Watching as Myself: Anitwitter, Me, and Sound! Euphonium 8

Up until episode 8, Sound! Euphonium had been one of my favorite shows of the current anime season—beautifully produced, delicately written, nostalgic in the extreme, thoughtfully reflective on the nature of competitive high school music programs. But, when episode 8 hit the Anitwitter waves, there was…a shift in focus I wasn’t expecting. And the effects of that shift were, well…I didn’t realize what they were for a while, but I thought the overall arc of my experience with the episode was interesting enough that I ought to bring my immediate reactions over from Tumblr and make a more reflective piece out of this fascinating experience.

Sound! Euphonium

Before I even got home from work last Tuesday, I was hearing the buzz about this episode. Now, I was used to hearing positive chatter about Sound! Euphonium—it’s unambiguously one of the best shows of the season, so that much was to be expected. The unusual thing was that, rather than general positivity about the episode, there was a very specific angle that conversation was taking: it was, of course, about yuri. When I got home from work, people were still talking about Euphonium, but more than that, they were still talking about Kumiko x Reina as if it had become canon. So I booted up the episode, watched it. Here’s what I had to say:

So, I’ll be honest—I’m not really much of a yuri fan, nor am I as convinced of Sound! Euphonium’s gayness as most of the people I’m seeing talking about it on Twitter. Most of this comes from the perpetual games anime plays with dancing around actual girl x girl relationships and some of it from the right-up-to-the-line-but-seemingly-quite-intentionally-not-over-it nature of the dialogue, but there was a pretty interesting phenomenon I noticed in my own reaction to all of the Kumiko/Kousaka scenes.

That was a very distinct sense of “NOT FOR YOU” that I got from their interactions. As far as I’m concerned, most yuri anime seems to directly pander to male fantasies (one of the reasons I’m not found of it), but this episode of Eupho definitely wasn’t that.

Between the agonizing intimacy of Kumiko and Kousaka’s understated dialogue and immaculately animated motions, plus the absolute lack of a “male identification” point, I felt more like an invader in their scenes than a participating member of the audience. Like, I like cute anime girls. But everything about Kumiko and Kousaka’s mountain hike seemed to reject me as the primary audience. I’m not saying “Geez, minus the normal invitation for guys to perv out over cute girls, I can’t engage with this.” That sort of stuff tends to drive me away from a show just as much; but that more of a moral revulsion than this was.

What happened here was simply that I felt, in a most unique way (since most anime is targeted toward straight males like me), unwanted in this scene.

I’m not sure I’ve articulated very well here, but it was strange experience. I’m not sure how much I liked it. I don’t know if I was supposed to like it or if it even matters if I don’t. I don’t even know if Im even describing the experience correctly. Maybe it’s just that I’m so used to being pandered to, even though I often don’t appreciate it, that not being pandered to, for once, feels very strange.

EDIT: Reading through this after I hit publish, I felt very dishonest that I didn’t (whether consciously or not) use the word uncomfortable to describe what I felt. Not the whole time, but I definitely felt uncomfortable at points. Make of that what you will.

Sound! Euphonium

After publishing this post on Tumblr (which I chose to do since I felt it was somewhat off-the-cuff and less polished than what I normally try to put up on the blog), I had the great pleasure of getting to talk with a couple people on Twitter as I tried to sort through the complex feelings and very real discomfort I felt about the experience and, at a different level, the discomfort I felt about being uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that I didn’t really like the way I felt about the episode, but I also couldn’t ignore how I felt.

The best solution seemed to be watch the episode again, but the confusion and the memories of the feelings the episode had generated a pretty big non-desire to go through that experience again. But something didn’t feel right to me. The very unusual reaction I had to the episode, despite its intensity, had certain inorganic feeling to it. The sheet unusualness of it all made it feel like it…wasn’t really me. Flash forward to Sunday and, facing the impending deadline for my APR ballot, I decided (amongst an impossibly inconvenient recursion of Euphonium tweets on my timeline) that I was ready to give the episode another watch. And here’s what happened:

Sound! Euphonium

So, I went back to Euphonium 8. Honestly, after my first watch of it, I was pretty convinced I did NOT want to watch it again—probably for a lot of the reasons I listed in the original post. But, I felt I couldn’t accurately think about Euphonium if I didn’t and:

I really wanted to try to experience the show without the overbearing mental pressure of the yuris, as generated by my social media circles. Honestly, I think I would have been far less specifically sensitive to the yuri potential of the episode had it not been for the absolute EXPLOSION of people totally freaking out about how gay the episode was.

But, you know? Those aren’t my default terms for engaging with a show and to, really, be forced into watching an episode on different terms than my own was, as has been noted, an uncomfortable experience. I wasn’t free to interpret things my own way or to experience it through my own personal lens. And a lot of the lines I was hearing from people who I really like and respect on Twitter were being couched in seriously inflexible terms: “THIS CAN’T NOT BE YURI.”

Which is fine, but I guess I’m just say that it affected the way I watched the episode a lot.

So, coming back to the episode today, I felt I was mostly free from the pressures of other people’s interpretations of Eupho and could really engage with it on my own terms.

The result?

An episode that was 1) more comfortable, 2) more impactful, 3) more engaging, and 4) more likable than the episode I watch on Tuesday.

And you know what? While I still totally see where the yuri people are coming from, I no longer feel obligated to see the episode that way—and I honestly prefer my interpretation, if only because it’s far more natural and comfortable to me. I don’t think it’s necessarily anti-yuri per se (certainly, they could exist side-by-side) but it’s far less definitive.

To me, Sound! Euphonium 8 feels like a fever dream. A summer daze. A mystical, ethereal, intimate, passionate moment all done up in shimmer glass ball of city lights, stars, and festival torches. It’s shot through with summer winds, the intensity of someone else’s eyes, and seeing (maybe for the first time?) somebody outside of yourself. It’s mesmerizing and entrancing and perhaps one step away from a complete loss of self, into a death of warm light hovering over a still, clear pool of water.

And I’m entirely comfortable with it being just that. None of that is inherently romantic or sexual. None of it is explicitly opposed to romance or sexual attraction. If Eupho decides to make Kumiko x Reina an actual couple, I think this will have been an entirely convincing and fascinating point to have been the initiating moment. If it decides not to, it will have been a gorgeous, beautiful moment of human vulnerability and connection.

Frankly, I think the yuri vs. not argument ultimately ends up detracting from the authenticity of this dream, at least for me. I have no chips in on it having to be yuri and no chips on it having to be not-yuri.

I far prefer something real, and this episode of Sound! Euphonium, whatever it was, was certainly that.

Sound! Euphonium

You know, I wish I could end this post there (that’s definitely one of the better endings I’ve ever written to a post), but that’s not where the story of this post ends. After finishing up that burst of writing, I finally felt like I had hit on something that I truly owned. An interpretation, a feeling, a response that was genuinely me watching as myself.

32 thoughts on “Watching as Myself: Anitwitter, Me, and Sound! Euphonium 8

  1. The “fever dream” feeling is probably what the staff of the show was going for, that was the impression I got, but even that still leaves an odd, contrast in the show. You can have these kinds of really intense, late night meetings in real life and not have them mean much the next day, that’s totally happened to me many times! But in STORIES to have a moment like that is to impact the relationships significantly, if this was a boy and a girl there’s absolutely no way they would’ve hook up later (I still maintain that those were some PRETTY GAY moments). So we’ve hit this weird moment where the story is both utterly fantastical (like fiction, no high schoolers are that composed when it’s spur-of-the-moment) and yet oddly realistic but that that realism only seems to reinforce “conventional” story telling since no, when it’s two girls (who haven’t shown particular romantic attachments to anyone else or even a preference) this won’t lead to a relationship.
    Not sure how to end this comment either, although I guess I’m glad it was less uncomfortable for you on the second watch through.

    Like

    • Well, I definitely agree that—story-wise—it would be nothing short of a betrayal for the show to pretend it didn’t happen, even if Kumiko specifically called it a “dream-like moment.” Now, I don’t really think it has to be romantic, but it could be! But it does have to impact their relationship in some way for it not to be a bad turn. As I said in the post, I think it’s a fantastic moment, period, and a great starting point for something more. Whatever that something is, I’ll be pleased for it to have arisen out of a scene like this.

      Like

  2. You should ALWAYS watch anime (read books, engage with art) on your own terms first and foremost. It is good you noticed this – better late than never! The ability to follow another’s interpretation of a given work can be important, but that too can only be based on your own understanding of the content and its elements.

    Personally, I have no trouble “holding” several different possible interpretations at the same time. I am a fan of the yuri genre (recently wrote on the topic on my blog, too), but I do not see the necessity of viewing this episode as portraying the start of a romantic relationship. The ReinaxTaki and KumikoxShuuichi routes are still viable and likely enough, but that’s not the point of it all. The point is that what Kumiko and Reina shared here was greater than romance.

    Yes, greater than romance. I am afraid contemporary pop culture has taught us all that a romantic subplot in a movie (and the like) is THE subplot to look out for. It takes precedence over everything else, and the curtain does not fall before the final kiss.

    But if this episode didn’t make it obvious enough, Kumiko doesn’t have romance in mind. At this point in her life, romance is an abstract, troublesome thing. But her ongoing confrontation with the society surrounding her and her own dreams and ambitions is very real and a much more pressing matter.

    You mention in this post that you felt unwanted when watching this episode. You meant it in a negative way, but it is a fitting way to describe what went down here. For a moment Kumiko and Reina were all alone in this world, cut away from everything and everyone else through the power of their shared frustration. This kind of miraculous connection might lead to something romantic or it might not. But frankly, that doesn’t matter here because boiling this episode down to just romance doesn’t do it justice.

    Like

    • Greater than romance

      Thank you for this. I think, in a way, this was a big part of what I was trying to get to. It was a transcendent moment of human intimacy, something far rarer and (I would say) more special than romance. I think I was grasping on to that even during my first watch of the episode and that mere unconscious inkling that it was something more than romance was grinding up against the collective community excitement over the “romance.”

      Now, I’m more of the opinion that compacting everything about the scene into “yuri” is a hugely reductive way to look at the episode—one that misses the core of the moment and, indeed, misses the basic reason it could even be considered romantic in the first place.

      Like

      • Strongly agree with both of you!!

        There was a very strong sense of intimacy in that scene and all the “Oh my god, it’s yuri!!!!!” responses felt like they were taking away from it, making it only about one thing, instead of about the mix of dream-like feelings and emotions that came through when I watched it. I don’t think it’s something that should be labeled. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship, no matter how that relationship develops in the future. It was a seed before this episode, and in this episode it sprouted, but we still have yet to see how it blossoms.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. For some reason, this makes me think of your Love Live post. I think what you wrote here perfectly complements what you wrote there. This is a piece that is about how fandom shapes and influences your experience. Sometimes, it adds to the anime itself in a powerful way and sometimes it doesn’t. There are some things you see through the fandom that become difficult to unsee.

    I’ve had the experience you had with Euphonium with sports anime. Lots of sports anime fan are into BL shipping. Even though sports anime are always about so much more than pseudo-romances, that’s the angle the fandom tends to focus on. People don’t tend to talk about the actual sports at all. At the same time, I can appreciate that the best sports anime are very human stories, so focusing on the characters is a natural thing. Shipping aside, the relationships can be genuine and profound (er, depending on the show, of course).

    I think at the heart of all the Euphonium fanboying (which I took note of, even though I don’t actually watch Euphonium), people had come to a similar conclusion you did – that in the end, the yuri subtext is secondary to what they thought was a very well-written and sincere episode. When those same people fanboying about yuri wrote down their thoughts in more detail, their interpretation of the Kumiko and Reina dynamic held a great deal more nuance.

    I suppose one of the limitations of Twitter is that it does encourage people to say things like “Kumiko and Reina are so gay for each other!” instead of elaborating on why their interactions feel well-written. And I also think it’s a fandom culture thing, where “finding the interaction between two characters compelling” is generally referred to as “shipping”, even when you don’t necessarily think those two characters would make a good couple. That’s not to discount the fun of shipping, but we should also make time for more nuanced discussions about relationships, fictional or otherwise.

    So yeah, it’s good that you managed to come to your own conclusions and find an interpretation that feels right for you. Oh, and personally speaking, taking a break from Twitter, even a short one, helped me a lot with that. I also feel much less pressured to watch shows I’m not fully interested in, even if others around me are enjoying them a lot. Besides Grisaia, I haven’t watched any new anime after my break, and honestly I’m fine with that.

    tldr; A sense of community can be fun and fulfilling, but having an “interpretation, a feeling, a response that was genuinely me watching as myself” is just so important too.

    Liked by 5 people

    • The limitations of Twitter and the impulse of fandom culture certainly played a big role in the oppressive groupthink that hurt my experience of the episode the first time. Definitely, all I was seeing was “yuri omg” and not “wow, what a hell of a character moment.” And while I understand why the enthusiasm was there (lack of actual homosexual relationship in anime beyond teases), it still was like a tidal wave that overwhelmed everything else.

      It is interesting how my brain selects particular instances to latch on to and be affected by and not others, but I guess that’s some self psychoanalysis I can leave for another day. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “Conversations” on social media (by which I mean FB, Twitter, and Tumblr, the blogosphere and the forums are different animals with different dynamics) are all too often shaped by the need to Say Something, and to Be Seen Saying Something. And if you don’t have something to say, or you think someone else has said something close enough or clever enough – well, “Likes” and “Forwards”/”re-tweets” are a quick and easy way to participate and garner at least some social cred. The resulting inertia means the conversation is thus all too often dominated by the Firstest and the Loudest. And it’s hard to gain traction against that avalanche.

    Combine that with the the nature of so much of anime fandom to see something salacious at the slightest whiff (that the anime industry is all too often willing to drop those hints doesn’t help much) – add in Ep8, and you have a perfect storm. (More on that below in the actual discussion on the ep.) Kinda puts me in mind of the conversation over boob jokes back in Ep5… in both (5 and 8), even though Euph has a track record of not being tropish, tropes are what everyone reached for. (At least in part because tropes form a shorthand and basic point of reference.)

    And know you know why I avoid blogs, reviews, Facebook, Twitter, etc… until after I’ve seen an episode. I don’t mind reworking my perceptions, but I don’t want my experience dominated by others.

    I know it sounds like I’m being dismissive of social media, but I’m not. (They certainly have their role.) No media is free of flaws, and the particular flaws of social media are highlighted in this case. Thus it cannot be adequately discussed while also avoiding the elephants in the room.

    That being said, we’ve long known that Reina is… different. (I can’t quite put a word to it that doesn’t inadvertently sound perjorative or deragatory, be assured that neither connotation is intended.) But she also hasn’t had a lot of screen time and only momentary interactions with the main trio, which has always struck me as odd given that she’s featured as being co-equal to said trio in the OP and ED. So, absent the gradual building up of the picture we’ve experienced with Kumiko, Hazuki, and Midori… the abrupt full reveal was bound to have at least some shocks no matter what the content.

    The real question is, how much of this was telegraphed? It being June Faire Week, I don’t really have the time to go back and look… but the scene with Reina playing in the dusk while everyone else listened from the windows and fields certainly comes to mind. Also consider, she hasn’t been the one avoiding Kumiko – quite the opposite. And that she was the one to really initiate the conversation between the two, both in the reconciliation scene and in this episode.

    Hmm… maybe the actual depths of her feeling were the only real surprise here? There’s certainly been hints before, but we’ve been mostly looking past her as something more akin to a background character.

    Like

    • You raise a good point about Reina’s sudden prominence in the story, when she really has been all but relegated to the role of a side-character, albeit one with an outsized influence on our protagonist. In that way, she actually reminds me a lot of Arata from Chihayafuru, a character mostly absent from the life of Chihaya, yet still constantly on her mind. There’s a complexity to the emotional attachment in that relationship that I think could potentially be extended to this one (Chihaya and Arata being united by their shared passion for karuta).

      But here, things kind of exploded without much build up. In that way, I think the sensuality of it all bothered me because it seemed to skip the really important part of building a relationship—actually knowing something about the other person. To have that second step mixed in with a profoundly affecting example of the first step was…confusing, and maybe even takes a little bit away from the effect of the episode. If this is truly going to be a yuri relationship, I’d prefer they build the relationship as well as they can and respect the characters, rather than diving into appeals to the audience.

      Hmm I dunno how much of that I really agree with. Kind of just pondering through things…

      Like

      • One of these days, I’m going to have to track down Chihayafuru and give it a watch, you seem to refer to it an awful lot. 🙂 Though where I’m going to find time to watch a two cour show is anyone’s guess.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I mean, I love the hell out of Chihayafuru. There’s probably no show I’m more hurt by not having a Western release than it. (It’s on Crunchyroll, by the way!)

          Like

  5. I will try to keep it simple ! First there was another potential relationship issue that got overlooked ! Hazuki and Shuichi which was a total letdown for her ! BTW Shuichi asked Kumiko first to the festival and think she would have gone with him if not for Hazuki. I think Reina is interested in Kumiko’s personality as she fells she is putting on a facade!

    Yes the finger to the lips was provactive but that also could mean to her musical abilitly!

    Personally I could care less whats way they want to go as musicians seem to be more open minded about hookups. But the almost sarcastic dialouge is what is sparking the attraction! Just a thought!

    Like

    • Yeah, RIP Hazuki x Shuichi.

      It’s interesting that you think Kumiko would have gone with Shuichi had not Hazuki been a factor. I don’t know that I necessarily think she would have done that because she likes him, though? Maybe more out of a sense of not being able to say no.

      But who knows? If she had, maybe they would have had an equally powerful moment. (I doubt it, though. Shuichi doesn’t quite seem that type.)

      Like

  6. Interesting. This struggle of knowing how to react seems to be nearly unique to female same-sex relationships, as anime couples go. I’m always curious whether “They’re not in love” interpretations of scenes like this are more “I did not see anything indicating romantic attraction in either party” or more “That felt romantic but probably not intended to be because they’re both girls.”

    The latter reaction itself covers a spectrum. Ignoring outright homophobes, who aren’t legitimate participants in the conversation, we’ve got a range of people that either have no moral qualms with yuri but just aren’t comfortable with how it’s executed for whatever reason (I guess this is where you fall) to those who adore it but just feel so beaten down by years and years of bait-and-switch rug-pulling that the first reaction is an instinctive and deep distrust of anime creators’ motives (that’s me!). I think these reactions split from the same root, but grow differently. Both

    I think it’s fairly reasonable to argue that what transpired between Kumiko and Reina would, without a picosecond’s hesitation, be classified by virtually every sentient being as romantic if one of the two characters were a boy. I’ll be honest and say that if someone denies this, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to believe them. Not unless they’ve never engaged with a romantic scene in media in their entire lives.

    So in this particular case, the only thing possibly stopping it from depicting a moment of romantic connection is the gender of the participants. Maybe it’s just a question of your belief in the primacy of authorial intent at this point? If the ending places no further emphasis on Kumiko and Reina’s feelings for each other, then interpreting the scene as entirely non-romantic comes easily. On the other hand I’m comfortable saying “it was unambiguously one of the most intensely romantic scenes I’ve ever experienced” even if it furiously backpedals into plausible deniability (or goodness forbid a Shuuichi ending). I’ll just pin the failure of courage or imagination on the creative staff. And the deliberately strong way I just worded those last two sentences is very much a product of my feeling that authorial intend is not at all omnipotent!

    I wrote up some feelings about it recently: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1smect7

    Suffice to say, you /can/ adapt the rest of Euphonium without Kumiko and Reina becoming something “more than friends”. But my disappointment will be unimaginable. The setup is too good, the writing and production too gorgeous, the characterization too effortlessly human and genuine and intense, for this to not be one of the special moments where it all comes together in a milestone for same-sex representation in anime. I don’t want to consider how many seasons, how many years, it could be before an equally perfect moment comes along. There will be other canon lesbian couples in anime even if Euphonium is not one of them. But the intensity of this feeling, right here right now, feels achingly real, feels utterly irreplaceable.

    Maybe I’m wording it more intensely than most, but I don’t think I’m alone! I think this is the root of why you’re seeing such deep, powerful reactions, reactions that maybe feel overpowering right now. Euphonium has, wittingly or un-, struck a hell of a chord in a way no one could have predicted.

    Like

    • I find it interesting that you presume that someone can only reach the conclusion “they’re not in love” from base motivations external to the events depicted – that’s there’s only one possible conclusion. You’ve rejected out of hand the notion that someone could examine the evidence provided to us and reach a different conclusion. The same goes for your comments about romance – you’ve rejected the notion that someone can have a powerful moment of deep friendship or commitment without a shred of romance being involved, regardless of the gender of the participants.

      What Reina seems to me have to have felt is that powerful, wild surge when you discover you’re not alone. There’s others just like you. Someone gets you. And the thing that marks you different can be politics, or philosophy, or a deep love of or commitment to any number of things – it need not be romantic or sexual at all. (I’ve have several such occurrences over the decades, none of them sexual. Though we are also deep friends, falling in love (we’ll reach our twenty fifth anniversary on Wednesday) was a different matter entirely.) Teenagers (and often young adults) tend to over-react to or misinterpret such discoveries the same way they do with many other emotions they’ve not yet learned how to process. The hormonal and mental changes of puberty and young adulthood are about so much more than sex, despite the predominance of the latter in the media and in public discourse.

      What will be interesting to see is if she was right – the discovery that such an assumption was wrong can be just as devastating as discovering that your love is unrequited.

      And no matter how romantic the scene, there can only be a “they’re in love” (as opposed to “she’s in love with her”) with some indications of mutual feelings. And in this case, even if you do interpret Reina’s actions as a confession (which I don’t), there was no corresponding declaration from Kumiko. (Or at least not one she gave voice to.)

      What Kumiko felt… well, there I have to admit I’m somewhat stumped. Two lines of an internal monologue, especially since they came out of the blue, are a bit much for me to hang a romance onto. She could equally as easily be experiencing the same wild surge as Reina and over reacting to it due to her emotional immaturity. (Or at least to being on the cusp of self realization, which would be consistent with the show to date.) There’s a lot of enigma in this episode, stemming from Reina being treated to date mostly as a background character and from the depiction of Kumiko’s relationship with her being one of only recently and as yet incompletely healed rifts.

      And lastly, emotional intimacy is not the same as love – and many a relationship has foundered on the rocks of grasping that. (If there’s a media fault in this narrative, it’s in the consistent depiction of such situations as binary, love or not love. Our whole culture is suffused with a deep confusion over the shades of friendship.) We could just as easily be witnessing the birth of something rarer and more precious than love – a deep and abiding friendship. I’ve had the good fortune in my life to be a part of both, but I would never mistake one for the other.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I actually read your twitlonger and really liked it! I thought it was a pretty articulate piece, and I certainly appreciated its conciseness and clarity.

      As far as the specifics of my non-romantic interpretation, I guess I wouldn’t say I think it adheres to either of the options you mention in the first paragraph? I felt is was super-romantic in the sense that “this is a grand, intensely aestheticized scene and poignant moment of human connection that transcends ‘romance.'” If that makes sense.

      Honestly, I don’t give a damn about authorial intent haha (something I definitely think is pretty obvious in other things I’ve written—my Monogatari SS piece, for instance).

      Frankly, I don’t think this scene could have been replicated in the same way had one of the characters been a boy. I think you’re right. If one of the characters had been a guy, the romantic overtones would have been overwhelming thanks to media conditioning. However, I think Eupho is privileged by NOT being locked into a “romance-only” track thanks to it being two girls. Instead, it’s a free moment of connection that opens up their relationship to myriad paths. As I’ve said above, I think, from here, it can go in a romantic or non-romantic direction with equal believability.

      Certainly, I would understand the disappointment of those such as yourself who desperately want this relationship to become a legitimate romance. I’m not among you; rather, I’m interested in seeing how they build on this moment.

      Like

      • I feel very guilty now that work has been keeping me just too busy to keep up with Sound Eupho. (I think I watched two episodes, that’s how far behind I am).

        Because of that, I’m not going to make any assumptions yet, but I will say I liked this post very much. (Which I also feel guilty about reading having not reached the relevant episode, but once I have I’ll totally revisit this again. It’s a good piece!)

        Something that really resonated well with me (actually being a homosexual female myself, yes) was how you described how other people simply ‘dismissed’ the scene—for lack of a better word; I’m sleepy—as being ‘yuri’. I’ve personally had many experiences where my issues and other things that I won’t bore you with have just been forgotten about because they’ve been forced into a box or under a label and left there. I think just summarising a scene that, considering your second watch, sounds magical as just a word would really deprive from the experience.

        Also, I totally agree with preferring to make your own interpretations of things, and how having everybody else’s interpretations in mind can make it one hell of a difficult experience, especially when it’s your first time watching an episode.

        About the episode itself… Seems I’ll be marothoning Eupho tomorrow. Most yuri—or even implied yuri—is aimed at a male demographic (wrote a post about it not too long ago), which is what mostly makes me shy away from it in general, too. The fact that this takes a different approach—apparently—would be interesting to watch. Whether I’ll like it or not is a different thing.

        So yeah, thanks for this.

        Now I’ve just got to forget everything you wrote by tomorrow when I actually get around to watching it. xD

        Like

        • Well, I definitely understand trying to find anime time due to work! I’m still getting used to having a job and doing blogging at the same time!

          I’m glad you liked the post, even so! Thanks a bunch for sharing your own experience—I say this all the time, but there are few things that are more humbling for me than when someone is willing to respond to something I’ve written by disclosing something about their own life. It’s really neat.

          Good luck forgetting everything! 😀

          Like

  7. I LOVE THIS POST. I love your perspective of what happened–nicely written! I really loved that episode though more for the overall character development and animation that was delivered. While I wouldn’t mind it if a yuri relationship came out of what happened, I would rather the show remained focused on the characters and how their relationships work with the band itself. I would love to see the show focus on Making Music Together not romance. I don’t ship Kumiko with anyone but her music. XD However, if Eupho does focus on romance, I’m sure it will at least be decent. 🙂

    Like

      • I think she does too–she’s actually quite emotionally distant from most of her music, so I want her and music to get closer, become better antiquated, become a couple. I always want to see that with characters who play instruments. XD But that just might be me, as a musician myself. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I tend to roll my eyes at the pervasive tendency of anime fans to put everything into little labeled boxes. This is an occasion when . I’m very happy to be an old fart who doesn’t really do Twitter.

    This was a moment of intimacy. The blending of the sounds of the Euph and the Trumpet in their duet felt as sensual as the visuals to me. Sensual, not prurient.

    Maybe it’s all those decades in “Show Biz”, but I give zero f**ks whether we’re talkin’ boys and girls, boys and boys, or girls and girls. Again, eye roll.

    Like

    • Heh, thanks for your input, old-timer. 😛

      I don’t think everyone’s as guilty as boxing up the episode as I’ve maybe made it sound, but I certainly do prefer the openness of the interpretation I finally arrived at.

      Like

  9. I suppose it’s easy for the sex and romance-obsessed – and those who live in a world of soundbites and absolutes – to focus on the overtones of Kumiko and Reina’s time together, and ignore the many other forces and variables at play in this episode (and I’m not talking about you, Bless, I’m talking about the general social media-verse). What I found both beautiful and fascinating about this scene wasn’t the supposed romantic element at all. I’ve seen otaku-bait yuri anime, heck I even own a couple, and the feel of this episode was just something completely different. Now that’s not saying I didn’t feel the chemistry between the two girls, because that was very real and palpable. But love, friendship, and attraction take many different forms, and not all of them are sexual. That’s what the fandom-at-large, especially younger fans who aren’t experienced enough to know the difference yet, all tend to forget in their rush to pair off characters and throw down “OTP” gauntlets and tweet “yuri ftw!” No, there is so much more to love about this episode, and kudos to you for giving it a second chance.

    The main theme of this episode, as I saw it, was about having the courage to follow your heart’s desires. And we see that play out in different ways through three different stories. The first was Goto and Riko, the young couple in the first blush of love but still not totally secure in their feelings or confident enough to share the news with their friends. The second played out in the triangle between Hazuki, Shuichi, and Kumiko. Unfortunately, Hazuki and Shuichi have no chemistry – just a lot of nerves and awkwardness and not knowing what to talk to each other about. And yet, I have so much respect for Hazuki for trying, and for really taking the chance to pursue what her heart wanted, even if it didn’t work out. The last scene of the episode where she’s laughing and crying at the same time was a perfect coda. It damn sure hurts being rejected, but at the same time getting your feelings out in the open and knowing that the other person knows where you stand feels like such a relief, win or lose. And Shuichi also tried. He tried asking Kumiko out twice – three times if you count his invitation to practice together – and when she obviously wasn’t going for it he gave Hazuki a chance, too. It just wasn’t there, and props to him for being honest and not stringing her along.

    The third, of course, is Reina and Kumiko, who unlike Hazuki and Shuichi already have more chemistry than DuPont headquarters even though they don’t really know each other that well yet. As I told you before, this episode cemented Reina as my favorite character. Even though we didn’t know a lot about her before, we could glean several things from the snippets we were given. For one, it was clear she wasn’t much of a people person. Every time we saw her at school, practice, or on the train, she was always alone. It wasn’t hard to figure out she was ambitious too, since she had such a drive to make nationals and took the middle school band’s failure harder than anyone else. What had drawn me to her the most during the early episodes, though, was the way she expressed herself through her music, something I can relate to very well because I’m much the same way – it’s often much easier for me to let my deeper feelings out through a song or poem than having to verbalize them. We saw that with the beautiful Dvorak scene in episode 3, and again in (I think) episode 5, where she breaks the band’s tension with that impromptu trumpet solo at SunFes. And that scene also illustrated something else about her – she’s unafraid to defy convention and do things her way. Remember, she also got herself in trouble for giving Taki-sensei her opinion about some of the band’s issues instead of deferring it to her seniors, a major no-no in Japanese culture. This episode took all of that, confirmed and expanded on it, and then gave us even more besides.

    So along comes beautiful, ambitious, self-centered Reina, more than willing to go along with Kumiko’s invitation even though it was a complete accident, and what does she do first? Drag Kumiko up a mountain, far away from the very crowds and vendor stalls that Kumiko told her friends she wanted to avoid. I doubt Reina heard that comment, but it doesn’t matter because they both wanted the same thing – a non-normal festival experience. Just like it turns out they’re fascinated with each other and have both wanted to be friends this whole time, but neither one knew where to begin. It’s not hard to see why Kumiko would be so fascinated with Reina, as we learn more about her. She’s very much the type of person that Kumiko wants to be. Someone who’s decisive, who pursues her own goals and her own path and finds ways to get the things she wants, instead of running around in circles trying to accommodate everyone else. Reina’s a keen observer, though, and she obviously sees that Kumiko’s just as much of a misfit in her own way as she is (and basically says as much). Where this scene really excels is in the unspoken conversation that’s taking place under the surface: in their looks and glances, facial expressions, body language, the way they probe and question each other and post and riposte with barbed compliments and double-edged replies. Through it all, their understanding of and interest in each other steadily grows with every exchange. Such a well-crafted relationship-building scene is unusual in most visual media, not just anime, and it’s something far more personal and meaningful than mere attraction or lust (I see some of the other comments have addressed a lack of relationship buildup before this episode, but I’d have to go back and watch Kumiko’s previous 3 or 4 conversations with Reina to really have a better sense for that – I thought they managed at least 1 or 2 half-decent chats before this).

    Finally, think about the last part with them playing together. At the beginning of the episode, Midori tells Hazuki that love is at the heart of all music, and that comes back full-circle in the ending. This is what ultimately confirms the whole thing as more than just another yuri tease to me. There’s love in this music, but it isn’t love in the sense of romantic love, it’s love in the sense of two kindred spirits sharing the joy of discovering each other, and using their shared pastime and history with music to confirm their new bond (and it’s fitting that Reina would choose a middle school song, since that’s where the first roots were really laid down, even if they’re only blooming now). For Reina, who as I noted earlier tends to express her deepest feelings through her music anyway, there’s no better way to do it.

    That’s why I loved this episode so much. It’s just so rich with story layers and character development and great dialogue and beautiful visual language that even after all this rambling I still don’t feel like I’ve really done it justice.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You said a lot of what I was trying to say (especially in my reply to HaveAHappyEuphoLife), only better. 🙂

      But with regards to your first paragraph, I’ve written before about people missing the deeper layers to Euph in favor of the simpler surface appearances… And that habit lead directly to the storm over this episode. While Reina’s character development and the relationship development has been sparse, it has been there (and you saw much more than I did), and is key to understanding what happened on that mountaintop.

      Like

      • Thanks! You know, I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days about why I felt drawn to Reina even early in the series despite her comparatively sparser screentime. Scenes like the Dvorak solo were definitely part of it, but I think it’s also partly the way she’s presented in the OP. If you look at the first part of the OP with the four main girls’ introductions, the other three all have a lot of kinetic energy to them. Hazuki and Midori are bouncing all over the place, while Kumiko seems more twitchy and anxious, but all three are constantly in motion. Reina’s posing is still playful in its own way (especially her cute little hand-over-the-eye bit), but it’s also very static – apart from her entry twirl she doesn’t really move at all, and that instantly sets her apart from the others. And then in the concert part, there are a lot of extreme close-ups on the performers. The animators draw a lot of attention to their lips shaping the notes, and to their eyes and heads, which are nearly all looking downward, probably at their sheet music. Again though, Reina’s different. The camera on her is further out and away, her head and eyes are up, and she’s definitely not looking at her sheet music – she has a rather steely-eyed gaze and it’s firmly fixed somewhere off in the distance. This framing gives her an immediate presence and command of her spotlight animation that none of the other characters really have.

        Like

    • To point out a few highlights of this comment:

      soundbites and absolutes

      Beautifully articulated phrase, this! The absolutes were definitely in play out in the social media world!

      The third, of course, is Reina and Kumiko, who unlike Hazuki and Shuichi already have more chemistry than DuPont headquarters

      Idk I’m just happy about this.

      and then just the rest of this post

      I don’t really have much in the way of replies. This was beautifully written and I have to say I’m like, totally grateful you chose to put it here and not on a blog somewhere or something. Cause I’m greedy and I want nice things.

      Like

  10. In everything I’ve seen and read on the Kumiko/Reina dynamic, particularly Bobduh’s “one character […] truly dazzled by another” description, immediately brought to mind the Buffy/Faith dynamic, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faith was similarly “truly dazzled” by Buffy, a feeling I resonated with, as someone who has felt that feeling towards multiple classmates when I was younger. Many have interpreted Buffy/Faith as a romantic pairing. Others have not. I could see it either way. On the other hand, I’m not totally straight, and I suspect a few of those past times being “truly dazzled” by someone was also a romantic crush.

    And the creator of BtVS, Joss Whedon’s take on those interpretations!?
    I think that’s part of the attraction of the Buffyverse. It lends itself to polymorphously perverse subtext. It encourages it. I personally find romance in every relationship (with exceptions), I love all the characters, so I say Bring Your Own Subtext!

    Another case is with the film Ben-Hur, in which in order to truly convey Messala’s intense relationship with Judah, the actor for Messala was instructed to play the character as if he were in love with Judah. And it worked. No matter if you interpret their relationship, no one can argue that Messala did not have some form of strong (platonic or romantic) love for Judah.

    Bring your own subtext.

    Like

    • Again, I think this returns to the point that a reductive understanding of love as specifically and solely romantic locks down a plethora of fascinating interpretations—and the social media sphere’s capacity to buckle down and grip onto a single interpretation (almost a kind of fantasy theme, actually (Comm theory)) has the unfortunately isolating effect when you stand outside the “in-joke.”

      Like

      • This, I feel, comes from the romanticization of romance.

        In pop culture, it’s become shorthand that The Strongest Connection is True Love, and as conditioned by centuries of fairytales, True Love is romantic. (after all, when the culmination of romance in marriage is biblically described as two becoming one flesh, it’s kind of hard to see other forms of love trumping that) In recent years, with the likes of Frozen and Maleficent, we’ve begun to see pushback against that notion of True Love = Romance, but it’s still got a lot of cultural conditioning to overcome.

        In addition, our bodies are terrible at differentiating horomonal responses. It reacts in the same way to arousal as it does to adrenaline. In media, we’ve come to see passionate body language as a visual shorthand for sexual feelings, which means that when we see the same body language in , say, an antagonistic relationship, or with a close teammate, the conventions of visual storytelling indicate to us that it’s got that romance potential! See how Kumiko/Reina shippers point to the blushing, the stuttering, that all-but-sparkly-flower-shoujo-vision shot of Reina in episode 5. The folks at KyoAni are aware of those things being a shorthand, which means they deliberately chose to frame that shot with indicators that audiences are accustomed to interpreting as romantic.

        All that said, I think the dismissal of romance is can be equally reductive, as is the case with representation of queer romance. There’s a history of shows doing what KyoAni is doing, purposely using romantic visual shorthands, and then backpedaling and saying “oh no they’re only gal pals,” in which case the shippers of the queer couple are the ones isolated outside of the “in-joke.” It’s that history of being told our interpretations are invalid that is driving the passion of the shippers not to let this one go, whenever there’s a chance that the shoe is finally on the other foot.

        At any rate, my original comment was in agreement with your original post. (I don’t think it’s necessarily anti-yuri per se (certainly, they could exist side-by-side)) That is, that I think Kumiko/Reina is intentionally being portrayed to support and encourage “polymorphously perverse subtext,” romantic or platonic or a combination, all valid as per the context and subtext each viewer brings with them.

        Like

  11. The thing I don’t like about framing the scene as an “ethereal fever dream” is that it seems to put it in some kind of narrative vacuum, divorced from the rest of the story. It seems to downplay just how much the show had already built up Kumiko and Reina’s relationship. People screaming rapturous Yuri chants at this episode wasn’t unexpected for me at all, largely because the show has spent /so/ many scenes depicting their connection as very much beyond normal friendship. The feelings of jubilation and relief that Kumiko gets just from Reina smiling at her and accepting her cynical personality suggests a relationship way more special and intimate than mere platonic musical admiration. You can say the same for Kumiko’s amazing word-vomited apology in episode 4, or how she only decides to deny the middle school friend’s invitation at the end of episode 5 after a longing glance at Reina.

    Reina is both the kind of person Kumiko strives to be like, confident and driven in her goals, though also, and I think more importantly, someone who accepts Kumiko for the kind of person she /is/. And that’s the thing Kumiko struggles with most. She always goes with flow and cedes to what others want her to. Reina’s the only one to notice this and tell her to “Fuck that cheese, do what you want to”. As a couple, they have a huge potential to learn from and grow off of each other, so of course I ship it. If “OMG look at these gay girls” is reductive, I think it’s the best reduction possible.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s