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.
I'm not a fan of movies that reprise a television series, usually since it's a low-budget way to grab more sales, and I hate playing "Where's Waldo, I mean, the New Content?". Not even if it's polished to a mirror finish by one of my favorite animation studios, upscaled to 8K and 60 frames per second. If I want to be wowed by visuals, I'll watch a Hayao Miyazaki movie. Usually I don't care all that much about artwork-- just don't cut so many corners as to be noticeable, give me a soundtrack that doesn't sound like sandpaper on a microphone (or a cat on
a synthesizer), and give me a story with characters I can care about. You can polish the artwork to an amazing degree, and I probably won't appreciate it because my eyes are overloaded. Sorry, them's the breaks.
I'm a musician. Well, mostly retired at this point, I haven't touched an instrument in years now. But I can totally appreciate a marching band/wind ensemble anime even though the only wind instrument I've ever played is a recorder. At the beginning, the band is struggling, to put it charitably, and the teacher says to them as politely as possible, "You guys suck." Intriguing, so this is about the band working hard towards victory at a competition? Uh... no, not really. So it's about the girls featured in the opening animation-- no, not really. So what is it about? I could never pick it up, and I watched both seasons.
The greatest issue I had with the series (and thus, the movie as well) is that the writing never gave me a believable reason to care. So you were basically tricked into playing the euphonium? If that's the kind of shenanigans this band pulls on me I would've been out of there after having shoved the instrument up the senpai's bum (well, okay, if I were Kumiko, I would've just left). The senpai is charismatic? Uh, the vibe I got was "manipulative". The teacher is a genius? Fine, let him go teach band at a more prestigious school if he's got the time and apathy to belittle a group of kids. Same with the trumpet player. I have little patience with this idea that the best way to improve an ensemble is to beat them down into the dirt (the army boot camp tradition of marching band) as opposed to lifting them up and teaching them how to climb. These are kids, not soldiers. I'm sure the plot revealed some details why these characters are the way they are, and as I recall, my reaction was, "So? Cry me a river, sunshine." To be fair, I've seen (and played under) people like these as a musician, and unlike this series, not once have any such musician motivated anyone to be better (it was orchestra-- different tradition, and obviously the boot camp method is the worst way to go about it). Perhaps I'm a tad biased there.
Kumiko has to be one of the least interesting main characters in a KyoAni production, and I thought Tamako was bad. Putting the heroine into spectator mode like this is neither original nor fun to watch. The one time her character is at all interesting is at the climax of the film, and that barely moved me. You'd think she would step up when the going started to get really tough, but... really? Was there an actual point to having Hazuki, Sapphire, Shuuichi, etc. around? Evidently the film editors agreed with me, since they're practically nonexistent. I really don't think there was much chemistry among the characters aside from the main duo of Kumiko and Reina, and even then I don't really remember how good or bad it was, which means it never really clicked with me. They've had two seasons and a movie to convince me, and they failed.
I think part of the problem was that the pace of the story felt slow. Now, slice-of-life shows naturally have slow pacing, since most of Japan isn't a war zone or a long-running sketch comedy. But even the movie with its abridged plot... it just dragged. I think this is because there weren't very many emotional highs in the show, or true low points. Everything just felt... flat. This is like the old Piano anime but with more instruments. That was an extremely realistic anime, and it was also excruciatingly dull.
To me, a more interesting anime with a wind ensemble theme is HaruChika, and that's because there are solid comedic elements and a "mystery du jour" with some real drama. The animation isn't as polished, the character designs are a touch "odd", there isn't as much full ensemble music performance, but I thought that was a stronger production overall, even with just one cour. Then there's Your Lie in April, which, though more melodramatic, at least had a drama I could follow and care about because it was happening to the main character. The current-running Mori no Piano, again, is less realistic but at least involves the central characters in its drama. Finally, there's Nodame Cantabile, which, again, is more leaning towards the ridiculous, but at least you can laugh, there is more music to enjoy, they did realistic musician animation way before KyoAni did with Euphonium (and it's probably the only show that actually researched how violinists play-- most studios never bother, and the resulting postures scream "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING but I sound great because of the violinist the studio hired but for some reason didn't record onto video for the animators"), and the plot and characters are far more complex.
Briefly, yes, this show isn't K-On. K-On had character chemistry, it was hilarious, it balanced the laughs with some good original drama, and most importantly, it didn't rehash the television series in its motion picture. The only strength Euphonium might possibly have is story, and saying "I have a better story than a weekly comic strip!" is like saying "I'm stronger than a kitten!" It's really not a valid comparison, and the original story in K-On's motion picture, in my view, outclasses Euphonium. About the only thing they have in common is that they're not really about the music at all, and the K-On series had other strengths that complemented the epic performances. Euphonium, I'm sorry to say, does not.
Anime is, first and foremost, entertainment, and Euphonium was a very expensive production that failed to entertain me.