The fifth episode of Sound! Euphonium‘s second season is one of the most sublime moments I’ve ever seen out of an anime production.
It’s impossible to put into words the scale of this performance. As a viewer, I went in with the assumption that Kitauji High School would take gold at the Kansai Competition, if only because the narrative required it — they had to make it all the way to Nationals.
Yet, I still found myself alongside Hazuki, kneeling offstage next to a small shaft of light shining through the heavy stage doors. I couldn’t help but hold my breath and watch, nervously, waiting for the slightest mistake, the small slip-up that would disqualify Kitauji from national competition. Sound! Euphonium did the impossible — added weight and drama to a performance that was a guaranteed victory before the first note was played.
At the very end, on each beat, the camera alternates between cutting to a band member onstage and one waiting in the wings. The smile of Nozomi Kasaki caught my eye. All you see is her head tilted back, eyes closed, as the experience of it all washes over her. This is echoed by the triumphant smile of their conductor Noboru Taki, in the final seconds of their performance.
My concert band teacher always stressed that you should never celebrate at the end of a performance — that even though you may want to jump, scream, cry, and allow your emotions to explode outwardly in joy, to do so in front of an audience and your fellow competitors is the height of rudeness. Sound! Euphonium savors this euphoria in these quick snapshots, allowing our emotions to flow through Nozomi, and giving Taki the quickest of clenched fists in victory before he turns and bows to the audience. The members of the Kitauji High School concert band are quiet, their breathless pants and clinging sweat palpable over the audience’s cheers. Tension releases and subsides.
In the afterglow of Episode 5, I wrote about how the series makes a point to show scribbles in the margins of various members’ sheet music scores, reiterating the idea that they’re all playing for something or someone.
Even the notoriously aloof Asuka Tanaka’s knowing glances during the performance and Taki’s triumphant grin are reframed by later Sound! Euphonium episodes.
They too, play for a loved one.