Hibike! Euphonium now centers on Asuka in an entry which establishes many things, though questions about the drama’s future developments may be asked.
Let’s start with the episode’s main girl. Even when at the center of events, Asuka retains her defining trait: evasiveness. It’s striking that she is absent for large parts. For now, let’s focus on the moments where we can see her.
Amid an always tense atmosphere, she’s the only one who never lets her mood show. Her two major expressions are the usual ones: her quick and lively smile, and her somewhat melancholic but difficultly defined gaze. She alternates between the two: appearing and reappearing with a smile, she then brushes off any speculation, rejecting her problems into the distance. The behavior is so typically Asuka it’s hard to say there’s much new information here; in fact, it is probably the reason why no one really takes her reassuring words into account. They’re too vague, and she is too secretive for her words to lull anyone into believing that she will truly act as she says. However, there is an all-important scene involving her where we get
Having said that, there is one all-important scene which gives us a glimpse of the burden she is hiding from everyone else.
And who better to deliver us the information than Kumiko her usual Observer role? She, and thus us, is watching a vulnerable Asuka listen to her mother yelling at teachers because she wants her daughter to resign from the club.
There’s interesting directing going there. As the woman spits venom, she is reflected in Taki-sensei’s glasses. The metallic object, also a barrier between the camera and the eyes (symbolically the “entrance to the soul”), shows Taki’s complete calm and even coldness in front of the situation. In fact, he’s very clear in claiming he won’t accept Asuka’s resignation unless it’s his student’s personal desire.
Although the mother is trying to force Asuka into resigning, the vice-president voices her opposition: she gets slapped as a result. And then we have a close-up on Asuka taking her mother’s hand. This is interesting, because it insists on one important aspect: the sudden role reversal. Her mother reveals her instability, probably from having raised a child alone for seventeen years; and in the end Asuka appears as the caretaker.
What we can see is that Asuka carries two burdens: one of having to deal with her mother’s persistence in believing she can guide her life, and another in having to take care of that same mother when she breaks down.
With so much on her hands, Asuka leaves her comrades for a while. And this is a test for Kitauji: everyone is fretting over her return. It only gets worse when rumor reaches Yuuko’s ear that the vice principal accepted Asuka’s resignation. No one can practice properly, and Taki has to clear up the situation.
We see the power rumors have on these young people, and the test they must pass: if their unity is strong enough, then they will pull through. Haruka, the club’s true president, rises in these difficult times. Everyone backs her up.
And then, the day of their outdoors performance, Asuka is there, ready to play. Everyone’s spirits are heightened, and they perform wonderfully, Haruka’s solo being a standout. She said she wouldn’t trouble anyone, and acted on those words. A praiseworthy turn of events that will certainly tighten the group… but that doesn’t solve anything.
And next episode will be about… Mamiko. Let’s look forward to it, calm in the knowledge that the theory about her being pregnant is pure rubbish.
If we must point to a downside in this otherwise nice episode, it’d be the fact that the show seems ready to move into Mamiko’s arc while having yet to fully unravel all of Asuka’s drama. It’ll be interesting to see how this all works out. Nevertheless, we were given a focused, intense episode that revolved around subjects of undoubtable interest – Asuka’s character, her family situation, and her importance to the club – all in KyoAni’s usually well-directed package. Hibike is starting this new chapter strongly, and we’re certainly looking forward to more.
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