Sound! Euphonium 2: Episode 10 — We’re Only Young Once

I’m having a hard time summing up coherent thoughts on this episode, so instead I’m just going to use a very simplistic “what worked and what didn’t” structure for this post.

What I Liked

  • I like how this show is developing more of a self-awareness that Kumiko has been nothing but an observer, and I like how Asuka points out the character flaws associated with this status. Doesn’t completely excuse how Kumiko has never really been the main character in this season (or the first season for that matter) despite having the most screen time for reasons I’ll get into in the “what I don’t like” section, but at least there was purpose to it. And I find you can forgive a lot of flaws if they’re being used for a purpose.
  • The way this show ties in the arcs of Asuka and Kumiko’s sister despite them not knowing each other is kinda clever and adds a lot of flavor to this episode. The latter is just now trying to live her life after basically giving up her youth for the sake of a stable future, but the former is still young enough to the point that she doesn’t have to give up her youth, and her classmates try to make her realize that before it’s too late. While it’s important for people to make their own mistakes so that they can learn from them and become stronger in the process, that doesn’t mean they should make the same mistakes that their elders did. Especially when unlike them, you’ve got friends who know that you don’t want to do this. I get jealous of my younger brother’s success at times sure, but I’d never want him to experience the job-searching pains I went through during the last decade. And on the flipside, I’d never want to experience that really bad traffic violation he got himself into when driving 100 mph on a 75 mph lane.
  • I really liked how low-key the resolution to Kumiko’s sister’s arc ended up being. Most importantly, I liked the message behind it. Yes, it’s important to live a stable life, but you shouldn’t make your life boring in the process, because otherwise what’s the point in living? While I think that quitting college so close to graduation might be going a little far, as long as she’s prepared to face the consequences of her actions by moving out of the house and making up with her parents before leaving (and said actions aren’t illegal), then I firmly support her decision. It reminds me of a less dramatic version of when Yurika in Sakamichi no Apollon ended up jumping on that train in order to be with her love. Yes it seemed drastic, but given the circumstances and time period, as long as she was willing to accept her decision, warts and all, there’s no way I’d be able to deny that it was the right thing to do.
  • Animation is still good of course, and the directing/mood/dialogue continue to convey a good sense of importance, even when the girls are just taking tests.
  • Asuka gets some pretty good lines underneath her false bravado, doesn’t she?
  • That scene when Kumiko ends up crying for her sister after realizing that they both looked up to each other in different ways was pretty effective, particularly with how out-of-nowhere it is along with Kumiko’s realization that she can’t control her emotions in a public place like the train. If that’s not genuine sadness, I don’t know what is.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The ending to Asuka’s arc was really disappointing. I can accept her mother being a controlling bitch despite Asuka’s good grades given what we’ve seen of her, but using the results of a mock exam that was never foreshadowed until now, Asuka was always going to take anyways, and was dealt with off-screen in the span of a minute was all it took to get back into the club? Even if you make the argument that Kumiko’s speech gave her the resolve to ace the thing, it’s still a bit too deus ex for me. More importantly, it’s too clean of an ending in general. This sequel overall has had better buildup than the first season, but the conclusions to these arcs lack the lasting impact of last year’s drama. Yes, I generally prefer a show that craps itself in the end over cheap stories with cliffhangers, but I prefer anime that stay strong from beginning to end over both of those.
  • We only have 3-4 episodes left and it’s clear we’re shifting to Reina’s stuff next, which will most likely involve Taki-sensei and/or his dead wife. While it makes sense to end the show on the “main” main characters, I’ve never really cared for Reina’s crush on Taki-sensei, and while it’s possible her own studies (or something else) might play a factor in the future given how this week makes it clear she takes college-prep course classes, the fact of the matter is that Taki-sensei’s stuff regarding his wife has not concluded yet. It’s very unlikely the show will put that off till later, and it’d be even worse if the show kept that separate from Reina’s issues given how this show has to wrap up soon, and we’ve still got the Nationals to look forward to. Still, I can’t help but be worried, especially since it looks like Euphonium as a whole is running out of steam.
  • Would have preferred actually seeing the daughters have these important conversations with their parents rather than staying on Kumiko worrying about those things neither of us are allowed to see.
  • As much as I like how self-aware the show is about Kumiko just being there, I don’t think it’s pushing that status hard enough in order to function as the overall character arc that supposedly connects everything together. Especially when you compare this show to Haibane Renmei and how the latter was mostly just Rakka observing other people’s problems with the occasional attack on her own well-being as a result. The fact that Euphonium has to get self-aware to make Kumiko feel important on the whole is already a big indicator of quality in of itself. And it doesn’t help that as soon as Asuka points it out, Kumiko gets resolve to yell at Asuka to come back right away to the point that it felt like we missed some development. Yelling scene itself was okay though.

In Summary

  • Once again, we wrap up another decent episode, but it could have been better. I like how Euphonium 2 ups the stakes and self-awareness of its drama in order to make it more interesting, but the way it trades away the harsh compromises that used to result from its drama in exchange means it can’t end as strongly as it begins. It’s possible the last arc might fix this, but overall, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
  • Just to wrap things up on a tangent, what is up with the huge reaction to this week’s Yuri on Ice? You’re telling me a downtime episode that was mostly gay jokes and had a new ending theme gets more of a positive reaction than any of the recent ice-skating episodes?

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