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  • I first watched Sound Euphonium in my freshman year of college, thoughts of my next steps still safely ahead

  • I'd recently started a YouTube channel on a whim, and even covered the series in one of my earliest videos,

  • describing it as a bit slow and certainly nothing too exciting,

  • It's been three years since then.

  • I graduate in May, the future is no longer then and I can confidently say,

  • Sound! Euphonium is my favorite work of all time

  • When we first meet Oumae Kumiko, she doesn't seem like the type of character a story should revolve around.

  • Indecisive and awkward, she absent-mindedly blurts her thoughts out loud and second-guesses her decisions, even those as banal as ice cream flavors.

  • Kumiko would much rather blend in with the crowd,

  • then stick out, avoiding confrontation where possible and accepting whatever's put in front of her.

  • She only started the euphonium in the first place because nobody else wanted it.

  • She doesn't put herself out there for fear of being let down,

  • a safe weak play shielding her from pain, but also the true joy of accomplishment

  • the series opens to her final middle school competition, and Reina's despair at their failure to advance

  • Kumiko is the type of person who's okay with settling for a dud goal. She wouldn't let herself believe

  • they could do any better, but Reina is a different sort of person. Where Kumiko is content

  • just looking ahead, Reina sets her sights high. Laying it all on the line for the chance to be special

  • Thoughts of Reina's drive pushed Kumiko away from the band, afraid to commit herself wholeheartedly towards a goal

  • She always keeps "one foot in, one foot out"

  • I now see so much of my old self in Kumiko at the start of the series.

  • Aimlessly wandering through life without much direction. I went to university because it's what everyone around me did,

  • I only chose my major because it's the one I was told would best position me for medical school.

  • Why did I want to do that again?

  • I'd shuffle from one class, one obligation to the next with only exam weeks connecting the loose threads.

  • Even my Youtube channel, originally created as an outlet free from my daily grind, started to fall into the cold pattern of routine

  • Soon days turned into weeks, weeks into semesters, and semesters into years.

  • Where was the experience I could call my own, was I doing anything of my own volition was, I doing anything at all?

  • My mind would always come back to Sound! Euphonium. Funny how certain things can have such an impact on you without you even realizing it.

  • Just look at Kumiko that image of Reina never leaves Kumiko's mind

  • she wants to put it all behind her, seeking a fresh start at a school not known for its concert band.

  • Much like her new hairstyle, Kitauji was her way of cutting clean from that past. Even so, she can't avoid the band's pull

  • Hazuki's honest excitement at creating sound reminds Kumiko of her own first steps with music, relighting that spark just enough to call her back

  • She ditches the ponytail, that's not her, and agrees to join Kitauji's band. Unlike Midori, though,

  • who unabashedly proclaims her love for the contrabass. Kumiko looks to a new instrument, wanting to break away from the euphonium,

  • but a part of her knows how deeply she loves the euph, even if she doesn't consciously realize it.

  • Season 1 centers around Kumiko discovering her passion, leaving that directionless haze behind her and living authentically.

  • when Taki sensei gives the band the choice of chasing nationals or having fun,

  • Kumiko abstains from the vote, unsure what she wants or what Reina would think. She exists on the periphery,

  • totally non-committal. Aoi warns Kumiko not to let these years pass without living to her true feelings.

  • She makes the point that everyone chooses what's safe.

  • Nobody's willing to make the jump it takes to put themselves out there, to reach for what's in their heart.

  • Nobody except Reina.

  • Throughout the first season, Reina represents this vexing, faraway mountaintop to Kumiko.

  • Listening to her trumpet fills her with the desire to play harder, to reach her level

  • She's constantly framed following behind, or looking up at her. Reina is the image Kumiko aspires to reach. Subconsciously or otherwise.

  • During their hike in episode eight Kumiko remarks "this must be how it feels to lose your life,

  • drawn to a beautiful thing despite your fears".

  • In some ways Reina is the antithesis to Kumiko.

  • She hates routine and structure, often wanting to leave it all behind, if only for a moment

  • But even if she can't make the impossible leap, she won't let that stop her from taking the smaller one right in front of her.

  • She didn't reach the summit to admire the view,

  • but because nobody else would. Reina doesn't want to blend in with the crowd

  • she wants to stand above it. To be truly special.

  • her fierce, unending determination to make that happen is almost blinding, leaving Kumiko in a trance as if having an out-of-body experience.

  • No matter how many times I watch this scene, I can't help but feel like Kumiko, swept away by this dreamlike beauty.

  • I feel that burning desire, pushing me forward. Later the others note how Kumiko sounds more expressive and mature than before,

  • as she chases that image of Reina on the mountain. She won't let Reina fall short of her goal.

  • She's going to become special. She is different from the others. Kumiko needs to believe in that Reina.

  • She no longer awkwardly stumbles through every conversation with her, that discomfort replaced with understanding.

  • Kumiko looks her square in the eyes now,

  • Not backing down or trailing after her. In a complete turn of events from the earlier vote on the band's goal; the once guarded, distant Kumiko

  • suddenly becomes outspoken in support of her friend, vigorously cheering for Reina while the others remain silent.

  • Kumiko's growth here culminates in episode 12, forced to confront what the euphonium means to her;

  • after Taki sensei gives her a challenging new part to play for the competition

  • and she struggles to get it right, no matter how much she throws herself at it, still it eludes her.

  • She tells Reina of her feverish desire to improve, to be special like her, as the frame boxes her in,

  • unable to break through to that level

  • "The fingertips, the strength, and timings of my breath. I can hear the sound I want in my head.

  • The frustration of being unable to reproduce it."

  • I often come back to this line, how helpless that feeling is when you know what you want to do, but can't find the way forward.

  • Throughout the episode, shots of a butterfly follow Kumiko, but now it's caught in a spider web unable to move ahead.

  • Finally Kumiko's desire to be better that's built up inside her explodes out into a desperate cry.

  • I want to improve. I want to be special. I'm not content wading through life, or taking the easier route simply because it's clear

  • I'll find my way forward, whatever that means, wherever that leads me. I feel that painful yearning inside like Kumiko,

  • so upset she could die.

  • Kumiko finally understands how much it hurts to completely put yourself out there and come up short. She defiantly tells her sister

  • there is a point to sticking with the euphonium: because she likes it.

  • Only when Mamiko leaves, does the weight of these words hit her, as she looks into a mirror and reiterates much softer

  • "I like the euphonium."

  • Taki reassures her you really only need to enjoy something to do it,

  • that's as good a reason as any.

  • I remember coming back to the series long after I'd first watched it and being struck by how deeply I felt Kumiko's emotions here.

  • I realized, I don't know what my passion is but seeing, Kumiko find hers, with the resolve to see it through, filled me with determination

  • It was like a light went off in my head, where the patterns I'd fallen into seemed

  • so small and the answers became clear. Stop living to what's expected of you. Live to yourself

  • Kumiko discovered what drives her and is committed to make it a reality. In a perfect world we could do that all the time,

  • but even if it's only just for now, this moment is all that matters to her.

  • Kumiko has to be Kumiko. I have to be me. It sounds so simple, but maybe that's enough.

  • Two recurring questions pop up throughout the series; why do you play and who do you play for?

  • When Kumiko presses Gotou on "why tuba?", he responds with a straight face: "I like tuba".

  • Ultimately, Kumiko discovers how much she enjoys the euphonium,

  • realizing that that's all the reason she needs.

  • The second season centers around the latter: "who do you play for?"

  • Reina says she plays for herself, Asuka plays for her father, Taki for his deceased wife, Kumiko for her sister.

  • But how do you get these feelings across?

  • The staff described the theme of season 2 as a "reach you".

  • Be it Mizore's inability to put her thoughts into words with Nozomi, or Kumiko's own struggle to communicate her feelings

  • to Asuka and Mamiko. Where season one shows Kumiko finding her passion, season two is about finding her voice.

  • Up to now

  • She's remained on the edge of conflicts, a bystander to these events, unable to influence any of them, offer any solutions,

  • or voice her true feelings.

  • Look no further than the season's first arc.

  • With Nozomi out of the band, Mizore

  • no longer knows why or who she plays for. She says she hates competitions, a reminder of her former friend and their broken promise.

  • Mizore is afraid

  • She isn't as special to Nizomi as no Nozomi is to her, that Nozomi was friends with everybody.

  • She was just one more face in the pack. Eventually, Yuko and Nozomi herself pull her out of that self-destructive mindset.

  • But again, Kumiko serves as little more than our lens to view the conflict. She plays no real role in the resolution.

  • As a person who's also non confrontational to a fault, I can relate to Kumiko's detachment from these issues

  • when a social situation turns tense or quiet,

  • I too blurt out whatever comes to mind in a desperate attempt to fill the silence and I often value keeping the peace at the

  • expense of speaking my mind.

  • That quickly goes too far, as you bury your thoughts deeper and deeper.

  • While she's become aware of her love for the euphonium, Kumiko still doesn't connect with her feelings towards the people around her.

  • She's sure of herself, but not of others.

  • It's only when she begins to understand the nature of others through listening to their thoughts, that she confronts and vocalizes hers.

  • Seeing how Nozomi and Mizore honestly share their feelings with each other pushes Kumiko to consider her own for Asuka and Mamiko.

  • But can't she make these known? When both start to drift out of her reach

  • Mamiko leaving home and Asuka forced out of the band by her mother Kumiko comes to terms with what they mean to her.

  • Mamiko inspired her to take up music in the first place. Her dream was to play with her someday.

  • But as time and circumstance forced them apart,

  • they lost sight of that.

  • Only with the finality of her sister gone does Kumiko remember how important she was to her and how sad she truly is to see her go.

  • But first she leaves Kumiko with a warning, reminiscent of Aoi in the first season,

  • don't be left with any regrets. That thought sticks with Kumiko as the conflict with Asuka reaches its climax

  • She struggles to crack her code, as images of her flitter across the screen.

  • Finally resolved to make her feelings known, Kumiko confronts Asuka

  • Not as a liaison for the band or even her underclassmen,

  • but a person who deeply cares for her. From the onset, Asuka plays a mystifying presence among the band. Even more reticent than Kumiko,

  • she puts on false airs to create this playful atmosphere.

  • Rarely letting anyone catch a peek behind the curtain to what's really going through her mind.

  • She stayed detached from the band's conflict because she didn't want them to grow too reliant on her.

  • Asuka is always looking beyond the others, like she sees an entirely different world then them

  • She's special. Even her instrument stands out, a brilliant silver. Director Ishihara described her as the final boss for Kumiko,

  • and she doesn't back down easy here.

  • Kumiko pleads everyone wants her back, but sensing an opening Asuka presses her on this claim. Who is everyone, and how would she know?

  • Kumiko was caught in Asuka's web, unable to move as she continues speaking for the others, not herself.

  • Asuka cut straight through Kumiko's mask, laying her anxieties completely bare.

  • She captures Kumiko's nature so sharply, leaving her speechless

  • Asuka turns to leave, insinuating it's best she simply fade from view.

  • Clips of the others describing Asuka,

  • claiming to know who she is, and what she wants flashed through Kumiko's head before ending on her sister's warning: no regrets.

  • Finally Kumiko speaks from her own heart, nobody else's.

  • Forget everything and everyone. She wants to play with Asuka. That much she knows. So what if it's childish.

  • Kumiko calls her out for acting all mature, as if she's so special when she's just a high schooler like the rest of them.

  • Don't throw away your wishes and desires like they're meaningless.

  • Asuka wants to play at nationals more than anyone. "Please don't make choices you know you're going to regret".

  • She breaks Asuka's shell, bringing her near to tears. In touch with her own feelings with the will to communicate them clearly,

  • Kumiko finds her voice.

  • But the thrill of Asuka's return soon turns hollow, as the end of the third-year's time in the band suddenly becomes real.

  • Kumiko can't escape the nagging regret

  • there's still more to say. She hasn't let Asuka in on the love she feels for her as her

  • underclassmen, as her friend, as a person.

  • With that in mind, she plays her song.

  • The one she first heard that morning at training camp, the one Asuka played for her by the river.

  • A strange piece. Warm. Lonely, yet oddly kind

  • Fittingly, on graduation day, Kumiko finds Asuka at the entrance steps where she first saw her, and lets her know how she feels.

  • How she wants to hear her music again and play like her. Only now do we learn what that piece is called:

  • 響け! ユーフォニアム (Sound! Euphonium)

  • I'm amazed at how human these characters are. Their conversations,

  • relationships, and anxieties feel truly genuine. Even moments as simple as a morning train ride offer subtle depth to their common humanity.

  • their struggles so naturally reflect our own, I feel there's at least one character everybody can relate to.

  • Maybe it's the driven star aiming to be special, the older sibling struggling with the pressure of expectation, the role model forcing on that mask,

  • the quiet supporter learning to lead, the introvert grappling with the walls

  • built inside, or the slacker finding the willpower to succeed, but still coming up short.

  • Every character holds unique motivations and takes a different route to personal growth. It goes to show,

  • there is no singular way to grow. We all have to find our own path forward.

  • Then, there's Kumiko.

  • From the rudderless drifter, with no sense of direction to a determined person

  • confident in her feelings. No character in anime or any medium has resonated with me like her.

  • Sound! Euphonium is the story of Kumiko's transformation into a true protagonist.

  • Asuka puts it best when she tells her "You sure are a euphonium Oumae. To think there was such a euphonium-ish kid around".

  • Kumiko does not seem special. In fact,

  • she seems shockingly ordinary, but she provides support, an anchor to everyone around her, like a euphonium.

  • She won't steal the spotlight, but she makes it all come together.

  • It wasn't a new hairdo or a new club Kumiko wanted, but a new place.

  • Surrounded by people who loved what they do, and inspire her to aim higher.

  • Kumiko found that, and now it's her turn to do the same for others.

  • in a letter to Mamiko,

  • she describes her resolve not to let her parents worries guide her, but to chase nationals as best

  • she can. To not leave any regrets and live for herself. Even now, her dedication inspires me to find my own.

  • Whenever I feel myself falling back into routine, or sense my motivation slipping away,

  • I remember Kumiko on that bridge. The feverish desire to improve, to commit entirely to that with both feet forward.

  • Looking back at where I was when I first watched Sound! Euphonium, I feel almost nostalgic at how much things have changed.

  • I'm in a different place now than I was three years ago.

  • More mature: hopefully. More experienced: definitely. But most of all: more assured

  • Even if I don't know what I want to do, I'm determined to find it. To do whatever necessary to live out my passion.

  • When I graduate, I'm not shuffling immediately along to medical school like I once thought. It's not what I want to do right now.

  • I'm not saying I won't ever take that step,

  • but I'm not ready for such a giant leap just yet, when there's so much

  • I don't know.

  • I can't make the next step without finding my footing first. As long as I focus on that, whatever path

  • I end up following, I'll know it's the one I chose.

  • My favorites are personal, and as such, extremely fluid. Just as I change as a person,

  • It's only natural for works to have a shifting effect on me.

  • Where once Eupho wouldn't have cracked my list at all, now It's clearly at the top. I am where I am today;

  • I'm headed in the direction on going because of Sound! Euphonium.

  • Maybe you find it silly to be so swayed by a cartoon, but that's sadly limiting to me. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

  • Someday I may fall out of love with Eupho when it no longer holds this magic for me.

  • But that won't matter because there was a time when it did.

  • A time when Hibike! Euphonium was exactly what I needed to hear.

  • No matter how much I change or how many years go by, I'll never forget. Well, you know

I first watched Sound Euphonium in my freshman year of college, thoughts of my next steps still safely ahead

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【アニメ】『響け!ユーフォニアム』はなぜこんなにもいい作品なのか ( How Warm It Sounds | Why Hibike! Euphonium Is My Favorite Anime )

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    yu   に公開 2019 年 09 月 23 日
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