Series Review – Sound! Euphonium

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation and Ponycan USA

By this point, I have written over five anime reviews. With the exception of Toradora, all of my previous reviews have involved shows that contain a significant amount of action. This week’s review is more similar to that of my Toradora review, in that I will be covering an anime that does not fall into my typical tastes. This show has certain slice of life element, in that it depicts relatively everyday occurrences. In anime speak, this means that the show largely lacks an overarching plot. K-ON is one of the more popular examples of this type of series. For the most part, this type of anime does not catch my attention at all. Even after viewing this week’s anime, I would say that still holds true. However, Sound! Euphonium is a slice of life anime that I enjoyed immensely. It’s not a true example of the genre and I think this is the reason why it caught my attention. Unlike typical slice of life shows, there is an overarching plotline and a lot of drama that comes with that. This drama comes from typical high school issues, in this case the issues stemming from joining the concert band. This second point is strong as well because the whole school band experience really resonated with me. I played trumpet for a number of years and ultimately, Sound! Euphonium managed to relate to my experiences in concert band. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story

Sound! Euphonium takes place in what would normally be considered a rather mundane setting. It is a normal high school with no supernatural or fantastical elements. The story follows Kumiko, a first-year high school student, as she joins the high school’s concert band club. The new band teacher, Noboru Taki, gives the students the choice of playing in concert band for fun or to take it seriously. Naturally, the students choose the serious option and are thrust into long practices as Taki-sensei attempts to get them ready for competition. What follows is a pertinent look at what basically amounts to typical high school drama. Now I’m not using typical in the sense of high school drama portrayed in other mediums, but instead, I am using the word to mean normal. The story follows realistic problems that would occur in high school. A friend might develop a crush on someone you like. There might be someone from junior high that you had problems with and is now in your class. In terms of band, people goof off despite claiming they want to the best. Those are the types of issues that this show covers. A large portion of the show is focused on how Kumiko deals with these problems. That is the strength of this series. It takes the normalcy slice of life genre and generates a plot from these typical occurrences. That is also what sets it apart from the typical slice of life series. Drama does happen in normal settings, not everything is going to be sitting around and drinking tea, I’m looking at you K-ON. This is not meant to insult those that love slice of life shows, but that genre is not necessarily my cup of tea (couldn’t resist that one). Sound! Euphonium manages to take these rather mundane aspects of high school life and craft an excellent series out of them. With how normal the issues are, it is very easy to relate to the drama and ultimately, the characters.

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Characters

Sound! Euphonium is fairly typical when it comes to a majority of the characters. There is the standard spunky one, the timid one, the childhood friend and a plethora of senpais. However, two characters really manage to stand out. Fortunately, these are the two characters that receive a majority of the screen time. In my opinion, Kumiko and Reina are the best characters of Sound! Euphonium. The friendship between these two girls is one of the series’ strengths.

Kumiko is one of the more normal characters that I have seen in an anime. She has a more subdued personality, at least when it comes to her public persona. Thankfully, the viewer is able to hear her inner smarminess through the internal dialogue. She is a very lifelike character who undergoes a significant amount of change as the series progresses. This change is not lighting fast, but is more subtle. While initially ambivalent to concert band, she gains an appreciation and ultimately a deep-seated desire to become better. It is very easy to emphasize with Kumiko to the point where the viewer really can understand the emotions of the character.

Reina represents a more stereotypical character, but this serves the story very well. She perfectly encapsulates that one person in high school who seems to have everything figured out already. She is one of the few characters that has a goal and is aware with who she is as a person. She possesses the initial motivation that Kumiko lacks. This later characteristic is instrumental in the overall development of Kumiko’s character. In addition to this motivation, Reina can appear quite cold and distant, but this is merely a façade as well. She’s not an ice queen. Reina likes to have fun and frequently expresses her emotions, despite a cold exterior. The combination of Kumiko and Reina is the main driving force for character changes as the series progressed and is one of the highlights of the series as a whole.

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Animation

This is one of the most beautiful shows that I have watched. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. The facial expressions and the movement of the characters are just absolutely pristine. Any one of the backgrounds could be amazing wallpapers for your computer. Seriously, look at this animation and tell me it’s not the best of this year. This animation quality transcends the already well-choreographed band scenes into something special. From the way the characters play their instruments, to the sweeping camera pans of the full ensemble, every ounce of this show is absolutely beautiful. I could go on and on, but anything more would be redundant. This is one of the best animated shows that I have seen. The level of animation quality alone makes the show worth watching.

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Sound

Now a show about a concert band carries with it a special need for great design. Fortunately, Sound! Euphonium delivers in this aspect. First off, the voice acting is absolutely excellent. Kumiko’s voice actress does a fantastic job at portraying her inner wit. Reina’s voice actress also does a phenomenal job at portraying the purported cold exterior. As for the other characters, the voice cast is excellent overall. The portrayal of the instruments is where the sound design really shines. It is quite a large task to recreate an orchestra, with the large variety of instruments necessary for an accurate portrayal. The band scenes sound absolutely phenomenal. When you take the sound design of this show and combine it with the animation, these scenes are absolutely breathtaking. The instruments perfectly match the notes being played, with added details that take it to the next level. The specific hits on the drums are accompanied with a realistic portrayal of how those sounds would be generated. Another example of this attention to detail is how the anime presents the sound of the band when they, in the words of Kumiko, suck. The band in this instance audibly sounds terrible and that is one of the triumphs of the sound design. Throughout the series, the sound of the band gets better as the characters practice their instruments more and more. It results in a strong payoff when the band performs in the final episode.

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Final Verdict

Sound! Euphonium was one of the best shows of 2015, so much so that it has already been confirmed for a second season. Compared to a typical slice of life, this series actually possesses a plot. In addition to this, the plot is actually realistic. As for the characters, Kumiko and Reina are absolute standouts. Kumiko is a very relatable character. The animation and sound design are some of the best this year. The show is gorgeous to look at and the sound is beautiful as well. Overall, Sound! Euphonium earns my Bananaowns stamp of approval. It really is a must watch. Come back next week for another review.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

 

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