“You are on this council, but we do not grant you the rank of Master.” –Mace Windu, Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith
During the winter, Kumiko is taken aback when Shūichi asks her out. In the present day, Kumiko, now a second-year students, wonders about recruitment and later welcomes Kanade Hisaishi, a first-year euphonium player, into the concert band club. During the first club meeting, instructor Noboru Taki states Kitauji’s objective this year will be to make the National tournament, but club president Yūko Yoshikawa reminds everyone that their goal isn’t merely to make it, but to win. Kumiko and third-year Tome Kabe are assigned to look after the first years together. The concert band thus divides its members out to practise, and it becomes clear that work will be needed to reduce the emotional distance separating the first-years from the senior students: Mirei Suzuki is a taciturn tuba player who finds it difficult to connect with the others, while Motomu is a double bass player who dislikes his family name. Kumiko quickly finds herself amidst the drama surrounding the first year students and does her best to resolve conflicts in her role. During the Sun Festival Marching Band performance, Kumiko manages to convince Mirei to continue playing in the concert band despite the fact that the latter does not feel like she fits in, and Mirei soon reconciles with the others. However, Kanade grows angry, feeling Kumiko to have interfered in something that would have sorted itself out. During the summer festival, Kumiko goes on a date with Shūichi, but after Shūichi tries to kiss her, she angrily runs off and finds Reina at the summit of Buttokusan, which the two had previously ascended. They speak briefly about their futures here. The next day, Tomoe reveals that she intends to stand down from competition, but will continue in managing the concert band club from the sidelines. She privately explains to Kumiko that she developed Temporomandibular joint dysfunction and cannot play without experiencing pain, but is relieved. Later, Kanade seeks out Kumiko and asks her about how Reina came to be chosen for the solo trumpet role. Kumiko replies it was based purely on skill, but Kanade feels that had Kitauji not done as well, Reina would have shouldered the blame. When the auditions to determine who should perform in the concert band for the qualifiers, Kumiko and third-year euphonium player Natsuki Nakagawa notice that Kanade plans to throw the fight. They pull her from the auditions and ask the percussion continue. It is here that Kumiko learns from Kanade the truth – in middle school, Kanade had been selected to play in place of a more senior student, but they only placed silver, leading the others to wonder if they were better off with a senior student. She manages to convince Kanade to give it her all regardless, and when the audition’s results arrive, it turns out Kumiko, Kanade and Natsuki had made the cut. The concert band begins preparing for the competition, attending another summer camp, and Kumiko decides to break things off with Shūichi until her future becomes more certain. On the day of competition, Kitauji delivers a compelling performance of the suite from Liz and the Blue Bird, moving the audience (including Asuka and Kaori, who’ve returned to watch) but do not qualify for the nationals. In the aftermath, Yūko compliments the group for having given their strongest performance yet, but Kanade is devastated. Some time later, Kumiko becomes the president of Kitauji’s concert band club.
Released in April 2019, Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale (Oath’s Finale) is a continuation of Kumiko’s journey in Hibike! Euphonium, dealing with her journey in joining what was a raggedy-ass concert band and, under instructor Noboru Taki’s tutelage and the company of individuals who would see Kitauji’s glory restored by reaching the national competition, participate in what is a pivotal moment in her experience as a euphonium player. Chikai no Finale picks up where Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season left off, and places Kumiko in a newfound position of leadership and responsibility; previously a first year, Kumiko had observed what went on around her with Asuka and the drama that unfolded, subtly changing the dynamics of the concert band club and contributed to giving Kitauji a taste of what could be. As a second year student now, Kumiko is more active in looking after the new first year students: while a skilful euphonium player, Kumiko’s main challenge lies not in ensuring the technical excellence of those she is mentoring, but rather, in dealing with the interpersonal conflict that arises. Because she’d been a passive actor following her introduction, pushing Kumiko into a leadership role and watching her handle the disagreements amongst the first years served to indicate to viewers that her experiences with Kitauji, both in reconciling with Reina upon reaching the Kansai preliminary competition, and helping the seniors to appreciate that Kitauji’s concert band has a future by placing bronze the previous year, have all allowed Kumiko to mature, leaving her better prepared to help Kitauji realise a long-standing dream of making and winning at the national level. In spite of this, Kumiko has a ways to go yet, and this is what Chikai no Finale aims to accomplish by showing Kumiko learning the ropes of leadership.
Kumiko settles into her role well and is seen as doing a strong job of leading the first year students (she develops a reputation for being an effective help desk): out of the gates, she manages to slow double bass Motomu’s sense of isolation, and by convincing the other students to respect his wishes, Motomu comes to find his own place in the concert band, becoming closer to Midori in the process, who shares his preference for a particular name and is also a bass player. Similarly, when tensions reach a boiling point with Mirei on the day of the Sun Festival, Kumiko manages to diffuse things and convinces Mirei to perform. However, these new responsibilities exact a toll, and Kumiko becomes exhausted in the process – she must look after the first year students on top of her own practise, and each problem she becomes involved in is not an easy one to solve. Kumiko faces her toughest challenge in Kanade, who is outwardly a capable and polite euphonium player. Her experiences in middle school contribute to her belief of leaving weaker players behind, and ultimately, it takes a tearful confrontation for Kumiko to both get the truth out of Kanade and convince her to play her best for her own sake. Coupled with an uncertainty about her future, Kumiko is at a bit of a crossroads, and so, entering the competition, carries this burden with her. In spite of this, the sum of Kumiko’s actions, and her own focus, allow her to play her part well, and Kitauji comes ever closer than ever towards realising their dream: despite having come short again, Kumiko is poised to lead Kitauji to fulfilling the promise of getting to the national competition.
Screenshots and Commentary
- With Chikai no Finale, we return to Kumiko’s story in Hibike! Euphonium, and with it, the incredibly vivid and detail visual presentation that viewers have come to know the series for. The side-story, Liz and the Blue Bird, featured a dramatically different visual style to emphasise the færietale-like story surrounding Nozomi and Mizore, but in Hibike! Euphonium proper, the artwork emphasises detail in order to show just how rich Kumiko’s world is. As the film begins, Shūichi does a kokuhaku to Kumiko, whose reaction is one of shock, but the outcome is evident: Kumiko does return his feelings. This, however, is a secondary aspect to Chikai no Finale, where the focus is squarely on Kitauji’s next shot at making the national competition.
- Music instructor Noboru Taki’s arrival at Kitauji during Hibike! Euphonium‘s original run permanently changed the way the school’s concert band operated. Noboru prefers to maximise the students’ autonomy and gives them considerable freedom in picking their goals, striking a balance between supporting his students and spurring them to improve themselves: he is strict and quick to point out flaws, but also is polite and offers students suggestions on correcting said flaws. In the time since Hibike! Euphonium began running, I remain the only person around who feels that Noboru resembles actor Cillian Murphy, whom I know best as The Dark Knight trilogy’s Dr. Crane.
- Signifying the shift in Kitauji’s attitudes this year, the concert band’s goal isn’t merely to reach the nationals, but rather, it is to outright win. The band is far more motivated and determined than before – Kumiko and Noboru both played a nontrivial role in pushing the band to the qualifiers the previous year, and while they’d only earned a bronze for their performance, it showed that with the right pieces in play, Kitauji could indeed return on a path to excellence. Because the band is already focused on a goal, much of the conflict of the previous year is absent, leaving the story to focus on a new challenge the band faces.
- This new challenge takes the form of first year students who’ve just joined the concert band club: getting the new blood up to speed with the processes and expectations of the concert band is the easy part and problems immediately arise with two of the first years. Mirei is a tall girl whose stoic personality contrasts Satsuki Suzuki’s, another first year, and while she loves the tuba, she feels that she does not fit in with the others. Similarly, Motomu dislikes being called by his last name and reacts vociferously when others fail to respect this.
- Between mediating all of these challenges, Kumiko faces another problem: a first year girl in the trombone section appears to have taken an interest in Shūichi (at least, from Kumiko’s point of view). In any other series, this would be a major plot point, but Chikai no Finale‘s focus is elsewhere: Chikai no Finale has a lot of moving parts on top of the main objective of getting the first years settled in and pushing towards qualifying for nationals. The film can come across as busy, but these secondary events emphasise to the viewer the complexity of the band members’ lives: their activities with the concert band club do not exist in a vacuum.
- Tomoe Kabe is a third year student who plays the trumpet. In Hibike! Euphonium, she was a secondary character with a limited role, but for Chikai no Finale, she’s tasked to look after the first year students alongside Kumiko. I’ve had no trouble following Chikai no Finale‘s narrative despite the number of subplots, and appreciate they are there to really emphasise the logistical and interpersonal problems that Kumiko must deal with in her role, but not everyone shares this perspective – the only other review out there for Chikai no Finale is at Anime News Network, where they counted this as a strike against the movie.
- In general, Anime News Network’s review of Chikai no Finale is not particularly useful, doling out criticisms for criticisms’ sake without making an honest effort to understand why the film was presented the way it did. This is a generally something I try to avoid: one should at least make an attempt to know why a work was presented the way it was, and then criticisms can be directed at the execution, rather than the decision. Back in Chikai no Finale, when Kumiko spots Shūichi demonstrating one of the techniques with a trombone that prompts the first year girl to laugh, she immediately experiences a twinge of jealousy that causes her to lob a bottle at him.
- Besides Kanade bringing up Shūichi, the potential of a love triangle manifesting is not brought up again anywhere else in Chikai no Finale and therefore, implies that what Kumiko saw ended up being inconsequential despite her own worries. While outwardly friendly, Kanade seems to have a hidden side to her character, as well. The choice to place their conversation here, by the locked stairwell that leads to the roof, is a subtle but clever bit of imagery suggesting that for now, Kumiko’s done all she can with Kanade and won’t be able to go any further.
- Kyoto Animation has always excelled with character placements in a scene, using distance and positioning to convey a specific mood. On the day of the Sun Festival, a marching band event, Mirei’s emotions boil over and she runs off; during practise, she felt distanced from everyone else, and it is here during Sunfest where Kumiko must rise to the occasion. Kanade’s own remarks during this moment feel snide, uninformed, and it ultimately takes Kumiko to convince Mirei that her skill speaks for itself, that others have already understood this about her – it falls upon Mirei to decide whether she wants to be more social or not, and while everyone is ready to accept her, she’ll have to take the initiative, since it’s always hard to tell.
- In the aftermath, Mirei’s distance with the others, especially the tubas, closes. In a way, Kanade is who Kumiko and Reina were a year ago: she freely speaks her mind and also has a fixation on skill, arguing that it can offset any personality flaws. When Kumiko remarks that Mirei’s opened up, Kanade’s look of disgust says that she’s unwilling to accept the outcome Kumiko’s created, mirroring Kumiko’s own doubts about how Asuka went about resolving conflicts among the band members the year before.
- Motomu’s growth is not shown, but after the Sun Festival, he’s mentioned as being more personable, even if he remains a bit blunt. Because Kitauji only has a small number of bass players, it’s said that Midori’s capabilities as a bass, coupled with her personality, has led him to open up, as well. Because it happened so quickly, and off-screen, viewers are meant to understand that even without Kumiko intervening directly, in good company, the the first year students are rapidly feeling more and more at home with Kitauji’s concert band club. They discuss Liz and the Blue Bird here: Motomu’s played it previously, and while he found it difficult, looks forwards to attempting again. Meanwhile, Hazuki reads the original picture book and is moved to tears.
- After classes, when Reina remarks that Tomoe’s been feeling a little off and then her train of thought leads her to conclude she wants Noboru for herself, Kumiko bursts into laughter, leading Reina to strike out with her schoolbag in frustration. While Kumiko is widely regarded as hiding her true self by others, two season and a movie have allowed us to see her as she really is, rather than the face she presents the world. Still, she remains elusive at some points; Reina ends up asking what Kumiko intends to do about Shūichi, but Kumiko turns things around yet again by wondering what Reina intends to do if Noboru ever asked her out, earning herself more admonishment from Reina in the form of a swift kick to the shins.
- During the summer festival, Shūichi and Kumiko go on a date. By this point in time, Kumiko’s reputation as a mediator and resolver of conflict has earned her the moniker of “The Oumae Consultation Room”, attesting to the good she’s doing, although Kumiko herself still feels unsure by things. On uncertainty, we are now into week three of the partial lock-down at home from the pandemic, and this time of year is normally a time of celebration and enjoying the spring weather. Despite being unable to be out and about, it means getting creative with being at home: this past weekend, we made an oven-roasted prime rib with a pepper-and-garlic rub, loaded mashed potatoes and asparagus. Good food is critical to morale, and aside from keeping away from gatherings, I hope that readers are eating well and doing their best to maintain good health.
- After leaving the festival, Kumiko and Shūichi find themselves down a quieter street, and Shūichi feels the time has come to take first base, but Kumiko feels the time is not right, and the location is as unromantic as one can imagine. When it first began airing, discussion surrounding Hibike! Euphonium was focused purely around what is colloquially referred to as “shipping”: Hibike! Euphonium originally gave the impression that Shūichi and Kumiko would never be a couple, and some went as far as citing the Westermarck Effect as to why this was the case. The short version of this psychological theory is that unrelated people who live closely together supposedly lose any sexual attraction to one another, but the theory has been refuted through several studies that contradict its claims. Per their reasoning, since Kumiko and Shūichi have known each other for a long time, the Westermarck Effect must have surely been in play, right?
- The correct answer is a resounding no: Chikai no Finale promptly shot down these misguided assertions within its first 30 seconds. I never did get why some people insist on drawing upon discredited branches of psychology to work out the outcome of relationships in anime, but the reality is that there are pages upon pages of psychoanalysis about Hibike! Euphonium that missed the mark entirely and offer nothing useful to readers. After leaving Shūichi to meet Reina, the two share candy pops and discuss the future from Mount Daikichiyama’s observation, where they first shared time together during the TV series. This site is commonly misidentified as Hanno’s Mount Tenran – Mount Tenran was seen in Yama no Susume and is located closer to Tokyo, whereas Hibike! Euphonium is in the Kyoto area.
- Tomoe had already hinted that her motivation as a player was weakening, and when she steps down from auditioning, it comes as a shock to the whole of the concert band. The cause of this decision is something that Tomoe only shares with Kumiko and the instructors: she’s afflicted by Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, which is characterised by inflammation of the TMJ muscles. There are treatments: medication is usually prescribed to manage the pain, but more long-term solutions include dental splints or surgery. The route that Tomoe does end up going for is intentionally not shown in Chikai no Finale, since it’s meant to show viewers the complexity of Kumiko’s world; there are numerous events that are outside of her control, and she can’t worry about everything.
- Kanade seeks to understand what happened the previous year with Reina and Kaori – Reina’s selection as the soloist had raised many eyebrows, but with Kitauji’s performance, doubts were dispelled. Kanade thus wonders what people’s perception of Reina would be had Kitauji performed poorly instead. It is certainly true that with results, the drama of who is assigned for what role becomes a distant memory, whereas in failure, drama results in scapegoats being made. Kumiko believes there’s more to it than that, having seen for herself how Kitauji handles things, but also declines to specify. While Kumiko is known for speaking her mind, when in a leadership role, like Asuka, she begins to become more mindful of what she says.
- A personality of contradictions, Kumiko is an interesting character because she embodies a variety of traits, and unbound by any one archetype, her actions are very life-like. In front of instructors, she’s modest and polite, while with juniors, she does her best to be composed and reliable. It is in front of Satsuki and Midori that she relaxes a little, and with Shūichi and Reina, she’s the most genuine. In Chikai no Finale, Kumiko becomes more confident; already evident in her actions, another subtle touch I liked was how Tomoyo Kurosawa performs Kumiko. In the TV series, Kurosawa delivered Kumiko’s lines with an inflected hesitancy, but here in Chikai no Finale, Kurosawa plays a more decisive Kumiko.
- When it’s Kanade’s turn to play, Kumiko and Natsuki hear her making rudimentary mistakes in the test piece. Feeling this to be unusual, they immediately pull her from the audition under the pretext that she’s not feeling well and needs a breather. The instructors adjudicating the audition agree, capitalising on the break to test the percussion candidates, and Kanade is taken out to the woodshed. It is here that viewers learn the truth behind why Kanade is as standoffish as she is: like Reina was the previous year, Kanade was regarded as a talented euphonium player and selected for an important role, but when their school failed to advance, she was made the scapegoat, and other students made it clear that they’d rather have had a more senior student perform.
- This is the conflict internal to Kanade: on one hand, she desperately wants to shine and be recognised for her skill, but on the flip-side, she also worries about suffering from a similar fate should Kitauji fail to make the competition. In the end, feeling that her want to avoid trouble outweighs a desire to prove herself, she decides to throw the fight and deliberately perform poorly in the audition to avoid future trouble. Upon hearing this, Kumiko refuses to accept this and implores Kanade to best her and Natsuki fair and square, since holding back from performing would only hurt the concert band.
- A resolution is reached as Kanade understands how Kumiko and the others feel: irrespective of who actually makes the cut and earns the privilege of performing, everyone shares one common goal. With Kanade’s story in the open, her motivations explained and her intentions understood, there are no more loose ends for the concert band to deal with. From here on out, Chikai no Finale really ramps up the pacing, and what the anime took several episodes to do during the second season, is completed in the space of minutes. This is perhaps the only real strike I have against the film: some moments could have been explored in greater detail, and I would not have minded an extra twenty minutes of run-time to show things like Midori and Motomu getting to know one another better, or Tomoe’s role in a support capacity following her announcement.
- As the TV series did before it, Chikai no Finale returns Kumiko and Reina to the summer camp. This time, having resolved most of the outstanding issues with the first year students, Kumiko and Reina are free to consider their own futures, and Kumiko contemplates breaking off her relationship with Shūichi until things become more certain. In a new year, Kumiko has a new set of problems to deal with: the last time she’d enjoyed the summer weather, her mind was on the drama surrounding Mizore and Nozomi.
- Consequently, when Anime News Network’s review goes to claim that Chikai no Finale “retreads on similar conflicts and character beats on the TV series”, I cannot help but wonder if the reviewer expected the movie to spoon-feed themes to them. There are subtleties in Chikai no Finale that are present, serving to remind viewers that the concert band is likely to experience drama and stumble on their path to the nationals each year, but more importantly, Kumiko’s experiences leave her better prepared to handle them. The similarities in what happens in Chikai no Finale and the two seasons, then, are deliberately chosen to speak to the idea that the problems Kumiko face have a precedence and therefore, a solution.
- On the day of the competition, Kitauji alumni, including trumpeter Kaori Nakaseko, whom Yūko admires greatly. When their seniors reappear to watch Kitauji’s performance, Yūko is moved and can barely contain her excitement, while Natsuki smiles knowingly. The dynamic between Natsuki and Yūko was a fun one to watch, a far cry from my initial thoughts on the two characters. At Hibike Euphonium‘s inception, I was never too fond of Yūko or Natsuki. The former, I found too protective of Kaori and closed-minded, while the latter was too lazy and unskilled to be of consequence. To see Yūko and Natsuki mature throughout Hibike! Euphonium was very rewarding.
- Kumiko herself receives a pleasant surprise when Asuka shows up to watch her alma mater perform. Even though she is no longer a student at Kitauji, Asuka’s personality and approaches towards dealing with drama in Kitaji’s concert band left a tremendous impression on Kumiko, who applies the best Asuka had to offer with her own unique approaches for handling things. This is something I’m familiar with: having been a teaching assistant in graduate school for the same courses I once took, I ended up running my tutorials and office hours the way my favourite TAs did, with my own styles that stemmed from things I would’ve liked to see TAs do for me. A good mentor makes all the difference, and it is no joke when I say that during my second year, the only thing that stopped me from dropping my toughest course was a TA who cared enough to mentor and support me, which allowed me to maintain the minimum passing grade in that course needed to remain in satisfactory standing for the health sciences program.
- We’ve come to it at last: Kitauji’s performance of Liz and the Blue Bird at the national competition. Static screenshots do this scene no justice, and it is only watching it in full where one can get a sense of the technical excellence Kyoto Animation has committed to delivering. The sum of every disagreement, spill, fight and tear shed culminates here on the stage, and for the next few minutes, viewers are treated to some of the most sophisticated and jaw-dropping work that Kyoto Animation produces.
- In previous Hibike! Euphonium posts, I featured the other characters playing their instruments, so here, I’ve opted to kick the party off with Kanade. While Kanade gave off an unlikeable air early on, par the course for every character in Hibike! Euphonium, her hostility came from the fact that we knew little of her background, and once this is in the open, viewers immediately can see the parallels between Kanade and Reina. Knowing this, and recalling how Kumiko ended up reconciling with Reina, the way ahead for Kumiko and Kanade becomes much clearer. By the concert, this particular conflict is resolved, and viewers can count on Kanade to be doing her best for the sake of Kitauji.
- With their conflicts long resolved, Mizore and Nozomi both cleared the auditions and participate in the competition, playing their best. The events of Liz and the Blue Bird are a nice supplement to Chikai no Finale, but not mandatory for following events of the latter: in a manner of speaking, Liz and the Blue Bird was meant to show that two key performers see themselves in the færietale, which created a very strong emotional connection between their own experiences and that of the story, in turn resulting in a more emotionally charged and genuine presentation.
- While I tend to emphasise character growth and development purely based on what the author’s intents are, not everyone believed that Liz and Bluebird to be a simple, but touching side story that brought even more life into the Hibike! Euphonium universe. One “Verso Sciolto” made the preposterous claim that references to Japanese folklore and symbolism in Liz and the Bluebird made revisiting Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season required materials if one intended to enjoy Chikai no Finale. Even as early as Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season, Verso Sciolto made a spectacle of themselves at an anime forum I frequent, foisting on the other forum-goers the idea that a deep background in Japanese folklore and færietales was mandatory to appreciate Hibike! Euphonium, and that multiple watch-throughs of the anime was needed to pick up on things like Kumiko’s hair-clip, which supposedly spoke more about her character than her actions, and also required intimate knowledge of hanakotoba to decipher.
- Verso Sciolto’s arrogance and presumptuous manner concealed a simple reality: they did not “get” Hibike! Euphonium better than anyone else. All of the symbols, folklore and other obscure references they made were red herrings, completely irrelevant to Hibike! Euphonium – behind all of that pedantic posturing and patronising purple prose, was a petty individual who lacked any sort of understanding about human relationships, intents, beliefs and desires. To have regarded Verso Sciolto’s claims as even having the most minute amount of value would be to deliberately diminish one’s own enjoyment of Hibike! Euphonium. As such, it was most fortuitous that Verso Sciolto has since been banned from virtually every online venue under the sun that discusses anime.
- With discussions on Hibike! Euphonium being considerably more peaceable now, viewers can focus on their own enjoyment of the series. In Chikai no Finale, Kyoto Animation makes extensive use of creative camera angles to capture Kitauji’s performance from every angle. Besides conventional head-on shots and over-the-shoulder shots, there are several moments where the camera is placed in the rafters, pans above the entire scene from the front, and even behind the players. In the movie format, Kyoto Animation has always made use of clever camera placement to portray a scene, and my favourite instance of this is found in K-On! The Movie, where a shot of the Jubilee Gardens on the bank of the River Thames was shown with a sweeping shot.
- I’ve chosen to wrap up Kitauji’s performance with Kumiko on the euphonium here, since no Hibike! Euphonium post would be complete without at least one screenshot of Kumiko performing. There is far more to Chikai no Finale, and Hibike! Euphonium, than symbols and folklore: at its core are the characters and their experiences that, in conjunction with a visually and aurally powerful journey, creates a series that is very compelling. While Kyoto Animation may give the impression that certain symbols or folklore hold great meaning, this actually comes from their approach to storytelling, and at the centre of everything they’ve made are the characters, not abstract ideas.
- Kitauji’s performance is the best they’ve ever put on: members of the audience are moved to tears, and Asuka is all smiles when watching her old school perform again. I admit that to my alma mater, I am not as committed as Asuka: after graduating from high school, I only returned once to obtain cover letters from old instructors, and that was about it. While high school is but one part of life, the reason why anime so frequently portrays it is because it also happens to be in one’s halcyon days, where folks are old enough to have noteworthy experiences and at the same time, not be burdened with the responsibilities of adulthood.
- Following their performance, Kitauji is all smiles for their group photo, a wise decision considering what’s about to come next. I think I still have my old band pictures from middle school floating around somewhere: when I was in middle school, band was the only extracurricular activity that I did, but it was time-intensive enough so that spare moments I had were filled. By high school, the reason I stopped band was because I wanted to experience other extracurricular activities (which resulted in me joining the Yearbook Club all three years of high school) and because my skill with the clarinet and trumpet were strictly average.
- Ultimately, while Kitauji does manage to earn a gold rank, they do not advance to the national competitions. Reina dissolves into tears again, but a wiser Kumiko now knows to support her. This outcome is what motivates my page quote: because I am a personal blog, I am afforded the freedom to have a bit more fun with my reviews. The quote itself is sourced from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a moment that’s reached infamy in internet culture. In context, it can be taken to mean that one particular accomplishment or achievement is made, but the outcome is not what is desired. For Kitauji, earning gold is equivalent to Anakin’s being appointed to the Jedi Council, but not making nationals would parallel the Council’s decision to not make Anakin a Jedi Master, which would have given him access to forbidden Holocrons containing what he imagined to be the knowledge to save Padmé.
- When the other members of Kitauji’s band learn of the results, they are as devastated as the members who performed. The beautiful summer weather suddenly looks like it is mocking Kitauji, as though daring anyone to say they had a good time performing. Having accompanied the characters overcome so many challenges (Kumiko and Reina, Kanade, Motomu, Mirei, Natsuki and Yūko, and Nozomi and Mizore), when considering the long and difficult path it took to reach a point where Kitauji could get gold and seeing the results, the outcome seemed doubly unfair and can be felt even from the viewer’s perspective: everyone had gone all-in, fighting tooth-and-nail to put on their best performance ever.
- With all the tears and gloom, Yūko demonstrates leadership as the concert band club’s president: walking in front of the massed group, she declares that there’s more cheer in a graveyard despite the fact that Kitauji has much to be proud of. Between the path it took to reach this point, and that everyone gave it their genuine all, the results are nothing to be ashamed of. Given that everyone’s shown they can get better, reaching even loftier heights is a matter of when. It is evident that Yūko handles her responsibilities well, and while Chikai no Finale did not give her much chance to shine as a leader, this speech at the end shows viewers how far she’s come, as well, from an admirer to a leader in her own right.
- When Hibike! Euphonium began, I knew half the characters half as well as I would’ve liked, and I liked less than half the characters half as well as they deserved. It’s been five years since the anime started, and in that time, through both seasons and two movies, I feel that I’ve got a much better measure of everyone now, and I know all of the characters as well as I’d like, as well as liking all of the characters exactly as much as they deserve. Everyone has their own story, their raison d’être for doing what they do, and once this is understood, it becomes very easy to empathise with them.
- While the other band members understand the significance of their gold in this year’s competition, Kanade is understandably unhappy. She parallels Reina in her words, saying that one’s best effort is meaningless without results. When Kanade declares that she’s so frustrated that she could die, Kumiko is immediately reminded of what Reina had said all those years ago. However, this anger can be channeled into effort anew, and having tasted defeat, Kanade and the first years will doubtlessly have the motivation they need to push even harder and accomplish their dreams.
- Entering her final year, Kumiko becomes the president to Kitauji’s concert band club. The whole of Chikai no Finale establishes that Kumiko had really grown into her duties, and in the days upcoming, viewers will not have any doubt that Kumiko will be a great club president, as Yūko and Asuka have been before her. One thing I’ve not mentioned up until now were the use of the Instagram Stories perspectives throughout the film: these moments have no thematic significance, but are meant to give a more “in the moment” snapshot of things and bring viewers closer to the characters. In other words, these Stories aim to accentuate the atmosphere, rather than say something different. Innovative use of framing has always been Kyoto Animation’s forté, and in all of their films, these are strictly used in enhancing the viewer’s sense of connection to what’s being shown. This brings my talk on Chikai no Finale to a close, and with this, we now enter the Spring 2020 anime season. A handful of shows have caught my eye, including Tamayomi, Houkago Teibou Nisshi, and Oregairu‘s third season.
During its run-time, Chikai no Finale deliberately draws parallels between the experiences that Kanade and the other first years face, with Kumiko’s own experiences previously. This deliberate choice accomplishes two things for Chikai no Finale. The first is that it shows Kumiko drawing from her own experience and learnings, doing her best to apply her own brand of problem-solving to a situation based on what she gained by spending time with Asuka, and the second is that the commonalities are present: what Kanade goes through is something that Kumiko and Reina had gone through, and where there is precedence, there are also the beginnings of a solution. Chikai no Finale therefore aims to show the journey of how Kumiko comes to develop her own approach for handling interpersonal conflict in Kitauji’s concert band, using a combination of what worked for Asuka and what she felt she could’ve done better in Asuka’s place. The end result is that Kumiko is better-equipped for dealing with the inevitable drama within a concert band, and so, when Kumiko does become the concert band club’s president, viewers know that, while she may not always have the solution or resolve a situation in an optimal manner, she is nonetheless capable, doing her best and prepared to lead Kitauji on one final run towards the national competition. Chikai no Finale is a thrilling addition to Hibike! Euphonium that paves the way for Kumiko to lead Kitauji’s concert club to the nationals, but beyond its story, Kyoto Animation continues to deliver an excellent component, making use of clever camera angles, lighting, animation and sound to fully immerse viewers into Kumiko’s story. When everything is said and done, this film is for all fans of Hibike! Euphonium: there are references to the earlier seasons that are much more meaningful for folks who’ve seen both seasons, although one could still follow the film easily without the requisite seasons. Between Kumiko’s story and Kyoto Animation’s masterful production value, Chikai no Finale is well worth the watch, and one must wonder when the remainder of Hibike! Euphonium will be adapted in full.