. I’m just disappointed that the main plot thread driving all that ended up being the weakest part, devoid of the strong characterization that made me pay attention to this show. It reminds me of what happened with Netflix’s Luke Cage, and how it replaced its interesting villain halfway through with a poorly-built up walking cliche who turned the whole “black power” story into an overlong generic action film.

Anyways, I’ll write this off as a mistake for now, but Euphonium’s future arcs better have stronger plot lines going forward.

Minor Quips

  • Ribbon at her worst was a thousand times more likable than Nozomi ever will be.
  • I wonder if there are any people complaining how Hazuki and Sapphire got practically no screen time this week?
  • Okay, it makes a little sense that the girls didn’t want trouble so close to the Kansai competition, but c’mon!

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