domingo, 27 de maio de 2018

DISSECTING SCENES – Pots, looks and regrets (Hibike! Euphonium 2, Ep. 10)


Today I’ll premiere a new column of the blog: Dissecting Scenes! As the name implies, I’ll be analyzing specific details and aspects of scenes in which the content is rich enough to render an individual text about it.

With this inaugural text, I’ll be talking about three interconnected moments of the 10th episode of the second season of one of my favorite anime ever, Hibike! Euphonium. Since they are VERY important to the story, spoiler alert. Without further ado, let's dissect!




The first scene is a conversation between sisters Kumiko and Mamiko Oumae. Their past is kinda convoluted, going from being very affective to each other during infancy to conflicts during adolescence, which caused them to grow apart of each other. The fact that their home was often the stage to fierce discussions between Mamiko and her parents didn't help as well.

However, there was a day their parents weren't home and Mamiko was having trouble with her cooking. Kumiko decided to help her older sister, as she could smell the stench from her room. During this rare moment of peace, without any of them acting with disrespect to each other, they start an honest conversation.
What a way to start a conversation, huh?

Mamiko decides to open her heart to her younger sister. Hesitantly, she talks about all the mistakes she made during her adolescence, about the wrong decisions that shaped her life on what it is today. She tells all that to Kumiko and also reveals how she was always jealous of her because she was allowed to live the way she wanted, while Mamiko followed the way of life their parents wanted to. PS: Pay close attention to the following dialogues.


The slight side look Mamiko gives show a certain hesitation in starting this conversation. A minor detail that tells a lot.









On the other hand, Kumiko shows a duality, because her facials expressions of indifference and her almost unexpressive voice tone shows she’s apparently uninterested in what her sister is saying, but a single shot in which she looks to Mamiko when she assumes a determined stance reveals to us that her internal thoughts don't match what she’s trying to convey externally.

This expression screams “What the heck is she talking about?”

Kumiko decides to answer.


The shot that shows she’s not that uninterested.

What's fascinating about this scene is the allegory of the pot that represents Mamiko’s life. She starts with a messy pan, just as what became of her life. But she determinedly strives to remove all the mess from the tool. Some of them are more difficult than the others; they seem crusty, just like the wounds that affect us the most.






Stiff as a rock. Almost a permanent wound.

But she gives all she got to remove it all completely. In the end we have a clean pot that, although worn out and full of scratches, can still be used to cook delicious foods. It's just like Mamiko's life - full of mistakes and regrets, but she wants to overcome them and start over, even with all the scars she was left with.


She grabs the sponge with such tenacity that you can feel her pulsing determination.






Wash away the wounds and start again from zero with a smile, Mamiko’s biggest yearning.

After that, a question. "Are you sad because I’m leaving?", to which Kumiko replies "Not really". The older sister then tells her she’ll watch her in the competition and praises her euphonium skills, which surprises the younger sister. Their fraternal moment ends with an advice given from Mamiko to Kumiko:



When she wakes up the following day, Kumiko goes to her sister’s room and sees that she’s already gone. What was supposed to be just another normal day feels different. Her facial expressions clearly show that something is on her mind, that she’s being bothered by some thoughts.




During her trip to school, she stares at the horizon as if she was in another world. The cordial conversation she had with her sister, after years of fights and misunderstandings, reminded her of the relationship she had with Mamiko during infancy, because it was Mamiko who inspired her to play music.




Unwillingly, she starts to cry. She was so lost in her thoughts that she started to cry without even noticing. She tries to hide her tears, but is unable to do so because her feelings are too strong. Mamiko’s words made total sense now: Kumiko regretted not having expressed what she was truly feeling with her sister’s leaving.




This scene is powerful. Kumiko’s crying is so honest it made me cry along with her, which is coupled with marvelous framings that I pictured above. The scene also depicts sublimely the embarrassing situation that is crying in public, with the train passengers giving her side looks, not knowing how to react, visibly uncomfortable.

KyoAni’s level of detail is absurd because of how natural these looks the people give are animated, especially of those who are just part of the background and that you’ll most likely only notice their slight movement if you watch the scene multiple times. It's these nuances that bloom life into the anime, that make everything feel real and create an atmosphere that allows you to feel the moment's emotions.

I zoomed the image and blurred the left side so you can see it better.


These two scenes alone would be sufficient to turn this one into a memorable episode, but the anime team seemingly wasn’t satisfied. They wanted to make THE best Hibike! Euphonium episode, which takes us to the conversation scene between Kumiko and Asuka. If you already watched the series, you probably got goosebumps just by remembering it, because it is perhaps the whole series' most memorable moment.

When she finds out Asuka was planning to leave the band permanently, Kumiko invites her to a conversation. Asuka "puts her armor" right from the start and makes some jokes with the fellow euphonist, but Kumiko is not to mess around with this time. Her serious semblance is something no one has ever seen before.




Kumiko tries to convince Asuka to return to the band, but her senpai's unwavering posture makes Kumiko's confidence fade away slowly and insecurity starts to rise. Asuka notices this and assumes an offensive stance. She knows exactly her friend's weak points and attacks them directly, trying to strike her psychologically. The imposing Asuka doesn’t let herself be moved and speaks with conviction, as if she was saying facts, even when she's going against her real feelings.




Kumiko gets cornered. 


A symbolic framing that represents the situation Kumiko sees herself in, trapped in Asuka’s web. Marvelous direction.








Kumiko gets shaken with Asuka's attacks.


Her senpai considers herself victorious and holder of the truth, as always. She then starts to leave the scene.

During this moment, Kumiko remembers the conversation she had earlier with her sister. "Try not to keep your regrets to yourself". Before Asuka had the opportunity to leave, Kumiko lifts her head and starts to spout some truths in her senpai's face. UNDENIABLE FACTS. Just as Asuka’s attacked her friend's wounds, Kumiko does the same by answering Asuka's fake facts with real facts, not letting herself feel superior and owner of the truth, because she's just a high school kid that thinks she’s mature for being able to endure all her suffering.




Asuka objects.

But Kumiko doesn’t lower her guard this time.










This scene is the pinnacle of how an animation can bring an acting that goes beyond what an actor can express in a live-action production. Kumiko's expressiveness is unbeatable, so intense you don't even need to understand the context of the scene to get emotional, helped by her seiyuu's astonishing voice acting, Tomoyo Kurosawa. Each frame and each drawing in this scene is blooming with feelings and emotions.


The burning pot Kumiko.



Kumiko’s spontaneous emotional burst makes even the unwavering Asuka feel different.

Kumiko was the first person to break Asuka’s armor and to show she can’t live without others’ help.

This was the first time Asuka felt someone legitimately worried about her.

Even scenes with characters that are distant have fluid and meticulous animation.

Kumiko's speech leaves Asuka moved, but instead of seeing her get sentimental, she doesn't leave her character and simply headpats Kumiko while saying something ambiguous and ironic. Kumiko asks if she can look at her face, to which Asuka denies. Her feelings are shown by her slightly tremulous voice and by shots that show her legs trembling slightly and her face diagonally. Beautiful direction.



"If you look at my face, your family will be cursed until the end of time".

Notice that you can see her blinking in the last shot, only by the movement of her eyelashes. That’s KyoAni’s meticulous animation for you.

Their emotional discussion ends abruptly when Aoi calls Asuka from the classroom because the test results were ready. Kumiko then gives a sigh of relief after all the emotional wearing she went through.



This episode isn't considered the best by me and by many people by mere coincidence. It's a masterful example of KyoAni's mastery in building a realistic character drama and conveying it through visual compositions that portray beautifully every character’s feelings, be it by their meticulously worked facial and corporal expressions or by allegories like framings of a pan or a spider web trapping a character.



-by Vinicius "vini64" Pires

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