Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Sound! Euphonium (2 seasons)

SUMMARY: Spring in the first year of high school. Kumiko, a member of the brass band in junior high school, visits the high school brass band club with classmates Hazuki and Sapphire. There, she comes across Reina, her former classmate from junior high. Hazuki and Sapphire decide to join the club, but Kumiko can’t make up her mind. She recollects her experience with Reina at a competition in junior high school. (summary taken from Crunchyroll)

Let's go from a girl band to a band band. A concert band, that is. The Kitauji High School Concert Band to be precise.

Where BanG Dream spoke to my inner performer, Sound! Euphonium spoke to my inner choir geek (and music appreciator in general). Yes, I know band geeks and choir geeks are somewhat different and yes, I know about Tari Tari (more in a future review), but the interactions between the characters reminded me of my choir experiences. That plus the story and characters caught my attention here.

In particular the characters.

And the music.

Initially, I was looking forward to accompanying Kumiko on her journey with the concert band but was dismayed at her passivity in the first couple of episodes. Reserved. Indecisive. Unassuming. But it became readily apparent to me Kumiko's "passivity" was really a catalyst for events around her. As situations rose up, it's Kumiko's presence at those moments that moves the story forward. 

Hazuki and Midori were charming companions. Midori's eternally optimistic, cute, and bubbly personality was endearing, as was Hazuki's perky attitude. That and her joy at playing Tubacabura slapped a smile on my face every single time.

Third-year fellow euphonist Asuka provided a breath of fresh air over the proceedings. She's my favorite character. Off-beat and slightly mysterious, we finally get a glimpse of her inner life in Season Two. And boy-howdy, that glimpse speaks volumes about her and about where the band eventually ends up. The exchange between Asuka and Taki-sensei following their concert in Episode 2.12 punctuates that with a nice kick in the feels. And the meeting between Asuka and Kumiko after the graduation ceremony at that final episode (2.13) is another feels kicker, especially at Asuka's gesture toward Kumiko.

The writing kept a nice balance between charmingly silly and serious and also hit the right emotional notes. While the show centered on the band as a whole, I think the core story was about the relationship between Kumiko and Reina and the bookmarking sequences from both seasons (beginnings of episodes 1.1 and 2.1 and endings of episodes 1.13. and 2.13) perfectly captures that.

I enjoyed watching the band's progression from seemingly ragtag group of instrumentalists to polished performers and their music grew along with them.

And the music.

Oh, the music.

Glorious. Sweeping. Exhilarating. Reina's trumpet solo gave me goosebumps: arresting and powerful, a sound that made me literally sit up and take notice. Same for Asuka's lone song, an ethereal and haunting peace that conjured up images of longing and grabbed me in the center of the chest and squeezed.

And the title of that song?

Wait for it.

I mean it. Wait for it.

You'll see.

Now I have a feeling some CG work came into play here, particularly with the instrument depictions. But it was seamlessly done and didn't visually interfere with the animation experience. I will applaud those animators and won't pick nits here.

Even though Sound! didn't sear itself into my consciousness like BanG Dream did, it was still an enjoyable show and one that makes it onto my Rewatch List. Asuka will also take her place on the list of my favorite characters.

Heartily heartily recommended.

Genre: Drama, Slice of Life
Length: TV series, 27 episodes
Version Viewed: Digital streaming on Crunchyroll
Review Status: Full season (27/27)

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