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.
“I’m going to play for you.”
-Mizore Yoroizuka to Nozomi Kasaki, Sound! Euphonium, Episode 5
It had to be Nozomi Kasaki.
No other young woman could lead us onto the stage prior to Kitauji High School’s concert band performance at the Kyoto Regional. Nozomi, of whom we were not aware until this second season of Sound! Euphonium, represents a core tenet of the series as a whole: finding inspiration and love through music. Mizore Yoroizuka found her love and inspiration in Nozomi and the girls’ reunion and reconciliation formed the narrative during summer practice that led to this performance. Nozomi spent the majority of that time forbidden from rejoining the band even to help with menial tasks. Now she leads the viewing audience to their exclusive seats for the show.
In the moments before Nozomi pulls back the heavy stage curtain, Mizore tells her that she’ll play for Nozomi. Reina Kousaka overhears this and immediately tells Kumiko Oumae that she’ll play her trumpet solo for Kumiko. Senior trumpet player Kaori Nakaseko tries to pass off the band to second-year Yuko Yoshikawa who passionately insists Kaori stop that line of thinking — they still haven’t made Nationals together. They raise their hands in solidarity and the small subgroups of band members around them, including Kumiko and Reina, follow suit. In that moment they, without speaking a word, make the promise to play for each other.
Nozomi’s presence at the start of the performance again hints at this question, which is answered time and time again throughout the seven-and-a-half-minute song.
For whom does everyone play?
“Mizore . . . let’s promise to get first place when we’re in high school.”
-Nozomi Kasaki, Sound! Euphonium Season 2, Episode 1
Speaking over the stifled sounds of bitter tears and a recognizable passage from Aleksandr Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances from “Prince Igor,” Nozomi angrily clenches her fists and makes this promise to her friend, Mizore Yoroizuka. On a long bus ride home from failing to claim first place, there’s little to do but wallow in the stench of defeat or look ahead towards the future. While Mizore reactively says that she hates competitions, Nozomi looks ahead, seeking a different outcome.
For Mizore, this statement is everything. Nozomi is her first real friend, the reason why she joined concert band at Minami Junior High, and later the reason why she continues with it at Kitauji High School — this promise that they will take first together.
One of Sound! Euphonium‘s more remarkable traits is that, within its captivating world, not everyone is equally talented. Where other series use those left behind – by their lack of skill, practice, or motivation – for dramatic effect, rarely returning to them once they’ve served their purpose on the main character’s decisions, Sound! Euphonium celebrates them.
In showing and developing various narratives, Sound! Euphonium invites character comparison. The most obvious example is of Reina Kousaka and Kumiko Oumae. Both struggle with verbal communication – Reina preferring to express herself through music and Kumiko seemingly possessing large amounts of anxiety – which is what makes their developing friendship work. As evidenced in the series’ fifth episode, Reina begins to open up to Kumiko, and while Kumiko still stumbles over her own words, she has managed to overcome her fear of starting a conversation.
While Kumiko is the primary character, Sound! Euphonium relies on dialogue with others, along with her actions, to speak for her. In spite of the audience’s access to her thoughts, Kumiko is one who has trouble identifying what she truly wants, and her inner monologues reflect this, rarely offering her actual emotions.