Jun 30, 2015
I’d like to think of music as a form of art. It’s a vocal expression by taking the form of instrumental emotion. And by talent, we see the beauty of it. What does that mean for a show like Hibike Euphonium? A lot. To me, this series is a musical adventure. If you’re interested in a series about following dreams, building strong friendships, and exploring youth with an unforgettable experience, then you’re in the right place.

What is Hibike! Euphonium? (Sound! Euphonium) It’s an anime adaptation of a Japanese novel written by Ayano Takeda. Taking place in Kyoto, the series has its focus on a group known as the Kitauji High School Music Club. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara with storyboard written by Jukki Hanada, this series is an explosive youth of the coming ages.

The series is pretty straightforward to be quite honest. It brings a rather strange nostalgia-like feeling when just thinking about the premise. Remember those halcyon days when you first sung a song or played an instrument? That’s what kind of feels like when watching this series. To start off, we have a young girl named Kumiko Oumae coming from Kita Middle School. Now fresh with a new start at her high school, what better way than to make a first impression? Well, the catch is that Kumiko is reluctant in joining the school’s brass band club. Despite having some talent in playing the euphonium, the series makes it clear that she had some sort of negative experience in the past with another member of the club. That would be Reina Kosaka. However, fate has it that she join the club anyway and the instrument she ends up with is none other than the euphonium.

With its direction of the first few episodes, one must be wondering what sort of relationship Kumiko used to have with Kousaka. Before that though, we also meet her other friends including her classmates Kazuki and Sapphire. A series like this will leave a first impression that music is not just the main focus. No, it’s about also establishing a forte and build relationships to survive their spots. This is because the club’s advisor, Taki-sensei has a goal in mind. He wants the club to go on and compete in the Nationals. Small group and big dreams. The series brings up a lot of questions for the first half. Many of them aims at the main characters’ potentials and what their dreams are. Not to mention, we also don’t know much about most of their past. This is why it take some patience to get through the show. Admittingly, there are some pacing issues and parts that are omitted from the novel. However, the series does its job to capture the vocal expression of the characters. Some of them are confident to make the game while others have doubts. For Kumiko, I’d say that she’s somewhere in between. In regards with the other characters, it’s quite diverse. Characters like Hazuki and Asuka are surely confident in themselves while Sapphire has a more timid nature. Then, there’s Reina, a character I’d describe as a lone wolf, the ice queen, and in general someone that is not easy to make friends with. She’s not unfriendly though but just someone who is very dedicated in pursuing her goals. Her past shows that she has some emotional problems with Kumiko and thus is a reason why the two have somewhat of a mixed relationship in the present storyline. Or is it?

A good part of this series also makes time to craft their moments together. Every episode shows a bit of their chemistry whether it’s direct or indirect. Some of the moments may be short but are meaningful, especially for Kumiko. One of the later episodes really take this forward to another level in both friendship and perhaps a bit even subtle yuri by their body language. And that’s another thing I find interesting about the series. Music on the surface is an expression but the characters themselves too show genuine human emotions with body language. Every concrete detail has some sort of meaning to reflect the actions of our characters. Even when it’s hard to notice, it depicts part of their personality. This is important as relationships in the series are forged by their experiences. Each episode shows us more about the main characters. Each episode wants us to learn even more. Each episode gets to show us why they are there. And by the end of the day, it can win the audience with all these ideas mixed in its story.

Of course, competition is also there. Rivalries are established especially for something as big as the Nationals. If you’ve ever been involved in some sort of contest, your goal is to win right? Unfortunately, the series puts less emphasis on actual rivalries but more on the characters’ development themselves. I wouldn’t say this is a drawback though especially since it gives on insight on characters’ behaviors. Characters who quit or doubt themselves brings a saddening emotion into the show. Likewise, there are also others who truly wishes to inspire and bring a light of hope. Regardless, Hibike Euphonium also likes to play a lot with its character cast and their roles. A main course of this series involves their development with one another as well as their individual progress. Even romance is part of the series although much of it is subtle and thus not a central element. To enjoy a series like this, it’s important to realize why the characters are there and what they do in the story. It can even be supplemented by the charming comedy especially with the clever usage of its dialogues. Indeed, this series can feel snarky at times but accomplishes with humor in a sort of cheeky delight.

How do I describe the feeling of the artwork? Imagine a color blind person seeing color for the very first time. That’s pretty much a gist of it. Kyoto Animation not only takes the character designs to a whole new level but also with its stellar visual quality. Beauty is expressed by the colorful backgrounds and rich resources. There’s also a great amount of focus on character expressions. Like I mentioned before, this series expresses music with ensemble through human emotions. In essence, the artwork adapts that to precision and understands how to portray them each episode. This is also enhanced by the noticeable body gestures where characters can at times express their actions without dialogues. There’s probably a lot more words to describe the overall tone of the artwork but this series knows what the audience wants and lives up to the hype of what the studio stands for.

When it comes to soundtrack and music, the series is well aware of what it needs to do. Music after all, is a centerpiece of this series. Without it, it would be like a grey little world without color. But with its colorful music, the series enlighten itself to its highest degree thanks to its instrumental music. There’s all types of sound you’ll hear from this show ranging from those played from the tuba, contrabass, trumpet, and of course euphonium. Now, I’m not a big expert on music but the show achieves its purpose to deliver what the audience needs to hear. The OP and ED theme songs are also decorative with an uninformative style on par with its musical merit. In addition, the show does a decent job to weed out the strongest and weakest links through music talents. Finally, voice mannerisms are tolerable especially for our main cast. Each of them shows a different personality that is quite diverse and matching thanks to their voice. From Sapphire’s timid voice tone to Reina’s cool yet confident style, it’s something that’s hard to miss.

Hibike Euphonium takes the idea of music and brings in a story with charm, emotion, inspiration, and youthful appeal. In a musical genre where there’s emotions, you’d have to believe what the characters are doing. Thanks to its execution, the show accomplishes that in a variety of ways. From the experiences and relationships that our characters forges, its shows that Hibike Euphonium is more than just about producing music. This series is a lot easier to understand though once you appreciate what it’s trying to do. It’s a combination of feeling easy, familiar, and also a bit of fun. And it also shows that talents aren’t born but earned. After all, there’s no such thing as free lunch.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8
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