What’s It About?
After swearing off music due to an incident at the middle school regional concert band competition, euphonist Kumiko Oumae enters high school hoping for a fresh start. As fate would have it, she ends up being surrounded by people with an interest in the high school brass band. Kumiko finds the motivation she needs to make music once more with the help of her bandmates, some of whom are new like novice tubist Hazuki Katou; veteran contrabassist Sapphire Kawashima; and band vice president and fellow euphonist Asuka Tanaka. Others are old friends, like Kumiko’s childhood friend and hornist-turned-trombonist Shuuichi Tsukamoto, and trumpeter and bandmate from middle school, Reina Kousaka.
However, in the band itself, chaos reigns supreme. Despite their intention to qualify for the national band competition, as they currently are, just competing in the local festival will be a challenge—unless the new band advisor Noboru Taki does something about it.
Hibike! Euphonium is hands down one the best looking shows KyoAni has ever done, Violet Evergarden and Hyouka not withstanding. The entire premise, despite being seemingly dull at first, is carried by the gorgeous visuals, terrific sound design and beautiful music.
The animation is dynamic and fluid in a way that feels both real and unreal. Everything flows the same way it would in real life, such as the way clothes and hair flap around, the way the light hits objects to cast shadows, and even the way characters move feel realistic and deliberate.
The unreal part is that all these things end up looking way, way, way better than they could ever be in real life (at least with the naked eye). It’s a romanticized version of realism, mundane made magical, and nothing on the screen is ever unpleasant or mediocre to look at.
Here is an album of the Sakuga moments from the show on imgur, but reminder that it doesn’t hold a candle to watching it on a good-sized HD TV, like I did.
The animation, storyboard and character design team was handled predominantly by the likes of Yamada Naoko (Director of K-ON!, another music-related slice-of-life) and Ikeda Shoko(Several staff positions in previous KyoAni works such as Clannad and Haruhi Suzumiya), giving us the most good-looking boys and girls animation can provide!
The show’s OST is melancholic, which is my favorite kind of ambient music. It’s the type of music that leaves you feeling light of mind, and heavy of heart. I like to feel those things while I’m studying, practicing or working, so it fits perfectly with the setting of the anime being a school band club.
As for the performances done in the series proper by the students, they are all played very realistically, depending on the skill of the player. You can hear stumbles by amateur players, that add to the genuine feel of the show. I have no experience listening to orchestral music unless you count hours upon hours of playing Square Enix titles listening to Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtrack, but Hibike has given me a newfound appreciation for classical pieces.
It’s a quality that is hard to describe in words. A bad piece is easy to dissect exactly why it was bad, but a great piece, I simply cannot put into words why I like it so much. I’m not a music expert, I just heard the music, and it made me close my eyes, breathe deep, and make me feel the emotions that it wanted to from deep within my heart.
Story and Dialogue
Hibike! Euphonium is an artistic accomplishment first, captivating story second.
I don’t mean that in a negative way for the story. The story, without spoiling anything, is solid and executed well. However, I will admit the show is heavy on teen melodrama, which makes sense because they’re all emotionally charged teenagers, but the dialogue and character interactions are all done with the mindset of a confused teenager.
What carries the story and dialogue for me, is the amazing cinematography and music that coincides with it. The thematic choices made with the shots, the sound, everything helps towards making the story captivating to the viewer.
Now to answer the question you’ve all been asking after seeing that gif below Story and Dialogue; Is yuri a thing in Hibike! Euphonium? The answer to that is yes and no, as expected of KyoAni.
You see, in the original source material, Kumiko and Kousaka are very close, but also very platonic friends. In the anime, well, everything’s a lot gayer. Very intimate and well-written gayer, but still, not a straight (heh) adaptation of the source material. I won’t spoil much more than that, but just remember that KyoAni is the master of teasing romantic moments.
Nonetheless, it explores issues like insecurity, jealousy, stagnancy and regret in a fairly realistic way, with characters reacting to conflict in ways you would expect emotionally immature students to. Things like being swayed by the status quo, lazing about instead of doing anything meaningful, fear of commitment to a cause, staying within your comfort zone, and a whole host of other common problems are explored here and they don’t hold back on how frustrating situations like those can be for the people who want to try while everybody else around them is too afraid, too proud, or too meek to do anything about it.
Hibike! Euphonium is a technical masterpiece, with gorgeous animation and cinematography, amazing art, sound and animation direction, but also has a plot that, while captivating and solid, relies heavily on teen melodrama to incite conflict,which may bother some audiences. It also, IMO, doesn’t really do anything I haven’t already seen before within the drama/slice of life genre, though what was there was done very well.
Lastly, the yuri undertones are disappointingly done so well, that I am now upset at KyoAni for not commiting to the budding romance that they crafted between the two main characters and left us hanging. If they were going for platonic, then they pulled it off the same way Taiga’s cry of “RYUUJI IS MINE” was “platonic”.
Overall, I give Hibike! Euphonium S1 a 7.5/10!