music

For Whom Do You Play? — Sound! Euphonium’s Seven and a Half Minutes of Music

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“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?

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Sound! Euphonium and Those Left Behind

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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.

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Sound! Euphonium on Fresh Starts and Asuka Tanaka

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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.

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A Brief History of “I Look Up as I Walk” in Anime

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“I look up as I walk,

So that the tears won’t fall,

Remembering those spring days,

But I am all alone tonight.”

– “Ue o Muite Arukou,” lyrics by Rokusuke Ei, 1961

Signed on Sept. 8, 1951, the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan – along with the San Francisco Peace Treaty of the same date – wholly disarmed Japan while allowing the United States an optimal military foothold in Asia. Encapsulating postwar relations between the two nations, the documents dismantled the Japanese war machine, leaving the United States in sole possession of Japan’s defenses.

Nearly ten years later, discussion turned to a new Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan – commonly known as Anpo – in 1959. The treaty granted the United States continued military presence in Japan. Early drafts of the new agreement were spearheaded by then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi of the Liberal Democratic Party in Nov. 1959, and introduced to a National Diet suspiciously devoid of opposition. Kishi’s actions along with Anpo itself, inspired mass protests. Demonstrators were greeted with police resistance on the steps of the National Diet Building in Nagatachou, and approximately 500 people were injured.

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