Hibike! Euphonium and Setting the Mood
Spring 2015 has ended (despite me still reviewing!), with some pretty interesting anime graciously provided for us. One in particular caught my attention: Hibike! Euphonium. Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Banjo, you only like it because it’s KyoAni, the same people who crafted the glorious Chu2Koi and Chu2Ren anime!”
I won’t lie and say that I love KyoAni for partly that reason. Other positives of the studio include: their ability to do adorable better than anyone, their stories are often filled with heart, and they enjoy moving from one series to the next to flex their prowess. But here (and while these previous three aspects are in full force), they do something expertly once more: setting the mood.
The following essay will be looking at what the heck this thing called mood really is, how it’s used, and ultimately how it’s composed to create not just the right atmosphere but also those oh so magical moments we come to remember. Hopefully, by the end of this piece, you’ll have both a greater respect for mood and higher appreciation of Hibike! Euphonium overall.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Mood: A Discussion
Like symbols, mood is something we all “know,” but perhaps something we don’t fully understand. It’s almost instinctual in its presence; you have this gut feeling that something is off or you feel the timing is perfect so you run with it. To that end, it’s best to start with learning about mood before diving into the examples. Knowing what goes into making the right mood will make it that much easier to digest what exactly it is and what it does later on.
Mood is defined as the following: “a literary element that evokes certain feelings or vibes in readers through words and descriptions.”  Contextually speaking, it’s more an “anime element” and instead of readers we’re “watchers,” but the principle remains the same. Essentially, the mood — often called the atmosphere — is an entity that encapsulates a particular scene to provide it with emotion that, in turn, affects the viewer.  This is important to understand early; the mood is designed to make you feel something. Most anime, from slice-of-lives to psychological thrillers, look to have the viewer invested in the show they are watching, and to achieve such an outcome, they meticulously make each part work in unison. For instance, comedies keep things lighthearted whereas mysteries keep things suspenseful. Regardless of their aim, the mood they generate not only needs to be appropriate for the show’s goals but also strong enough to make you, the audience, connected to whatever it is you happen to be watching.
Generally, the anime wants you to experience a specific feeling, but due to subjectivity or personal bias, certain emotions will inevitably rise to the forefront. As a quick example, the mood between Kumiko and Reina (depicted below) is difficult to pinpoint. There appear to be romantic undertones between the two, yet the words and actions of themselves and those around them sometimes contradict such an implication. Whether one takes their relationship to be really good friends or something more is fine because the anime’s mood in this instance isn’t technically set in stone, allowing for one to take away what he or she feels is the correct interpretation. Thus, to accomplish the “proper” response, the anime does everything in its power to craft the mood that best fits a particular scenario.
Before proceeding further, it’s also paramount to distinguish between two separate ideas: mood and tone. Mood, as has been said so far, is how you personally react to what’s unfolding on-screen. Tone, on the other hand, is the anime’s (and by extension, the director’s) “overall attitude toward a subject.”  The tone of a particular piece, be it an anime, a big-budget film, or a novel, is consistent, pronounced very early on and maintained throughout. In other words, the mood can change but the tone does not. In Hibike! Euphonium’s case, the tone is simply dramatic; the narrative is often filled with tense situations that allow the characters to experience their own highs and lows.  The show never detracts from this tone because it’s not looking (and indeed, shouldn’t) to be anything else than what it intends to be.
Think of the tone as the show’s flavor.  Now, imagine eating a juicy steak, infused with herbs and seared to perfection. Analogously, the steak’s taste is the tone — it remains flavorful over the course of dinner. Your reaction, then, is the mood — at first you’re anxious to try out the food, followed by happiness as you’re eating it, and finally disgust when you get too full. The flavor doesn’t change as you eat the steak but how you feel about it does. It’s exactly the same for anime; the tone is established from the get-go but the mood changes depending on how the scenes in question are composed. Even more compelling is that tone is yet another factor to determining the mood.  The mood capitalizes on the tone’s direction in order to best coincide with the emotions necessary at any given moment. However, this is equally true for all aspects of setting the mood.
What exactly does an anime have at its disposal to generate the right mood? Quite a lot, more so than you would initially think. Specifically, anime (and other visual mediums) rely on a field of knowledge known as cinematography. Cinematography is, colloquially, every anime’s trick in the book to make its mood, tone, and style as perfect as it can be for the project at hand. There are many known ideas that directors, animators, and companies utilize, but here, only the major sections will be looked at in-depth.
For starters, there’s something very simple yet wholly necessary: the setting. Hibike! Euphonium is an anime about a high school band and the drama that ensues through and because of it. So it features a school, a bunch of classrooms, and surrounding locations to change up the formula. The school setting fits the age of the characters involved while providing the proper venue for exploring these adolescent problems. Again, this sounds almost too obvious; “of course a high school band show would take place mostly in a school building.” To an extent, you’d be right. But if the show were to take place, say, at an orphanage, or in the middle of the desert, or exclusively on the side of the road, already you can tell that the mood would change. It most likely would turn out for the worse, but it’s difficult to say because the mood, as discussed, isn’t only the setting.
Other factors also need to be taken into account. Important aspects include the use of lighting and the camera-direction. Anime is a visual medium, and thus certain facets can only be expressed when seeing them. Lighting is one such case. Depending on its intensity, color, and angle, the mood for a particular shot morphs drastically.  Looking at the picture below, Reina’s smile is contagious, but it’s only because of the shot’s mastery of lights that sets the happy mood and therefore impacts the audience to maximum effect. The left side contains various colors to highlight the background’s detail. The right side utilizes street lamps and technological sources to generate the appropriate nighttime feel. Such use provides Reina with an almost angelic glow to accentuate her face, and subsequently her smile, to a higher degree. The sheen of her hair, the sparkle in her eyes, and the shadow on her neck fuse together to form a near-perfect shot of the girl. This scene lasts maybe two seconds at best, but it’s so powerful and so memorable because the mood was captured exquisitely through its meticulous use of lighting.
Camera-direction is also vital to setting up the mood for a particular scene. High and low shots, far and close shots, even canted and subjective ones; there exist a plethora of camera placements and angles that are designed to create a particular mood for any given situation.  Below, we see Kumiko and Shuichi standing beneath an awning to dodge the unsavory weather. But rather than showing them at eye-level, the camera instead pans low, focusing on their feet and the puddle in front of them. This wasn’t done to get a nice view of their ankles; instead, it coincides with the conversation they have on Aoi and the rumors about her. The camera is placed low because what they are talking about is supposed to be kept on the down–low. It causes the mood to match the uncertainty and secretive nature of their talk by “hiding” the characters.
Some pieces of the mood aren’t seen, but rather heard. One such piece is the dialogue said between the characters. What a character says (literally) speaks volumes not just for who he or she is as a person — in terms of personality, traits, and motifs — but also carries a lot of weight on their own. Words and phrases harbor inflections, emotion, accents, information, and importance that contribute to crafting the appropriate mood.
The picture beneath this paragraph hones in on Hazuki and Shuichi, right as Hazuki is about to confess her feelings for the boy. She doesn’t mince words; she comes out and speaks her mind immediately. Shuichi coughs and gags on the food, surprised by her sudden outburst. And he says one word to bring the mood from normal to disappointment: “Sorry.” You can hear it in his voice, the truth in what he says, and the sympathy he feels for the girl sitting next to him. Hazuki doesn’t let it affect her visibly, with her instead declaring her support for Shuichi and Kumiko. Although Shuichi declines such thoughts and Hazuki explains her “job” as a tuba member, the mood between them is still a little bit down, for both sides. It’s not until Hazuki laughs and Shuichi along with her that the mood switches back to its previous state, signaling that, for now, their outing isn’t completely shot. It’s a short moment, and only a handful of words are exchanged between the two. But their talk moves the overall mood from contentedness, to sadness, and ultimately to acceptance.
Another piece to mood-making that definitely has to be discussed in Sound! Euphonium is music. Music plays a pivotal role in setting the mood, so much so that official soundtracks for anime contain several different compositions to fit the action, events, and therefore the mood for any given scene. Good use of music doesn’t just act as background filler but instead helps in getting the viewer interested in what they happen to be watching. Bad use of music “draws attention to itself and away from the events unfolding on-screen and in the storyline.”  This in turn ruins the mood and therefore detracts the atmosphere from being where it is required to be.
For example (even though it works best to actually listen to this segment!), the shot below depicts Kumiko running away after going through a long-winded spiel, to sort of “make-up” for all those times she said or did something wrong towards Reina. The music starts off melancholic, with a slow piano taking up much of the sound. As she begins her speech, the piano goes higher pitched, followed by delicate violin playing, signaling the mood’s transition from tense to courageous. Near the end, she gets somewhat embarrassed, and flees the area. All the while, the music plays, but reduces back down to its original offering. This time, though, the simple piano notes don’t provide confidence but instead let the audience hear that something was, in fact, accomplished. Once again, it’s a small scene, with that musical piece being the only one used (its silent beforehand besides Kumiko’s narration and the cawing of crows), but it capitalizes on Kumiko’s feelings while simultaneously moving the mood in the direction it needed to go.
All of this is the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot of stuff that goes into making the mood as right as it can possibly be. The coloring of a specific object, the framing of the narrative, and the omission of important details come to mind.
The picture below has the girl on the left reaching for her mouthpiece. Seems insignificant, right? By this point, you should be aware that this isn’t the case; shortly before this, the girl said she would throw her mouthpiece at their teacher should he disapprove of their ensemble. Her placing her fingers on it isn’t just a reference to her earlier “declaration of war,” but also allows the mood to not be so serious. Indeed, when their teacher finally congratulates them, her actions can be seen in hindsight as being shown for the purposes of making the mood — and the audience — a bit more cheerful than it had been.
Think of the mood like a giant puzzle. To make it complete, you need the correct orientation, the ideal position, and the relevant picture not just for one piece but for all of them. The same can be said for the mood. The tone, the lighting, the music; the right mood comes about when all of the separate components work in harmony. If even a single piece fails to fit, then the entire puzzle — the entire mood — is incomplete.
All of this seems incredibly obvious. That everyone and their mother knows this like the back of their hand. But that’s pretty much the point. What makes the mood so interesting is how much we all take it for granted. Why is this? The best moods are the ones that immerse you in the experience, to the point that everything becomes “natural.” Nothing is off, out of place, or missing; the disjointed parts become a conglomerate that’s simply “right.” You then begin to feel the unbearable sadness, the heightened anxiety, or the relaxing calm that the mood wanted you to. However, when something is slightly misaligned, you notice it. Continuing the analogy, it’s as if you constructed a puzzle that was a giant green square, only to see a tiny orange dot somewhere on it. You can’t help but be aware of the one aspect that is throwing the vibe off. The same idea works here. Being distracted by even a single detail hurts the mood, and subsequently your overall investment in the anime.
In Hibike! Euphonium’s case, the mood is always made with the drama and realism in mind, which is why said drama and realism always comes off as level. Nothing is over-dramatic or seemingly fake because the mood doesn’t just prevent it from going in that direction, it manifests as the opposite from conception.
Making the Right Mood
The remainder of this essay will be analyzing three specific scenes from Hibike! Euphonium, dissecting how it accomplishes the right mood through its use of setting, lighting, camera placement, spoken dialogue, music, and whatever else it has at its disposal. While there are only a few instances shown here, suffice it to say that the entirety of the series is great at making the right mood for any occasion, from the shorter, comical moments to the difficult, despondent ones.
(I encourage you to re-watch these specific scenes as you read through the analysis on their mood to better understand how wonderfully executed they are)
First Example: Episode Seven, Haruka’s Dilemma
Our first example will be the dilemma involving Kaori and Haruka. Aoi just quit the band due to focusing on her studies, causing her close friends — especially Haruka — to worry about “what could have been.” For this one, keep in mind how the mood remains quite sad and how it slowly evolves to something happier over time.
The mood is already being established well before Kaori and Haruka actually meet; one of the first shots we have is an ominous one. Overcast clouds with a heavy downpour of rain begin the segment as dreary.
The dull lighting supports this, as does Haruka’s (and Kumiko’s) own daydreaming. Seeing someone worry, be it the subject in question or someone close to said person, makes the the audience go through that same feeling.
For good measure, to make such worries not come off as unfounded, the anime decides to reveal the issue that had plagued the group last year: the division between those wanting to work hard and those that didn’t. The small flashback scene continues this sense of unease without even having to use words. You can see it in their faces and gestures; the one girl smirks and waves them off, the other grips her flute tightly while leaning forwards, and Natsuki’s eyes shift between the two sides, unsure of what to say herself. All the while, the music being played is slow and melancholic, to guide the scene down the dreary path even further.
As the “main attraction” begins, it at first cuts away to Kumiko’s group discussing what they just learned. Here, the mood between Kaori and Haruka is being indirectly created by drawing parallels between these separate cliques. In other words, Kumiko, Hazuki, and Sapphire’s friendliness is equivalent to that of Kaori’s and Haruka’s. Already, the mood is geared to change.
The first shot drives this home. They aren’t in the dining room or the living room, they’re talk happens in Haruka’s bedroom, where it had just previously been the center of dread. Kaori’s presence changes this; she’s half-squatting, sitting on the floor, and offering up an almost comical snack given the season. The lighting behind Haruka contrasts with the bleakness beforehand, giving the scene a more hopeful vibe to it. But even more impressive is the camera; up until now, we had been given very contained shots of Haruka in her bed. Here, the entire room is visible, making the mood come off as less oppressive and instead freer.
When they begin talking to one another — after a tiny bit of joking back and forth — they begin to get into the heart of the visit. Haruka doesn’t begin the conversation with words, though. Her posture shifts; she raises her knees to herself and looks away from her dear friend, signifying how difficult it is to talk about what needs to be said. She caused the situation herself, which is precisely why she acts in an almost childlike way, because she knows what she did was “wrong.” Not just for herself but for the band, too. In other words, having the mood evolve isn’t so easy, especially for Haruka.
The two start to discuss Asuka, her role, and Haruka’s place in it all. Lighting during this scene is being used to its advantage once again to set the mood: the light hitting Haruka’s back places shadows on her front, to reflect her somewhat crestfallen behavior. Comparatively, the light hits Kaori in her face, adding an artificial sense of gentleness to her words. Again, the music selection is also aiding the scene; the steady guitar keeps up with Kaori’s kindness.
Already the mood has become a lot more lighthearted at this point, and Kaori’s teasing helps to make this statement ring true. She praises her friend for being the only person who could take up the mantle, and reassuring her that without her leadership, the band would have surely crumbled. Haruka’s blushing, head-turning, sitting, and eventual milk gulping let us know that she accepts her friend’s words, with Kaori’s smile telling everyone that her “mission” was successful.
Finally, in order to let the audience fully understand Haruka’s newfound confidence and the mood changing from dreary to hopeful, her arrival back at school mirrors the start. That is, instead of clouds and rain, its blue sky and sun as far as the eye can see. There is a small flashback, showcasing a conversation between Haruka and Aoi, but it solidifies the choices of the two girls — where they want to be — reinforcing once more the mood’s happier position. The location of the shots do this, too; the first was of Haruka’s home whereas now, it’s the school and subsequently the band. Right where she belongs.
Second Example: Episode 11, Kaori versus Reina
For the second example, we shift our attention to the dual and dueling audition between Kaori and Reina. The previous episode had started to move the atmosphere — Taki-sensei’s “withholding” of information, Reina’s slight anger at the situation, and Kaori’s willingness to try once more — towards a feeling of trepidation. Be sure to pay attention to how the mood remains feeling mostly uncertain until the very end, for it’s what gives this section of the show such strength.
We begin where Yuuko makes her final plea. In a lone classroom, Yuuko confronts Reina, asking the calm, cool, and collected girl to throw her match. Already we can sense Yuuko’s nervousness but determination to “do what must be done;” her clinging to her skirt makes this abundantly clear. The camera pans from bottom to top with Yuuko at its center, to give her a greater sense of importance in the moment.
Yuuko’s impassioned favor holds its own emotion, but their surroundings are doing just as much to make the mood become a bit more tense and depressing than it had been previously. The camera and window-lighting work well together; having the camera placed facing the window allows the light to strike the two girls, creating shadows that darkens not just their faces but the mood, too. The camera continues to do work, mostly consisting of shots that are skewed or off-kilter to further make the situation seem unbalanced. One of the better shots occurs when Yuuko bows while asking Reina to “do the same.” Here, the camera follows suit, going low but looking high, to sort of give us Yuuko’s perspective and how desperate she is to make Reina give up.
When the class arrives at the concert hall, Taki-sensei has the students disperse to set up the chairs for practice. But for Reina and Kaori, he has them split off to do any last-minute preparations for the re-audition. Shortly after, a shot is shown of the two girls, side-by-side, with trumpets in tow. They don’t say anything to one another, they don’t go to the same area, they don’t even look at each other; the mood is growing tense, and the girls’ pseudo-rivalry makes that evidently clear.
Also of note is the importance placed on Asuka. Her character is positioned in a somewhat translucent light, which adds further to the uncertain mood permeating the air. Her ambivalence to both the situation and her friend is nearly palpable, making everything seem more troubling than it really needs to be.
Afterwards, Yuuko is shown supporting her role model one last time. As she leaves, she desperately wants to say something, but can’t find the words. Instead, she finds the comfort of Natsuki’s back. They both say nothing, with only the sounds of Yuuko’s faint sobbing filling the hallway. It’s hard not feeling sorry for the girl who looks up to Kaori so much, which starts to drift the mood towards sadness.
Haruka, in contrast to Yuuko, manages to speak with the would-be challenger. She not only pays back her best friend for the help she gave her prior, but she also helps to alleviate the sadness that had begun to creep up. For this segment isn’t so much unhappy as it is uncertain; Haruka’s gesture — a rub on the head and a close lean — make this known, as does the bright sunlight outside.
On the opposite end of the building, Kumiko finds Reina. What’s particularly great about this entire segment is Kumiko’s dialogue. Reina is seemingly uncertain herself, asking Kumiko if she would be upset if she (Reina) lost. Kumiko rises and says with vigor: “I would.” Considering the unease in the air, with nobody truly certain how it will all turn out, Kumiko’s words are the first signs of certainty. She isn’t wishy-washy and she isn’t dodging the question; she clearly states her feelings, even echoing Reina’s own words back at her. This stark contrast to the current mood gives her words that much more power.
This whole scene harbors more “yuri” undertones, but again, it’s the surroundings that make the mood what it is. The music has been quite dainty, with the violins picking up at the appropriate times to follow the characters’ words. Lighting is once again used to maximum effect. Above, Reina is in the shadows while Kumiko, the supporter, the cheerleader, the guider, stands in the light, leading her friend down the path she knows she’ll take. It’s not until Reina sees and hears her own friends conviction does she, too, step into the glow and we hear her own words of triumph ring loud.
Yet, the mood remains uncertain. You want Reina to win; her speech on the mountain, Kumiko’s drive to be there for her, and the opportunity already presented to her paint her as the favorite. But what the show does well is making it not such an easy victory. Kaori wants it, too, and she has her own set of friends and reasons — exactly like Reina — behind her. The girls are finally ready, with them literally taking center stage with the class looking on. The camera does a nice job twice here: showing how “small” this problem really is in the grand scheme of things and showing how “big” of a decision the outcome really is.
When Kaori and Reina play, the anime also does something very simple: use no sound but their trumpets. There is a bit of clapping and formalities said aloud, but for a good few minutes, all that is heard is the music being made by the trumpeters. It not only fixates the audience to the playing itself but also makes us feel as if we, too, are a part of the class, judging and critiquing the girls for the performances they give.
But things are still uncertain. You may even have your heart pounding at this point, since the climax has just been reached. Throughout their playing, the camera made sure to take note of particular faces. For Kaori, Yuuko is praying with head down whereas Haruka and Asuka keep their eyes closed to listen to their friend. Interestingly, when Reina plays, the three girls do the opposite; Yuuko is almost captivated. You can see it in her eyes that she knows who the better player truly is. As for Haruka and Asuka, their eyes are wide open, transfixed on the young girl before them.
Even the other band members do the opposite for each girl. Kaori received applause but Reina didn’t, because the mood, right up to the final verdict, is completely uncertain.
When all is said and done, Kaori knows the answer herself. Her dialogue, like Kumiko’s, is impressive as well. It’s short and simple, but extremely effective because it is the opposite of the mood that has been filling the air. “I won’t. I can’t.” She finds Reina to be the better player and acknowledges her as such. The mood is finally starting to shift, and uncertainty with it.
As the piano and violins take on higher notes, signifying the transition to happier times; and as Yuuko’s cries are heard throughout the stadium, Reina says one word to confirm her soloist position: “Yes.” The tenseness wanes and we can all breath once more. For there is no more uncertainty; Reina is selected, with everyone understanding this to be the right decision without a doubt.
Third Example: Episode Eight, Reina’s Stance
The quintessential scene — one that might already be on the mind at this point — is episode eight, where Kumiko and Reina trek up the mountain. This scene isn’t about the “yuri”-shipping that became immediately possible (even if it is darn cute and implied). It’s not even about the journey itself being symbolic for overcoming the “obstacles” between them to reach a closer relationship (which is a nice interpretation!). What this scene does amazingly well is setting the right mood. But it’s more than that; the scene doesn’t have just one mood but several. In other words, its ability to evolve the mood over the course of the whole adventure, from bottom of the mountain to top of the summit, causes this part of the anime to transition from something well-done to something special.
It’s best to start from the beginning, the very beginning. Looking at the history between Kumiko and Reina is very awkward. The last event they had together was Kumiko giving a brutally honest statement. Reina cries upon hearing this, due to her passion being quashed and perhaps the realization that Kumiko was right. Kumiko didn’t mean any harm by it, but Reina took it personally, causing the rift that existed between them. From then on, Kumiko was always skittish around Reina, never knowing what to say or how to act towards the girl who she pushed to the emotional breaking-point. They exchange a few words later on, but it all feels awkward nonetheless. Even the lead up to the festival meeting. Kumiko had zero intentions of going with Reina; it all happened by circumstance. Thus, at the bottom of the mountain, they start off in an awkward mood of their own design.
Now, imagine if this mood existed at the top of the mountain. Not only does it not make sense, but it doesn’t work. Having these two characters play a song together on their instruments would be almost unsettling. They aren’t friends, they don’t have a connection, and they barely know anything about each other. The mood at present is purposefully constructed to be awkward at this point in their time together, so it needs to evolve.
When they meet one another, Kumiko is in her casual attire while Reina dons a pretty dress to fit the occasion. Almost immediately, them simply seeing one another, changes the mood. They had always been in their school garb — even back in middle school — when together because, based on what we know of them, they had never hung out before. So seeing them innocently, as they “normally” are, provides them with a change in perspective of the other. In other words, rather than always having this serious attitude about them, they, for the first time, get to experience each other’s company.
The mood between them continues to change as they start their trek. They help one another by switching off on instruments; they make small talk in order to better understand one another; the dialogue is typical of teenage banter (sexual joking); and the very small nuances — such as Reina adjusting her scrunchy and Kumiko being concerned for Reina’s blistering — demonstrate how comfortable both of the girls are starting to become around one another.
It should be apparent by now, but these shots and others taking place at the same time are mired in a very blue hue. Blue is soft, inviting, and easy on the eyes. In this case, it not only helps with the upbeat nature of the festival going on elsewhere, but makes sure the mood between Reina and Kumiko maintains its pleasantness. Their walk gets interjected with a technique used back in the first example; coincidentally, Asuka, Kaori, and Haruka are shown together to, once again, indirectly have the audience understand the friendly mood that is being generated between Reina and Kumiko.
Following some Hazuki plot development, the scene transitions back to Reina and Kumiko. And once again, the mood starts to change. While Reina’s talk is weird — her “confession of love” and wanting to peel away Kumiko’s “good girl” side aren’t everyday things you say to others — she is, in her own way, trying to get across the notion that she “gets” Kumiko. But more than that, she wants to “get” her more.
The mood changes once again as they reach the summit. Dream-like music begins to play, the starry-city dazzles in the background, and Reina — the mystery girl who plays the trumpet with fervor — spills her personal thoughts. It all combines to create a mood filled with wonderment and awe, unlike anything Kumiko has been accustomed to. She’s rather plain, all things considered, and her usual way of speaking and the narration she gives at times paint her as a dry person. She almost doesn’t deserve to be there. But it’s precisely because she’s there that makes the scene that much more powerful. To put it another way, similarly to her dialogue in the second example, she contrasts so heavily with the current mood that it actually elevates it beyond what it already had been.
This mood of inspiration persists, mostly through Reina’s actions. She is noticeably always “above” Kumiko, standing instead of sitting to clearly show where each is in regards to the paths they walk. Reina is active, dominating to an extent; she commands Kumiko to call her by her first name while physically touching her. Reina’s talk of being special, their glistening eyes, and Kumiko’s reference to her earlier monologue about “being drawn to a beautiful thing” coalesce, making the whole moment as magical as possible. Reina’s smile is just the cherry on top.
The mood shifts into its final form when the girls are sitting next to one another: love. Their shoes are off and their instruments are out. They haven’t been together like this since probably their junior high days, but for them, it’s “just like old times.” Reina nonchalantly undoes her pony-tail and suggests they play a song from those old times. The piece? “Ai Wo Mitsuketa Basho,” or in English, “The Place Where I Found Love.”  Love in this context, in this mood, isn’t the romantic kind. It can be seen as the romanticized kind, but ultimately it’s love in the general sense. For that’s exactly what we see as the two play their duet. Shots of Asuka and her party; Gotou and his girlfriend Riko; and even Hazuki and Sapphire. As the two shoot each other glances as the song comes to a close, it’s clearly evident how much the mood has changed. Kumiko understands Reina and Reina understands Kumiko; the two are, officially, best friends.
From awkward, to friendly, to awe-inspiring, and resting firmly in love, the two have come a long way in their relationship. All it took was a nighttime trip up a mountain, a bit of “yuri,” and the right mood along the way.
All of these examples exemplify the same thing: the mood of a scene is extremely complex. At any particular moment, multiple different aspects are contributing to craft a mood that not only captures the feeling of the anime at that moment but also causes you to feel that same (or a similar) emotion. Being able to recognize what exactly makes up the current mood isn’t necessarily required — after all, the best moods are the ones that envelop your very person. However, taking the time to notice what is making you undergo such feelings will make you that much more appreciative of both anime and the techniques they use to captivate. So the next time you begin to be engrossed by an anime, make note of the lighting, praise the smaller nuances, and listen to the music that flows through your ears.
Of course, only if you are in the mood to do so!
List of References