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This being the last chance for the third years to win at Nationals, the arrival of an interloper like Kuroe, the burdens of new leadership—these had all put enough pressure on the cast of Sound! Euphonium. Adding auditions on top of that only increased the stressors, and now the full force of that is being felt. Kuroe supplanting Kumiko turns out to be the breaking point for many people, as what was supposed to be a way to strengthen the band’s abilities now threatens to tear it apart. That’s visible in Euphonium‘s most iconic bond shattering by the end of this episode. Even before that, the aftermath is akin to a car crash where everyone stumbles out in silence, trying not to look directly at all the damage while figuring out who to blame.

Kumiko’s reactions around all this continue to be the highlight of Euphonium‘s production. Her polite facade around Kuroe is growing to its most strained. The way Kumiko pauses for several seconds when Kuroe tries talking to her on the stairs is a fantastic moment. I’m on edge in the best way with their interactions now, wondering if this will be the point where Kumiko finally explodes at the new girl. It sucks for Kumiko, because in years past she might have been able to get away with indulging her hostile impulses, but now her leadership position is forcing her to bottle things up and project politeness for the sake of the group. The irony is that her refusal to question the decision leads to discord anyway, as other band members get upset on her behalf.

That can be seen when Kumiko interacts with Kanade, loosening up and contrasting with the mask she puts on for Kuroe. Kumiko is even able to think of herself for a moment, funnily forgetting to try to comfort Kanade about her loss at first. These couple of interactions let viewers see the various sides of Kumiko’s reaction to the audition decision since she’s going to spend much of the rest of the episode wavering, trying to manage the emotions of the others.

The biggest upset this episode puts forth, which helps this facet of the conflict feel fresh, is the idea that Taki’s decision-making might be flawed. The previous couple of years for the band saw them rally behind accepting his guidance; Taki could be demanding and blunt in his team coaching, but that always came with the implication that he had a greater good in mind. Now it feels like as Kumiko and the others have grown up in their years in school, Taki has remained static, being left more childlike by his environment. He went along with the plan for recurring auditions but seems completely unaware of how his decisions on those affect the band’s overall cohesion, irrespective of the technical ability of the players he selects. Someone will have to question his authority, and by the end of this episode, it looks like that will be Kumiko.

This is all good, by the way. Part of growing up is understanding that the adults and authority figures in your life are flawed, imperfect people who can make mistakes. Maybe challenging Taki is how Kumiko can finally move past her indecisiveness. It’s all colliding together under the questions of what’s really best for the band, and who is in the position to know what that is. I can genuinely understand the points for all sides of this argument, so major props to Sound! Euphonium for having the characters articulate them so well.

Kumiko’s dedication to her leadership role initially leaves her wondering if she’s too close to the decision to allow herself to feel angry about it. Shuichi helps her on the personal side by being the one to vocalize those frustrations. Reina takes the opposite side, admitting that she’s personally unhappy with Kumiko losing her spot, but staying rigid in her faith in Taki. Reina makes a very strong point, that something needed to change, needed to be different if they wanted to win where they hadn’t the previous years. To this end, the group’s decision to hold multiple auditions was a sound one. But Reina’s love for Taki seems to be causing her to overlook him as a flawed component of that audition process. That turns out to be the breaking point between her and Kumiko, after everything they’ve been through.

As a massive dramatic swerve here towards the end of all of Euphonium, a Kumiko/Reina breakup is about as big a deal as anything could possibly be. It’s funny to see Kumiko try to downplay the seriousness of the situation when both the people in the story and the viewers at home know how major this is. No wonder that’s what prompts Kumiko to properly confront Taki—if the two closest players can’t even harmonize anymore, then the ability of the whole band to play together is truly in jeopardy. So I’m sure that Kumiko making this move will make everything work out for the best, and she and Reina will be brought back together stronger than ever. They have to, right?


Sound! Euphonium 3 is currently streaming on

Chris was in drama rather than band in high school, but he presumes the dynamics were similar. You can catch what he’s conducting over on Twitter, or push your way into the orchestra pit that is his blog.

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Episode 9 – Sound! Euphonium 3