Tl;dr - blah blah blah, I just kept waiting for something interesting to happen. Then it was over. That's what she said, I know.
Seems like there have been a lot of shows about high school musicians recently. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was pretty great; it's part of the reason for this sudden explosion of a genre that was pretty limited before. Hibike Euphonium takes a little bit different approach and focuses on a high school band and their preparations for a competition.
It has great production values and looks gorgeous... my only criticism on this part is that sometimes the music is too good. The real life band that plays the music either sounds like a full-blown professional band or a professional band that is purposefully playing badly, depending on what's appropriate for the scene. To continue the comparison, Shigatsu wa showcased some really impressively diverse piano and violin playing that sounded believable (to me at least), whereas Hibike Euphonium is pushing my suspension of disbelief a bit. It's not a huge issue, but hey I get to hold you prisoner to my words here. In any case the art is gorgeous.
Unfortunately the plot doesn't keep up with the technical production quality of the show. All the characters and events are just so wishy-washy and dull. Really they're mostly acting pretty much like real life high school students, which is the problem. Like most real people, the plot always seems hesitant to commit to any particular direction and instead mostly comes across as a mush of undeveloped plotlines. So yeah, basically nothing happens.
It's not bad by any means, but there isn't really anything worth watching. Nothing happens, nothing happens, The End. Maybe if you were in high school band you might get a nostalgia trip out of it, but the music isn't interesting enough for a music lover (which I am) and the plot is pretty dull. Slice of life is fine and all, but show me a slice of the life of someone interesting. As it stands, Hibike Euphonium gives me the same sort of feeling as Farming Simulator 2015, so I don't really feel like recommending it.
I added Euph to my queue because it looked interesting and like it might be a slice-of-life or CGDCT, both genres I enjoy. By the end of the first episode, it was clear that it neither and it was so much more - and I was hooked.
(Warning, light spoilers ahead.)
Sound! Euphonhium opens on Kumiko's first day at Kitauji High School, a school she's chosen because she likes the uniforms and few of her middle school friends are going there. Kumiko wants a fresh start, and most importantly doesn't want to be dragged back into being in the band club. But by the end of the first day, she has two new best friends - and they've dragged her off to the Concert Band Club.
She's a serious musician even if she wants to avoid the band and isn't happy when she discovers that the club is a disorganized mess, more of a social club and hangout than anything else. But a new adviser has been assigned to the club, and when he asks the club if they want to play for fun or to be serious and go for the Nationals, the club surprisingly votes (narrowly) to go for the Nationals...
Though the quest to come together as a band and improve their skills, individually and as a group, provides the background that drives the action, there's much more to the story. Finding and making friends. Dealing with people who don't want to be friends or whose goals aren't the same as yours. Handling criticism, both well intended and brutal. The first tentative steps into love and romance. Making choices and dealing with the consequences. Choosing one's own path rather than being pushed around by happenstance and circumstance...
There's a lot packed into these thirteen episodes and you really have to watch carefully or you'll miss half the show. It's not fast paced like an action anime, but is very subtle in many places. Much is revealed through the cinematography and animation, shown rather than told. There's deliberate call backs to earlier scenes sprinkled throughout the show, and the growth and change in the characters can be seen by differences in the way they carry themselves, or how they smile (or don't).
And it's the characters that are the real joy of the show - there's no walking tropes, no one trick ponies. They're not all complex, but virtually all of the main and supporting characters have their strengths and weaknesses and shades of gray. Euph is as much driven by their natural interaction as any demands of the plot. In the end, I was rooting for them because they seemed so much like real people, people I've to know and care about, than just pixels going through the motions on my screen.
It's pulled down a bit from what I made it sound like above mostly because there are some bits that aren't followed up on, and sometimes the quest for the Nationals yanks the focus away from the more interesting characters and their actions and interactions. It's really a minor flaw in the grand scheme, but it's there and it stands out starkly in comparison.
Though is suffers slightly from moeblob and it bobbles a little when the band marches, overall the animation is simply stunning. The lush backgrounds (almost PA Works like in scope and quality), the loving attention given to the instruments being played, the details in many scenes... All of these contribute, but they pale beside the attention paid to the posture, expression, and gestures of the characters. Some of the best I've ever seen.
The VA's do an outstanding job of conveying their characters and wide range of emotions and intentions. It's the musical performance that pulls the score down a bit... when they're supposed to be playing badly (a new musician, or someone distracted from their playing) it just sounds... off. As another reviewer said, more like good musicians making deliberate mistakes than anything else. To be fair however, Euph comes right on the heels of the outstanding musical performances of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) so it's a bit hard to evaluate it on it's own.
The real joy and heart of the show. Pulled down a from a perfect 10 because even though they're well written, there are a few 'stock' characters in important roles. I think they could have done a little better to flesh them out.
Yes, I am a fanboy, and I'm trying not to allow that to alter my perceptions (too much). It's not a classic for the ages, however Euph is a dang good show for those willing to put the effort into it. If you do (to paraphrase Alton Brown), your effort will be rewarded with a show you'll remember for a long time.
I found out about this anime after looking at the upcoming Spring 2015 lineup. I'm not sure what compelled me to watch this but I sure did. It was probably because it looked pretty nice and the story got me.
There's like a whole bunch going on here with the plot. Kumiko Oumae has just entered high school and reluctantly joins the school's Concert Band. She has been playing euphonium for the past 7 years of her life. This included time at her middle school's band but didn't really take it seriously as others especially this one girl, Kousaka Reina, who is actually in the same school and joins the band as her. In a larger view there is a lot of internal turmoil within the band from the previous year. They all try to fix all of this and make their choice to make nationals come true.
It was a lot more serious than I thought it would be. I was joking that this whole plot is basically that "Band Geeks" episode of Spongebob. It at times got pretty heavy. Also didn't expect that there would end up being some light yuri all up in this. That got pretty hot and heavy too. They also hinted a straight romance but it really didn't manifest into anything. The reason why it's an 8 for me is that the ending was pretty bland. Nothing special really happened instead of basic ending. Not much of a climactic ending but it just finished. There wasn't really much punch to it.
It's weird to think that an anime about music would have one of the best animation I've ever seen from a weekly anime. I mean that attention to detail all around was just amazing. Everything was given such time and effort from small things like the instruments and water to larger scenery shots and pans. The scene that solidified me thinking this is one of the most beautifully animated shows was this one scene towards the end which had Kumiko running. It was so dynamic and so fluid. I'm wondering how big was the budget on this show. It's sad that I can only give it a 10 because it's worth way more than that.
Although the animation was pretty much my most favorite part of this show, the sounds didn't lack behind as well. First, the instruments sounded pretty clean. The music was also pretty nice to listen to. It's something really different to me. I first started with K-On! and then Your Lie in April. It's nice to get a wide variety. One of the things I loved the most was Taki's voice. It was like Morgan Freeman. However, his dialogue was mostly insults. So imagine getting your feelings torn to shreds with the soft beautiful voice of Morgan Freeman.
It's easily the second best thing about this anime. Although there was a whole lot of characters, the show did a good job in only establishing a few characters worth your acknowledgement. What I loved was the chemistry the main rotation had. They all played off each other pretty well. I also loved, as I previously mentioned, how passive aggressive Taki was. He said, "Please don't waste my time," with pretty much the sweetest smile and softest voice possible. However, they did focus primarily on Kumiko's development. They just revealed others' background a bit which I cannot count as development.
It surprised me with how good it is. I seriously didn't expect it to be that beautiful which really took me by surprise. If you're into some drama here you go. It's also got you covered for some light yet heavy (sorry if it doesn't make sense) yuri.
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*The first thing that immediately caught my attention was the animation in Hibike. I love this kind of sharp and precise animation. Especially the instruments were beautifully animated. And that’s no wonder if you know that the big music company Yamaha supported this anime and made sure that the animation off the instruments was perfect.
*Because Hibike centers around music I of course have to give my opinion about the music. And with me you can’t go wrong with classical music, even though concert band music isn’t my favorite amongst the classical music genres.
But the music was really good in this anime and the nicest surprise for me came at the very end. The makers off this anime did the effort to compose a concert band version of the opening song Dream Sollister. To me that’s clear proof of how devoted the crew was on this anime.
*A last positive point that blew me off my chair were the lesbian undertones in this anime. The possible lesbian relationship between Kumiko and Kousaka was the most interesting thing in this anime. And especially the way that it was portrayed here.
We all know how lesbian relationships usually get portrayed in anime. But Hibike was different, this wasn’t what it usually is, it was portrayed like it has to be portrayed.
*It is than also a real shame that they didn’t went further with this, I would have loved to see how their relationship would have developed because it was something different but unfortunately the anime doesn’t do that. It stays at undertones, we never get to see the relationship moving forward.
*The story of Hibike was midly interesting, the concert band trying to get into the nationals is kind of a predictable story. I thought that the anime would concentrate on the messed up relationship between Kumiko and Kousaka but that story gets “resolved” in the first few episodes so that was a missed chance there.
Also the ending of the anime was very predictable, a little bit more creativity wouldn’t have harmed there.
*A last negative point is that the 2 friends of Kumiko: Hazuki and Midori didn’t add a lot to the story even though they are two main characters. They could have been a lot more involved into the main story line.
At a certain point there seems to be a side story resolving around Hazuki being created but also that gets pushed to the side fast. And Midori, I don’t see where she comes into play in this anime. Without her we would have had the same storyline.
So as a conclusion, Hibike missed a lot of chances to become interesting: the messed up relationship between Kumiko and Kousaka, the actual relationship between them, the Hazuki side story, the sidestory resolving around Aoi which I didn’t even mention yet. All missed chances in my eyes and like that the anime ended up being quite stereotypical for this kind of anime. So I’m going to rate Hibike! Euphonium at 3 stars, luckily there was always the nice animation to keep my interest in this anime.
There is a sense of wonder and grandeur that hit upon witnessing the first episode of Hibike Euphonium. Perhaps it was due to the outstanding score or the sheer glow the characters had. Perhaps it was how its main character, Kumiko, was immediately presented. It’s hard to quantify such a feeling, but it’s an undoubtedly great feeling as you discover that you’re going to fall in love with a show that is confident in its own greatness.
Perhaps the most immediate aspect to hit me was the soundtrack composed by Akito Matsuda. Several of the show’s background pieces convey a sense of tenderness and swelling emotion that few OSTs can truly match. “Hajimari No Senritsu” stands out as the first piece to provide that intimate and wondrous feeling the soundtrack wishes to convey, and others such as “Shintenchi”, “Iroasenu Kako”, “Ichiho Zutsu Mae”, and especially “Unmei no Nagare” also excel in this regard. It’s impossible for me to do this monumental OST justice, as it’s become one of my favorites in the medium to date and there are several stunning tracks yet to be mentioned such as “Tsutaetai Omoi”, “Ishiki no Houga”, and “Ao Haru no Kunou”. This also fails to include the pieces played by the Kitauji High School band over the course of the show such as the jazzy “Starting the Project (Big Band ver.)” and the centerpiece of the second half: “Mikazuki no Mai (Reina Trumpet Solo ver.)”. On top of that, the show does a wonderful job at cueing the audience into the differences in quality of a character or band’s performance over time and when something sounds perfectly cohesive or disorganized. The epic, expressive, and swelling vocals and instrumentals on the OP, “DREAM SOLISTER” by TRUE is another great song that keeps up with the OST. The ED, “Tutti!” by Kitauji Quartet is also amazing with wonderfully cheerful vocals from the seiyuu of the main 4 characters, and how everything swells up in the climax of the song. It might even be preferable to the OP, which just further highlights how outstanding the show’s music is.
Another fascinating aspect of the show is its unique sense of lighting. Kyoto Animation is generally known for its outstanding attention to detail in its animation and artwork, and this show is no exception. There are several wonderful facial expressions and pieces of highly detailed animation to be found. However, outside of a few slideshow dips, this isn’t what caught my eye the most about the show’s wonderful visuals. The character designs by Shoko Ikeda are beautiful adaptations of the original designs by Nikki Asada, as there’s a sense of shininess to them that takes full advantage of the show’s lighting. Unlike shows such as Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei and The Asterisk War which just have gaudy, oversaturated lighting for no reason, this show has a natural sense of lighting complemented by its beautiful art direction. Water and sweat glisten more vividly than any other show I’ve seen, and whenever characters or their instruments are surrounded by street lights or any other light source, there’s an organic glow that radiates from them. Instruments shine intricately during major performances for similar reasons, and these scenes are all sights to behold. The direction by Tatsuya Ishihara only enhances this, as it rivals his work on The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. The presentation feels so intimate and tender, which brings the most out of the show’s mesmerizing music, lively lighting, and wonderful writing. Everything feels so organic and lovely that it’s astounding.
This organic nature is also what makes the writing so much better than it could have been. Melodrama has become a dirty word in the anime community, describing an overdramatization of conflict which several fans deride. This is most common in high school dramas, which this show happens to be. There are certainly melodramatic characters in the show which drive a lot of the conflict in the latter half of the season such as Yuuko and Reina. However, the show highlights them in contrast to a lot of the more grounded characters such as Kumiko and Asuka. Kumiko is a wonderful main lead, as she feels particularly natural. Her penchant for thinking out loud and accidentally letting things slip is such a rare trait in anime that the show explores, and the character herself is very expressive yet down to earth. Perhaps more so than anyone else, she feels like a genuine, complicated person with her own well-defined feelings towards others. Others such as Hazuki and Midori have their own fun quirks and struggles with how they play or whenever Midori finds herself catching hopeless feelings for someone with his own complicated relationship with Kumiko.
The last 7 episodes feel especially great at managing a careful tenuous balance between its drama and the show’s tender, more down to earth nature. Melodramatic conflicts such as love triangles, rumors, and competitions for a specific spot that a competitor’s adoring friend escalates are all handled tactfully and are never overplayed in this second half. Even events that Kumiko is haunted by that seem like they might repeat have a wholesome resolution that feels earned and natural to every character involved. Even those such as Asuka and Natsuki, who clearly have their own somber sides that the former hides and the latter exudes at first feel natural and multi-layered when contrasting those sides with their more understanding, cheerful, and good-natured selves that we see them as most often. Even more minor characters have their own personal struggles and layers that are made abundantly clear such as Kumiko’s sister, and events such as the audition tryouts and reminders of the turbulent year had before present-day bring out the most in them with how everything is explored so tactfully and earnestly. It’s hard not to feel sorrow or joy in several moments in the show because of that. Everything feels earnest and natural, rather than forced. This isn’t even mentioning every character and subplot that gets intricately woven together and addressed, otherwise we’d be here all day with spoilers throughout.
The first season of Hibike Euphonium is an astounding show that is far better than I could have anticipated. Its uniquely lively sense of lighting is matched only by its tender and resonant nature exemplified by its direction and music. The natural character writing and drama that rarely feels overplayed only add to how lovely this show is. Sure, there are minor issues such as Kumiko’s narration sometimes feeling unnecessary or there being a few slideshow moments, but they mean little in the face of such a great show. Here’s hoping season 2 matches the quality of this first outing.