Sound! Euphonium could very well be one of my new favorite anime shows of all time. Not only does it have Kyoto Animation, one of my favorite animation studios, bringing its usual high standards of quality to the table, but it also features a topic that is personally very nostalgic to me: the school concert band. I played alto saxophone from late elementary school all the way through college, and that time has given me some of my best memories of my school life, in part because of how much music means to me. And among other things, Sound! Euphonium is absolutely nailing the high school concert band experience, especially as it explores the different motivations (or lack thereof) of the various characters for being in the band.
As for what are the “other things” this show is nailing, one is definitely the character relationships, particularly between protagonist Kumiko, a euphonium player, and Reina, a trumpet player and bandmate from middle school that has inexplicably followed Kumiko into a high school with a low-reputation band, despite Reina herself being one of the most passionate people about the band that Kumiko has met. In the opening scene, we see her crying after their middle school regional performance, because they failed to make nationals even though they earned the gold award. It’s at this moment that Kumiko said something rather insensitive to her, asking her if she seriously thought their band would actually make nationals. While Kumiko does not feel like what she said was wrong, she does realize that it probably burned a relational bridge between the two, something that comes back to haunt her when the two end up in the same band again in high school. It’s a very different sort of relational dynamic than just your normal estranged friends or two people who dislike each other but have to put up with each other for the team’s sake.
A good portion of the rest of the show involves Kumiko trying to make things up with Reina somehow, with some surprising moments throughout. First of all, it seems like Reina did not take Kumiko’s words back then as badly as Kumiko worried that she did. Overall, it seems that the bridge between the two was not really burned, with only Kumiko’s own worries making it look that way. All this leads up to episode 8, when Kumiko ends up going to a summer festival with Reina for reasons… which ends up turning into what can only be called a divine encounter. Be warned that there are spoilers after the jump—not particularly heavy ones, but still significant enough to point out—so if you have not seen episode 8 yet, you may want to catch up before continuing.
But if you are ready, continue on to take a look at just how subtly powerful Kumiko’s meeting with Reina was that evening… and how similar it is to a Christian’s encounter with God.
After writing my last piece about episode 8 of Oregairu season 2 and the topic of grace, I thought more and more on the connections between the characters’ actions and that topic. There was more to be said regarding what I wrote on, particularly in the words thrown between the volunteer club trio in the episode’s climax. But I also thought of something in a little different vein.
In the moment when Hikigaya tearfully confesses his desires, I think most of us viewers were expecting some sort of breakdown in return from Yukino. But what he gets instead is a confused Yukino who doesn’t comfort him, who doesn’t even want to accept him.
When I watched the scene, I wondered why it seemed to familiar to me. I realized that it was because I’ve been Hikigaya in this scene many times – and maybe you have as well.
With each episode that passes, Oregairu continues to surprise me. In an episode that I thought started to drift towards anime melodrama, Oregairu instead turned toward something simple and profound. It showed us the definition of grace – and the necessity of it.
The catalyst for the final, transformative scene of episode 8 is the earlier talk that Hikigaya has with Hiratsuka. Among the many words of wisdom she gives during their speech is this line:
Sometimes people lose out on things because they’re looking out for each other.
This, of course, is what Hikigaya has been doing – trying to protect Yui and Yukino through his actions. But Hiratsuka is right when she expounds on this statement, saying that if you really care about each other, you will hurt each one another; in an ironic way, that hurt signals that you care. If you stand on eggshells doing everything possible to keep someone from being hurt, you fail to develop deep bonds – the person you care about is lifted higher than they deserve while you sink lower, and when you do fail that person, you find the distance between you and s/he grows even further.
Hikigaya, realizing this and armed now with wisdom and muster, goes to Yukino and Yui to build their relationships and bring healing to the club by tearfully offering words that at first surprised me, but which make sense. He says that what he wants is genuine relationship.
And genuine relationship can only happen by grace.
One of my most popular posts on this site was for a personal piece I wrote regarding Clannad After Story and fatherhood. I revisited the post recently, and it struck me both how much time has passed, as the article marked a time – now seemingly long ago – when my kids were practically babies, and how the challenges remain the same. In the article, I mention how being a parent is so very hard. It can be very lonely and painful when you want to do the best for your child but can’t, either because it’s out of your control or because you’re out of control.
But as I read the essay, I was reminded of how Clannad demonstrates God’s love for us through the relationships involving fathers. The comparisons are remarkable:
- Tomoya’s dad sacrificed his life for his son in terms of career and motivation and energy. We’re like Tomoya, who didn’t realize what his dad had done for him, and what sacrifice he gave for one who didn’t comprehend that love.
- Tomoya is like a prodigal father, aided by Ushio, who helps him see that even though he left what should have been precious to him because of his own demons and desires, there is a childlike forgiveness available. A grown-up Ushio maybe wouldn’t forgive a dad who only reluctantly tried to reinsert himself into her life, but the little girl loves him tenderly and shows such affection that Tomoya’s heart is changed. He realizes the awfulness in what he did in abandoning her, and changes his life to be the father he should have been all along.
The Father’s love is without borders. We are never at the point of no return. Today is Good Friday, a time to think upon how Christ took the penalty we deservedm just as how Tomoya didn’t deserve forgiveness from Ushio, and laid down his life, just as Tomoya’s dad sacrifices his to raise him, so that we could live. I hope you’ll think about this awesome love today, especially, and if you haven’t surrendered to that love, consider doing so, for your story isn’t over yet. Your “after” story can be one, too, filled with grace and a heart changed forever.
To read my original article, visit the link below:
Isn’t it funny that when an anime season near its end, we seem to be less excited about finales the shows we’ve invested in than we are to the slate of new series about to arrive? Or maybe that’s just me. But it’s good to focus on the here and now – some of the columns below look at shows that have ended their runs in Japan or in the U.S. on Toonami.
Esdeath of Akame ga Kill reminds us that violence in anime (and life) tells us something very important about human nature, and of a need we all have. [Medieval Otaku]
The final episode of Your Lie in April has a lot to say about godly love. [Christian Anime Review]
The previous episode also demonstrates the idea of how brothers and sisters in Christ should encourage one another. 
In his review of Gurren Lagann’s finale, Tommy makes an interesting comparison between a devastating scene and a megachurch. [Anime Bowl]
Are you a fan of the “Ask John” column, like I am? If so, you may be interested in knowing it’s columnist has finished a light novel, which among other things is “steeped in Shinto mythology and includes extensive references to literary tradition and religious iconography along with abundant subtextual thematic depth.” [AnimeNation]
As part of the Something More series of posts, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality. If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK to be included.
What’s the deepest you’ve ever loved someone? Was it for your parents? Friends? A spouse or lover?
Have you ever loved someone so much that would have pursued them, even if you knew you only had months left to live?
Your Lie in April is full of love stories, ranging from a typical high school romance to sacrificial, serving love. But it’s not until the finale of the series that we see the grandest love of all – that of Kaori Miyazono for Kousei Arima. With her time short, she pours all that she has left into loving someone who didn’t know she even existed, and in doing so, changes his life forever.
The letter that Kaori leaves to Kousei is heartwrenching – it’s an emotional note that was a perfecting ending to this beautiful series. But it’s also stunning, as it reveals so much we didn’t know about Kaori, who was always a bit distant as a character, a little outside of the group, a mover of events if not a participant. But with her last words to Kousei, we see her heart and the lengths she went through to show it.
Who knew that Kaori was bespectacled and reserved? Who knew that she was too shy to approach Kousei? And who knew that she had been chasing him since she was five years old?
And the moment he played the first note, he became the object of my admiration. Playing notes as colorful as a 24-color palette, the melody began to dance.
Kousei didn’t know any of this – he didn’t know that he was always in Kaori’s heart. Read the rest of this entry
Warning – plenty of spoilers ahead. Please watch episode 22 of Your Lie in April before reading this article.
The final episode was Your Lie in April was wonderful – a heartwarming, moving second half joined together with a beautifully animated, wonderfully musical first half to create a memorable finale. Indeed, it was a tale of two halves, with that inevitable event separating them. I’ll wax more on the second half in a follow-up post, but first, let’s talk about the first 12 minutes of episode 22.
As Kousei performs his piece, putting all his heart into the performance, he imagines Kaori playing next to him. It’s a wonderful, happy scene, as we get to see Kaori’s frenetic playing for the first time in many episodes – many months for us as an audience – accompanying an emotional Kousei, who is optimistic that he will play with Kaori once again.
But in the midst of the performance, as he stares at the image of Kaori in his head, Kousei realizes that she will not survive. In some “red string of fate” way, he even feels their connection severed, as if Kaori literally died on the surgery table with doctors working over her while Kousei (probably) wins the recital as he plays over the piano keys. Kaori completes her playing and she slowly fades away into oblivion, as Kousei can do nothing but break down and cry as he finishes his own piece.
Kaori is gone. The series plays her death in a beautiful, symbolic way with their final song together – a duet instead of a solo and accompaniment. But perhaps this tender way of letting Kaori go tells us something more. Maybe it tells us that Kousei must go on, that he will go on, and that Kaori has prepared him so. Read the rest of this entry
In our latest podcast, it seems that no one wants to admit they’re watching Aldnoah.zero. The general consensus is, I don’t want to keep watching, but I just can’t help it. I get the feeling that a lot of viewers feel that way, especially as they see the decline of Slaine Troyard from a loyal, kind boy to a single-minded, sinister one (feels very Anakin Skywalker-ish, no?).
Slaine has apparently gone well past the point of no return (I admittedly dropped the series after episode one of season two – a smart move, I think!). He seems to have done enough killing and betraying to have passed the moral event horizon, that event in which a character shows that they are “irredeemably evil.” When we watch series like Aldnoah.zero, these falls from grace are often hard to turn away from – the drama of seeing such a transition is both difficult to watch and terribly compelling.
In real life, though, when we see friends falter, it’s not compelling at all – it’s just painful. Certainly, it hurts me to see friends with whom I once served at church fall away from their faith. The change is usually gradual, bit by bit, until there seems to be some spiritual event horizon where instead of say, killing earthlings in mecha, they make the choice to embrace the world – pleasures, success, comfort, money – and reject the gospel message, which isn’t as simple as saying a prayer of faith or going through the four spiritual laws, but is instead a choice to surrender all these wants and desires because of who Christ is and what He has done. Read the rest of this entry
What can you give to someone who’s dying?
Kousei, who’s still merely a boy, doesn’t know what he can give to Kaori – but he knows he needs to give her something. Sometimes, he brings her a treat; on a grander scale, he delivered her hope in the form of a song in the last episode. And yet, in episode 19 of Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso), he still wonders what he’s able to do for Kaori – in fact, Kousei doubts he’s done anything for her.
And Kousei’s father gives an interesting response to Kousei – he reaffirms what the boy feels, that he hasn’t done anything at all. But then he quickly follows up by saying, “All you did was show devotion.”
Devotion – what a powerful and weak thing. It can be given by the smallest of children – perhaps presented best by them. It can be given freely. But it’s not quantifiable. Sometimes it’s not even wanted.
But for Kaori, it is wanted. And it is meaningful.