Hibike! Euphonium 2 Episode 1 [First Impression]

Yuri is the purest form of love.

Impression

I would like to remind you all that I’m going to marry Natsuki-senpai. You’re all cordially invited to the wedding. Yes, even Yuuko. I gave some thought to marrying Reina, but she’s already in a loving relationship with Kumiko. I wouldn’t want to intrude. Look at them h-holding hands! How lewd! Think of the children!

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It’s been about a year and a half since we were treated to this beautiful orchestra drama, right? It feels like a lot longer than that, especially since their last production was the unfortunate dud that was Phantom World. So in essence, Kyoani haven’t produced anything noteworthy since the first season of Hibikek! Yuriphonium. All is well, however! It’s now back, and hopefully gayer than ever. Strangely enough, it was an hour-long special, but who cares why it was so long? They have money! Whoever it was who said that money can buy a watch but not time was simply wrong. Kyoani can buy time. Kyoani finds a way. But remember, everything they’re doing now and have done over the past few years is essentially a gradual build-up to the moment when they proudly present their magnum opus, Violet Evergarden, next year. And then anime will be saved.

hibikek-img013Okay, I’m done with my obligatory Kyoani dick sucking. In all seriousness, this pilot episode was as good as I remember the first season being, if not even better. Although there were a few flashbacks (which they probably had the luxury to insert given the episode length) I felt like it was the kind of second season that you could jump right into without having to refresh yourself of the finer details beforehand. Even if the original season didn’t leave a big enough impression for you to remember what happened during it (in which case you weren’t watching it properly) it all almost immediately comes back from the way everyone acted and how much of a contrast that was to the very start of the story. Remember when there were so many beginners, and now the quality of their playing is such that even Team Monaka have gotten good? Remember when no-one had any motivation, and now random background characters are taking the initiative to practice by themselves even when the school is being closed and even when Taki-sensei is giving them a rare break?

hibikek-img048I’m not sure whether the overall indication is that things are getting better for Kitauji, however. Instead of motivational issues, there’s now something else that’s rearing its ugly head – the drama surrounding the current second-years was never properly alluded to in the first season, and the fallout from that is being re-ignited once more. It seems to have a lot to do with Nozomi, who was apparently a former flautist in the concert band. I assume she quit along with half of the other first-years (as they were at the time) who did, but there must have been more to her involvement than just that. Yoroizuka Mizore, who it seems has been elevated from being a generic background character to someone significant, was most likely okay up until now because Nozomi wasn’t around. All we can do is speculate at this point – but it’s interesting that all of the girls the current drama revolves around went to the same middle school. It’s also worth noting that Kumiko saw fear in Mizore when Yuuko told her about Nozomi wanting to return, which surprised me a bit as I only saw shock. As close as they seemed to be during that middle school flashback, it’s likely that Mizore wants nothing to do with Nozomi now – and actually, that flashback tells a lot about what the drama could potentially be about.

I want to be wrong – I love to be wrong when speculating, because that indicates that a series is being innovative enough to go against my expectations. But here’s what I’ve come up with for now. If Minami Middle School was at the standard of a top-tier, gold-winning school, it’s understandable that they would be disappointed about not getting the gold during that one year. It also makes sense for them to resolve to work extra hard and win gold once with their concert band in high school. My idea is that their problems all started with the fact that the high school they all went to was Kitauji and not a place like Rikka. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that, when they arrived, they found a sub-par band which was not as prestigious or famous, with people who couldn’t really care less about going to Nationals or winning gold. And so they quit. If this is true, it would make Mizore one of the formerly frustrated girls who didn’t quit, and would explain the grudge she holds towards Nozomi for breaking their promise together, if any.

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hibikek-img042Under this scenario, Asuka would have many reasons to withhold her approval for Nozomi to rejoin. Aside from any issues as to her technical ability (of which I kind of doubt there are any) her presence could potentially cause a lot of havoc amongst the upper years that they really could do without for now. And there’d be a nagging feeling at the back of everyone’s minds that Nozomi only wants in on the bandwagon because Kitauji have won the prefectural competition and are going to the Kansai regionals. It doesn’t, however, explain fully why Mizore reacted like that when hearing Nozomi’s flute playing. If she wants to throw up, it sounds like there’s more to it all than just some regular drama, not least off all because she seems oblivious to everything that the band went through last season. It’s to do with Nozomi in particular. I guess one solution would be to have Nozomi play with Team Monaka, but I suspect Asuka is rejecting her out of principle more than anything else. Nozomi re-entering the club itself, even if she doesn’t play in the competition, is tantamount to her running away and successfully coming back afterwards. Asuka is most likely as enthusiastic as Reina about the idea of her doing that.

It’s good that new characters are being introduced, though. It’s great to see more of the band, the second-years especially. There’s still a lot of development to be had with them. Both Mizore and Nozomi are cute, but it’s hard to come to any conclusions about them as we hardly know a thing at this point. Nozomi is hotter, I think? There’s something about her that makes her really attractive, I’m not sure what it is.

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hibikek-img053Either way, as characters they can’t hold a candle to Natsuki-senpai or even Yuuko. By the way, is it just me, or does Yuuko actually have a really sexy voice when she’s not screaming like a whiny bitch? That sarcastic exchange between her and Reina was probably my favourite scene of the entire one-hour special. I wonder whether it was intentional to make her more erotic now that she’s a frenemy instead of an annoyance. I will admit that she’s growing on me slightly now, and if nothing else she’s an easy character to figure out because she always wears her heart on her sleeve. Certainly didn’t expect her to be as good friends with Mizore as she is – both her and Natsuki-senpai will be pretty involved this season if the drama revolves around Mizore and Nozomi purely due to the relationships the two have with them.

hibikek-img050Finally, I just wanted to say that Reina a cute! A CUTE! Anzai Chika really has the best voices. Who else thought that she would want to go up another mountain when she awkwardly invited Kumiko to the festival? As ever, it’s ridiculously hard to let go of the notion that all this is just yuri bait and that Reina is in love with Taki-sensei. I know she’s said it multiple times. I know that. But they’re sending incredibly mixed messages here you know – all the hand-holding, the snuggling into each other while sleeping, the intimacy and change of mood when it’s just them alone on the train after Hazuki and Midori have left. And the very moment Shuichi tries to get close to Kumiko, Reina blows him out of the water. It’s not just me, right? Someone tell me it’s not just me. It wasn’t as evident last season amidst all the drama, but Kumiko has been a good influence on Reina. She’s smiling more, and making friends with people other than just Kumiko. I liked the cold, indifferent Reina, but this Reina is cute too. I should also, of course, confirm that I will indeed be covering this as you might expect. Not just for Natsuki-senpai, and not just for more gay orchestra drama, but also because if Kyoani can put this much effort into it every week to the point that even their freaking sinks look real, the least I can do is to acknowledge that they did good. So, without further ado – you did good, guys. I don’t know why this was necessary, but I remember that button from the first season. It was almost as good as this sink.

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