Kyoto Animation has relationship with the viewer that I find to often be a complicated waltz between fame and infamy. Being so renowned, the line between these two traits is very thin, and often it is easier for the studio to be criticized rather than applauded; it is a much more popular option to join in on a cynical crowd mentality rather than to accept an achievement for what it is--and I believe Hibike! Euphonium is one of Kyoto Animation's achievements, a wonderful comeback from material that pushes the studio over to the infamous side of the line.
Because of the cynicism that often surrounds the products of KyoAni season to season, I went into the first few episodes of the show skeptical, critical, and determined not to enjoy myself. Episode one, then on to the next, soon episode five, then episode ten, and soon I realized that my determination had failed me.
Hibike! Euphonium is beautiful, and while my more pessimistic side imagined this to only be true on a surface level, the depths of the series' beauty went much deeper, with a great amount of pride present and accounted for in terms of character, story and further appeal.
The plot, at it's base, is very simple, and not at all an original tale, but the way it is told finds a certain realism that always pleases me when I see it.
Hibike! Euphonium encompasses the story of struggle, and of goals to set and achieved through willpower and belief in oneself, but it also happens to contain the drama that I find much more native to the high school atmosphere that is introduced within this and so many other school stories.
The fact of the matter is that high school girls are, in reality, emotional, catty, dramatic, and hold grudges over petty things. The fact of the matter is that school clubs do not always get along like family, the fact is that some members are more prominent than others and rarely rely on tropes to set them apart from the crowd.
Hibike! Euphonium understands this, and shows this, displaying a sort of quiet drama blown to the proportions that find their homes in both real life and in fiction, and it is perfect. The show knows when to take the situation seriously, and when to have side characters show off what makes them cute. The two aspects are never confused, which is supremely satisfying.
Of course, the show does experience some blips, in that I felt the romantic side-plot jams itself into places it may not necessarily fit. There are awkward attempts to build relationships between the main character, Kumiko, and her potential love interest, as well as awkward attempts regarding that same love interest and Kumiko's friend. These bits of the show were lopsided, but hardly something to do anything with other than ignore.
If anything, I believe some of the awkwardness comes from side characters such as the love interest, Shuuichi, and others like Midori (Kumiko's friend) taking away from the round dynamics of Kumiko and her primary relationship with Kousaka Reina. Kumiko and Kousaka have such a strong, utterly, utterly strong dynamic that it's very hard to match with anything else. As a positive, I applaud the relationship built between the two, and I feel it almost unmissable if one hopes to see anime in it's highest moments of beauty, but as a negative, it gives the rest of the show competition to rise to such a level.
On the topic, I appreciate such competition.
My original thought when I began Hibike! Euphonium was that KyoAni would try to squeak by on art alone, leaving the other aspects of the show--story, sound, pride in the overall work--out to dry. I appreciate that this was not the case, and that KyoAni made in effort to turn the piece into the beautiful final product of art and story combined that I now rate so highly.
For those of you with a similar mindset such as my own, for those of you skeptical that Hibike! Euphonium hides behind pretty colors and fanciful design, I implore you to give the show a try. I implore you to be patient with Kumiko as a disinterested, pessimistic protagonist, as one who isn't striving to be spunky or original.
Hibike! Euphonium may not be original. It may be the recycled plot of many past anime in the music genre, but as a new addition to that genre, it is definitely not a show to pass up.