Kumiko Omae wanted to go to Kitauji High School to get away from her previous middle school life, including her time as a euphonium in the band, following her crushing failure at a competition. However, her new friends end up dragging her right back into the concert band and the euphonium despite her hesitations. Faced with the fight to perform at nationals once again, Kumiko finds herself drawn in to the social situation in band, and all the good and bad that comes with it.
Musical anime is hardly a new concept, and many shows have successfully created a story that utilizes music as an excellent premise. However, Sound! Euphonium tries something slightly different: instead of an individual performer or a traditional ~4-5 person band, the characters are all part of a high school concert band, which has dozens and dozens of students performing together.
Not only is this idea relatively unique, but Sound! Euphonium also manages to do its research, as the writing really captures how high school bands actually work. Performers take care of their instruments, tune, and perform all like a real concert band would in real life, and thanks to the power of the animating studio Kyoto Animation’s CG, the instruments look absolutely stunning (as well as the rest of the show).
Considering that Sound! Euhphonium’s characters are part of a concert ensemble, it should come to no surprise to you that the cast is an ensemble as well. Thankfully, much like the band aspect of the ensemble, Sound! Euphonium manages to pull off its cast ensemble quite well. Although I initially had my doubts, the series managed to spend time with each character that it gave individual attention to throughout its thirteen episode run, and many of the members of the band had at least a moderately decent characterization by the end of the show.
Characters from many different sections of the band were utilized (except percussion, boo! You forgot the best part!), from Reina Kousaka, a trumpet player with an extreme affinity for the instrument and a candid personality that often turns others away, to Kumiko, a euphonium player who has struggled to understand her own interests but has a drive similar to Kousaka. Since slice-of-life and drama shows live and die by their characters, it was crucial that Sound! Euphonium pulled this off, and thankfully it did.
Because of the realistic concert band setting and developed characters, Sound! Euphonium was bound to meet with drama, and much like other elements of the show, it managed to pull it off quite well. In a concert band, there are tons of performers who are grouped into sections with similar instruments, and when they all come together to play their vastly different instruments, as you might imagine there can be quite a bit on tension. Add in the push to compete for nationals, and you have the setup for quite a potential spectacle.
Sound! Euphonium has all sorts of group conflicts - from members quitting to sections fighting each other to section fighting themselves. Not even Taki-sensei, the new band director, is able to stay above it all. The nature of the setting and instruments combined with the characters makes the drama entertaining to watch, and I found myself feeling just as tense as the characters themselves at moments such as the performance audition.
Although there is a substantial amount of drama, Sound! Euphonium still keeps a decent amount of the classic slice-of-life humor as well. Much like the drama, a concert band arrangement sets up perfectly for amusing incidents, and while the saxophones didn’t make ambulance noises (the ones at my high school sure did), the setup was utilized by the series on the occasion and added a nice comedic element to the narrative. Much like other similar shows, the comedy managed to capitalize on the characters’ personalities, and in a way led to further attachment for the audience and thus more enjoyment from the show.
As I mentioned earlier, Kyoto Animation did an excellent job in animating the instruments, but honestly the entire show is quite pretty. This is most apparent, however, during specific moments including performances, when both the animation and music are at their finest. While the background soundtrack for Sound! Euphonium is nothing special, it does the job just fine for a concert band setting because it features realistic performance music. When I say this, I don’t JUST mean music for when the bit performances occur, I also mean the individual practicing.
The instrumental performances managed to capture actual high school performer errors in practice, and even viewers that have never been in a band before could tell if a character was playing well or not because the sound coming from the TV screen would sound good or bad. This added effect was something that I really enjoyed and helped tie the series together for viewers who were able to actually witness the performance quality while watching.
While Sound! Euphonium in general did a pretty good job in handling its ensemble cast, there were also some issues as some characters didn’t have development or were left with only partially resolved issues at the series’ conclusion. For example, the relationship of Kumiko and Kazuki with boring trombone guy (he doesn’t get a name in this review) was left incomplete (as well as Kumiko x Kousaka, a very heavily implied yuri pairing). While a good chunk of the cast was developed, there were also entire sections of the band such as the percussion and the clarinets that were left almost entirely untouched, and some characters that DID make regular appearances had virtually zero characterization, such as the tuba player Takuya Gotou.
Sound! Euphonium was a very well thought-out anime take on the life of a high school concert band. Its use of its premise and setting as well as its ensemble cast created an extremely entertaining story that was both dramatic and comedic at times, despite lacking with some characters and their emotional resolutions. I can easily recommend the series to any fan of slice-of-life anime, and encourage anyone either from or interested in the life of a concert band to check it out.
A special thanks to Tim C. (kinja: Unimplied) for adding the review button and making the review header much more efficient, you guys should see how ugly it was before...or even better, now you’ll never know.
Sound! Euphonium is available for free and legal streaming on Crunchyroll.
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This is the fourth in my series of reviews for the Spring 2015 anime season. Here’s the full list (I will link them as they release):
- Seraph of the End
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!
- Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
- The Ani-TAY Spring 2015 Music Awards
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