[Three] Reflections: Tanaka Asuka

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Hibike! Euphonium (or Sound! Euphonium) has become one of my favorite series since the first season’s initial airing last year. The show’s engaging character drama, masterful animation and direction, and interesting characters made it an incredibly enjoyable show to watch for myself and many others. For me, the main appeal of the show was how it portrayed the various personalities and relationships of the band members. Euphonium managed to create relatable and realistic characters whose interactions felt much more natural than many other shows in its genre. Very few shows trust their audience to understand the feelings of their characters without blatant explanation, but Euphonium was one of them. This made following the journey of the cast all the more interesting.

One character that I’ve been fixated on since the first season was Asuka Tanaka – the vice-president of Kitauji high school’s concert band. She was one of the most complex characters I’ve ever come across in anime and I had a lot of fun trying to figure her out. I’ve been planning on writing up an in-depth character analysis of her for a while now, but I haven’t found the time to re-watch the first season quite yet. Today I’ll talk about what I find so interesting about her so there will probably be spoilers. Fair warning.

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Asuka Themed Spoiler Shield: Get out now if ya don’t want to be spoiled

Asuka’s introduction was one of my favorites. I found her character hilarious and charming. Her overzealous personality and unrelenting advances towards the main characters were fun and interesting. I probably would have gotten sick of her if this was all she was, but her personality shifted with the mood of the show midway through the first season. For the most part, she maintained her outgoing and happy personality, but in rare moments she spoke frankly about her thoughts and feelings – only to immediately don her mask again. The contrast between her initial willful engagement and her later disinterest with everything other than music was something that was curious to me. Asuka’s close friends and many other band members believed her to be perfect but the show made it very clear that this was not the case.

The second season explored even more of Asuka’s true personality with an entire arc dedicated to her. In this second season, Kumiko had become much closer to Asuka. So much so that Asuka felt comfortable enough to speak her mind to Kumiko. Their conversations throughout the season revealed Asuka’s cynical outlook on the intentions of others and their impressions of her. She always assumed the worst when it came to the thoughts and actions of her fellow band members and acted accordingly. In Asuka’s eyes, everyone acted out of self-interest. She believed that no one honestly engaged with others without reason, so she decided to disengage. This thought-process led up to her climactic conflict with Kumiko in which she struck right at the heart of Kumiko’s insecurities to forcefully push her away. Thankfully though, our main character was stronger than that.

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For me, Asuka was something like an antithesis. I’ve always believed in the goodness of others (within reason) and attributed seemingly negative actions to things outside the person’s control. Asuka’s inherent negativity and cynicism vastly differed from my viewpoint so it was interesting see. I think that deep down, we are very similar people, both averse to engaging with others for fear of getting hurt. The difference is how we dealt with that fear.

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