Jun 30, 2015
This is it, their grand return. While the past number of shows they’ve animated may not have quite hit the mark in terms of greatness, KyoAni has captured the magic of what made me fall in love with the studio in the first place with their newest work, Sound! Euphonium. What many brushed off as just a K-On! 2.0, Sound! Euphonium is one of the best anime that I have seen in a long time.

Sound! Euphonium follows the Kitauji High School Concert Band, a group that sounds fairly mediocre, and follows their journey as they grow both as musicians and as people in their efforts to truly accomplish what they before just claimed as a pipe dream: make the nationals of the Kansai Band Competition. The story itself is fairly simplistic, but the real meat of it is focusing in on the journey that is walked to achieve their goals. The band must constantly overcome the internal conflicts that it faces as a result of being a collection of individuals, but watching them overcome these conflicts and grow as individuals as well as a group is what I believe to be a rewarding experience.

But of course, none of that matters if we don’t care about the individuals that make up the group in the first place. However, that’s one of what I believe to be the two things that really shine in this show that pushes it to be amazing. These characters feel real. They’re not one-dimensional drawings that the creators expect us to care about just because they’re there. They feel alive. Each character has depth to them in a way that makes it so that I can’t really describe them in just a few words. In particular, I think that Kumiko is probably one of the best main characters that KyoAni has put out there, putting her up there or above the heights of some of their best like Oreki or Kyon. She feels like a person that I could relate with, rather than some exaggerated caricature. She’s a little distant, but still a little lively. She’s a little self-conscious, but still a little confident. She’s not skewed so far in any one direction that makes her seem like, well, an anime character. The supporting cast all bring some depth to the table as well, with some standouts being Reina, Natsuki, Asuka, Taki-sensei, Haruka, and Kaori. And they’re not just there; they grow as well. From being distant to becoming a little more open, from being apathetic to lighting their passion, they all change, some a little, others more noticeably, and this really makes Sound! Euphonium stand out from the rest.

The other part of what I believe makes Sound! Euphonium stand out is the attention to detail. That goes for in the artwork, the sound, the direction, and all the little parts of the show, coming together to make this a beautiful work of art. KyoAni is known for having great animation, but this is probably the best they’ve put out. Every motion feels fluid and draws me in; the scenery and lighting are beautifully drawn and lit up or dimmed; and the background music or the lack thereof only serves that enhance the atmosphere. And then the camera work. The camera work really stands out in a way that enhances every scene, from focusing onto a specific point, or lightly moving around a whole scene. Two scenes in particular, in Episode 8 and Episode 12, just really stand above the rest in how these aspects are used and come together, and to me are some of the most outstanding scenes I’ve seen throughout the entirety of anime. All these little things come together to paint a work of art that really shines, and it is a beauty to behold.

And not just in those areas either; as a musician myself, I really appreciated the attention focused into the musical side of things. When the band first played, you didn’t have to just rely on the words of the characters to know they were bad. If you listened, you could tell they were bad. All the instruments were made with a polish and shine that made them look like real instruments, and when they were being played, they even used correct fingerings. As this is something that is usually overlooked in the majority of anime, the amount of detail that KyoAni put into the musical aspect is amazing. They also captured the essence of a high school band beautifully. While there of course were some differences as it was a club rather than a class, the amount of work that was put in, the internal drama that the band members faced, the conflicting attitudes of how hard the students want to work, and then the tension that precedes a performance and the excitement or disappointment that comes afterwards was captured in a way that really exemplified the high school band experience.

There are few loose ends that aren’t really tied up, mostly in the romantic department, just due to the nature of it being an adaption of a different work, but I don’t believe that to be any fault of the show itself, and they are easily overlooked when compared to everything else that is done great.

Many people believe KyoAni has fallen from grace, and whether or not that is true can be debated, but shows like Sound! Euphonium prove that KyoAni is still capable of creating works of art, and illustrate why some people have come to see this studio as one of the most capable out there. I only look forward to see what the studio has in store after bringing us a masterpiece like Sound! Euphonium.

Tl;dr: Great characters and attention to detail come together to provide a masterful work of art.
Reviewer’s Rating: 10
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