I’ll do my best to review this show as fairly as possible. This is Hibike! Euphonium, aka the anime that influenced animeniacs to tell secret band camp stories.
Genres: Comedy, Drama
Themes: Brass Band, Yuri (Maybe), Trumpeters, Band Club
Number of Episodes: 13 + 1 OVA
Plot Summary: Kumiko Oumae is looking for a new beginning at Kitauji High School, distant from most of her middle school peers. She befriends Hazuki Katou and Saphire “Midori” Kawashima and joins the Music Club with them, a past-time from her junior high days. There she continues to play euphonium and encounters Reina Kousaka, a figure from her past she didn’t expect to meet again. As the club works tirelessly to achieve it’s goals, the two girls awkwardly dance around each other, each wanting to know the other more.
Before covering the show’s main event let’s go over the basics. The anime at its core is about a club that actually wants to go pro after some needed motivation. This part alone is what piqued my interest as most non-sports anime about clubs have the cast doing leisure activities pertaining to the their club…or sometimes not at all (K-ON!). It was interesting to see a show about a band club wanting to go pro. There may have been others in the past but I haven’t seen them. Aside from the vintage Kyoto Animation quality humor that is present in most of their shows one of Euphonium’s other highlights is the believability of the show’s presentation. There is little to no sugarcoating in the show’s more serious/dramatic segments. Viewers see how difficult it can be for not only a band club to compete in tournaments but acknowledge that this can also be applied to ANY high school club/group who want to master their craft in a competitive environment. It showed that unless students are naturally gifted or skilled at multi-tasking they either have to give 120% to the band or if they have other goals stop trying altogether. This is not an “A for effort” world. You want to go pro, you better give it your all. That is one of the show’s main messages. No anime superpowers to help students here. They either have it or they do not. Simple as that. The segments that covered the seriousness of going pro were excellent. this also includes the characters’ own personal struggles…or at least the ones we got to see fully fleshed out. Many of them felt relatable, again complimenting the show’s believability despite some having said the character archetypes drew away from the realistic feel. Thing is that it does not matter which region of the world the animated feature comes from, there will always be cast members with archetypes, even in live-action media.
As I mentioned in the above paragraph the show’s humor is vintage KyoAni. It is either hit or miss depending on viewers’ tastes. As far as I’m concerned it hit its mark and rarely felt forced. Good stuff all around but of course not everyone will agree. Such is life.
The animation quality is what one would expect from a KyoAni show being done using this particular style. It is immediately identifiable and most of the time when viewers notice this style they can expect high quality. Euphonium is no different. As for the OST it is another one that blends into the background but has those insert songs and band performances based on real ones and originals for the show make the soundtrack stand out. Oh and the OP and ED are pretty good.
Almost there doods and peeps. The show’s cast is a mixed bag, more good than bad I’d say. Of course this is one of those shows with a very large cast that sadly does not get to flesh out all of its on-screen characters, thus some feel like throwaways yet are part of the band so might as well draw them in the background and occasionally have them say something. The main four ladies in the cover image all do a great job excelling at what they do. However, besides the main four there is one absolute breakout star from beginning to end for me.
The Great One, Asuka Tanaka. No matter what her mood, be it lighthearted or serious, every single time the great one was on screen my heart skipped a beat. A phenomenal performance by one Minako Kotobuki. Every single one of her actions had purpose behind them even when some felt she was being harsh. The great one worked in mysterious ways and was herself a mystery, a fascinating mystery I did not mind being solved at all.
As for the guys, one was awesome, the teacher used a tough love style approach that while it can have mixed results, when used properly it can work wonders. Whether his approach worked or not I will have viewers find out for themselves.
As for the lamest character, let’s just say this guy felt so “let’s include him because he’s in the source novel too!” that it was clear the writers had a hard time giving the bum a reason to exist. Fine by me as I did not care about Shuiichi at all. Even when he was finally given a struggle it was perfectly covered by Kumiko furthering his pointlessness to the series other than being a teased FRI (Forced romantic interest). There was another “because it’s in the novel” segment but thankfully it too was a tease to toy with the audience for the sake of getting online buzz. It is a dirty trick used by every director but it worked.
Alright. The nation has been waiting long enough for me to cover the show’s main attraction as far as they are concerned, the dynamics of the main protagonists Kumiko Oumae and Reina Kousaka. I thought long and hard about how I would approach this part of the review. Should I cover their relationship in a short paragraph or was a “Part 2” necessary? In the end I went with the short approach. There was no doubt about it. KumiRei/ReiMiko was the top yuri pairing of the Spring 2015 season no contest. There were other wonderful pairings but this was the one that got the most buzz, partly because it was from KyoAni, them being labeled anime gods amongst diehard fans being surpassed by a select few, and also because of how natural their relationship felt. It went so far as some viewers judging the show’s merits solely on this pair’s status by the finale. While I do like to admit this because the pair overshadowed other Spring yuri pairings that deserved more attention…the KumiRei hype was well deserved. There’s just something about how KyoAni presents its yuri characters. Thing is that while their approaches are nothing unique it is how they present their pairings that drive fans insane with OTP lust.
Past KyoAni yuri pairings, the top three ones pictured here have all been well executed despite none of them going beyond soft yuri. Despite my having mentioned KyoAni being infamous for screwing yuri fans the truth is that albeit one “middle finger” moment (coughTM/TLScoughMidoricough) the rest were done as longtime yuri viewers expect from a “business as usual” approach. I mentioned the “business as usual” route before but I will leave that to people who follow me on Twitter to get what it means. Perhaps I will address that in a Yuri Talk segment sometime in the future.
Anyway KumiRei/ReiMiko. DrAnimeniac commented on how their relationship’s appeal is how natural it felt. Their coming together did not feel forced at all. It was suffice to say a very well built up pairing. It might as well be romantic. It is that powerful of a duo dynamic. Heck, KyoAni even threw some curve balls to tease fans throughout but continued the course. Let me put it this way, if all goes well in the nation’s favor this could be one of the best. Whether that belief sticks remains to be seen as it is highly unlikely this is the last season. Basically for viewers who have yet to pick this show up the KumiRei/ReiMiko hype while feeling overshadowing is well deserved.
Overall Hibike! Euphonium is a surprise hit to yours truly. The band club and personal segments were well done, the show was vintage KyoAni goodness, the pacing was good, the hiccups were annoying but no gamebrakers (just be aware they are there) and of course the main attraction’s hype is worth it. Now I strongly believe the series’ momentum will heavily depend on how it will continue. KyoAni could have another pretty good series on their hands or they could pull the ultimate screwjob. Only time will tell…
PS: At least the nation was not screwed like in Pleiades.