Thursday, July 30, 2015

'Sound! Euphonium' Is a Charming Concert Band Drama

Sound! Euphonium (also known as Hibike! Euphonium) is a 13-episode anime series that details the drama and development behind Kitauji High School’s concert band.  There are plenty of characters, but the story focuses on freshman Kumiko Oumae.  She has been playing the euphonium for seven years; however, she’s not necessarily masterful of playing the instrument nor dedicated to it.  But through the progress of the story, she gains new realizations and perspective on what it really means to belong and compete in a concert band.

At the start of the story, the Kitauji concert band is in subpar condition and has a lot of issues, much the dismay of Kumiko and the other freshmen members.  Some senior members – particularly the officers – have their hearts in the right places.  However, the culture of the club is that of laziness, apathy, and lack of focus.  Fortunately for the club, the new music teacher and club adviser, Noboru Taki, knows what buttons to push in order to motivate the members into improving themselves.  Through his strict but courteous and patient guidance, he pushes the Kitauji concert band into aiming for the Nationals competition.

Sound! Euphonium doesn’t necessarily have a lot of originality to offer.  But despite its familiar themes and tropes, it’s still pretty amiable.  The story gives a believable and engaging depiction of the emotions and conflicts happening among members of a high school concert band as they struggle towards the top.  Moreover, its fine animation helps keeping the storytelling appealing.

Having only 13 episodes makes Sound! Euphonium easy to binge-watch.  But, on the other hand, the small amount of total episodes also means that development for both its plot and its many characters is limited.  In fact, the prime fault I find in this anime is that, in my opinion, there wasn’t enough time to properly flesh out its many characters – hence, I never grew caring for any of its characters.

Another slight fault I find is that the musical pieces featured are not that interesting.  With the exception of Orpheus in the Underworld’s can-can sequence (which reminded me of how awesome that piece is) in the first episode, I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the music (unlike with Kids on the Slope which made me immersed on its jazz music).  Still, the musical details and choices are good.  And I love how the music is beautifully synchronized with well-done animation.

As for the romance – since that’s to be expected from a high school story – well, it’s actually minimal.  Some stuff on high school “puppy love” and rejection have been touched upon, but it was pretty nigh irrelevant.  It’s also worth noting that there’s some seemingly Yuri tension (or I’m just being too malicious) between Kumiko and fellow freshman, Reina Kousaka.

Sound! Euphonium is not for everyone, but those who enjoy lovely anime visuals, music, ensembles, and slice-of-life high school drama are sure to like this.  Personally, this anime series isn’t something I’m particularly excited about, but it’s charming enough to warrant a recommendation from me (whatever that’s worth).

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