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Love abounds as the classic date festival comes to everyone’s minds. Hazuki confirms Kumiko’s lack of feelings for Shuichi, only to have Shuichi ask Kumiko out the next day. The next day, Shuichi presses for an answer, and an awkward dodge coincidentally lands her with Reina.
I just caught up with Sound! Euphonium this week and I’m so glad that I did. The last two episodes have done a superb job cashing in on the relationships and themes built up over the first half of the series. The brutal honesty and deep self evaluation reminds me of the works of Yuyuko Takemiya (Toradora, Golden Time), which is high praise as far as I’m concerned. In some ways I find this cast of characters to be even more fascinating though. They feel more flawed and maybe even a little dangerous, not because they’re crazy or evil but because you can sympathize when they indulge their most negative feelings. That might sound overly dramatic but considering this is the same show that had the main character prancing around in a cartoon tuba suit at some point, the contrast is startling.
Of course the elephant in the room is the love triangle mentioned in the title and it was not quite the triangle we were expecting. KyoAni has a long history of teasing all-girl relationships that don’t go anywhere, so it was rather shocking to see such an openly flirtatious exchange between Kimiko and Kousaka. I love that no attempt is made to overly romaticize their relationship, which somehow makes the scene even more romantic. Rather than try and put their best face forward, they share their most negative, isolated feelings. There are no anime cliché lines, no pink shoujo sparkles, just smoldering back and forth dialogue as they work out their intense fascination with one another. Especially contrasted against poor Hazuki’s failed attempt to hook up with Shuichi, the chemistry between the two is dark and alluring in a way that you’d never expect from a cute anime about a concert band.
Unfortunately there is still plenty of room to backtrack and cancel out any romantic angle for Kimiko and Kousaka, and my gut feeling tells me that’s where we are headed. This beautiful episode will probably be written off as a fleeting Summer fling that helps both girls realize what they are playing for i.e. who they really love. Until that happens though, lets take a moment and appreciate what we did get. A special round of applause is deserved for episode director Haruka Fujita, part of KyoAni’s apparently endless stable of talented, up and coming female directors. She helped create a gorgeous, intimate atmosphere that made all of this work so well. So even if the rest of Sound! Euphonium doesn’t pan out the way I’m hoping, we can at least look forward to seeing more of her work.