Hibike! Euphonium – A Retrospective Look at Asuka

Tanaka Asuka ladies and gent.

Tanaka Asuka ladies and gents.

Note: Spoilers for Hibike! Euphonium season 1 and 2.

Throughout the two seasons of Hibike! Euphonium, Asuka is truly the most compelling character looking back. Not to judge a book by it’s cover, Asuka has many different shades and depths to her character that really makes her an interesting case study.

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On the surface, Asuka is playful, teasing her bandmates at a moment’s notice and making jokes. She is fun to be with, however her amusing personality is just one among the many shades of personality she possesses, for it is but a facade.

Asuka is many things — she is at times a joker, but at times a cunning manipulator. But predominantly, beneath her facade lies a side of her that cares more about her own agenda than everyone else. Striving for her own goals — self-improvement and to meet her father; she has never been one to care about all the drama surrounding the band. While everyone were struggling, the only thing in her mind was “practice”. Maybe it’s exactly because of this reason that she somehow appears superhuman to everyone. Her charisma makes her a natural leader, but a position she is obviously not interested in, settling as a vice president while Haruka became the band’s president despite not as much a perfect fit as Asuka.

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This makes it difficult to discern when Asuka is joking and when she is serious. Asuka always interacts with people using different masks. Was she hinting at something? Or was it another one of her many antics? Throughout the entirety of season 1, we were sharing Kumiko’s confusion when we observed Asuka through her perspective. All of a sudden, her jokes don’t sound as funny anymore, they sound aloof, almost as if she’s using them as weapons to distance herself from anyone else.

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“Distance”. This is an interesting word, because it’s a word also constantly associated with our resident protagonist, Kumiko. To further analyze Asuka, let’s talk about Kumiko. Both Asuka and Kumiko are really similar characters if one were to scrutinize. One distance herself from another using a facade of lightheartedness while the other distance herself through her indifference. Remember we are talking about a protagonist who never shed a tear before when her band gets dud gold in middle school. However, she’s changed. Over the course of season 1, Kumiko has become someone who faced failures and overcame it. She rediscovered the enjoyment of playing her euphonium, and also rediscovered her passion. That change, is what Asuka needs. But that becomes a difficult endeavor as Asuka refused to change, still maintaining her “joker” facade to distance herself from everyone. She just didn’t care about anyone else except for herself. Asuka was truly indifferent, just like how Kumiko’s indifference created a rift with Reina.

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It’s impossible to fully understand one another, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best to understand them. This is exactly what we have seen of Kumiko in season 2. She tried her best to step into other people’s barriers, she tried her best to understand them, which is something the older Kumiko wouldn’t have cared – the Kumiko who initially enrolled in Kitauji High School just so she could run away from concert bands. However even if she cared now, she still remained hesitant. Now that she’s stepping into other people’s barriers, she’s facing people’s deepest secrets head on. That hesitance ironically still makes her a bystander, as she just listened and never spoke her opinions. To quote Asuka “you are afraid of hurting people or being hurt, so you leave things wishy-washy and watch from a safe distance”. As such, she couldn’t do anything during the Mizore arc and it took Yuko to really bring her back. Despite the fact that Kumiko’s changed, this was still one weakness she had to overcome.

Kumiko knew deep down she hit the mark.

Kumiko knew deep down she hit the mark.

And as for who helped her overcame that weakness? Well surprise, it was Asuka. This is interesting because both Asuka and Kumiko have a habit of distancing themselves from people, and because of that they have grown to be observant and notice things nobody normally would. This is how Asuka noticed Kumiko’s weakness and said it right into her face. Kumiko knew somewhere deep down this is true and hearing this, it’s as if something exploded inside. For the first time in a long while, Kumiko was no longer reserved and bared all her feelings to her. Due to her case with her sister, perhaps Kumiko saw this somewhat personal — but nonetheless on that day, her feelings definitely reached her.

That scene is amazing because Kumiko wasn’t just a bystander there. She had a direct influence in that scene just like how that scene has influenced her as well. Both Kumiko and Asuka changed moving forward. I guess a big part of this change is honesty. Kumiko became more willing to voice her thoughts and Asuka decided to be more upfront with her desires. After that ordeal, I feel they finally had sincere, genuine interactions for the very first time; I feel like they have finally become true friends. Before this, their interactions felt somewhat superficial, like as if they were holding something back. Furthermore this arc also nicely humanizes Asuka who everyone has been seeing as superhuman. She also looked like she truly fit in with the band after that, right in time for the nationals.

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Since the third years graduated at the end of season 2, the focus on Asuka is the perfect send-off for this incredibly compelling character. Seeing how her character story concluded beautifully after two seasons, just in the nick of time before her graduation too is a particularly gratifying experience. Hibike! Euphonium is an amazing series, and things like these are exactly the reason why the series is truly one of my favorites.

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This entry was posted by Kai.

10 thoughts on “Hibike! Euphonium – A Retrospective Look at Asuka

  1. Pingback: 310th G-View: Hibike! Euphonium 2 (SPOILER Warning) | The Yuri Nation

  2. What a wonderful look-back at a precious and driving character from an anime filled with heart! You are one smart observer, for the way you took these characters, Asuka and Kumiko, both so incredibly complex on their own, and broke them down to their essential wants, needs, and stances was very well done. I especially loved the way you mentioned that Asuka was never truly interested in any of the band drama, but the music and the practicing instead. That final glance at her hollow jokes as a distancing mechanism really brings her true character to light.

    Easily one of your best posts, or perhaps I’m just such a sucker for this amazing show! Either way, great analysis!

  3. After I finished the first season with very negative feelings, I wasn’t sure why that “trash” got another season XD
    Haha but ok, after a good friend kept telling me how much he enjoyed Hibike Euphiorium, I watched season 2,
    to my surprise it wasn’t terrible anymore and I really enjoyed to marathon the last 10 episodes.

    Kumiko totally grow on me when she tried actively to turn things within her reach to the better, she was able to understand her own feelings better and also was ready to receive other peoples emotions without ignoring them.
    With Mizore she was a bit lost on her own, but still could assist to solve the in the end “simple” problem.

    Well, as for Asuka, I never really liked her, of course in her first scene she appeared gorgeous, upbeat and smart, but the following episodes portrayed her not so likeable anymore. Asuka is a good but cold observer, who knows about everything going on in the “lovely” club ;D I guess she still tried to have some fun there with the other members on a distant but still mellow friendly relationship, her jokes were always out of good intention.

    The others (except drop out chan) looked up to her because she was pretty, smart and positively eccentric. But apparently she wasn’t a good problem solver and better stayed at the sidelines when things turned serious.

    I think Asuka, if at all cared the most about Kumiko, in the afternoon meeting she opened up to her honestly.

    I really liked season 2, not actually because of Asuka in the fist place, though. The plot was in a good order, the negative atmosphere was lifted, everything appeared more lively and Kumiko turned into an adorable heroine.

    • “trash”
      come on man >_>

      One interesting thing about S2 is that it’s no longer solely about Kumiko. When the show was still airing, I heard some complains about S2 where it’s pretty much become a show where Kumiko is only the narrator, and everything she did has no influence on the show whatsoever — only to be used as an actual plot point later on in the show. Absolute genius.

      You weren’t meant to like Asuka, and I admit I didn’t either, because S1 only showed her worse sides, we still weren’t too clear about her motives at the time, but we sure as hell know something happened for her to act the way she does. It’s been carefully foreshadowed along the course of S1, and with her story finally told in S2, which is just the most amazing thing ever.

  4. Like Bray Wyatt I remained loyal to the Great Asuka even when some turned their back on her during those scenes in season 1. In season 2 as I read tweets and grew more and more excited for what could happen, besides her character arc (One of my top 2 in the series BTW). Then the truth of Kumiko’s destiny slowly unveiled itself…I celebrated as loudly as I did Sunday February 12th, 2017 at 11:25 PM.

    In short like my eternal loyalty to Bray Wyatt, my loyalty to the Great Asuka paid off and I hope KyoAni do the right thing and have AsuKumi/AsuKo reunite in college or somewhere else in the near future and start their lives together.

    • Well in any case, I’m sure season 2 should be able to help Asuka win back some of her fans.

      “I hope KyoAni do the right thing and have AsuKumi/AsuKo reunite in college or somewhere else in the near future and start their lives together.”
      There’s actually still some materials not adapted yet so we will see.

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