Following their success in the qualifying round for the Kansai regional competition, the members of the Kitauji High School concert band set their sights on the next upcoming performance. Utilizing their summer break to the utmost, the band participates in a camp where they are instructed by their band advisor Noboru Taki and his friends who make their living as professional musicians.
Kumiko Oumae and her friends remain determined to attain gold at the Kansai competition, but trouble arises when a student who once quit the band shows interest in rejoining and sparks unpleasant memories for the second-year members. Kumiko also learns about her teacher's surprising past and the motivation behind his desire to lead the band to victory. Reaching nationals will require hard work, and the adamant conviction in each student's commitment to the band will be put to the test.
If I had to thank KyoAni for one thing, it'd be for their ability to prove that it's really hard not to enjoy a good anime, which they've proven many times. Regardless of its art style, the way it presents its characters via voice acting and personalities, the setting of the series, or whatever else it may have that turns a lot of people off (and even causes some to denounce the series completely because of it), KyoAni proves to you that if it's good, it's good. And for that, you will enjoy it.
Ultimately, that was exactly how I felt about Hibike! Euphonium's 2nd season.
The first season, to me at least, was disappointing in many ways because of various little things like the ones I listed above. To me, the fact that it had an extremely moe art style, characters that played well with the art style, and a very cliche school setting... and the cliches that applied to series' of this type seemed to all apply there as well. Because of all that, I really didn't like the first season a whole lot, though I was very hopeful because I believed a sequel had potential, and luckily I continued onto the end because what I ended up with was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had with anime in my entire life.
And with all of that out of the way, let me begin to explain to you why I feel the way I do about this fantastic series.
So, before I begin, I want to mention two things, and delve a bit deep into one of those:
1. This is a review of the second season, so expect spoilers of the first.
2. Given that I never actually wrote a proper review of the first season (at least not on MAL, but a very select few of you might have seen my brief analysis of it on the internet at some point), I wanna first talk about my overall thoughts and verdict on the first season before I begin talking about the second. It'll better allow you to understand why I feel the way I do about the second season here.
Basically, to kind of repeat what I just said above, Hibike! Euphonium season one in a nutshell, at least to me, was that it just exploited every single possible "generic slice-of-life" (moe) trope that it possibly could. Things like embarrassment, unnecessary dialogue, forced drama, yuri (or yuri bait), CGDCT, and was all wrapped together with a pseudo-story that could even be seen as mildly pretentious because it tried to be far more serious than it actually was, in addition to trying to create more value/importance than it actually had.
To me, however, I also believed that the series had a TON of potential just because of how interesting the premise was. Although I wasn't given it even slightly in the first season, I was really (and I mean REALLY) interested in seeing the struggles of making it in an industry as niche as the one of high school concert band. And yes, I understand that it wouldn't necessarily make a ton of sense to use words like "make it" and "industry," since it's an extracurricular group-based activity within high school, meaning you won't be making any money off of it and you also won't be suffering anything too huge (besides maybe psychologically) by failing within it. However, that doesn't change the fact that I'd LIKE to see something serious done with it. Something that depicts the struggles of making it to the top, where as the first season of this series really did just the opposite. Kumiko seemed far too plot-armored to really feel any sense of relating to her on a personal level. It seemed almost like she was given success served on a silver platter, and not necessarily earning it.
You also have the fact that concert band seemed to be a second-highest priority for the series, with other events (primarily the yuri bait between Kumiko and Reina) taking top priority. There were way too many episodes completely dominated by fluffy SoL moments and unnecessary dialogue about nothing. There was also very little drama besides the restoration of Kumiko and Reina's friendship, in addition to flashbacks (but I intentionally don't count those because they're, well, in the past). So, for the most part, I didn't like the first season. It ultimately came down to the inability to tell a proper story by always changing itself whenever it felt like it wanted to and by just telling the actual "story" in a way that makes it seem far too forced and plot-armored. To keep it simple, it was very unrealistic, which is a HORRIBLE thing for a series like this that tries to be as realistic as it can be.
And now, onto the second season here.
Initially, Hibike! Euphonium's second season didn't really leave much of an impression on me simply because I didn't really feel much difference between it and the first season within the first few episodes. Of course, the second season still had better execution; it wasn't far into the second episode that we started to realize that different things really were happening, and that the way the story as a whole would be presented was going to be a lot different. Thus, I really did feel like it was a better series but not a LOT better, possibly worth a 6/10 in comparison to the 5/10 I gave the first season.
Ultimately, however, the series really does find a way to pick itself up and become something incredible. Let me explain the main things that it does.
Starting off: DRAMA.
Yes, Hibike! Euphonium season 2 has a fair bit of drama, and ALL of it is quite well-executed. There are different types of drama, but the type used within the second season actually happens to be my favorite kind: uncomfortable deviations from the "norm" where progress is made by getting things back to where they were. The reason why I like this kind of drama is because it really throws the audience a curve ball. As opposed to progress being made via progression, via constantly becoming better and better, this type of drama demonstrates progress ONLY being made by bringing things back together, meaning your ONLY goal is to make things the way they once were, bring things back to normal. And the primary reason why I absolutely LOVE this kind of drama is because it really helps to flesh out a lot of characters all at once, as you get to see how they react to such an interesting situation.
There are a lot of good examples to give on how Hibike! Euphonium demonstrates this kind of drama almost perfectly, but I'll only give one because it leads perfectly into my next point, which is the entire situation of learning about Taki-sensei and his wife. Kumiko learns this news, and it's a lot to take in for her not just because she feels bad, but because she knows how Reina feels about Taki-sensei and knows this kind of news would be huge to her. Thus, we see Kumiko attempting to keep things together, to pretend almost as if she forgot what she was told by burying it deep enough in her heart and mind that she doesn't think about it, all to keep from accidentally slipping it out to Reina.
There was little to no actual character development within the first season, the only "grey area" that could really be given to that claim is within Kumiko and how she goes from not giving a crap about the competitions and making it to nationals to wanting to make it to nationals as much as anybody else. There was definitely no grey area here in season two, however, as it's quite obvious that there is TONS of development going on for everyone, and even including the story itself.
The biggest sign of development within the second season here really is when Taki-sensei gets a fair amount of it. I consider this the biggest sign because it was, primarily, the first occurrence of it. Sure, we learned a few minor things about Reina and even a couple other side characters, but I really feel that none were even CLOSE to as important as what we learned about Taki-sensei simply because it did add a lot of much-needed depth to his character. What was mainly just a mysterious character that we constantly questioned about why he acted the way he did and what was up with him, became a very heart-filled character who we could understand greatly and, in some cases, even relate to. And to me, that's how development should always be in a series like this one.
Taki-sensei wasn't the only case of development, however. While he was certainly the biggest sign of change within the series, as well as for future development, many others also had some well-deserved development as well. Ironically enough, however, this development wasn't really inflicted upon the main characters... of course, Kumiko has received a fair amount, and even a SLIGHT bit for Reina, but it was mostly side characters that received it. And the reason I consider this a pretty big deal is because of the fact that these characters almost didn't even feel like side characters any longer; at this point, they felt very much like main characters just because of the amount of depth they were given. And let me tell you what... a large slew of important, lovable characters is definitely what I look for when watching a series like this one, simply because it really IS the characters that carry a series that isn't primarily dominated by its story.
And my final point is going to be: PLOT PROGRESSION.
Plot progression within the second season here is DYNAMIC.
What I mean by that is that you are truly able to understand the struggles involved in succeeding in a type of "industry" like this (which I only say due to a lack of a better word, like I addressed above). The overall feel of the series, in both atmosphere, tension, and sustainability is almost completely different because of how it's handled. There really isn't a moment that goes on within this second season that isn't relateable in SOME way, shape, or form, whether it be via personal experience or experience that you're aware that someone has went through before. And let me tell you, if you don't get it from what I said about the first season earlier, that that's the COMPLETE opposite of what the first season felt like. And, as I said above, that's DYNAMIC progression within the plot itself.
I also want to mention that the story is definitely the top priority here in comparison to other things. The unnecessary fluff is gone, the yuri bait is almost completely obsolete, and the dialogue is cut down to either being very little, or being equally or more-so important. This was the primary thing that I was BEGGING for while watching the first season, simply because I didn't think a series composed of this kind of premise, this slew of characters and their various archetypes, and this kind of series direction could survive without at least a fairly high level of sustainable dialogue. We didn't get it in the first season, not even CLOSE, but this is something we certainly get here in the second season.
Alright, so I've said all the changes (or, at least the major ones). Does changing what I considered to be just a bit above complete garbage into something quality and sustainable necessarily mean it deserves the absurdly high score I've given it? Not at all, so let me explain to you what makes everything so good.
So, the primary thing I love about Hibike! Euphonium season 2 is the fact that everything is displayed in a way that's almost perfect in what it tries to do. From the emotions each character tries to display, to the feelings each character tries to commit to exposing or explaining, to the struggles each character displays in their attempts to become better than they already are. All of these things, wrapped up by a simple, yet extremely effective and EXTREMELY hard thing to perfect... how realistic they feel.
Like I said above, almost every single event that takes place within this second season is relateable in some way, shape, or form simply because of the fact that these are common events used in uncommon ways. You have Kumiko being unable to properly portray her feelings to Asuka in a way that both understand and are able to connect with... of course, her reasons for doing so are a bit odd when viewed from the perspective of a viewer who I can at least assume has never had much experience with high school concert band (or band in general), so it may not come off as COMPLETELY relateable. However, it'd be absurd to say that there's anybody over the age of 16 that's never had to go through an experience where they'd been unable to explicitly explain their feelings to someone in a way where both understand. It's just a hard thing to do, and it makes for something extremely enjoyable to watch when it's portrayed correctly from a different perspective where we, as an audience, can all view it in a different way from one another.
I also think the choice to take a lot of attention off of Reina, at least in comparison to how much she was given in the first season, is extremely smart simply because it takes a lot of pressure off of one of the biggest problems I had with the first season. Of course, that's the yuri bait. I just didn't think it was a necessary plotline simply because it both didn't make a lot of sense from both a plot AND character perspective, in addition to the fact that it felt extremely forced and unrealistic. Believe me, I don't mind yuri or yuri bait within an anime, heck I actually cheer for it in some shows where I think the plot and story in general would benefit from it. However, in a series where it tries its hardest to be realistic like Hibike! Euphonium, that kind of thing just doesn't work, and for obvious reasons. Primarily, just that it doesn't fit the plot, but also mainly because it's neigh-impossible to create a realistic yuri bait-based plotline within any kind of story.
Of course, I would be lying if I said that I don't like it at all. It definitely CAN add a bit of flavor to a series, a good example to that is the Nico x Maki ships that usually happen within the Love Live fanbase. Thing is, however, that isn't carried out very hard within the series... they just poke fun at it a bit from time to time. And guess what? That's basically what the second season of Hibike! Euphonium does. With far less attention on Reina, there's not many situations where that kind of thing can even be executed well. In addition, it also makes for a LOT more room to develop other characters, which as I said earlier, is definitely taken advantage of and ultimately creates a slew of important characters that you can feel attached to in some way.
Now, another thing that could be viewed as a general problem from the first season: the ending. While I won't go into detail about the events of it, I will briefly talk about the ending just to give you an idea of what you're in for.
So yes, the Hibike! Euphonium series, as a whole, is over after this second season. The second season concludes the story, and might I say that the ending was actually EXTREMELY good and was about as conclusive as you could've asked it to be. Sure, some could argue that it would benefit from continuing, but I honestly think the story it told was perfect in timing and that the spot it ended was absolutely flawless in that it lets your imagination go to work and write the rest of the story for you, as well as not stretch it out for too long. But, with that said, it certainly IS an ending that will cause a void, so be somewhat prepared for that (though it's impossible to fully prepare for a void).
So, as an attempt to keep things a bit short, I'll cut my discussion of the story and characters right here, simply because there's a bit too much to talk about that'd ruin the full experience if you haven't already seen the series. So, to put it briefly:
Hibike! Euphonium season 2 takes literally every problem present within the first season and not only corrects it, but it also capitalizes on its strong points and creates even more to form a nearly flawless experience. Things happen that you not only didn't expect to, but that you were also BEGGING for to happen if you felt the same way about the first season as I did. Not only were the problems fixed, but it also went a way that I absolutely LOVED, and did things that I also absolutely LOVED and just LOVED to watch. To put it simply, I really LOVED this second season here, and I'm just really ecstatic that things happened the way that they did simply because that was exactly how I wanted them to happen.
After the mildly slow start that Hibike! Euphonium's 2nd season had, the rest was basically everything I wanted it to be, and for that reason exactly, I really do love it.
Briefly talking about the overall presentation of the series, since there really isn't a lot to discuss that isn't already obvious to everyone...
The art is fantastic, like everything KyoAni is. The bright colors, the unnecessarily detailed settings, the flawless character designs, the amazing animation. There's not a single flaw to the art or animation of Hibike! Euphonium season 2, and for that I don't think there's much to talk about regarding it.
For the sound, I do have just a bit to talk about.
First off is something interesting, something I've never actually had to talk about before: I actually did have a MILD problem with a small aspect of the Japanese dub. That thing primarily deals with Kumiko's voice.
Funny enough, I didn't think the voice for the main character, Kumiko Oumae, really fit her general personality very well at times. Of course, the voice acting wasn't bad by any means, as it seems every Japanese dub in anime has fantastic voice acting. I just really did feel a bit indifferent with the decision to work Tomoyo Kurosawa, who's generally done a lot of work with KyoAni and who I'd say her most famous voice would be Tina from Black Bullet (not KyoAni, just a moderately famous voice), into the series as the voice of Kumiko. The primary reason I say this is because Kumiko's general character design and personality don't really fit my ideal perception for a mildly loli yet still very monotonous voice. Yes, Kumiko is naturally a very stoic character, and for good reasons. So, a monotonous voice doesn't really sound like a terrible thing. BUT. I still think Kumiko's bright side shows off a lot in her character design, and occasionally in her personality, thus I always thought a higher voice would work better for her.
There have been a lot of times where I've felt stupid for thinking something like this, because there are TONS of instances within the Hibike! Euphonium series, both seasons included, where Kumiko goes through situations where her voice seems to be on-the-dot perfect for her character. These are typically very strenuous situations, where she's either exhausted and her voice shows that, or she's yelling at someone and the increased pitch of an already moderately low voice fits perfectly for her. And let me say, there are a fair number of moments where Kurosawa's voice is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Not necessarily for Kumiko 100% of the time, but my god, she really does outdo herself at times with these slight little glimpses of absolute perfection where you wanna just rewind and relisten to these little specks of voice-acting perfection. These are more significant in the second season as well, so at this point, I've been able to completely forgive and even partially ignore the problems I have with the overall choice of voice acting for Kumiko.
Otherwise, the sound of this second season is great. Every other voice actor/actress is perfect, and being mildly well-versed in classical and orchestra music due to one of my exes being heavily involved in it, I also really love the sound of the high school concert band during their live shows and when small glimpses of it are given to us within the soundtrack of the series itself during its regular/typical moments. No, this isn't any kind of super amazing high school band, because I don't really think that kind of thing exists... there certainly are flaws present. But I also believe that the flaws that are there play well into the composition of the series as well, given that it's meant to be the work of young high school students, thus mildly flawed music makes everything feel even more realistic.
The opening theme, while I'd say it's just a VERY small bit below the first season's in terms of quality, is still very good and fits the series extremely well. The ending theme is the same case, except I would put it just a bit above the first season's in terms of quality. Though, in general, I just really like when OPs/EDs are vocally composed by the primary voice actors/actresses of the series they're from.
My final verdict is a bit of a hard one to give, because I, simply, find it just a bit too hard to briefly sum up what I like so much about this second season of Hibike! Euphonium.
Overall, the primary thing here is improvement from the first season, however there is more to it than that simply because I just love how everything was executed in its own accord, not even considering the first season in my judgement. The story really kicked itself in the behind to create something great that was exactly what I'd been wanting from the series from the very beginning. I also loved the mild change of paces within the overall structure of character distribution, as there WAS a pretty significant need for change there... and the change we got was perfect.
Overall, Hibike! Euphonium season 2 was, to be completely honest, next to flawless. It was literally everything I could ever ask for in this kind of series, and what it did was something that I absolutely LOVED and was craving for in a kind of series like this one. It is one I recommend others to watch, and that's despite the mediocre first season. So, hopefully you understand how much I loved this second season as a whole, and are motivated yourself to go watch it regardless of your situation... whether you've already seen the first or not. And even if you've seen it and ultimately decided you didn't like the first season, just please, give the seasond season a chance to redeem itself. I can promise you that you won't regret it.
And with both the series and my review finally completed, you're free to stop here. I decided to include my critical scoring here in this review just because it really was an extremely close contender for anime of the year (assuming I don't end up watching another amazing gem from this season, which the odds of that happening are almost infinitely low), which isn't required information. So, if you're uninterested in that and decide to stop here, I thank you for reading your way through my review. And until next time, I bid you farewell.
Just in-case you don't know of my scoring method, here's a nice copypaste of exactly how it works:
Total for the above 4: equates to 90% of total rating
Enjoyment: equates to 10% of total rating
Each section will be broken down below.
*Note: If you're at ALL interested in better depth how this exact scoring method of mine works, follow my profile and view the "detailed rating method" spoilers (both 1 and 2). They explain everything in the fullest detail possible. You may benefit from checking them out, because I'm going extra hard on the depth of my scoring this time because I have quite a bit to say this time around.
Premise: 100% - Just because I loved the premise of this series from the very beginning.
Execution: 90% - Very mild problems in the beginning, almost completely disappeared within 3 episodes.
Convolution (lack of): 100% - There was none.
Pacing: 80% - Unfortunately just a bit too slow at times. Nothing worth complaining about in the long run.
Conclusion: 100% - Ultimately what relieved me most about this second season; the conclusion to this entire series as a whole was much needed and very well-done.
Story overall: 9.4/10
Introductions: 100% - Character introductions were so well-done even from the very beginning, no difference here.
Screen time: 100% - Something that was hard to decide initially, not in this situation. Thank you for taking time away from Reina and focusing it on characters that, ultimately, became more important (and better).
Personality: 100% - I ended up loving pretty much every character's personality by the very end.
Development: 90% - Ironically enough, I need to dock a few points here just because they decided to completely leave out two characters who the story implied were meant to be seen as important within the first season. Otherwise, development was incredible.
Backdrop: 90% - It was certainly there but there wasn't a ton of it, though that wasn't a huge problem in addition to the fact that what was there was near perfect.
Characters overall: 9.6/10
Character designs: 100% - Came off as slightly generic, but had enough flair of its own to be considered great + looked extremely good.
General art: 100% - Zero complaints whatsoever; everything looked great.
Animation: 100% - Not a ton there, but all perfect.
Visuals/sakuga: 100% - From my recollection, there was no visible CGI present and all of the detailed scenery looked fantastic, in addition to the live performances capturing every detail so perfectly, unlike any other.
Art overall: 10/10
Music: 100% - Can't find any direct complaints to give due to the fact that everything works so perfectly within the series' composition.
Sound effects: 100% - No complaints whatsoever.
Voice acting (sub): 100% - Issue with Kumiko's voice that was so small you could call it invisible. Otherwise, no complaints whatsoever.
Voice acting (dub): No dub exists as of writing this review.
Watched subbed prior to writing analysis, since no dub exists, so no dub score is included.
Sound overall: 10/10
Story: 90% - Can't say it's perfect by any means, but the amount of things done perfectly is just so high and definitely worthy of being called an amazing story.
Characters: 100% - Pretty much where everything in this second season succeeded almost perfectly. The flaws I give to the characters are so minor some may not even consider them flaws. Just breathtakingly perfect.
Presentation: 100% - No direct complaints whatsoever; everything looked and sounded great and fit everything present within the series perfectly.
Enjoyment overall: 9.67/10
Thinking about my high school years, I had difficulty getting in touch with others and accepting their differences. How can I say? I wasn't really unpleasant... but a bit stubborn. However, don't imagine that I was arguing. If only ... on the contrary, I didn't say anything, and I preferred to get away from them. I couldn't express myself correctly with the others and I didn't dare to reproach them for fear of hurting them. None of us tried to understand each other and we ended up moving away and taking different ways.
At university, I wanted my situation to change. That's why I decided to
cure myself of taciturn personality and I opened myself to others by communicating with them without hiding his true feelings.
The human being is able to express itself in order to transmit its emotions, its thoughts, its reflections and yet many conflicts arise because we decide to withdraw into ourselves and run away from the problems. In society, people generally try to maintain an ideal image of themselves and not to show their bad sides. But is this the right solution? Should we really wear a mask when we live in society at the risk of pretending that everything is for the best?
This is precisely what we see in Hibike! Euphonium.
To recap: Kumiko Oumae is a Kitauji high school student in the 1st year that integrates the fanfare club. The club plans to win a gold medal in the upcoming national competition.
However, at the club, the atmosphere deteriorates and the conflicts (of last year) get back on top of things. Kumiko will have to face all the resentments that have been fed for a year. That's why, Kumiko will try to learn more about others to understand how to resolve conflicts.
I'll insist on Kumiko who is the main character and narrator of the story. We discover the story from her point of view.
Why did she come to Kitauji? She wanted a change and wanted to start from scratch. She didn't want to especially integrate a music club but her friends Hazuki and Midori more or less forced her. (With kindness)
One of her main qualities is being honest, attentive to others and finding a change of attitude. Reina noticed it "You act normal but I feel you see through people. You act like you don't notice, but you do."
However, she's also withdrawn when she encounters problems and can't confide easily to others. She does her best to look self-confident.
Is that going to put her in a difficult position?
In the internal conflicts in the club, Kumiko will draw closer the involved students and will play the go-between to restore their relationships and bring harmony back to the club.
And it's on this point that Kumiko will be exceptional because the others confide in her when she isn't really concerned.
It's in the second part that things become complicated. Therefore Kumiko will question herself and understand if she doesn't open herself to others, she won't have the right to know more about others. In this season, Reina says to Kumiko "I'll catch you and peel your mask off".
The fact remains that this season is focused on Kumiko and her relationship with the other characters: Asuka her senpai playing the euphonium, her older sister Mamiko, her best friend Reina and her childhood friend Shuuichi.
The atmosphere is more dramatic and mature than season 1.
Other issues raised:
- the notion of transition from childhood to adulthood. The characters will wonder about their future: work hard for his/her university exams or risk pursuing his/her passion by continuing to play music?
- family relations will be accentuated. Whether it's Kumiko's relationship with her sister Mamiko or Asuka's relationship with her family.
- and finally the question of love: two romances were set up in season 1 very subtly, that will be continued in season 2.
This anime is also beautifully to my eyes with attention to the details of gestures and facial expressions, without using long dialogues or an omnipresent narration. Kumiko tells the main facts and her feelings but they don't represent the majority of an episode. It's a choice, not necessarily the best but in this series it's suitable.
The soundtrack uses various instruments including the euphonium. At first I didn't particularly like the sound of the euphonium but I started to take taste. I think about the magnificent performances of Asuka.
We also find "Crescent Moon Dance" with a unique and stunning staging. The seiyuus also made an excellent performance: especially Kurosawa Tomoyo, who plays the Kumiko's voice.
In the end this anime is excellent and brought me a lot in its realistic approach. Kumiko was a model and I learned a lot by looking at her. She did what I couldn't do in high school and set an example. I like her honesty. Reina recognizes this quality, I quote: "And when it matters most, you always have the right words."
I remember a quotation from a manga that I like very much. "If you want to get to know someone, find out what makes them angry." (Gon Freecss, Hunter X Hunter)
To answer the questions raised above, it's not a question of behaving badly in society and telling anyone some home truths with a lack of respect. But to be frank with oneself and others in order to get to know each other better. If we don't talk about our disagreements with our friends, we will never be able to progress in our relationship. It will only be a factitious friendship. We must content ourselves with a superficial relationship that will lead nowhere.
This is my opinion but I don't regret having changed and Kumiko either.
Spring 2015 was a heavy season. Out of all the shows though, there was one particular that stood out and it’s Hibike Euphonium (Sound Euphonium). Produced by one of the highest quality anime studios ever, the show is still much more than an eye candy fest. So when I heard the series was returning for a sequel, I was ecstatic. Hibike Euphonium 2 is like a gift that keeps on giving.
Adapted by Kyoto Animation, the second season hits off with a memorable start. The first episode is actually double length and will easily get the audience back into the mood from season 1. Or perhaps
a bit too much? If you’re a fan of Kumiko and Reina’s relationship then it will definitely bring you some popcorn entertainment. In the meantime, the series continuously adds more drama to the story. From the start, we have the conflict revolving about Nozomi, Asuka, and Natsuki. The ideal clashes erupts and it’s evident that it was a sneak peek for more emotional drama to happen. We also find out more about the new characters in this season such as Mizore (who had a very minor role before).
I have to admit, getting back into this show for me felt pretty natural. The series has a decent pacing in term of storytelling that feels familiar to the first season. However, one of the focuses in this season is the Nationals. Kumiko realizes the pressure of the competition while the rest of Kitauji High also recognize the mountain they must overcome. The storytelling maintains a balanced mood that bounces between dramatic and humorous while still expressing the personalities of the characters. In the meantime, emotions hits a high note when we learn more about the past of some of the characters.
It’s pretty evident that some of the episodes sparks emotional drama from the start. It just takes some buildup to lead to it. The series establishes a firm way of showing those emotions through segments and clever usage of dialogue and narratives. Whether you’re a fan of drama or not, the show know how to structure these emotions to appeal for an audience. In addition, the sequel also handles background storytelling quite well. Asuka, one of the most noticeable band members, reveals her past while we can also clearly see how Nozomi and Mizore’s relationship developed. Of course, the series also focuses on the present as Reina struggles about her personal feelings towards Taki. If you can recall, she has feelings towards Taki and this season made it even more evident with the way she reacted when another female teacher enters the story, who seems to have a past connection with him.
This season isn’t just about melancholic drama as the competition evolves. And as the competition evolves, so does the band. In one particular episode, Kitauji shows their talent and how much they’ve improved themselves with a powerful performance. It’s obvious that they aren’t pushovers and that the band members possesses some real talent. Unfortunately, you probably won’t be impressed by the competition as a whole the word “anticlimatic” can easily be summed up regarding the conclusion. I guess in a way, the show already demonstrated that Kitauji doesn’t necessarily need to win trophies and awards to establish themselves as a talented group of individuals.
Despite the pressure of the competition angles and emotional drama, the second season also offers a bunch of humor. We have an iconic beach theme episode and a festival one to celebrate Hibike Euphonium’s second coming. Furthermore, character expressions still remain pretty expressive in humorous ways. I mean, who can forget about Reina’s “dead fish” eyes? I can safely say that the sequel definitely got more than enough laughs out of me as the show’s comedy never feels forced. It is what it is and just feels so natural and down to earth. In addition, character chemistry is still pretty charming even as it highlights relationships we are all familiar with, such as the case with Reina and Kumiko. Speaking of relationships, we do see a different side of Asuka this season. While she always remained so strong in the group who showed little weakness, Asuka revealed a more vulnerable side of her. This is evident during the second half of the sequel and Kumiko confronts her about it. In perhaps one of the most memorable segments of the series, Kumiko is able to express her own honest feelings on why she wants Asuka to stay in the band. Family issues becomes evident as it even erupts on Kumiko’s side of the story between herself and her sister.
Once again, Kyoto Animation demonstrates their sheer talent into animating a show such as this. The quality production values remains high with great visuals crafted by the talented staff. Every episode showcases high quality in character designs, background setting, or expressions. The directing of the quality also involves character expressions that feels real during the more dramatic moments. Kumiko, Reina, and Mizore are noticeable examples. The only parts that I do find occasionally irritating are a few stiff camera angles although none of that are too distracting. Kyoto Animation still has the “it factor”.
As a main element of the show, music shines a lot when it comes to band performances. The second season showcases that as we see characters’ abilities at their best. I’m not a big expert on music but it’s pretty clear that the show explores the true potential of the cast. The way instruments are played show their precise movement with their hands and timing. In addition, the choreography and coordination of the band shows their unison as a whole collectively. The theme songs are naturally performed with its band theme and school setting.
After watching the sequel, I was pretty satisfied with what the second season has shown. While the storytelling about the competition itself was far from impressive, the series trumps that with its character drama and emotional angles. To me, this series was never much about winning trophies and prizes but rather at how it makes you feel about the characters. These include Asuka, Mizore, Reina, Nozomi, Yuuko, among others. Also, Kyoto Animation once again proves themselves as a powerhouse studio to adapting visual quality at its high level that few can surpass. And with that, the show may be over but will not be forgotten.
**SPOILER ALERT – THIS “REVIEW” WILL CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS**
**This “review” serves to cover both the first and second seasons of the series.**
**This “review,” as always, is permanently incomplete and from time to time I may edit and update my thoughts on it.**
**Once again, I have no real apparent structure to my “reviews,” as they are all primarily stream of consciousness writeups.**
I have always been slightly biased against Kyoto Animation, and aside from Clannad which I had actually enjoyed to some degree in prior years, none of the studio’s work had really stuck
out to me. While being fully aware that many others have held Kyoto Animation in high regard, I had been unable to see what was so special about it. Hibike! Euphonium serves to destroy my perspective of the studio by being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, leaving me open to going back and revisiting their works that I have discarded. My approval of this work may come off as strange considering how picky I am, as well as the fact that Euphonium is not generally placed upon such a pedestal. It does not contain a grand, sweeping narrative, nor does it come off as especially philosophical. On the surface, it may appear as another nameless seasonal and initial impressions may leave the viewer confuzzled as to how I can manage to place it within the same list as Texhnolyze or Legend of the Galactic Heroes. MAL users thought I had lost my sanity upon yielding such a high score to it. At its very core however, the series is a character journey, one of pure passion, more specifically one to both be true to self and understand the concept of both, “I like it,” as well as unmasked emotional expression.
From a more technical standpoint, the series is not anything to really brush off either. Generally, the aesthetic found in the majority of modern anime irks me. Euphonium however, pulls off a mixture of sickeningly cute and grounded realism which allows me to take it seriously when it tries to create drama as well as enjoy more light-hearted moments in which the characters perform their various antics and running gags. The animation though, is certainly something to take note of, Euphonium really serves to capitalize on the skill of Kyoto Animation’s animators. There is plenty of movement, usually multiple characters moving at once and not remaining completely still during conversations. More subtle gestures such a character’s sitting position, a hand tensing up and kicking off shoes to go into a more laid-back mode assist in providing essential characterization. The audience can get a better sense of each character by their body language, even aside from Kumiko’s reactions previously mentioned. Visually, it can be gorgeous with breathtaking cuts to scenery and in other cases clever, hiding visual metaphors that can be too easily dismissed. In the background of many scenes, the extras are not still, seen walking or moving, vehicles and animals moving serve to give an impression that the world is more “real,” a place where things are constantly happening in some form. During performances, there is a great attention to detail in what is being played, musical fingerings are mostly ENTIRELY correct, not done randomly. Corners are just not cut with this series.
Even more impressive however, is Euphonium’s attention to sound. The music varies from horrible to extraordinary, in some cases music is purposefully poor, to highlight how unskilled the band is at the start of the show. With this though, comes massive musical complexity, the feat of the band’s playing heightening as episodes pass; later, after Mizore’s oboe solo is described as emotionless and robotic, resolving her character arc, her solo becomes expressive and genuine. The band plays more in sync and it is apparent through the viewer listening. We are not directly told “why,” specifically Reina’s solo is more impressive than Kaori’s solo, but it is something that can be detected, by how notes are drawn out, or have sharper tone and etc. There are so many details that add to the complexity of the characters’ playing. When a character listens to a piece played behind a wall, be it another room or outdoors, the sound becomes more muffled, as to reflect that change. It changes depending on the setting, and the change is noticeable to fit to how the playing would actually sound under such specific circumstances. When there is an announcement made in an area with mountains, the sound reverberates to reflect the mountainous terrain. It also differs depending on the camera angle, music played can feel softer as the camera is farther away and intensifies as said camera zooms closer. The parts that the characters practice in myriad episodes is revealed only in small chunks, never all at once to make the full song, which will only be fully featured in their competition performances where it is played entirely. This creates catharsis during such a scene when everything is played and the sections each individual had been working on all come together. There is clearly so much care put towards the attention to sound throughout the series.
To add to this is Euphonium’s greatest strength, its expansive cast; for a series of this length I was honestly surprised by how many notable characters there are. They are not just cookie-cutter stereotypes; they have struggles, faults and personalities, and many actually show a deal of development. Mamiko has essential struggles which lead to Kumiko’s development and emphasizes the conflict of balancing other’s vision of satisfaction with one’s own. Hazuki and Sapphire may seem like more one-note comedic relief characters at first glance, but they really help give personality to the show’s lighter moments, and Hazuki especially shows instances of growth, not just her playing ability, but in how she takes rejection, from both Shuuichi (who performs a similar role to these two and further fleshes out Kumiko’s character) and the competition group, yet still sticks around and remains dedicated to her friends. Along the same note, I was moved by how Natsuki takes things in the show, one of the final episodes of the first season has her cheering up Kumiko, taking her cut respectably, not being a sore loser, but cool about it. She furthermore has her development in later instances during Asuka’s absence and in Mizore’s arc in attempting to have Nozomi rejoin the band. Only adding to this is her dynamics with Yuuko which give even more personality to the show, which just would not be the same without them. Speaking of Yuuko, Euphonium is the rare instance of a show that, created a character that I had initially despised, and turned my perception on its head, having her later be someone I hated no longer, a character with another side revealed. Yuuko is shown to be a very loyal friend, resolutely making an effort to cheer on Kaori and is a cornerstone in resolving Mizore’s arc. Mizore and Nozomi also fall into the same vein of characters that I did not particularly like initially, but who grew on me as they became increasingly fleshed out. Their existence helps as a callback to the band’s history, but more importantly, represents a contrast between investing and not investing effort; the seniors in prior years taking it easy compared to characters in the current year shattering their facades and Kitauji making it to nationals in the following year, actually “reaching for the moon.” Haruka and Kaori hold the club together as leaders along with Asuka; Haruka obtains courage to later transcend her cowardly exterior and rally the club in support of Asuka, and Kaori accepts loss and concedes her solo to Reina in spite of having to lose her final chance to ever play it. Asuka on the other hand, is the “final boss” of the series and is layered with barriers, just as Kumiko is, has her own reasons to play and act the way she does. Reina contrasts Kumiko, an interesting thing about her being how she can actually be extremely openly expressive; she screams on multiple occasions, yet remains quiet most of the time, two characteristics which uniquely contrast each other. She helps with Kumiko’s very development, pushing her to dedicate herself; in some sense, Kumiko even grows to be more like Reina. Taki is a key component to the band’s success, giving Kitauji the opportunity to make it to nationals in the first place. While he is often serious, he has character, dedication to fulfilling what his wife could not, and shows great care for his students. There are scenes in which Kumiko and Reina enter the office only to see Taki analyzing videos of rivals, or out cold from planning their curriculum. He even has his own friends in Hashimoto and Niiyama, which add their own perspectives to the band’s playing to enhance their performance. Both voice expression in playing, to not put up a façade and openly reveal how one feels, and often urge band members to play their parts in accordance to how they feel about said part. Even the multitude of other band members that lack major screen time, serve to help create a sense of unity within the cast. The members of Kitauji concert band are a team and they work towards nationals. Sense of achievement for the larger group would certainly not be the same if the band was composed of only a dozen members or so. My point is, the characters of Euphonium are honestly impressive, in that series does just so much with so many of them and they mostly all remain integral to any degree.
The development through the series is very gradual and characters are shown training every step of the way. When the cast plays in an ensemble, they play, but not whole-heartedly; many are still not completely devoted to music. Through rigorous practice, the characters become more attached to it and gradually become more serious towards achieving the goal making it to nationals. This in itself serves to give the show a strong “sense of achievement.” In a story, a character can come to achieve something, but achieving such only feels worthwhile if the audience is shown the build-up towards that point. Revealing the struggles of the cast in the process of achieving something acts as a way to ground their struggles and generate weight. They have impact because the development and investment can be felt, and this is certainly the case with Euphonium. There are many instances of the characters practicing, engaging in breathing exercises to expand lung capacity, humming to notes to hone tone, and undergoing more unique training, such as playing directly after running to work on stamina. The series even exhibits practicing precise marching in response to the Sunrise Festival, and as a result of such, the performance feels coordinated and worthwhile. Kitauji’s playing feels merit-able directly due to prior efforts.
However, most significant of all is our protagonist of course. The series boasts, surprisingly, one of the most respectable female protagonists I’ve seen in Kumiko. There is something that separates her from the seemingly endlessly multitude of mass-produced characters in recent years. She feels “actualized,” genuine and real. She has character, quirks and imperfections, and simultaneously develops majorly throughout the series. Her voice acting plays a major role in this. Admittedly, voice acting is not something that I especially emphasize or take not of unless it is atrocious, but Kumiko’s voice acting is integral to breathing life into her character. Lurking behind every corner of the show are countless instances of “reactions” that she performs which serve to give her personality. The difference between Kumiko and other female protagonists is that she actually feels like she could be a “real person.” This is strange because she feels this way despite the series including many instances of characters temporarily taking on a more chibi-esque visual style used in some of their reactions. Kumiko is a character which initially appears nonchalant and to some degree, even cynical. She is not overly optimistic, has worries and faults, overall raining on people’s parade with a more skeptical train of thought, even described to have a “terrible personality,” by Reina. Something interesting about Kumiko is how despite the cases in which she wears her emotions on her face, she tries to conceal them. There are many instances in which she blurts out what she is thinking, potentially offending others by accident. Kumiko’s “control” over her emotions is a major choke point of Euphonium as throughout the series, she begins to lower her guard on them, allowing them to fly more freely. Despite playing music throughout middle school, after losing out at making it to nationals, she seems more indifferent towards the activity. She puts on an air of not caring about what she does, not exactly in the sense that she does everything lazily, but in how she never wants to commit to anything and remains mostly unexpressive. The first scene contrasts the emotional expression of two of the main protagonists. Kumiko is able to be satisfied with being able to play in her middle school competition, they have received dud gold, but that is enough for her. She had never thought that they would make it any further to begin with, the result had merely met her expectations. The idea of working one’s hardest towards something, only to be wholly disappointed causes her to not express full genuine attachment to her music. Kumiko does not externally reveal her care for the competition, but with the success in episode 13, she comes to recognize this issue, how ideologically, she has kept herself on the periphery this entire time, and now would be a chance to “apply” herself. Reina, on the other hand, greatly contrasts Kumiko, breaking down in tears with words of, “I am frustrated.” Kumiko is dazed by Reina’s response, aforementioned cynical mindset shining through to comment on her naivety, which only serves to create further aggravation. It is clear that Kumiko has experience with band, given how her shelves are littered with CDs and guides on how to play better, and also by the fact that she can acknowledge how poor Kitauji’s High School concert band sounds, but Kumiko tries her best to attempt to break away from music; she tries to avoid joining the band, and even when she eventually does, tries to cut her ties to the euphonium by taking up another instrument. When Taki asks whether the band wants to play casually or pursue the national competition, Kumiko takes neither side, partially out of worry of Reina’s response, but also due to her uncertainty regarding music as a whole. She acts that she does not care, hiding how she feels to some degree, while internally, she still clearly does. A major part of the first season is dedicated, not only to the cast finding passion in playing, but Kumiko breaking the walls she has set up regarding this contradiction between how she expresses herself and how she sincerely feels.
As the series picks up, the practice further intensifies. An important instance of development is when Kumiko decides to become serious about practicing, she goes outside and practices long hours alone in the hot sun, to the point where she becomes dehydrated and gets a nosebleed. This demonstrates the sheer dedication that she has come to, initially seeming to not care about how well the band would perform, but now finally caring about putting in effort. Her façade is shattered as she now feels a more genuine attachment to music. This is a major turning point however as simultaneously, this is the moment where, for once, she is left out of playing the part she was working at. She has witnessed various peers criticized on their playing, but never before has she been directly singled-out in this way. This infuriates Kumiko and she finally recognizes how Reina felt when she asked whether she thought they would actually make it to nationals. In a brilliant running sequence, Kumiko resolves to wanting to improve, something that she had never before felt so adamantly. This is the moment where she opens a larger connection to music, that it is blatant that she cares about the activity. Kumiko grows from being a more dubious, unconcerned individual to someone more hopeful and honest. The performance in the final episode of the first season highlights just how far the band has come, the musical quality of their playing immensely improving as the commitment everyone shows in both foregoing and following episodes as they show up to practice earlier and earlier. As the results are announced and Kitauji passes on to the next competition, Kumiko finally solidifies her dedication regarding music; experiencing the joy of achievement, her façade finally begins tumbling down as she admits how she was scared to ever fully invest into something causing her to continue on haphazardly. She thought it would be, “stupid to get your hopes up and work hard towards something, only to be made a fool of and let down in the end.” With this though comes the recognition of exerting oneself in order to get anywhere at all. To progress, one has to wholeheartedly both “want” and “try” to progress.
Regarding Kumiko’s journey however, there are two specific moments in particular which both serve as the nail in the coffin, solidifying that at the end of the day, Kumiko DOES care. The first case follows an exchange with Mamiko, who has greatly developed within the prior few episodes. It is evident that Mamiko is gradually opening to being more honest with herself. In the sixth episode of the second season, she is seen wanting to drop out of college in favor of attending beauty school. She criticizes her parents for pushing her down a road that fits their view of happiness without taking her own view into account. Here, she admits that she never wanted to quit concert band, but being the eldest, she is pressured into setting an example and following instructions as to be “good daughter.” In another instance, Kumiko is out with a fever, and attacks Mamiko’s declaration concerning how she never wanted to quit. This broadens Mamiko’s perspective, to begin to acknowledge the road that Kumiko is taking, in sticking to her passion in spite of expectations, simply because she “likes” what she is doing. Kumiko acts as a foil to Mamiko to some degree in taking the opposite path, unwaveringly keeping up with concert band, in spite of her struggling grades, having no obvious ambition in life and not prioritizing attending college regardless of how strongly it is emphasized to high schoolers. Where Mamiko truly demonstrates her genuineness though, is in the tenth episode of the second season, where she openly confesses her faults. Her supposed jealousy of Kumiko’s situation implies that internally, she wants to tear down the screens she has put up, and she does this by revealing her flawed perception of what it means to be an adult. An adult, she thought, was supposed to simply, “suck everything up,” all the expectations placed upon her, put up walls and act mature, even if such behavior is unnatural. Mamiko’s statements here act as her reconciliation. Evident by her warmer attitude in conjunction with how she decides to watch Kumiko play at nationals, Mamiko is annoyed with her no longer. She resolves to leaving home, departing on her own journey and investing into what she sincerely wants.
Mamiko’s reconciliation is important as a catalyst for Kumiko’s own reconciliation. Kumiko, while obtaining a passion and becoming truer to self throughout the series, still holds up her own barriers. As Reina states, “you act like a normal high school girl, but you see beyond people,” Kumiko still has not completely dropped her façade. When Mamiko asks whether Kumiko would be sad with her departure, Kumiko replies with “not really.” This is contradicted in a following scene however, which demonstrates that Kumiko DOES care. On the train, she bursts into tears with, “I really am sad.” With this, Kumiko breaks down her barriers, she is experiencing her genuine emotions in the face of putting up an act to conceal them. This is a major turning point which causes Kumiko to more greatly act upon how she actually feels. The second case is her confrontation with Asuka. In this case, Kumiko is caught in her web, Asuka refuting her points about everyone wanting her to return to the band. Does Kumiko really know what “everyone” is thinking? How can she come to represent “everyone?” Asuka points out that Kumiko is also always hiding behind something. She acts like she wants to help, but never fully invests herself, “in fear of hurting both oneself and others.” As a mere bystander, she simply watches things play out, as with Mizore’s arc which Yuuko resolves, not Kumiko. Asuka walks off as if she has won this argument, but here though is the moment where Kumiko finally breaks down her barrier, entirely. Kumiko has certainly expressed emotion in many instances throughout prior episodes, but no other scene in the series has her moving and speaking quite as frantically. SHE genuinely wants Asuka to return, SHE wants to play with her in nationals and SHE wants to hear her play, all of that is true. Kumiko has changed from her initial state. Remember the unfeeling Kumiko in episode one, satisfied with dud gold, showing nonchalance at her middle school band not advancing in contrast to Reina clearly expressing her emotions, now Kumiko openly demonstrates her own feelings and ability to care. By the end of the series, Kumiko has progressed from nonchalant to wholly sincere. She likes playing the euphonium with her and the rest of the band. Kumiko is honest with herself.
Now then, we must move onto Asuka, another star of the second season. Like Kumiko, she wears a mask to conceal her actual thoughts and struggles. Asuka puts on a playful façade within the band, which causes the people around her to see her as “perfect,” and with the initial season especially, Asuka seems to hold the solution to many of the band’s problems; she pacifies the ensemble in cases of turmoil, does not take sides, generates a fun, light-hearted atmosphere within the band room, has excellent grades and is an excellent euphonist. A natural leader she seems to be, and these characteristics cause many of her peers to admire her. Yet, the Asuka that they admire is merely the show that she puts on and they are oblivious to her individual struggles beyond her façade of perfection. She is not perfect; perfection does not exist after all. While she gets along with her bandmates, Asuka, at this point, does not form particularly strong connections with them as they still see her only as her image. Her investment in the band, stems from her desire to play for her father at nationals, and in her conversation with Kumiko, she spells out how she is using the band merely as means to connect with him. This is the rare instance in which she unveils her actual self, but instead of being disgusted, Kumiko comes to embrace Asuka’s motivations, regardless of whether they are self-centered or not. SHE wants to hear Asuka play. Going back to their encounter in episode 10 of the second season, while it serves as an important instance in which Kumiko breaks down her own walls, it is simultaneously a major turning point which breaches Asuka’s as well. Her bandmates may say that they want Asuka back, but do they mean the “Asuka” they are familiar with, or the Asuka which Kumiko later comes to acknowledge. Kumiko, for once, approaches Asuka, not as a classmate or representative, but as a “person” who accepts her actual self. Asuka is stunned by this, as it is the first time someone has genuinely tried to reach her, revealed in her trembling legs and hidden face. Someone sincerely wants the “real” her back, the Asuka who has made herself vulnerable and exposed the fact that she is indeed not flawless. This is paramount to allowing Asuka to tear apart her mask and commit to her genuine thoughts, returning to the ensemble and playing at nationals.
As I mentioned previously though, Euphonium is not merely about discarding masks, but is also a character journey to discover how one “likes something.” If we jump back to the initial season, at one point, Hazuki reveals skepticism regarding her continuing band, and the gang goes around asking tuba players about the benefits of such an instrument in hope of finding a reason Hazuki can latch herself onto. At first glance, the tuba does not seem to have that many advantages. It is heavy to carry and a lot of the parts that it gets are rather slow, long and boring. This, coupled with the fact that Hazuki is a complete beginner, serves to question whether she actually enjoys playing. A later response from Gotou acts as an answer as to why he can continue to play the tuba in spite of its apparent cons. The tuba helps carry the piece and at the end of the day, he simply, “likes it.” Hazuki discerns that she “likes” playing in an ensemble. She had never done so prior, so in playing a song as simple as, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with Midori and Kumiko, she realizes that she helps in supporting the piece and enjoys playing music. Despite being a newbie, unskilled enough to make the cut for the national competition, she tries hard to support the band because she likes being in it. This is it, the first instance of “I like it.” The concept of simply liking something serves to outweigh whatever drawbacks an activity brings, and this is heavily emphasized throughout the show.
There are many other instances where the concept of “liking” something comes into play. An exchange occurs in season one between Kumiko and Taki in which she returns to school late at night to retrieve her cellphone. It concludes with Taki telling Kumiko that he remembers that she made a promise to perfect the part she was struggling with and this causes her to bleed with determination from thereon out. Beyond that though, the final lines of this exchange have Kumiko ask the question of, “to like something, that’s all you need right?” This serves as a branching off point in Kumiko continues to question the nature of liking something. Liking something is displayed in other instances as well like in the first episode of the second season, Kumiko joins Reina in watching fireworks, and the question comes again as she asks Reina, “do you like the trumpet,” and additionally in another instance when Nozomi states that she “loves the flute.” However, the most important scene in expressing the concept of “I like it,” is when Mamiko grills Kumiko on why she continues band instead of studying to get into university. Kumiko only replies with, “I like the euphonium.” This is important because it begins the build-up to Mamiko’s development as well, beginning to ponder whether she actually “likes” her own current position. She is stunned when Kumiko gives her answer, only able to reply with “good for you,” because she has no other answer. It is clear that she is beat and had not thought of in this manner before. Kumiko’s proclamation overrides any sort of philosophical discourse or counterargument proposed. It should sound so simple, but it seems that people seek more complicated answer to justify why they do things. It need not be. The concept of “I like [insert]” is so honest and something that cannot just be taken away or disclaimed. You can argue all you want concerning how something can be a “waste of time,” we are all going to die anyway and all of our efforts will fade to dust. This does not at all take anything away from me liking it. Euphonium serves to justify “action” in its entirety, its message is surely not limited to music alone. It can be applied to hobbies or seemingly extraneous activities of any sort. Why should anybody do anything to begin with? The series provides the simple, yet easily forgettable answer of, “because I like it.” This greatly plays into the reason I hold the title so high up there as well. Beyond its technical feats, character development and message, “I like the show.” There is nothing else I really need with this.
The show’s ending has the cast only winning bronze at nationals, but this only serves to reinforce what the characters have gained. Winning gold at nationals would not have added anything to the show, the characters play, yes, for the overarching goal of making it there, but in the end, it is not the type of metal that matters. They have had the experience of working hard collectively to achieve something, to burn themselves out practicing day in, day out, form friendships and support one another, simultaneously peeling each other apart layer by layer. Kitauji may not have won gold in a literal sense, but they are gold in their hearts, many have found the passion to play and their relationship with music has further developed. Hashimoto believes that music should not be judged with just gold, silver and bronze, and Taki recognizes that music should not be something done just to show off to others. Kumiko recognizes an equilibrium regarding playing. The activity can lose its enjoyability if done purely to compete technically, but at the same time, it feels wrong to play too casually without trying hard at all. Everyone has differing perspectives on music and everyone has a variety of reasons to play. Reina plays to become special, Mizore plays to be connected to Nozomi, Asuka plays for her father and as a way to rebel against her mother, Taki conducts for his wife, Kumiko plays because she likes the euphonium. The series does so much that it is almost sad how it gets discarded in more critical circles. As a whole, it was an extremely refreshing experience which provides me with hope for anime in years to come. Being frank, I am generally not fond of modern anime, or most anime at all for that matter, but Euphonium reminds me that I can somehow, just pick up a show, one that is not even THAT especially well-regarded, and still come about to finding something special to appreciate about it. It helps me “care” about this medium. It could be said that, at the end of the day, the act of watching anime in itself is pointless, but in some cases, “I like it,” and that in itself makes it worthwhile enough. This is why Hibike! Euphonium has somehow solidified a special place in my favorite anime of all time. :)