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Sound! Euphonium ep6: real music

I haven’t remembered love this hard in awhile.  And while I dreaded such things when I played, I’m happy to see the individual competition aspect of musicianship come into play now.  The cliques and bickering of the lazy and entitled seem to be fading away as they see their potential as a band, and as they see a genuine challenge put forth.  This cute little show is so realistic and learned that I’m almost shocked at times.

With SunFes out of the way, Professor Taki wastes no time prepping for Nationals.  A final roster and a backup roster are being set-up by way of auditions for position or chairs.  Your chair is your position in your section, determining what parts you get and the alignment of responsibilities outside of playing music as well.  The higher chairs are leadership roles that also get harder parts, more solos and more limelight.  And the poorer you perform, the lower your inevitable chair.  Getting you simpler parts, and at times leaving you off the roster of musicians that will actually perform in competition.  It’s just like in sports.  If you’re good you get to suit up and play.  If you’re not good, you go home or watch from the sidelines.

This is a very new thing for some of the freshman, including the brand new tuba player Hazuki.  She quickly becomes the focal point of the episode as the more seasoned members of her section attempt to not only get her better at basic musicianship, but they also seek to inspire.  It’s not just a technique to get more out of her, they’re thinking of her long-term future as a musician.

Hazuki’s story and perspective were central to this episode.  And I believe it made an excellent attempt to get the audience who may not be familiar with this world to understand the hardships, and perspectives of those who are and have been.  For awhile, Hazuki just sees this practice and drilling as tough task that her peers have already mastered and left behind.  She’s seeing herself as ineffective, despite genuine hard work at learning this skill.  What her fellow classmates do to finally break through is amazing.  They actually take the super basic piece that she’s practicing with, and play their parts with her.  For the first time, she actually plays in an ensemble and makes music with others as a group.  She hears “real music”, and is inspired!  It felt completely organic and reasonable to me.

It’s not as though no one else really is involved or that no other storylines are moving though.  Everyone is still hard at work practicing for their auditions.  And you see classmates coming together and rooting for each other even with intense competition on the horizon.  We also see that Kumiko and Reina are started to talk more, holding more natural conversations now.  And of course the comedy was good, too.  The tuba-kun prank was pretty good.  Asuka is a gorgeous devil, taking advantage of her senior position to get in a great prank.  There is the little loose thread of Aoi, and while she seems to cheer on Kumiko in an almost melancholy fashion.  It feels very much like she believes she’s wasted time somehow.  But we know far too little about her to guess at what’s actually going on.  For now, we’ll just have to hope that KyoAni gives us a proper explanation later.

Overall, a really good episode that manages to tell it’s own standalone story in the middle of a larger plot line.  I am impressed at how well this series understands this world.  It’s entertaining while being so incredibly true to life.  And I’m not just talking about music aspect either.  Human behavior is surprisingly well tapped in this narrative as well.  Though I find it strange how real life has not interfered with the student lives of the band so far.  You’d think there’d be more drama and bickering in this situation.  We’ve already been told that this band has had a massive disagreement before.  I can’t tell what’s actually holding this band together at the moment except for good luck in having the right new students, and having people like Asuka run around guiding their juniors.  Then again, perhaps that’s to illustrate the golden opportunity presented to the students right now.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Sound! Euphonium ep5: they’re awesome!

This show is being enjoyed by me in the most nostalgic and biased way possible.  It’s hard to look on something that romances and plays to (pun intended) the most positive memories of your adolescence.  But glancing past my rose-colored lenses, I am enjoying seeing this simple story of coming of age and independence unfold.  Kumiko has hitched her hopes and dreams to nothing, something unproven totally.  And in the end, that may pay off the most.

Silly annual physical scenes aside, this episode got me excited to see how this previously haphazard band was coming along.  And we’re not left with much of a mystery for long.  The students have changed into dedicated, hard working musicians.  And you see the anticipation and excitement and hope build as each step progresses further.  From receiving the uniforms, to the grueling repetitive practices in the heat, the actual packing of instruments and students onto the bus to the event; it all builds nicely.  And then when they play-!  Yes!  It was nice to see that little triumph.  It was nice to see the crowd acknowledge that they were now taking notice, when they didn’t before!

What I find also satisfying is to see the silly rift between Kumiko and Reina dissolve bit by bit.  Though it’s ridiculously awkward, the walls of misunderstanding are progressively coming down.  Like the band, they’re coming together, bonding through shared time and sweat.

I guess the only flaw is that this episode was pretty devoid of conflict.  If anything, it seems this show has the current band coming to grips with its disastrous past and the people around it.  Right now, the band has already far surpassed the one from last year.  But with what appears to be a similar group in charge, you have to wonder what the deciding factor is.  The relationship between Asuka and Haruki seemed to be an important part of that.  It seems very much like their roles are reversed from what you’d expect them to be, with the shy one being the president and the outgoing one being the vice-president.  It’s even more glaring a dichotomy when you see Asuka is the drum major – the leader of the band on the field!

The past of this band seems to be the more interesting situation, as the present for the current students is smoothing out nicely.  I don’t doubt that at some point these two things will come to a head.

For now, I’m getting out of here and replaying that scene with band playing and marching.  It gets my hyped!

Further Reading:

Sound! Euphonium ep4: they did it good!

May 12, 2015 1 comment

The joy of playing as a group. The pain of dealing with people of different interests. You think it would be easy to coral a group of people into a unified goal if they’re already given to being in a group that naturally does that sort of thing. If you enjoyed geology, then I find it hard to fathom there being an argument over going on a field trip to survey some rocks. If a bunch of people enjoyed barbeque, you’d have a hard time finding someone in that group that didn’t want to go outside char grill a piece of meat. But when you’re dealing with youth, and the fact that not everyone there has the shame passion, or even is participating willingly, the circumstances can flux greatly. After all, some student may just need an elective to fill out their schedule as we do here in the States. Or there’s a possibility that some student are just doing what they do out of tradition or pressure from their family.  And it’s those people that are most important to bring into the fold.  As they say, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  So if you can’t get the most base members of your group to join, then you’ve already limited what you can do.  It’s impressive to see that chain strengthen ever so slightly.

Things start off kinda rough, as the first thing taking place is a sectional practice.  I was grateful to see Professor Taki step in unexpectedly and coral this nonsense.  As he appropriately said, they shouldn’t be holding a meeting during practice time, and promptly straightened out the entire ensemble.  Before anyone knew what to do, he was having them doing laps, intensive breathing drills and sectional tuning and practice!  It actually looked like a well-run, cohesive unit!  Of course I sound like an old man, reveling in this order and discipline, but I feel it’s truth.  Even though I’ve done all this stuff before, and mostly hated it, it’s all effective and essential stuff.  This is especially true if they’re going to be playing in a parade or something similar.  They run not just for endurance, but so they can learn to play after being short of breath.  It impresses me greatly how realistic this show is in its portrayal of practices and teenage group dynamics.

One of the key moments for this show was small misunderstanding after practice, as Kumiko and her old middle school friend Shuichi talked about Professor Taki.  Shuichi having a bit of a negative opinion of him and his techniques.  Kumiko seemed to be going along with him just because, which ended up being a problem because the girl she feared happened to be passing by.  Somehow overhearing their conversation from her moving bike, she promptly dismounts and scolds both of them for bad-mouthing a teacher that she’s learned very much to like.  This leads to a pretty nice scene the next day where Reina actually apologizes to Kumiko for b*tching her and her friend out.  In a surprise moment of guts, Kumiko actually opens her mouth and apologizes to Reina, even complimenting her on her inspiring play – before fleeing back towards her sectional practice!

Things come full circle towards the last episode as a week passes by and Professor Taki shows up to a nervous and ready ensemble.  And though they don’t knock it out of the park, they pass in a satisfying fashion.  And that is actually an impressive accomplishment considering all the new – even beginner musicians, accompanying the complete lack of teamwork  that plagued the band a mere week before.  As I said before, a strong leader and teamwork  shaped things up enough for them to punch their ticket to SunFes!

I was surprised at how smoothly things went this episode.  Sure, there was plenty of anger and frustration, but they pulled together quite well in a week.  Maybe I’m just so used to rebellious and disrespectful American kids that I can’t fathom such an outcome in such a short amount of time.

There’s still plenty of adversity to deal with, they only usurped a small hurdle.  They’re still full of beginners and lazy students who don’t take their roles seriously.  They don’t appear to be very talented overall.  There isn’t much time for them to nail their parts before this very public debut.  And on a personal note: Kumiko is only taking baby steps towards understanding Reina and her blazing passion.  Until she grasps that, she may always find talking to her former comrade awkward and scary.  Still, this is a great start.  The music, the impressive and surprising realism , the beautiful animation and music; I could see myself really falling in love with this production.

 

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Sound! Euphonium ep3: what’s the point?!

This was frustrating.  It’s one of the oldest conflicts there can be in a school.  Group activities.  On one hand, the minority won the vote due to the lazy and ambivalent people, but now the minority is at a disadvantage because the lazy people are dragging down everyone with them.  What’s needed here is strong leadership and maturity.  And as we’re slowly learning, the people running the band aren’t strong leaders and we’re not dealing with a whole lot of mature people.

Overall, this was just a frustrating watch.  It’s not because the episode was bad at all, it’s just so damned realistic.  I already knew the band was bad, but assumed it was due to a lack of talent.  But they are failing bad at the beginning at grasping even the most essential tasks when it comes to playing in a group.  I can’t even fathom complaining to someone seriously about practicing in a section!  That’s ridiculous!  You should master your part individually and in a section before attempting to play the whole thing as a complete ensemble!  As I hear these students complain, I keep thinking, “Who the hell are you to question the advisor?! – a man who has dedicated himself to this “hobby” of yours!  If I think about any of my other instructors in the past, they would have reamed these little sh*ts for being terrible on an elementary level!

I could only imagine how someone who is driven would handle this situation in real life.  Reina’s screams are one of the tamest things I could think of happening in this situation.  The lazy people in this group are just being allowed to do and come and go as they please.  They’re sucking the life out of the hopes and dreams of those that dare to have them in this show.

Ugh!  I left this episode pissed!

There were other things that happened in this episode, but I was someone blinded by my rage when I grasped what was going on in this group.  For one, we have the wonderful scenes where we see the first year people learn about circular breathing, something I’d like to see everyone try.  Then we have Kumiko’s weird struggle with her place and even her level of dedication to the band.  One moment, she’s brimming with pride over the instrument she holds – the other we see her bubbling over in frustration with it.  But overall, nothing even starts until this group of fools learns to turn things around.  Someone has to take control, or the disaster they spoke of from the previous year will only repeat.

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Sound! Euphonium ep2: it shouldn’t be a choice

I hate groups.  I hate group dynamics.  Mobs are some of the worst things ever.  I don’t really care for people in general, actually.  But I love music, so I guess I have to give people credit for that.  The stuff nature makes on its own is crap compared to what we humans can do.  I’m brash and proud enough to believe that aliens showed up, we’d impress them with music, and music alone.  Screw you science, math and politics, culture is where it’s at!

That said, music doesn’t Read more…

Check-in Station: Sound! Euphonium ep1 (the band sucks!)

I haven’t touched a KyoAni show in long time. Why? Well besides a rather long break from anime period (to explained at some point in the future), I just stray away from popular things for whatever reason. For me to enjoy something, I have to selfishly, subconsciously believe it’s mine. It’s the reason why when my wife beats a game before me, I stop playing it. When a TV show like Walking Dead gets too popular and the the fanbase gets too smug, I walk away for a time. It’s the reason why Chihayafuru, Girls und Panzer and Hyouka have yet to be touched by me. It all seems too inevitable. I figure, “what’s the point?” But I will stray from my pattern every now and then. Euphonium is that show. It’s just too – well I don’t have words yet. But it already feels like KyoAni at its best. And by that, I mean K-ON!. It feels good, like K-ON!. And like that show, I’m curious and want to see this through. Read more…

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