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
Final score: 9.73
Final score for Hibike! Euphonium Season 2: 9.73/10
Rounded for online databases: 10/10
And for the rest of you that stuck around until the very end, you also have my thanks. And to you as well, until next time, I bid you farewell.