When I was little, I hated playing soccer with the other kids. I was terrible, my team would always lose, and I hated it. But then I realized if I played without worrying about the score, I wouldn’t feel as bad if we lost. From then on, I decided not to care.

This is an indifference stemming from a fear of failure. It’s fine when playing recreational sports, but it becomes a problem when it begins to affect other parts of my life: if I don’t actively participate in what goes on among my friends, I’ll never get roped into their drama; if I don’t care about my application for this competitive position, the rejection won’t hurt as much; if I don’t let myself think I might like this person, they can’t turn me down.

Hyouka and Hibike! Euphonium (Eupho) understand this fear well. As I’ve described in the previous post, both protagonists begin the series emotionally detached from the world around them, but grow to care about certain aspects of it. That’s nice, but it doesn’t exactly reassure me. Are their journeys worth it? What do they get from risking failure?

Thankfully, the protagonists are not the only ones learning to care; the supporting cast have similar stories as well. By looking at these journeys together, we might be able to see what Hyouka and Eupho have to say about emotional investment, or, to put it more snappily, “giving a damn”.

Hyouka: vague but hopeful [1]

My place
This is who I am, Oreki

Oreki

The previous article showed Oreki’s growth from indifference to caring, but what does he get out of it? Hyouka is vague with its answer. After his friends help him out of his slump, Oreki spends the rest of the show helping his club out during the cultural festival, willingly playing along with Chitanda’s curiosities, and getting himself involved in the Valentine mystery for Chitanda’s sake. The common thread among these is Oreki’s relationship with his friends from the Classics Club, especially Chitanda. In this sense, the fruits of “giving a damn” about his friends lie in friendship itself. During the show’s run, these fruits may not be clear or tangible, but there are clues that they exist. The key again lies in Chitanda. She grows to trust him enough to allow him a glimpse of her private life, opening herself up with honesty about her duties, her aspirations, and the countryside she holds dear [2]. Although Oreki is not at the point where he wants to commit his future to Chitanda (and being in high school, who can blame him), their friendship is as strong as any. This, along with his friendship with the other club-mates, will almost certainly provide rewards for him in the future.

Mayaka

Mayaka, on the other hand, has always “given a damn”. Her no-nonsense attitude can be seen in the seriousness with which she takes the duties of the Classics Club and the Manga Studies club. It is also the reason why she cannot help but get into a heated argument when a senior disingenuously stirs up a controversial claim. Mayaka’s no-nonsense attitude extends to her crush on Satoshi, even with the latter hesitating to commit. What does she get out of her seriousness? It seems that she is able to dust herself off from her setbacks, isn’t afraid to try, and experiences great joy from accomplishments. This pluckiness is an enviable trait.

Cultural fest
Happiness at success

 

Satoshi

Satoshi’s story provides striking parallels to that of Oreki. He presents a cheerful personality, involves himself in a variety of clubs, but doesn’t seem to put himself in situations where failure could hurt. In the few times we see him emotionally invest in an endeavor, he is almost always burnt by failure. In middle school he used to play arcade games with Oreki, doing whatever it takes to win and becoming upset at losses. During the cultural festival, he involves himself in the Juumoji incident, possibly trying to prove to himself one last time he can beat Oreki at the latter’s game. When Oreki solves the incident in a fashion beyond his imagination, he becomes devastated. He repeats his mantra “databases can’t draw conclusions”: that he should stick to his noncommittal ways and not even think of surpassing it.

Satoshi seems happy enough with that attitude: he admits during the Valentine episode that every day has been “carefree” since he stopped “fussing over things”. The only trouble is Mayaka. He continues to reject his own feelings for her because he’s afraid to commit, afraid that he might go back to his previous self that got burnt by failure [3]. At this point, Satoshi is likely in the contemplation stage of change, not entirely satisfied with his current situation, but needing a push to change. Thus, with a push from Oreki, Satoshi is prompted to give Mayaka a call, likely to finally respond to her overtures [4]. And the series is vague but hopeful that something works out between them [5]. If Satoshi does indeed begin to acknowledge his feelings for Mayaka, and thereby earns a bit of peace, then the series is hopeful about him learning to “give a damn”. Otherwise, at least he commits to an answer and the two of them can move on.

In summary, then, Hyouka presents its main cast as either learning to emotionally engage in their lives, or rewarded for already being capable of it [6]. For those still learning, Hyouka leaves their stories unconcluded but hopeful for a positive ending. It thereby suggests that although the journey is not easy, good things ultimately come to those who “give a damn”.

Eupho: resolutely positive

In contrast to Hyouka, Eupho is resolutely positive in arguing for the benefits of “giving a damn”.

The band, and Kumiko

At the beginning of the year, the band chooses, without realizing the consequences, to aim for the Nationals instead of settling to play for fun. As time passes, the band begins to take the goal seriously, and makes it to Nationals. Although they receive a disappointing bronze medal, nothing can erase their sheer joy from winning the local and regional competitions. Similarly, they are able to play music to a quality far above their original lackadaisical standards, and nothing can erase the fun they have had making music they can be proud of, whether in local fairs or in school performances. It is safe to say not one person in band would regret that they tried.

The band’s rewards mirror those of Kumiko. Having grown enough to engage emotionally in band, she is able to enjoy it as much as the others. Moreover, by caring enough to help out with the other band members, she gains the trust of her section, and makes a dear friend in Asuka.

Natsuki, Hazuki, and Team Monaka

Taki
The conductor, to those who failed the audition

Natsuki and Hazuki represent two people who work up the courage to try, fail, but still get something out of it. Natsuki has spent middle school and first year uninterested in band, but decides make an effort for the audition, taking a heavy instrument home and bringing it early to school to practice. Even though she fails the audition, the conductor makes it clear in the OVA that pushing through this disappointment will only make her stronger. Grouped into Team Monaka, kept busy with pieces to learn, and incorporated into other band activities, Natsuki and the others who failed the audition are able to take pride in their results as well as share in the joy of the band’s overall successes.

In addition to taking part in Team Monaka’s story, Hazuki also works up the courage to confess to Shuuichi, but she is turned down. Ever the optimist, she battles disappointment with a brave smile, food, and support from her friends. By the end of the extra episode, she appears to have dusted herself off. Was it worth the trouble? The story absolutely rejects the idea that she should regret it: Hazuki herself says that if she hadn’t confessed she would have continued to worry, and when her resolve falters, Midori is there to affirm her courage. However, what rewards she might reap down the road is beyond the scope of the story.

Mamiko, Asuka, amd regrets

On the subject of regrets, we come to Mamiko’s and Asuka’s stories. Both care deeply for band, but are at one point forced to quit by society’s expectations for “grown-ups”. They hate it, but hide their feelings behind a facade. In both cases, Eupho argues for pursuing their passions. Mamiko drops out of university to pursue her long-standing passion of becoming a beautician. Asuka takes the leap of courage to confide in Kumiko and accept her help, or at least persuasion, to return to band. The anime treats both decisions positively. It shows Mamiko following through with her decision, hopeful that she will work something out doing something she loves. Similarly, it highlights Asuka’s happiness at once again playing with the band, and at being recognized at Nationals by her estranged father [7].

Asuka Happiness

In summary, then, Eupho is adamantly in favor of “giving a damn”. Success brings hard-earned joy. Failure can (and must) be dusted off. And it is better to fail than to not try and regret it.

To Sum Up

It’s easy to go through life without “giving a damn”. If you don’t care about your endeavors, you will never be disappointed if some of them fail. However, both Hyouka and Eupho argue against that approach, as illustrated by characters at various degrees of emotional engagement. Their protagonists, in particular, mirror each other in their journeys toward “giving a damn”. As described in the previous essay, outside factors provide an initial push for the protagonists, and strong social support maintains the change in the wake of inevitable setbacks. While both Hyouka and Eupho ultimately agree on the worth of emotional engagement, they differ in the tone of their arguments. Eupho is adamantly in favor, citing numerous examples of characters celebrating successes, dusting off failures, and avoiding regrets. In contrast, Hyouka provides a measured but hopeful tone. While it shows that those already accustomed to “giving a damn” are best able to bounce back from disappointments, it also acknowledges that for those still working towards “giving a damn”, the rewards may not be instant or obvious.

Thus I have my answer. Both Hyouka and Eupho argue for “giving a damn”, and as a person still hesitant at risking failure, both shows hold a special place in my heart.


Notes:

[1] I owe much of my understanding of Hyouka’s themes and character arcs to the wonderful episodic analyses on the Wrong Every Time and Mage in a Barrel blogs, as well as the various essays collected in a “literature review” at Fantastic Memes.

[2] Come to think of it, Chitanda’s “this is my place” is a moment as emotionally honest as Senjougahara’s “I’ll give you the stars” in Bakemonogatari or Reina’s “I want to be special” in Eupho.

[3] TL: If I let go of this carefree life for Mayaka, I might go back to how I was before.

[4] TL: I think I’m almost ready to give a response.

[5] TL: (In response to Oreki asking “so how did it go afterwards?”) ehh, decently well.

[6] Chitanda is presented as openly caring about everything she does, from the mysteries around her, to her friends, to trusting Oreki enough to invite him into her life (including, but not limited to, investigating an Uncle she holds dear). However, her overall story is less focused on “giving a damn”.

[7] It would be negligent to talk about Mamiko and Asuka quitting the band without bringing up the case of Aoi. Honestly, I’m not sure how to read her. She quits band when it conflicts with her ambition for university. As MinuteArt interprets it, she realizes around this point that she doesn’t have the passion for band. She feels guilt for being unable to stop the exodus in the year prior, thinking she doesn’t deserve to be in band when they quit. When Kumiko asks Aoi whether she regrets quitting, Aoi denies it, saying she didn’t have a passion for band , although I wonder if she is telling the truth). I guess my point stands either way. If she never had a passion for band, then her quitting band can’t be counted against the show’s message of pursuing one’s passion. Otherwise, perhaps she counts as another example of regrets from giving up on a passion.