THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 OF HIBIKE! EUPHONIUM
Hey everyone, I’m back again with another Character Focus article. And no, there is no typo or mistake up there this time. For Euphonium, I’m definitely going to be talking about both Kumiko and Reina. There’s reasons I have for doing as such, and since I think it would be impossible for me to choose just one of them to focus on one, I am going to include both of them. I promise to avoid the talk of “yuri baiting” or any speculation on their relationship for the time being (until season 2, at least).
So I’ve talked about Euphonium before in my first Twelve Days of Anime post but I never really focused on just the two girls themselves. I feel like it’s important to give credit where credit is due in this case; the two main characters in this show were both beautifully well done in a show that was first being dismissed as “some K-on brass band thing.” Usually in shows I do the dumb little game of choosing the “best girl” but in terms of Euphonium it feels like an insult to ignore how well done both of these characters were and how well they complimented one another.
Why did I like them so much? First of all, the character designs themselves. KyoAni always manages to satisfy their fans with the character designs and Euphonium was no exception to this rule. Kumiko’s floofy hair and Reina’s white dress were knockouts that deserve all the attention they get. The voice acting was incredible as well, from Reina’s serious demeanor to all the noises that Kumiko made throughout the entire show (which KyoAni also seems to do well at, given Kumiko and Rikka’s noises).
Besides appealing to my interests in character design though the two of them had several things going for their characters. Let’s look at Kumiko. From the VERY beginning of the show Kumiko starts to show off her development; from the simple act of changing her hair to deciding to join the band we see a girl who was aloof and very go-with-the-flow start to turn into a girl who was determined to find out what she wanted out of playing the euphonium and why she was doing it.
The first episode itself was a wonderful indication of what the show would be. Kumiko is thinking about quitting the band because she doesn’t believe she has the passion for it but the pressure from her friends causes her to seriously consider if she wanted to keep going with the euphonium. She ultimately decides to keep on keepin’ on as she potentially sees it as a way to make up with Reina due to the rift that was caused between them in middle school. And that is a GOOD way to get the viewer’s attention in a first episode for a character drama.
Maybe I’m just a sucker for these kinds of stories but seeing Kumiko go on and discover her desires and what she wants out of playing the euphonium was a joy to watch. From her initial apathy in the beginning of the show to having the goal decided for her with the class vote to the legendary episode 8 with Reina on the mountain to Kumiko running across the bridge and crying because she finally realized that she wanted to improve, her entire arc played out wonderfully throughout the course of the 13 episode season culminating perfectly in the band winning their first competition based on all their hard work.
On the other hand of this argument, there is nothing quite “wrong” at the base level of Kumiko’s personality at the start. Going with the flow isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in Kumiko’s case it was more along the lines of being swayed easily by others. Instead of deciding on her own to do or not do, she lets others decide for her in a way. This is reflected even in her past when she chooses the euphonium for band because “it was the only thing that was left.” Additionally, her “true personality” was able to be brought to light throughout the course of the series.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without Reina having been there as an anchor for Kumiko to latch onto; in Reina’s case we have the girl who is so determined to become a shining star that she appears distant to others and cold to those around her. But her determination appeals to Kumiko. And Kumiko’s “true personality” appeals to Reina, who enjoys spending time with Kumiko. Just as Kumiko uses Reina as an anchor Reina confides in Kumiko as well, about her “crush” on Taki-sensei and relying on Kumiko to be on her side in the Kaori incident, since no one else seemed to be.
Reina is able to open herself up much more to Kumiko than she can around others. Having built up a personality that isn’t entirely true to herself, Reina has to be the cold and distant one in class, almost an antagonist of sorts,to achieve what she wants. But around Kumiko she can open herself up little by little. Reina is able to share her dreams and desires with Kumiko and in a way have Kumiko as a confidant instead of holding it in and having it eat at her.
Throughout the series it seems as though Kumiko and Reina were the two that understood each other the most, beyond even Shuichi, Midori, or Hazuki’s understanding of Kumiko (Hazuki has shown to not be the best at understanding others especially in assuming Kumiko has a conscious crush on Shuichi). It’s a wonderful story of these two girls developing an unbreakable bond through a shared passion that is something special uniquely to them – Kumiko or Reina could NOT have this same kind of relationship with anyone else, solely because of the circumstances that lead to the relationship developing.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like these two were the only good characters. I still believe that there were well done side characters such as Kaori and Natsuki (even Taki-sensei) and I believe others have the potential for development in season 2 – most notably Asuka. I truly hope season 2 can pull off the same level of intricacy in character development and relationships that season 1 did, even if it comes to be that the focus is not on Kumiko and Reina.
Euphonium truly made me glad to be a Kyoto Animation fanboy. Up until it aired I was getting concerned that the so called “magic” had been lost by the studio. I always held out hope for Euphonium even knowing that it didn’t look too promising from an outside view. Even after it aired it still needs defending because of what it looks like to someone who hasn’t seen it. But it truly does make me happy knowing that we have such a promising season to look forward to in the fall.
I hope you all enjoyed this article. As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think, I love talking about this stuff.