Episode 12 - "The Last Competition"
Let's address this conclusion right away: They didn't win?! And they didn't show their performance!? What? Why?
I agree with this narrative decision.
First, screen time is for winners, not losers.
The musical performances in this show have always been treated like the big action scene in other anime genres. There has to be emotional impact to it. A lot of emotional impact. The performance that mattered for the entire band club was when they won the regionals to get to the nationals. That was the culmination of everything they had been through as a club. It addressed Reina getting the solo performance over a senior. It addressed Kumiko becoming good enough to play the euphonium part with Asuka. It addressed the big huge drama of the mass quitting the previous year with the reconciliation between Mizore and Nozomi. It fulfilled the promise of the band to go to the nationals instead of a fun band club for making memories. This was the performance we had been waiting for since the first season. This was the performance scene that needed to be shown.
The other full musical performances animated after that also served emotional impacts. The performance at the train station served the notion that the band could operate without Asuka and how they sounded also showed that there was no doubt they deserved to go to the nationals. Asuka's farewell serenade to Kumiko, which didn't end up being a farewell, addressed Kumiko's emotional growth as someone able to express her feelings to her older sister. Asuka became her older sister in that moment. That piece was also the emotional catharsis to all the family matters being tied together in one narrative focus. Without that song, Kumiko's later scenes with Asuka and Mamiko would not have the reminiscent depth they did.
So, there just wasn't enough emotional depth to serve this final performance. Win it for Taki's dead wife? Only three people know about that. Just win, baby? You know that's not how first timers operate in anime. It was also the same song as the one they played at the regionals. No need to see a losing performance of that song. Buy the soundtrack already.
Besides, if you really wanted to see scenes from their Nationals performance, you get to see them every episode. The opening credits has them all. Every time you see someone with that red ribbon on their shoulder, that's from their bronze place performance. No glaring drama or anything. Just top level competency. But not enough emotional impact. Just wait until Kumiko is either second or third year for development of enough drama to make that gold award at the Nationals much more meaningful.
Shuuichi was really Kumiko's hidden hero this whole time, especially when it came to her relationship with Mamiko. I saw that little smile he gave when Kumiko saw her sister to chase her down.
Kumiko wants a hot drink while Shuuichi is all cool. He's slowly chipping away at her bored sounding façade.
Mizore became the fist bumping queen! I thought at first she was just showing a special regard for Kumiko after what she had done to help with Nozomi, but then I saw her fist bumping over to the left in this scene with Hashimoto. Looks like Hashimoto has inspired another emotional percussionist during his time as an advisor.
KyoAni is just showing off again with this transition between scenes. I loved the nervous background music during this time before the judges announced their decisions.
Oh man, Reina publicly confessed her love for Taki twice in one day. This scene effectively demonstrated the inexperience of Kitauji at the national level because they had forgotten the "tradition" of yelling some embarrassing thing as their conductor received an award too. Only Reina and Kumiko knew both times she was telling her personal feelings, but only the second time did the trumpet section figure it out. Taki, still clueless. Reina, fight-o!
Who's the bigger crybaby? Haruka or Matsumoto-sensei?
Kumiko got to share nice moments with her two big sisters. Asuka fulfilled her goal of her father hearing her play the euphonium. Mamiko and Kumiko both yelled that they loved each other from a distance. I suppose it will take a little time before they can say that embarrassing stuff closer together in a normal speaking voice.
The major narratives of the season got good enough conclusions but there's really just one left. Kumiko and Asuka's relationship was the underlying tension of the whole story so far; they're both euphonium players like the title. Their story needs to have its own separate conclusion.
The Fun Stuff.
Shuuichi got his turn for the eye catch. Only one more left.
Midori really does make a great mascot character. Bye bye senior leaders. We'll have to see who replaces Kaori, Asuka and Haruka next year.