It’s Spring in the first year of high school and Kumiko, who was a member of the brass band in middle school, visits the high school brass band club with her classmates Hazuki and Sapphire. There she meets Reina, a former classmate with whom Kumiko has a complex relationship. Whilst Hazuki and Sapphire decide to join the club, Kumiko is indecisive. She played a lot when she was younger, but she can’t decide if she wants to take it further. That’s when she realise that the club is struggling, and they need advanced players like her. Therefore Kumiko gets roped into joining the club and continuing to play the euphonium.
Sound! Euphonium is back again for a second season! This time the troupe are getting their act together and heading for nationals, but will all their practicing and efforts prove successful in the long run against heavy competition from other schools despite team dramas, complex relationships and having to practice relentlessly all summer?
What I’ve liked about Sound! Euphonium from the beginning, and what continues to stand out in this second season, is how the characters and situations are so realistic. None of the characters, in my opinion, are particular stereotypical anime archetypes or are too overwhelming or unbelieveable in their personalities. Things carry on nicely where the first season left off and the aspects that I enjoyed still remain: the characters are still likeable, the music is still wonderful and that slightly-shoujo wistful style is still present in all the backgrounds. While anime usually suffers from characters carrying out unrealistic and insane decisions from out of nowhere on pure impulse, Sound! Euphonium‘s cast members make logical decisions, with a lot more show than tell, to inform us why characters sometimes make at the outset, unwise decisions.
Kumiko has always been a good protagonist for this kind of show. She has her own personality and motivations but she doesn’t dominate the supporting characters. I believe that part of the reason why we get to see such a great range of personalities in the Kitauji band is down to this point. Without Kumiko, Reina would still be very withdrawn (their relationship continues to be lovely and a rather clever indictment of gender identity, but I won’t take up the whole of this blog discussing this). We also would have hardly any link to the second and third years without her being in the main band. Kumiko is a normal girl with flaws and talents – she has enough self-confidence in her musical abilities to stand against older members who believe that first years are inferior to their senpais, but she struggles with things like telling Nozomi the real reason why the vice-president won’t let her back into the band. It’s not often I take an instant liking to young, female anime protagonists, so it says a lot in how Kumiko presents herself (plus I wish my hair would look like hers).
The character artwork is detailed and the scenes often take advantage in showing this. Whether it is the detail of the instruments the band play or showcasing the stunning realism in the backdrops or even just by putting the characters in different clothes (I particularly loved how they styled Reina in her yukata in the second episode and the super-cute swimming costumes of some of the characters – even winter uniforms were styled beautifully). It is very much a feast for the eyes without, in typical Sound! Euphonium style, being too overpowering.
There were some lovely moments in the story, one in particular that struck a chord with me (if you excuse the pun) was the relationship between Nozomi and Mizore and how their friendship was damaged by the divide that saw half the second years leaving the band last year. The emotion that was lacking from Mizore’s tech-perfect playing of the oboe was from Nozomi’s sudden departure and Mizore thinking that her friend had abandoned her. There was also a small interaction between Kumiko and their teacher, Taki-sensei, where we see a little of his personal life and how he missed his late wife. I also got wrapped up in the competition episode where you saw the band’s hard work finally paying off. Even thought the rational part of me knew that they were going to get through to the next round (because, after all, it was only episode five) I was still getting tense whilst the judges were calling out the winners. It just goes to show that you don’t always have to play it high-octane and fast-paced to become immersed in high-stake situations.
Sound! Euphonium still has that laid-back relaxing style and compelling characters that it has rocked in the first episode. Again, it’s not action-packed, but there are plenty of anime offering that this season. This music-based slice-of-life story offers character depth, beautiful artwork and orchestral pieces that you are guaranteed to skip back to in order to listen again. It’s always nice when an anime offers something different.