Multi-Talented Competition: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 34

The competitive escalates in an unexpected way in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 34.

Summary

After the Rugby Club’s surprisingly strong rendition of a Radwimps tune in the high school’s cultural festival singing competition, the Chorus Appreciation Society fires back with a performance of their own. They win handily, showing the fruits of their training camp. However, even though the Rugby Club captain accepts the results, he has one last request as a third-year soon to graduate: he wants to challenge Jin to an arm wrestling competition! 

Jin accepts, but thinks it should be a best-of-three. Sora (the guy who confessed to Kozue) immediately challenges Kousei, and Yukina (who was last year’s school-wide arm wrestling champion) jumps in to be the third participant for the Chorus Appreciation Society. The impromptu matchup ends with a 2-1 victory for the Chorus Appreciation Society, with Jin putting in an impressive but ultimately losing effort against the Rugby Club captain. Reactions differ among the crowd, ranging from hype to Yumerun’s utter disinterest.

As Yukina is celebrating the win and talking with Kousei, Shion can’t help but think that they look great together. Suddenly, she sticks her arm between them and confesses directly to Kousei: “I like you. Go out with me?” Kousei’s response: “What? No.” That rejection is also the title of the chapter.

Yukina’s Turbo Controller

I genuinely thought that Yukina’s arm wrestling prowess wouldn’t really factor into the story beyond some displays of strengths, but here we are, with a sudden arm wrestling match. It almost makes regret making an Over the Top reference already. The surprise is welcome, however, and it adds to something I really enjoy about Hashikko Ensemble: the series is somehow both extremely predictable and unpredictable at the same time, and where those cards fall seems to just make for a more enjoyable manga most of the time.

All this arm wrestling talk also makes me think of my childhood playing the Track & Field II arm wrestling minigame. Whenever any arm wrestling happens in media, I just think of the background music and the grunting faces.

The Performance

As the guys are singing, Takano-sensei makes mention of how much they’ve all improved (as well as Kozue’s excellent conducting). In particular, she remarks about their successful balancing of both the lyrics-heavy nature of J-pop with getting the right musical accents. She also uses a couple terms that I think are worth noting—mostly for my sake, as someone who’s not musically inclined.

The first is legato, which is singing in a smooth and connected way; the opposite of staccato. It is not, in fact, simply a Trigun villain.

The second is syncopation, which is singing on the weak beats. 


The general idea, from what I can tell, is that they’ve managed to adapt a J-pop tune into something that utilizes the musical training they’ve all been going through. I wonder if the goal is to strike a middle ground between doing appealing songs to get more members and doing something technically impressive for Jin’s mom and her high standards.

Romantic Perceptions

It’s poetic that Akira has these dramatic nightmares about Kousei and Shion, but to Shion, Kousei and Yukina are the picture-perfect couple. There’s a self-consciousness at work in each case, where one sees themselves as somehow not looking “right” for their love interest. 

I feel like this is a fear that Kio Shimoku tends to express and explore in his works. In Gonensei (The Fifth-Year), one of the core conflicts is how the boyfriend feels a level of inadequacy because he couldn’t graduate at the same time as his girlfriend, and the two drift further apart. In Spotted Flower, the husband similarly panics when he just lays eyes on his wife interacting with her ex-boyfriend, believing that he pales in comparison, despite the fact that he and his wife  just had a daughter. I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as dark and ugly in Hashikko Ensemble, but I’m interested in seeing how the love web continues to get tangled.

The chapter further contrasts how Shion and Yukina each see Kousei—the former as a strong hero and the latter as an adorable underclassman. As Yukina watches the performances, she recalls happening upon Kousei practicing his singing in private. Unbeknownst to Kousei, Yukina actually sat hidden behind a staircase, listening to him the whole time. It’s as if both girls have feelings because they’ve managed to see what’s on the inside, only it’s two different aspects of the “real Kousei.” If I had to give a preference, I like Kousei/Yukina, only because it’s more hilarious.

When the Tsun and the Dere are Indistinguishable

Right before the arm wrestling match begins, Kozue tells Sora to do his best. When he gets trounced by Kousei, she thinks, “Ah. Figures it was impossible.” While I originally thought that there was a possibility that Kozue might end up on a date with Sora reluctantly, it now looks like she might actually feel something for him after all. I don’t know if you’d call this tsundere, as I think that Kozue doesn’t have that characteristic loss of control of her own emotions, but maybe the childhood friend connection is real. Also, we haven’t seen what Sora looks like shirtless, but maybe he has the buffness she looks for in guys.

Or maybe being into musclemen is more of a fantasy fetish and not something she necessarily wants in a partner.

Songs

This month’s song is “March 9” by Remioromen, which the Chorus Appreciation Society performs against the Rugby Club.

Final Thoughts

During their performance, Akira’s mom is in the crowd. I don’t know why exactly, but seeing her cheer her son on and react like such a doting parent really sticks with me. Perhaps it’s just the way she seems so wholeheartedly excited about her Akira doing this new and different thing by getting into singing. I can sense the love in their relationship.

16 Bands Enter: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 33

Fierce (?) competitors lie in wait in Chapter 34 of Hashikko Ensemble!

Summary

The school’s cultural festival has suddenly turned into a battle of the bands, and the Chorus Appreciation Society is in a 16-band bracket to see who comes out on top. Among the groups participating are a number of familiar faces: Kurotaki Mai (the deep-voiced girl who once saved Akira), Tsuyama’s crew, Mimi-sensei and a group of teachers (with Takano-sensei on piano), and even the Rugby Club that tried to recruit Kousei. 

During this, Shion is visibly bothered by Yukina’s presence and closeness with Kousei, all but confirming her having romantic feelings for him. But when Kozue asks why Yukina’s into Kousei, her answer absolutely flabbergasts Shion: “Cuz he’s cute.” 

Mai’s band wins, and the teachers forfeit their match because all they really wanted to do was put on a single performance. The Rugby Club is going directly against the Chorus Appreciation Society in the first round, and to everyone’s surprise, one of the players, Sora, asks Kozue to go out with him if the Rugby Club wins. She agrees but only as a form of rejection—she actively encourages the audience to reject their opponents and Sora’s convenient love story in the making. However, the Rugby Club turns out to be better singers than she anticipated, meaning it might not be such an easy win after all.

A School Tournament?!

It’s not surprising to see tournaments happen in Hashikko Ensemble. After all, if they’re going to eventually be in bigger events, the Chorus Appreciation Society is going to have to see some long competitions. However, this is quite different from the more refined environment and structure of the M-Con, the inter-school event they had previously they participated in as an exhibition.

I really like this direction, particularly that the series has suddenly become more about music in an interesting way by having music fever take over the school and generate all this excitement and energy. Also, while it’s indeed looking to be a tournament arc after all, “winning” seems less important than having all the characters reach their personal goals. Looming overhead is the powerful shadow of Jin’s mom (despite the fact that she hasn’t even shown up yet), and in a sense, she’s the real boss fight.

Love Bonanza

The increasing presence of romance in Hashikko Ensemble is all but undeniable. It’s not even that Shion’s interest in Kousei is clear as day now, but also the strange love polygon that now exists between her, Akira, Kousei, Yukina, and maybe even Mai. What’s more, there’s also the lovey dovey couple team (Yukio feat. Mayomyon) metaphorically tossing hearts into the air, and a public confession to Kozue from the kid who tried to warn his classmates about her judo skills?!  And the latter’s going to be the most pressing plot point leading into Chapter 34?!

It’s not nearly as messy a relationship web as good ol’ Spotted Flower, but it sure is getting increasingly complicated.

Knowing this manga, I could see Kio swerving the readers by having the Chorus Appreciation Society lose in Round 1, and having Kozue reluctantly start dating Sora. There’s maybe one path of hope for the rugby player, which is that a person can earn Kozue’s respect through skill and power. In this chapter, she basically gushes over Yukina’s high proficiency in a huge array of industrial skills (including gas and arc welding, crane operating, etc.), so if the poor guy can show similar prowess (in singing or otherwise), maybe he can impress her. That said, it’s probably more realistic to see Kozue be into Yukina.

Divergent Feelings

I was thrilled to see Mai show up again in this chapter—doubly so to see her singing. All signs have pointed to her becoming a more important character as the series went on, and while it’s still uncertain that she’s going to join the Chorus Appreciation Society, I’m still rooting for it. There’s also the matter of her previous interactions with Akira, and while he has Shion on the brain currently, I could see a future where these two get together instead. 

I think Hashikko Ensemble has been emphasizing how different potential relationships can potentially end up being in terms of interpersonal dynamics. Chapter 33 highlights this by the ways that Shion and Yukina each view Kousei; the former sees him as brave, cool, and strong, while the latter looks at him like a cute underclassman. When picturing those two possible couples, they’re just so fundamentally different. But this is also the case imagining Akira with Shion versus Akira with Mai, which has a similar dynamic of two very different individuals on the one hand, and two very similar people on the other. 

Songs

This time, I’ve included each of the groups participating in the tournament this chapter, followed by what song they perform.

Nighttime Festival Club 2.1: Itoshii no Ellie” (“Beloved Ellie”) by Southern All Stars

Noi Majo (Kurotaki Mai’s quartet): “Hakujitsu” (“White Day”) by King Gnu

Yukio feat. Mayomyon: “Shibuya at 5 o’clock” by Suzuki Masuyuki and Kikuchi Momoko (You might recognize Suzuki as the singer of the opening to Kaguya-sama: Love Is War)

Teachers’ Angel (Mimi-sensei + other faculty): “Boku no Koto” (“About Me”) by Mrs. Green Apple

Rugby Club A Capella Group: “Zenzenzense” (“Past Past Past Life”) by RADWIMPS (as heard in Your Name)

Final Thoughts

Back in the pre-pandemic times, I used to go karaoke somewhat often. One of the most common songs among one of the groups was actually “Zenzenzense.” This chapter makes me want to learn all these other songs and bring them out someday. May there be a future where we can karaoke to our hearts’ content.

Over the Top: Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 32

A new story arc begins in Hashikko Ensemble, Chapter 32!

Summary

Summer is over, and the students at Hashimoto Tech are back to school. While things seem mostly the same, there are some differences. For the Chorus Appreciation Society, they can now use the music room to practice. Tsuyama’s crew, the Mimi-sensei-obsessed guys who had previously competed against the Chorus Society, now all have girlfriends. And for some reason, there seems to just be a lot more singing at school overall. It turns out that the latter two things are related: Tsuyama and co.’s performance in front of the school is the reason they got girls, and now all the boys think a capella is the key to popularity.

Back with the main characters, Jin is naturally beyond excited about more singers at school, Mimi-sensei is having a bit of a crisis over losing her place as conductor to Hasegawa Kozue, and Shinji wonders why the girls aren’t coming to them. Right then, a tough-looking girl shows up next to Kousei, and when he tries to shoo her away (assuming that she doesn’t care about music), she puts his hand in a death grip and overpowers him. Kozue identifies her as Kawamura Yukina, a third-year construction major and the school’s reigning arm wrestling champion—a title she won by beating both guys and girls.

The chapter ends with students remarking about how many damn a capella clubs are springing up. It all looks to be headed in one direction: a singing tournament!

Excitement

I love this chapter.

I thought I knew where this manga was going, with Jin trying to prove his mom wrong and Akira fretting over Shion. However, the way the school has changed feels like a subtle yet still seismic shift, as if they’re entering a new environment where the rules are different. What’s more, this all stems from their singing! This series is delightfully hard to predict at the best times.

It’s typical of an action or sports series to up the stakes or expand its scope, and this feels similar yet noticeably different in terms of fallout. Genshiken didn’t really do story arcs in the traditional sense, and I find Hashikko Ensemble to be somewhere in the middle in a good way.

Mama Mimi

I do feel for Mimi-sensei, but what I’ll probably remember more about her in this chapter is her hilarious interaction with Shion. No longer conductor, she tries to let Shion be comforted by her, but Shion responds by asking, “Are pecs boobs?”

Later, Mimi wonders if this like a child being weaned from their mother’s breast.

The ridiculousness of Shion’s question followed by the wordplay from Mimi is top-notch.

Yukina is a Badass

Yukina is technically not a new character, but might as well be. It’s not 100% certain if Yukina is a delinquent, but she certainly has that energy. 

I really want her to join the group.

While she’s not the only physically strong girl around (Hasegawa is a skilled judo player), Yukina adds a certain level of cool. Not only would she be the oldest among the students, but her connection to Kousei—whatever it may be—seems intriguing. At the very least, we haven’t seen anyone treat him so lightly 

Is there an element of romance between the two? The characters are certainly entertaining the possibility. Akira thinks Shion might have a crush on Kousei, so he immediately tries to see how Shion reacts to Yukina, but it’s not entirely clear. I can practically feel Akira’s incredible self-consciousness, though I still think he’s somehow mistaken.

Songs

In this chapter, they practice “March 9” by Remioromen, which is Shinji’s pick for the Festival.

They also sing the official school song, though there’s no audio resource for that.

Final Thoughts

When Shinji asks why they’re not getting any girls, Kanon responds that 1) the Society already has girls and 2) a capella is cooler. It makes me think about how I’ve been translating gasshou as “chorus,” but “glee” could work just as well. And one particular TV show aside, it’s true that glee clubs are not exactly considered exciting. I do wonder if I should have been translating it as glee all along, but I can live with my choice.