Hibike continues from the preceding episode, focusing largely on the same subjects: namely the conflict around Nozomi and Reina’s emotions.
Training is arduous, but the progress Kitauji makes is significant. Technically they have little to envy to the top schools… but as Hashimoto-sensei tells them, they lack expression. They don’t bring their personality, their energy to their performance. He specifically targets Yoroizuka; it seems that, whether she wants it or not, her utter lack of passion is showing.
But at the end of all this is something equally crucial for Kumiko. Nighttime comes, and so does the time for her to ask Asuka for the truth. In her usual light tone, she reveals that rejecting Nozomi comes from the reality that she makes Yoroizuka sick, unaware as she may be. For her it’s a matter of no more than simple logic: she’d rather keep Nozomi away than throw off one of their most important players and seriously harm their chances of success.
As she’d warned Kumiko, the truth makes her miserable. There’s very little she can do about this, except maybe try to dig up the truth as to why Yoroizuka feels that way. Kumiko’s personality comes back to bite her; but as later moments prove, she’s not one to wise up.
She then joins the rest of the group in going out to have fun with fireworks. This teaches us more about Taki-sensei. He used to be married, but his wife abruptly passed away a few years ago. Hashimoto-sensei, who’d observed him slowly become a mere ghost, expresses relief at seeing him regain liveliness through investing himself in Kitauji’s brass band. But he’s not the only happy one: Reina, having mustered her courage to ask her favorite teacher about his relationship with Matsumoto-sensei, finds out that he’s indeed single. Though Kumiko prefers to keep quiet for now, it’s clear she’s tempted to speak the truth once more.
And indeed, the busybody she is can’t quite get rest. She exits her room and overhears a conversation between Natsuki and Yuuko. Though the latter doesn’t open up to the former, unable to tell the truth about Yoroizuka’s feelings, she catches the less-than-discreet Kumiko and decides to talk with her some.
Yuuko surprisingly opens up to this girl who’s open about not liking her: she says she doesn’t want to tell Natsuki the truth because it would cause her a great deal of harm: she wants to help Nozomi, but how will she react to learning that her returning to the band will only cause her more pain?
Kumiko then touches on the subject of contests. It seems that she resents them like Yoroizuka to an extent. She even used to have a poorer opinion of them; but now she still wants to give it her all, and despite her love of Kaori, is unable to fully go against the meritocratic system currently in place. Going back to her room, Kumiko asks Reina the same question: her answer is thoroughly positive, as she is focused on becoming good enough to win and wants to make the most of rare opportunities to show jer skills. Kumiko is impressed by this resolve of Reina’s.
Maybe these words motivate Kumiko to wake up early to practice. She runs into Asuka, who’s already playing the euphonium, cutting a graceful yet lonely figure in the lush environment. The moment is solemn, as if her playing was conveying her deepest emotions.
Once again, Hibike! Euphonium has a way for tasteful drama. Although relatively slow, the exploration of each character’s worries is subtle, and the way the show takes us through each point of view (we have Kumiko’s character to thank for that: she may be too curious for her own good, but it is thanks to her we learn so much) allows us to appreciate the situation to its fullest. Furthermore, the subtle sensitivity in how the show approaches Reina’s slow progression (such as her contained moments of simple joy) simply heighten the series as a whole, making Hibike a lovely accumulation of details about its characters to create a coherent whole of rare quality (at least within its genre).
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