A Note about Last Episode:
Episode 10 was a divisive episode for the anime community. Many people were disappointed in a perceived shift away from a possible romance between Kumiko and Reina. Personally, I thought the episode had other issues, and I was not convinced that the romance was necessarily dead. However, I thought that the yuri angle deserved some extra discussion.
On the surface, Japan can seem to be fairly open minded when it comes to LGBT issues. In practice though, from what I have heard from a number of sources including people who live there, is that anything other than having the “normal” husband, wife, and kids family is not really culturally acceptable. Same sex relationships are considered by manyin Japan to be youthful dalliances and are expected to be outgrown by responsible people. I touch on this a little in this post, but in some cases, a wider cultural context is needed to understand where an anime is coming from. Sound! captured my attention in part because it seemed like a departure from this cultural norm, and seemed to be a case where a same sex relationship would be played straight and not for laughs or fan service. LGBT characters have been in anime for decades, but they are rarely (never, afaik) shown in actual relationships. Little details, like the red string in the ending, got me wondering and episode 8 looked like confirmation (it still does if viewed on its own).
Of course, this information forms the core of the counter argument as well, which I’ve basically heard related as “It was foolish to think that this was ever going to be a yuri relationship anyway.” The source material, from what I’ve heard, doesn’t have the two brassy (sorry, couldn’t resist) youngsters getting together, and Kyoani is infamous for setting up ships and then not following through. Add this together with the “Lesbianism is something to grow out of” cultural attitude in Japan and it does seem far-fetched that this show was ever going to deliver with a real same sex relationship. Cynical as I am, I still wanted to believe that anime was capable of more than Sakura Trick, but is it fair to hold that against the show?
Yes, I think it is. If this was just a lark on the author’s part (reports have the yuri baiting was even more pronounced in the LN), then I think it does hurt the show considerably. The band drama is not bad, but also nothing particularly special. Where the show has shined is in the nuances of the character interactions. I was looking forward to the complexity and drama that a same sex relationship would bring. Without this element, Sound! becomes just another sports style anime.
On to this Week’s Episode:
This week we some good characterization, some bad plot, and a doubling down on the lesbian romance/baiting. I can’t say that Sound! has redeemed itself, since this little loop seems completely unnecessary. I can say that this episode was better than the last one.
Asuka is emotionally distant, whether we find out a reason for this or not will be interesting to see. It was interesting to see the club president calling her on copping out on her friends. She has turned out to be a very selfish character. I hope she is confronted about this at some point.
Taki-sensei got away with one here, as Kaori Nakaseko turned down the Trumpet solo. Considering Reina’s feelings for him, I think the show needs to address the fact that he just tried to screw her over. I also thought it was interesting that so few of the band members got involved. I voiced my dislike for this entire plotline last week, and seeing it through does nothing to change my mind. Reina played better, presumably twice, and he still offered the part to Kaori. If this was how things were going to go, why did he have auditions?
Natsuki is turning into quite the character. Her confrontation with the overly emotional bow girl was a good scene. She seems to be taking up Asuka-senpai’s slack. Hazuki and Natsuki are both characters I like that are likely going to be regulated to the sidelines as the show progresses because they didn’t make the cut. That makes me sad.
Reina and Kumiko really do have great chemistry, which just puts more weight on the shoulders of their relationship. As I point out above, I really should be able to believe that they are a couple, but I can’t. The show has thrown enough seeds of doubt around to make me unsure. That in itself is quite depressing.
This week Sound! made up some lost ground, but my doubts about where this is going is hurting my enjoyment of the show. I will have to re-watch the show when it is done to really appreciate some of these scenes. This has the feeling of a friend telling you something when you suspect they are just messing with you. If this is a joke KyoAni, it isn’t funny.