|Great visuals, excellent music, main character developed well, likable cast||Some characters dipped in presence as the show went on, maybe some ship teasing without conclusion|
There are some shows that truly catch you offguard and become truly special experiences. Hibike! or Sound! Euphonium ended up being one of those for me. This was a show I was simply looking forward to because I played the Euphonium and an anime about a band seemed like a nice idea. There was plenty of concerns from some just based on KyoAni working on it and the premise that this would be a kind of K-ON with band instruments, but it really wasn’t anything like it. This was a show that was instead a pretty nice look at a school concert band, just one with a lot of drama and character development being part of it. This show decided to not sideline the musical side of it, but keep the focus on the band and all the drama involved.
The premise of the show is pretty straight forward. Kumiko is a girl who was part of her middle school concert band and they fell short of advancing to more serious competitions. She wasn’t as hurt because she never believed they had a chance at the nationals, while an acquaintance Reina was purely devastated by it. For various reasons Kumiko decided to avoid going to a school with a strong musical program and instead went to a different school without an intention of continuing playing music at all. Events eventually would lead her to joining the Kitauji High School Concert Band. The story just takes off from there with Kumiko getting friends in this new school and reconnecting with Reina and others. A lot of focus when it comes to the story is the characters and their pasts. The issues that plagued the current Kitauji Band and how it ties into a major incident in their past.
It is somewhat tricky to cover the story without going into spoilers, but it is safe to say that the band soon starts working towards that Nationals goal that Kumiko fell short of before. The characters are central to what is going on. We see Kumiko grow throughout the show, we see her relationships with others change and develop and it’s not limited to her. The show has a large cast with this being a concert band. Not every character gets focus, but it does take the time to spread that attention across various characters. The story develops pretty smoothly and at its own pace. It builds up slowly with various hints of what happened in the past to the various characters being revealed. It also is pretty straight forward in a lot of ways. We see the band working to improve their skills, we see the drama that comes from a group that hasn’t been trying very hard suddenly is demanded to up their game, and we see how relationships between characters are not the easiest things to manage.
If this series does anything well it is that it makes you care about what is going on and makes the cast feel like people. When characters reached a rough patch I could believe it because the show took the time to make the conflicts make sense. There is a lot of emotional drama to be had in this series, but nothing that was completely ridiculous. Hibike! Euphonium, manages to move the story forward with small, but crucial events that change the status quo. I didn’t find an episode that I thought was terrible or a plot that made no sense. Whether good or bad, the actions of the casts was at least understandable to me.
The key to the show is again the characters. A positive thing is that a lot of the cast felt fairly fleshed out. Kumiko was the core and the main character in all this. Rarely did the episodes completely focus on her and her issues, but rather her being involved with others. Though she does get an episode that heavily focuses on her own troubles later in the series. The interesting thing is that Kumiko feels like a very varied character. She has a bad habit of having her internal commentary on something slip out before she has a chance to stop herself. She can be a bit negative or cold, but she also has a real passion that can sometimes sneak out. Kumiko can worry about the past a bit too much sometimes and she learns that things that were big issues for her may not have been the same for a person that was interacting with her. Throughout the show she changes and finds more of her drive and desire to get better. Her friendship with Reina is a great part of the show since it starts from a point where they can barely be called acquaintances. Goes from that pretty vague and disconnected relationship to people who truly can be seen as very close. The nature of their relationship can sometimes be a bit vague, but they are close. Kumiko just felt like a very interesting person to me. Freaking out when it comes to dealing with things she’d rather avoid, just throwing out blunt statements, and even being entranced by the passions of others. She’s a really good main character who was a good person to focus the series around.
Of course the show wasn’t just carried by Kumiko. Reina was a really interesting character and stood out quite a bit from my point of view. She started out very distant and not that huge of a presence, which felt weird considering her presence in the ED. But the key there was that this was tied to her distant relationship to Kumiko. As Kumiko and Reina get closer, her presence in the show rapidly picks up. You get to see a person who doesn’t get close to people easily and has a real desire to shine and be a star, a perfect trumpet player I’d say XD. She has some truly outstanding moments both as a performer and a character. The show really does love Reina and lets her shine and stand out numerous times. An attractive character who really grows on you as the show goes on and by the end was one of my favorite parts of this show.
There is a huge cast so talking about everyone who was important could take a while. But it is safe to say the cast is really big and pretty well covered for 13 episodes. The other two girls of the ED Hazuki and Midori are good friends for Kumiko throughout the show. Though I would argue that their presence is at its peak before Kumiko and Reina start becoming closer friends. Before that point they kind of fill the void and push the story forward. They are a key part of why Kumiko joins the band and why her character slowly gets closer to Reina. I think Hazuki gets some of the nicest moments in the early part of the show. A rookie who hasn’t played an instrument before, she is the window to people unfamiliar with instruments (especially ones that aren’t guitars). She has good emotional moments where she grows as a character. Her triumphs and failures are interesting to watch. Midori is a bundle of energy herself who is as passionate about music and her instrument as anyone. She pushes a lot of things forward by being inquisitive and asking the right questions to make events happen.
There is a good dynamic with the older students. Kaori is a trumpet 3rd-year who is dedicated to her music and has drama concerning her ability to stay ahead of new people like Reina. Natsuki is a 2nd year who starts off very lazy and uninterested in playing, but turns into a very reliable person. Natsuki was one of my favorites in the cast because she grows so much and is a great ally for Kumiko who also plays the euphonium. The third years Asuka and Haruka are the vice-president and president respectfully of the band. Haruka is a very quiet person who you normally wouldn’t expect to lead a group and she does have major drama along the way in trying to deal with those struggles. Asuka for me was a bit of an enigma, to the end I found it hard to fully wrap my head around her character. Not because I think she was badly written, but instead because they did a good job making her feel like a complex individual. Some people you just can’t read easily. Even the two tuba players in the brass section get some attention paid to them and their current relationship.
One other character who was rather impactful was Taki, the new adviser for the band and conductor. He completely changes the band from a bunch that was unmotivated into something very different, but it’s not a smooth ride. His character is actually pretty harsh sometimes, but he backs it up with facts and promises the band itself made. He has a few moments of weakness where you can see that this is a person and not infallible, but he’s a powerful presence in the show. He is the spark that changes the band. It’s not Kumiko or Reina, but rather this new figure in power that sparks the change and everyone has to adapt to that.
An interesting character for me was Kumiko’s childhood friend Shuuichi. At times he was a pretty important part of Kumiko’s world as one link to her past and an old friend. But sometimes he felt a bit less developed than some of the characters who should have been less important. He does have some good moments and does drive a few moments of drama, but for some reason he never really grew on me that much. Still, he is a hard working guy and someone who stands out in those brief moments.
Visually the show really is quite strong. There are specific episodes where the atmosphere itself is just really amazing because the visuals got so much effort and attention. It feels like they took a lot of time and effort to make this show look good. The characters are really nicely animated which is a huge plus to me. The background and environments look good. KyoAni being on top of their game in taking environments from reality and bringing the real world into anime. When the need is there they really know when to up their game and make the characters look extremely good. They don’t get lazy the rest of the time, but you can definitely notice when they decided to up the budget for certain scenes and I think those moments are some of the best because of that.
It may be a minor thing to some, but I appreciate how good the instruments look. They aren’t these vague looking things, but time has been taken to make them look as they should. In some occasions they have to take instruments apart to clean them and that is pretty accurately depicted. You can see the sheen and brightness of the different kinds of instruments. This ties into the performances which look as they should. Instead of mindlessly having the vales move, they have them move properly in timing to the song.
The audio is key for a show like this. The music is a huge aspect and they nail it. The concert scenes sound really good and I enjoyed every performance we got. They do a great job making the performances vary depending on the skill level of the cast. When they aren’t very good, the show doesn’t have them sound very good. But when the cast is on the ball….they sound as good as they should. The music is a great part of the show and it just sounds nice hearing concert band music in anime like that. The OST is a huge draw for this series because they put a lot of effort into the obvious performances.
That doesn’t mean the rest of the show falls short musically. The background music is actually quite good in my view. When the drama is building up and the music is needed they bring some really nice tracks into it. I never felt like a scene needed better music, but rather they had the right songs. They don’t overload you or anything, but the music is very solid and appreciated. The OP/ED were both really good. They may not have been my favorites of the season, but the OP especially was one of the better ones in my mind. Visually they brought nice animation, but the song as well was really good. It has the right amount of pure energy that I think an OP should have. A major focus was on the characters performing and that was a good choice. There is just no way not to feel pumped after starting off the episode with that song.
The voice acting was good and I had no complaints. Kumiko had a good voice and you could pick up the emotions in her tone. Her surprise, disappointment, embarrassment, and drive all came through. She lead the show with a good voice. The rest of the cast felt pretty well selected. Maybe for me Midori’s voice could be a bit too cute, but I could see it fitting with her overall character. As a whole they did a good job casting a pretty large group of characters from the students to the teachers. Hard to complain about the job they did on that front.
Hibike! Euphonium is a show that really surprised me. I expected a decent show about girls in a school band and that was it. But instead we got a very well adapted light novel that found a great place to end. The conclusion was as good as I could have asked for. It fit thematically and was just a very emotional last episode in terms of pulling me in and being intense. This show really was an impressive display of slice-of-life, throwing in some band drama and good character development. Kumiko grew a ton during this show and became someone who felt more open about her feelings than being outright different. This show really is worth watching and giving a shot. The characters are likable, the music is really good, and it just tells a nice story. The only real downside is what some might feel as there being ship-teasing, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing so long as it works in the story and I think it does here. This is easily one of my favorites of the Spring Season and it will be missed. A show I gladly give an A rating to.
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