First things first: I just wanted to do a smug confession regarding how I fought (nobody) for Valentine’s Day spot, so yeah…
Happy Valentine‘s Day to you!
As the title of this post suggests, I am back at it again with the mighty warriors and this time I am coming in with hearts on my sleeve — owls on my face, screaming liberty!
2018’s second monthly topic: “Competition” — Please check out the entire month’s tour schedule right here!
In honor of the 2018 Winter Olympics, this month topic will focus on the theme, “Competition” because the Olympics is where athletes (from all countries) join together to compete in sporting events. Through these events, we see how “competition” brings out the grit, the teamwork, and the competitive spirit within athletes. This month, we will be exploring anime and pop culture media that discusses the good and the bad when it comes to competition and what it can teach us about ourselves and the world around us.
Normally I would be doing a yearly lovey dovey post at this time of the year, but OWLS has once again, by pure coincidence, slipped me a perfect opportunity to talk about Hibike! Euphonium where the concert band is real, competitions inside and outside of the band are real, drama is real and “friendship” is also real.
*Cough* that friendship between Kumiko and Reina is lit, hence me being dead keen on making it today and absolutely no other time of the year!
Concert band competition is clearly not as physical as mainstream sports you actually see in the Olympics, but we can really agree on the part where playing instruments at that level—seen in the anime—requires above average fitness, finesse and patience. Those are some of the things that athletes utilize in physical sports.
Hibike! Euphonium has showcased many possible outcomes from any sort of competition on top of the feeling of competitiveness, all of which will make up the content of this post therefore spoilers will be sprinkled the same way Salt Bae does it — delicate but tasty in the end.
Before we actually get to those—as always—please familiarize yourself with the show, especially for those who have not actually seen it at all.
After swearing off music due to an incident at the middle school regional brass band competition, euphonist Oumae Kumiko enters high school hoping for a fresh start. As fate would have it, she ends up being surrounded by people with an interest in the high school brass band. Kumiko finds the motivation she needs to make music once more with the help of her bandmates, some of whom are new like novice tubist Katou Hazuki; veteran contrabassist Kawashima Sapphire; and band vice president and fellow euphonist Asuka Tanaka. Others are old friends, like Kumiko’s childhood friend and hornist-turned-trombonist Tsukamoto Shuuichi, and trumpeter and bandmate from middle school, Kousaka Reina.
However, in the band itself, chaos reigns supreme. Despite their intention to qualify for the national band competition, as they currently are, just competing in the local festival will be a challenge—unless the new band adviser Taki Noboru does something about it.
Competitions create factions from differences
This was literally the second plot point which got slapped onto my face and I liked it very much.
For years, Kitauji High Concert Band has been taking time of leisure for granted. It is acknowledged that clubs are mostly formed in order for their members to get into the spotlight; to be out there and be recognized by others outside the school. In another phrase, inter-school competitions are inevitably an end-goal for many high school clubs in existence, this is absolutely true to sports club.
So when the handsome demon Taki-sensei came into the band, the impact he had on the story was a plentiful as his looks. Taki-sensei altered the band’s course for good by having the instrumentalists vote on whether they wanted to play band instruments casually and make memories or go all out…
This immediately forced band members into submission, where some of them involuntarily put their hands up, voting to go to the Nationals despite not wanting to, simply because it was unsurprisingly the majority vote. And then there was the strong opposition. It takes true courage to go up against the majority when they technically cannot hold anything against you, yet they still would.
Do remember that when it comes to any kind of proper voting, there is always a third faction and that is “No Confidence”.
Kumiko perfectly represents the faction as she did not put her hand up at all. A lot of people would gather to the safest place/majority to prevent conflicts, but the worst offender of all has to be those who do not vote at all. Kumiko realized that much and spent a lot of time after to contemplate her lack of courage.
As if that was pressuring enough — among those who set their sights on the Nationals, there were further separated by in-band competitions. A biggie in this part would be Taki-sensei’s proposal of auditions, where instrumentalists would separated by their sheer abilities alone.
The focus of this event was contenders for a trumpet solo; neither of them had foul feelings for the other to begin with, but that would be the time they had a reason not to go easy on one another. There were then mini-factions within a faction; you might as well be like Asuka and…
…or pretend to be a good person by cheering both of them good luck.
Otherwise be true to yourself and believe what is right, which was what both Kumiko and especially Yuuko have done.
But for those separated; they are then bonded to new people via similarities
Still on the topic of Reina, Kaori and trumpet solo.
Before we knew it, the two were already acquainted simply because both of them play trumpets. Looking into the event just a little deeper and it would be more than plausible that respect—a decent human’s second nature—was responsible for an immediate bond between the two.
And then there was respect in a form of admiration; this would be the case for Kumiko x Reina and Yuuko x Kaori pairs. Both Kumiko and Yuuko wanted their respected trumpeter to win — rooting for the two. Eventually the cheering became more and more filled with love and passion. By that time it was not even possible to deny on how both parties from each pair were stuck together like superglue.
The two pairs also settled on not holding anything against each other, which would not have happened if it was not for the audition to see a true winner.
Competitions create tension
The feeling of having to take someone else out of the way in order to win can get people to become overly anxious. A very few of the band members still found it difficult to see concert band as some kind of sport, where the band’s potential is determined by numbered scores from “judges” who might as well know next to nothing unless extensive research on them has been done beforehand. Putting trust issues aside, competitions never fail to unstabilize one’s mental state.
This links straight back to the factions created by the existence of competitions as the build-up pressure resulted in those, which made a whimsical decision to go along with the ones who were dead set on going to the Nationals, to riot. Tension can be seen and felt from nearly everyone in exception of Asuka (because she’s simply the best girl); after much dismay from being ordered around by Taki-sensei, it was mostly the girls who started complaining about the uneasy atmosphere they are in.
Competitions strengthen one’s resolution
And they do so greatly. This part was among my most favorites as I watched some of the band members retell their goals one by one. No more of being wishy-washy; every decision was final and locked in — the main ones being to win regionals, prefecturals and ultimately the Nationals.
Almost entirety of the first season was a great insight to Kumiko’s mental dilemma, as she often was not able to settle on a single acceptable purpose of playing the euphonium other than following her older sister’s step. The last few episodes focused on her inability to keep up with the well respected Asuka. This eventually made her realized how painful Reina must have felt back in their middle school moment when they had lost a competition.
Not wanting to be in Reina’s shoes, Kumiko settled on not giving up and retaliated her sister’s accusation of uselessness. It was Taki-sensei however who’d reignited her inner flames of passion for the concert band and the competition.
With Regionals coming in close and the help of her peers (especially Taki-sensei), Kumiko finally had a reason to play the euphonium again.
Taki-sensei was not left out either; even he had his mighty resolution but that would be much further into the second season.
Competitions reveal peoples’ true colors
Talent has no measurable limit and is not limited to grown-ups. The audition had created places for underdogs who would otherwise be ignored for irrelevant statistics, to feel like they truly belonged to the concert band. The theme of underdog had trumpeter Reina as a focus — she had gone through quite an ordeal to overcome disapprovals from all angles. Throughout the first season, it should be clearly visible for every time competitiveness could be felt when Reina declared to double down on achieving her interim goals, all of which accumulate to winning the Nationals and not just the Regionals.
Taki-sensei was not going to live with lies thrown at him as well; it was thanks to Matsumoto-sensei, who’d reminded the former that it was his father who had once said the very same thing, that music is indeed nice.
Music does not lie.
Not all went well however, as one would eventually face the wall of stalled progress. Natsuki was a big target for this as she’d been seen through and played by Taki-sensei. Because she had been slacking for the most part, despite being somewhat talented, Kumiko was able to overtake her for the last euphonium spot with sheer hard work.
Competitions to many, are mostly about simply winning. What we don’t usually realize is that a competition can be about whatever happens after the transformation; we will have to put up with ourselves, with others and what they may become. Especially in a concert band where music cannot indeed lie, it is not a strategy game with everyone having tricks up their sleeves to counter shortcomings of the others. Everyone will work hard, as a team. A single member will be worth everything to the overall balance and the team’s potential.
Not everything will be going well, because if that is the case then chances are there is no real ‘competition’ to begin with. Some things will fall apart; some people may not make it to where others want, hence becoming a hindrance to the team’s success. Sympathy and empathy will be at play when times are hard, but it is much more important to also accept that failures do happen and sacrifices mean progress.
Help them rise shall they fall and have them look behind shall they be too far ahead.
For Kitauji High’s Concert Band — everybody has got each other’s backs full time.
Or just watch a real-life version, right?
And that is a wrap!
As always, I’ll have to apologize for not being able to write as much as I’d wanted to because they have very little to do with the theme of competition. That can either mean an extra post on Hibike! or just let me move on, shall we?
Up next will be Mistress of Yaoi and her playground! I feel like for this month I have been squashed in the middle, between two lovely female Otaku who just looooove ‘male’ stuff. What have I got to say; it is Valentine’s Day, after all.
Now, I won’t promise you anything after having became dormant within the Aniblogging Community for a while.
So, with that in mind, I will see you… when I see you!