Sound! Euphonium is probably one of the most difficult shows for me personally to categorize in my mind this season, and the reason is because of the paradoxical fondness/boredness I felt initially from watching it. Euphonium follows a high school freshman, Kumiko, and her experience playing in the band as well as all of the people she meets during this time. It’s an idea that is different yet familiar, for sure. However, while the premise might be original, the show still has a bit of room to grow.
Before I begin, it’s important to acknowledge my own bias: I have been in band all four years of my high school career, and seeing an anime utilize this setting is a very appealing idea for me. The animation studio KyoAni under the direction of Tatsuya Ishihara is very faithful in adapting a high school band to an animated setting, and thus walking in to Euphonium I am able to find enjoyment just from that fact alone. However, it’s not just actual band members that benefit from the accuracy of the high school band’s portrayal: since the setting is relatively unique, many viewers looking for slice-of-life anime will be able to find something a bit different from the get-go.
The high school band aspect lends itself well to slice-of-life anime because of the very nature of bands: the social structure created when you cram a bunch of students into subgroups of a larger performance. There is a substantial difference in the roles of, say, the clarinets versus the tubas in a concert band. This difference means that the groups have different things they work on, moderately different goals, and different structures. Because they must all come together and put aside these differences, as you might imagine there is a fun daily-life style of conflict. Sound! Euphonium manages to pull this off very well by using real-life elements of band, from tuners to mouth pieces, to highlight these differences, and this is most definitely the strong point of the series.
Although there is a certain synergy employed by Euphonium in some areas, in others it is severely lacking in the creativity department. What I am referring to, of course, are the actual characters, which are a little bit unoriginal and underdeveloped during the show’s first few episodes. Euphonium, unsurprisingly, uses an ensemble cast in the form of the members of the band ensemble (‘whoa, no way!’). The show is far from over, but in the first few episodes virtually every single character has been mostly untouched beyond their initial characterizations, including some of the characters more central in appearance to the story such as Kumiko’s friends Sapphire and Hazuki. That’s not to say that they all have received the same treatment, as Kumiko herself as well as Asuka (vice president/crazy one) both have gotten a decent amount of development, but because the bases for many of the characters aren’t particularly original, many of them feel a bit stale.
Fortunately, the most recent episode (#6 as of writing) has begun to remedy this problem, as the characters’ relationships and personalities are being explored in more interesting ways. The narrative has also improved, and I no longer feel like the only reason I am watching the show is for the band aspects thanks to some excellent comedic moments that utilize elements set up in previous episodes. One example would be the following scene:
Sound! Euphonium is both clever and not at the same time. I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a decent slice-of-life show, especially thanks to its excellent use of the high school band setting. However, it is worth noting that some of the more jaded slice-of-life fans might not be interested at this stage in the game, because most of the characters have yet to be developed and thus their personalities and interactions can feel stale and overused, especially if you are familiar with other KyoAni shows. If you can look past this though, then I do highly advise giving it a look.
Sound! Euphonium is currently available for free and legal streaming on Crunchyroll, with a new episode every Tuesday.
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