|Great visuals, excellent music, nice support characters, well developed main character||Some characters disappeared, not a lot of Reina|
I was truly hoping that the second season for Hibike! Euphonium would be able to equal the enjoyment of the first season and possibly surpass it. I’m glad to say that at least for me it actually managed to accomplish that. This was a really good second season that built upon what the first season did and manages to conclude on a strong note. While this might be the end for Euphonium, I can’t say that this disappointed me. While it wasn’t a show I picked up for this season, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic time watching it. This show is a great emotional ride and the second season was even better than the first in my view.
Honestly I just want to jump right into this thing. The story for season 2 just picks up nicely from where the first left off and continues forward. Both seasons are pretty busy on the story side of things. There is a lot going on in this season. Season 2’s focus shifts from the history of the band’s previous year to more individual stories. Now some of these stories do impact the band as a whole, but it feels a lot more personal this time around. It might be because Kumiko gets a lot more involved in what is going on and a lot of things really hit her directly. And maybe that is just because this is the second part of the story.
The second season really touches on a lot of the ideas introduced in the first season. Now they did explore those ideas to a degree, but the second season makes sure to fully explore them. They hinted at the situation within Kumiko’s family before and this season fully realizes it. We understand much better what is going on with individual members of the band that were still a mystery. And even characters I didn’t care for in the first season were further fleshed out and I was left honestly liking them as individuals. To a fairly realistic degree a lot of the issues that were still hanging after season 1 were resolved in season 2. The two seasons work really well together to introduce and resolve a lot of stories and issues.
I did honestly like how the show wrapped up overall. The first season had a pretty short epilogue and was more about punching forward with the story until the very last moment. And that made sense for the first part of the story. The second season allows for basically the entire last episode to be epilogue. They don’t rush it and instead allow the last episode to serve as a way to let go. It works for the characters and the viewers both. It has been such a ride and the last episode just spends time focusing on how far everyone has come and how much is still ahead of them.
The last episode worked nicely to get back to the idea that this is the story of Kumiko. There are times spent seeing what other characters are going to do and how they are moving ahead. But in a sense the most important scenes are about Kumiko. I’ll get to her journey in the character portion, but she truly feels developed when compared to where she was in the first episode.
The flow of season 2 as a whole was really nice. It focused on some individual stories that slowly showed Kumiko’s growth. The stakes picked up as the band moved ahead and the drama escalated on a personal level for the characters. And yet I never felt the story went too far or broke away from the nice balance it had found. This series has some really heavy emotions and drama at times, but it always feels weighted. I always just felt like the situations made sense for this group and they weren’t being unrealistic in how they felt.
A big focus for season 2 is on properly completing the character arc for Oumae Kumiko. Kumiko in the first season spent a lot of time simply settling in. When the series started she didn’t even plan on joining the band and the first season was a whirlwind event. She had to establish friendships and work like mad in order to be capable of performing in competitions. Kumiko did develop important connections to people like Reina and Natsuki, but there was a lot going on just on a technical level. She wasn’t just taking in an emotional journey, but simply being focused on her own ability to play the Euphonium.
Season 2 is a lot more of a character focused journey. The story leaves Kumiko’s ability to play alone aside from moments of her being distracted by personal issues. At this point they’ve established her current ability. The focus shifts mostly to resolving her relationships to others. Kumiko’s family was a big point in the first season, but they really explore things with her parents and sister more. Questions I had in season 1 finally feel fully answered. But it isn’t just about her home life. Of course Kumiko still has development with Reina, but it doesn’t feel as overpowering as the first season. They do still have good moments together and have strong episodes that focus on issues for them. However season 2 mostly settles thing in more. We see them get along and get how much they care about each other.
The biggest relationship in season 2 is Kumiko and Asuka. The first season didn’t delve too much into that, but it set things up nicely. This season starts out tiptoeing into that before really kicking us into the water. By the end of the series I really liked the connection between these characters. It was probably my favorite relationship of the story, though I still put Kumiko and Reina’s relationship close to it. The issues with Asuka just touch nicely with what Kumiko already has gone through and allow her growth to explode. Kumiko has to fully tap into what she’s been through and who she is by the end of the show thanks to and because of Asuka. That part of the story is worth seeing and allows the conclusion to hit home nicely.
It is hard to talk about S2 without talking about Tanaka Asuka. The ban vice-president and fellow euphonium player is a key part of this second season. In a sense all or most of the plot threads in S2 either involve Asuka in some way or have a similarity to another issue that is happening in the story. Asuka was always a character I really struggled to understand in the first season and part of season 2. She was always just someone who seemed to never give much away when it came to her true thoughts. I never knew if she really cared about anyone around her or why she was in a band in the first place. I could understand how Kumiko was often frustrated with Asuka through the show.
Still, season 2 does a lot of good with her character. Her actions make a lot of sense when looking back after this season had finished. I want to go back and watch the whole thing just so I can fully appreciate where Asuka is coming from. Some of the most powerful scenes in the show either involve her or involve other character interacting with her. She is a spark for much in season 2. At the end of this show I can now honestly say I do like her character. She isn’t a person who easily opens up. However, the symbolic gestures she makes do have powerful effects and it means something to those who do understand her.
Kousaka Reina is admittedly less critical in season 2, but she is still an effective presence. There are episodes that focus particularly on her and what she is going through. Her feelings towards their instructor Taki Noboru are still there and the story further explores them. As a whole I still like her character. Reina doesn’t have as many “wow the animators love this girl” moments, but she has enough of a presence in the story. Reina still serves as the best friend Kumiko has in the show and there remains plenty of ambiguity between them. I just like seeing how far their bond has come from the distant position they were starting with. Season 1 just had a lot more drama directly around Reina, while this season allows her to slip in as needed.
Two characters dominate a fair amount of drama in the second season. Yoroizuka Mizore and Kasaki Nozomi really do create some interesting drama in the early going. Mizore didn’t stand out that much to me in the first season. I kind of like the resolution not being entirely perfect. I don’t think Mizore’s inherent problems were fully resolved, but at this point they probably don’t have to be. These characters are still in high school and just a positive step forward is sometimes as important as fully resolving everything. Nozomi is a much newer face being part of the group that left the school band during the previous incident. This girl is like a trigger for what happens next. I think her arc teaches that sometimes our actions have consequences that we never intend. It is possible to try and do the proper thing, but fail to see unintended results.
The important thing with these two is the lessons their little arc gives. Kumiko especially gets to learn something from both what she does do in this situation and what she fails to do. Kumiko often gets herself into strange situations simply by being at the right place and having the right personality. These two teach her a lesson about communication and makes her think about what she and others are really playing for.
I will give fair mention to Yoshikawa Yuuko who I basically remembered as “that ribbon girl” in season 1 XD. If any character showed how additional information can make all the difference in the world for likability…it is this girl. It isn’t like Yuuko changes a lot in season 2 in comparison to the first season. Seeing her in different situations and how she acts makes a lot of difference. The character development she did get in season 1 along with a different viewpoint makes her a much more likable person. When you only see the bad side of someone it can mask the good. Sometimes all you need is more looks at them.
There were a lot of characters that had either important moments or reactions to events. It would be a crazy event to try and name them all, so I won’t do that XD. Taki’s character is less developed than it is explained and that ties pretty well with Reina’s arc in this season. Kumiko’s sister Mamiko continues her character arc as well and that ties extremely tightly to what is going on around Kumiko. Mamiko just comes into the story when Kumiko is actually home and has an interesting adventure. We both learn why she did some things we learned about in season 1 and how hard it is to change a path once you are on it.
If you watched any part of season 1 then you know this show is gorgeous. KyoAni knows what they are doing with certain shows and this is one of those. The instruments especially look really good and it is the little details that shine through. The performances work so well because you get the feeling of these characters performing. It isn’t just standing around, but they have to actively be breathing and timing everything just right. It looks like they are breathing and blowing into mouthpieces and it feels like they are actually pressing keys at the right time and not just randomly going at it.
It isn’t just the instruments and of course the main cast looks great. The show doesn’t abuse close-ups for no reason, but when you get up close to a character they really do look great. The design work for the characters and environments is really well done. Everything looks as it should and I never could bring myself to complain about the visuals here. It is a good looking show in all the right ways.
This isn’t a section that always needs mentioning, but for a musical series like this it is. As always the music in this show is so darn good. There isn’t as many times when you hear the cast playing poorly since they have grown and developed. But any time the characters are distracted or depressed then you can hear it in the performance. There are just points in the show (especially in competitions) where the show simply lets the characters perform. The music quality to my ears is really nice. It makes me want to go and grab an instrument to play something. The regular background music is good and fits the mood. The music in this season does a great job standing out and staying in the background when the time is right.
Of course this season also has great opening and ending music. This is one time when I quite like just letting an episode play because I don’t want to miss out on what I’m hearing. No complaints either about the voice actors. They all do a great job. I will give Kumiko’s VA credit for really doing a nice job when she has some more emotional scenes.
I just really enjoyed the second season for Hibike Euphonium. This season did a great job allowing the show to end on a strong note. As far as I know this season basically does cover the entirety of the story for the source material novels. So that is very likely to be the last we see from this show aside from BD specific episodes and such. And I’m pretty ok with that. It would be nice to see the story go year by year for Kumiko and her friends challenging musical competitions. In fact if they wanted to just create their own story for that purpose I’d be in support. But, that isn’t too likely I think. In the end we can just be grateful that they made this show and did so with care for quality.
There just isn’t a lot that I have to complain about in this season. Some characters are less important here than in season 1, but that’s not a big deal. While this series is focused on the Kitauji High School Concert Band, the main character is Kumiko. This season does a great job developing her character and letting her flourish. There is some more ship teasing, but it is really light this time around and you can support whatever ‘side you want.
For me this season did a great job continuing what worked in season 1. It is a good looking show with likable characters, great music, and it ends well. How a show ends can sometimes make all the difference and I’m more than happy with how they chose to end things. I can’t give Hibike! Euphonium S2 anything less than an A+.
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