UPDATE: this article is now available in (what I hope to be proper) French, for those of you who care.
The new season of Hibike! Euphonium has given us plenty of beautiful moments. These came in the form of honest conversations, character-defining speeches, hilarious expressions (I will never tire of that), or sequences where the visuals and audio speak for themselves. Today I want to talk about one such sequence: Asuka’s euphonium solo at the end of episode 3 (available here on Crunchyroll).
We begin the sequence following Kumiko on a sleepy morning walk. She had stayed up the previous night, unable to keep her mind off the band drama that she got roped into. When she mutters that she got no sleep, however, the lighting visibly brightens as if on cue [20:38 in the video]. The screen becomes bathed in a warm morning sunlight reflecting off the fields and the slopes. And immediately afterwards, we hear the tones of a lone euphonium. The leading lines on the screen show the path fading into the distance, as if to imply that the sounds come from a bright, mysterious place [20:51].
We follow Kumiko up a set of stairs, as if into a different world. Our first view of this world is a closeup of Asuka’s lips and mouthpiece [20:56], then a cut to Kumiko’s eyes widening [21:08], and finally to Asuka’s blurred figure in the middle of a secluded clearing [21:11]. These shots seem to emphasize that Asuka is in her haven with her euphonium, and we are almost intruding into her sanctum.
But Kumiko wouldn’t be the viewer’s eyes without being privy to moments like these. So we watch as Asuka stands bathed in the sunlight, her euphonium’s tones leaping high into the instrument’s range and daring to climb higher: first hitting the high E-flat as if to test the range, then reaching as high as the A-flat above. Thanks to the euphonium’s conical bore, the high notes continue to sound warm, in contrast to the piercing tones of cylindrical-bore instruments like the trumpet.
This is a moment as raw and emotionally honest as any monologue or confession. Remember that Asuka has always kept her own thoughts beneath a bubbly jocular facade, so the rare moments with her alone give us a glimpse into her true personality. She speaks no lines here, but she doesn’t have to. We know from before she is fiercely passionate about her craft and doesn’t give two flying fiddlesticks about interpersonal drama. We will learn later that she has troubles at home and that the piece she plays is composed by her estranged father, who will be a judge at the Nationals. In context, then, this solo in the secluded clearing is a way to get away from the meaningless band drama, and the high, yearning melody is a way to get close to a father that she could only idolize from afar.
Kumiko’s narration describes this as “a myriad of piled-up emotions”, but it didn’t have to. That much was clear from the presentation alone.
You can read about the 12 Days challenge in the intro here.