Hibike! Euphonium’s latest episode is surely its weakest yet. Although Reina’s fans will be glad to see her under the spotlight, the twenty-four minutes teach us all too little.
It’s striking that, unlike the previous episodes, the lacks any major highlight. So far KyoAni had done brilliantly to elevate the story’s best moments; there is, however, no such thing to be found here. It all looks great as usual, but nothing stands out, either.
What we have instead is a whole episode’s worth of reiterating that Reina loves Taki-sensei while he still loves his deceased wife. Although it is touching to see the two’s earnestness, it is nothing we didn’t know about from previous episodes. Taki had talked to Kumiko about his wife, and Reina’s feelings are even less of a novelty. Now, it was important for Reina to learn about this story; but it feels like a series of reaffirmations that would’ve fit within a half episode rather than a full one. As the entire purpose of an episode, it comes off as quite thin.
Furthermore, the episode features some downright strange choices. Early in the episode, when Reina invites Kumiko to talk about her keeping Taki-sensei’s story a secret, they climb to the top of the hill where they famously bonded and played together at night in the first season. While we’re not about to scream “yuri bait!”, it is strange seeing this stage getting recycled for the sake of Reina’s other love. Surely keeping it as the two main girls’ very own place would’ve been a more apt decision?
There is also the issue that Reina’s behavior isn’t so interesting as to keep us engaged for a full twenty-four minutes. While she’s not necessarily unlikable, the pattern here is quite obvious: she becomes upset to the point of losing her focus, and eventually finds her resolve again when she witnesses Taki-sensei’s sincerity. There’s little subtlety, and it could’ve all been summarized in a shorter format.
In the end, it feels like KyoAni just needed to fill the gap between the end of the last arc and the Nationals. Although this episode doesn’t exactly fill the description of a “filler episode” in the sense that its subject matter still concerns the main story, one is tempted to brand it as such regardless, for its contribution to the plot’s progression is undeniably minimal. Between the lack of any interesting teaching and some borderline stupid choices, this episode comes off as a stain on Hibike! Euphonium 2’s name; however we must keep in mind the quality of previous episodes and the remaining prospect of the Nationals, and admit that unless coming episodes have been cursed, this mistake will remain a forgivable one-off.
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