Episode 03 – “The First Ensemble”
We finally get into the meat of the story this week as our protagonists get their hands on their respective instrument. This is always an incredibly exciting moment for any student musician because it’s that magical moment when you meet your partner for the next some-odd years, possibly realizing you’re incredibly out of practice or don’t know how to play it at all. It’s the ultimate beginning for any musician, and this episode probably wouldn’t feel to out of place as the first episode in the series. However, I still feel that the first two episodes provide necessary exposition and give us a good sense of the characters’ personalities as well as the setting of Kitauji High School.
The band club carries out its routine much like most bands would, going through sectionals as well as some drills for the beginners and freshmen. What may be a little off is the overall attitude of the band itself. While there are some people who want to put in the effort to make something cool happen, most of the members are content with simply using band time as free time. For anyone who has ever done high school band, I’m sure this isn’t anything too terribly surprising. There are always people who don’t want to work, and it’s sad when that attitude is allowed to take control over the entire organization, as we see here.
Taki-sensei reveals his true colors when he sees how unmotivated his students are, despite them placing their goal on Nationals. At first glance, this harsh side seems out of character to the sort of whimsical Taki-sensei we saw in previous episodes, constantly smiling and talking to strangers. But even in that first encounter, we got the sense that Taki-sensei is a person who likes to set people straight and make sure that they’re educated. I believe that’s his ultimate goal with this band because he wouldn’t say those things if he didn’t think they had potential.
I’m sure every musician has his or her own horror stories with band directors, from ones who are really mean to those that never cared to push their students. I don’t think I’ve ever met a director like Taki-sensei, and I’m interested to see how his brand of hands-off teaching will work out in the end. It’s unrealistic for the students to simply become proficient musicians through sheer power of will, so something drastic must happen to reform the band. Those who aren’t willing to work have to either quit or find a reason to take things seriously. Because honestly, band’s no fun for anyone unless everyone is in it to make music.
Anime likes to use Dvorak’s 9th Symphony “From the New World” in a bunch of interesting ways. To name a few, it appears in Mawaru Penguindrum and provides the name for Shin Sekai Yori. In this episode, Reina plays the famous English horn solo from the 2nd movement, the Largo, and it actually sound really nice on trumpet. It’s a wistful melody with an inherent feeling of want. For Dvorak, it was a desire to go home, but for our characters, I think that want can be left to your interpretation. This series has got me back into listening to concert band music, so I’ve decided to share some with you all each week!
“Everyone, what do you think an ensemble is?” ~ Taki-sensei