Hopefully the resolution to this plot thread isn’t half-assed when it decides to show up again.
Another transition episode this week given how you can sum up this week’s Euphonium with “the girls prepare to play in public, they do play, and stuff happens in-between”. Unlike last week, it had enough drama to be kinda entertaining, but it still feels too much like a sneak preview of what’s about to happen rather than the show on its A-game. Most of the lessons the characters learn this week are kind of minor while the potentially interesting ones have yet to be developed into anything too impactful. It’s times like this that I wish the rest of the episodes were out already, so I could marathon it and see the results a lot quicker. When a show is good, that’s always an improvement over the week-to-week wait (like when I rewatched the entire first season in the span of two days before deciding its spot on my top 2015 list). But then again, the world would miss out on my weekly blogging of this show if that happened, and that’d be a shame.
Anyways, since Euphonium 2 this week was more a collection of things happening rather than a stand-alone self-contained narrative, I’m just going to highlight a few things.
Deciding Between Future and Fun
Just like the seventh episode of the first season, this new Euphonium’s seventh installment brings up the topic of having to choose between getting a good education and winning competitions, except this one seems to be going for a more long-term approach to the conflict, whereas Aoi’s thing was confined to a single episode. And even then, a big part of why Aoi quit was guilt regarding that last year incident and how the seniors weren’t taking band seriously, causing members to quit. However, what gave that episode its unique edge was how Aoi made her own decision and had to live with the consequences of doing so, whilst not exactly parting on bad terms. This time around, Asuka is being forced to abandon band by her own mother, and based on just this episode alone, it’s harder to get into her version of the story because aside from when her mother gets involved, she puts on an “everything is okay” facade and refuses to let the other characters in. Plus we aren’t given much of an opportunity to learn about her mother either. She’s a bit abusive, but that’s all we know so far.
I can’t say for sure how Euphonium is going to develop this new plotline or even if it’ll develop it next week (we do have other subplots going on at the same time after all, most notably the one with Kumiko’s sister), but a large part of its eventual quality seems like it’ll hinge on what Asuka’s reasons for staying in the band actually are. There’s this conversation between Kumiko and Reina regarding how this binary choice should normally be easy for the rational: obviously you’d pick education because band is ultimately not going to be your future. And yet Asuka seems determined to stay no matter what, indicating that things just aren’t that simple for her. Obviously I’m not expecting anything too complicated as an answer, but I’d like for it to be something that wouldn’t be more at home in a light novel like the big reveal in the last arc ended up being. Also, Asuka is going to have to open up sometime. I mean it’s a little hard to believe she’s in any real trouble when she can just show up out of nowhere to join her former band members’ public performance after being forced to quit like nothing happened.
The character who actually gets some development this week is the club president, Haruka. As has been established before, she has a bit of an inferiority complex in regards to her position, thinking that Asuka should be the actual one in charge. And Asuka being forced to leave the band on short notice is both good and bad for her. Bad in that she feels lost without her, and the other band members don’t exactly take the news too well either given how important she was in terms of keeping things together. Good in that Haruka is forced to develop as a result, becoming the person that’s required of her position, and getting everyone else on board in the process. And then the impact of the goodness gets lessened somewhat because this all happens within the span of a few minutes with no real surprises aside from, of course, Asuka coming back temporarily. But that’s not really a surprise that helps, so I don’t count that.
We get a new concert piece this week and while it’s not as technical a marvel as the one from Episode 5, there’s still a lot of attention to detail and it is a new song, so it gets brownie points for that. However, aside from Haruka’s piece (and maybe Asuka’s part, but it’s pretty minor even by comparison), there’s not much reason to get swept up by it unless you just really like that sort of animation. I don’t enjoy the performances in this show just because they look and sound great you know. I like them for the same reason I like animation in general, because the visuals during those moments are fueled with intense character emotions, telling us why we should care about the story and characters through actions. And the reason why that’s showcased when Haruka plays a solo for the first time is because of the development she underwent beforehand and how she’s expressing the results of it by doing something unique to her. For everyone else, this is just a stepping stone to the Nationals without us seeing any sort of intensive training beforehand, and while that’s fine enough to the point that I’m not bored, it’s pretty much a step down from how Euphonium usually operates.
I mean imagine if the individual skaters “that will probably never be relevant again after their introduction” in Yuri on Ice were just doing their routines without expressing what they want to show through said routine, let alone tying said expressions to Victor. It’d just be ice-skating porn then, and I could just watch the opening for that. Euphonium’s performances work because the characters struggled a lot to get to the point where they’re doing these performances in the first place, so when they actually do play, you get to feel everything they’ve experienced up to that point in one giant well-animated blast. And they’re not simplistic struggles like whatever the fuck you call what Haruchika did. These are girls and a few guys who want to make a name for themselves to the point that they’ll endure anything, and we’ve seen them endure some tough shit before. So with the only buildup to what’s admittedly more of a mini-climax in its very concept being a few minutes of moping that were solved by someone else’s minor character development, I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment that today’s performance didn’t transport me to another world. And speaking of proper buildup…
The Stakes As Of Right Now
Euphonium mostly gets away with its “seemingly low-stake” story by having its character be somewhat self-aware that band isn’t the end of the world, and yet students will still get emotional over it because that’s just human nature. Having said that, it has to actually center the story on that self-awareness to get away with it, and it doesn’t exactly help that the show has shown so much of the students’ intensive practice sessions at this point that it’s starting to lose its effectiveness as a proper buildup tool. When the self-awareness it not a core part of the storytelling, the drama loses a good chunk of its effectiveness, the same way Sakamichi no Apollon’s romantic turmoils would be a lot less engaging if you took away all the religious and time period metaphors. Of course, I understand you could argue that the characters are using this performance as a means to escape from the problem rather than confront it, but if that’s the case, I think they succeeded too well. Right now, Asuka leaving doesn’t seem to have much lasting impact on the band aside from one character’s development, and Haruka isn’t complex enough a character to make an episode outstanding on her own. Without focus on Asuka herself, it’s going to feel more like a convenient tool to tie up loose ends or squeeze in more music rather than really further the story, and favoring the former over the latter is not my speed.
And even if it does decide to focus on her soon, I honestly have no idea what direction Euphonium is going to go with any of its potential subplots as of this point, and I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. I remember how the first episode started with a flash-forward to Winter when Kumiko apparently saw someone walk off, but that’s not enough to really go on, especially since I don’t even know whose footprints those were. Yeah it tells me that Euphonium will most likely get back to its A-game drama eventually, but is it going to do that next week or next month? And am I going to like it or not? Right now, I feel like the show is walking on the middle of a balance beam placed over the Grand Canyon where just one wrong step can cause it to go spiraling towards a very long and devastating fall. And while I still like Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song, let’s be honest guys. That finale could have been so much more.
But I guess I wouldn’t worry so much if I wasn’t so invested in this show, let alone still enjoying what I see, so take that for what it’s worth.
- Okay, I admit, the new Yuri on Ice!! episode this week was kind of fun.
- I’m still feeling the pain of the abusive mother in ERASED. Hopefully Asuka’s mom doesn’t turn out to be that retarded.