The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Noboru Taki

Hibike! Euphonium 2: Whole-Series Reflection and Review

“Drama aids self-discovery like nothing else. In removing it from our schools, we remove the inestimable benefits of it from our society.” —Rory Kinnear

Kumiko’s interactions with her seniors has a profound impact, resulting in the readmission of Nozomi into the concert band after her numerous conversations result in Yuko confronting Mizore, clearing up the misunderstanding between the two: it turns out that Mizore had been avoiding Nozomi for fear of being rejected, but once the two get their true feelings into the open, their friendship is restored. United, the concert band’s performance is exceptional, securing Kitauji a chance to compete at the nationals. Later, Asuka is forcibly removed from concert band at her mother’s behest, but demonstrates that being in concert band will not affect her ability to enter a suitable post-secondary institute to her mother and is able to rejoin. In the meantime, Kumiko struggles to deal with Reina’s growing feelings for Taki and with her own direction, and her sister’s cold reception at home after she decides to drop out of university and pursue a career path consistent with her interests. Kumiko and Asuka share the commonality of wanting to persist in concert band to play for those who they care about, and as the season concludes with their performance at the national competition. While only able to secure a bronze, the band resolves to work harder in the upcoming year to win gold.

Whereas Hibike! Euphonium‘s first season focused more predominantly on the concert band’s journey from basement to prominence, suggesting that their members were focused on a shared goal that allowed them to set aside their own differences in order to master their instruments and deliver performances worthy of praise, the second season of Hibike! Euphonium places a significantly larger emphasis on Kumiko and her dynamics with the other band members. Even if her actions are not directly intended to improve either her own situation or the situations of those involved, Kumiko’s experiences put her in the heart of the different challenges those around her face, and as she learns more, these situations contribute to her own desire of wanting Mamiko to understand and appreciate just how much of an impact she’s had on Kumiko despite the former’s own challenges. Ultimately, in dealing with the situations around her, Kumiko comes to play for her sister and depart on better terms, as well as re-evaluate her perspectives of Asuka more effectively, having learnt more about someone who initially seemed so aloof and perfect. The shifts in perspectives are a solid indicator that characters are multi-faceted beings in Hibike! Euphonium, bringing one world of high school students, concert band and their associated tribulations to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • So, here we are, on the first day of 2017. It’s been snowing lightly throughout the day, and the skies were overcast, with a brisk chill in the air. All in all, it was unsuited for a walk, but the weather provided a ready-made justification for bundling up underneath a warm blanket with a cocoa, leaving the day open for gaming and reviewing anime. After shovelling out from the snowfall, I spent the whole of the afternoon in Sim City 4 and finally being able to try out Battlefield 1‘s Giant’s Shadow map.

  • It’s become somewhat of a yearly custom for my family to 打邊爐 (have hot pot) on New Year’s Day, and this year, we did so at home: shrimps, beef, lamb, chicken, squid, fishballs, a variety of vegetables and yi mien (伊麵) was on the menu, finished with sparkling peach juice. The more formal term for 打邊爐 is 火鍋 (literally “flaming pot”) in Chinese, and in Japanese, the kanji “鍋” is romanised as nabe.  Back in Hibike! Euphonium, while Asuka’s concerns for the band’s performance is understandable, it turns out that her worries would not come to pass: it turns out that Mizore and Nozomi have been mutually looking for an opportunity to clear up their misunderstandings,

  • I’m not sure if it’s just me who holds this view, but Kumiko looks sexy whenever she’s playing the euphonium, with her look of intense concentration. Musical performances in Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season are of a solid quality (whether it be depiction of the instruments’ moving parts or the play of light on their surfaces) , and Kitauji’s performance in the fifth episode for the national qualifiers was nothing short of impressive. Kitauji’s band has come quite a long ways from the first season, a far cry from the raggedy-ass group of misfits who lacked motivation and direction.

  • In the national qualifing rounds, Kitauji is able to make it, leading to much celebration. However, this point is merely a stepping stone for Kitauji, and they continue training under both Masahiro and Satomi to further hone their skills. Their victory here brings to mind the victory the Calgary Flames secured over the Phoenix Coyotes during the New Year’s Eve game last night: the first period saw four goals by the flames, with a particularly noteworthy goal from defenseman Dennis Wideman, who managed to score on a shot from the blue line.

  • After the first period, the Phoenix Coyotes answered with two of their own goals (after one was waived off in the first period on the basis of being scored by means of a high stick), but the game became a little less intense. The Flames would go on to win 4-2, a solid end to 2016, and we were treated to a bit of a fireworks show inside the Scotiabank Saddledome.

  • While Hibike! Euphonium is primarily focused around concert band, its setting in a high school environment also means that events such as culture festivals can be weaved into the narrative. Reina and Kumiko spend much of the day together, enjoying the exhibitions, and here, I note that I am immensely thankful that Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season has largely dispelled any misconceptions about the nature of Reina and Kumiko’s friendship.

  • Out of curiosity, I did a bit of reading into interpersonal dynamics between adolescent females by means of primary literature, and it turns out that any so-called yuri overtones that some individuals claim exist, are merely natural parts of their friendship. Scriptwriter Jukki Hanada even notes that their interactions are a part of youth, but some folks refuse to accept this explanation. The fixation folks have on these elements is unnecessary and contributes very little to discussion — Kyoto Animation’s interpretation of their friendship is perhaps a little more vivid than conferred by the light novel, but it should be clear that nothing is going on.

  • Mamiko’s relationship with Kumiko has been frequently presented as a rocky one as of late; Mamiko resents Kumiko for being able to continue with her pursuit of music, and frequent flashbacks show that it was Mamiko who inspired Kumiko to take up music. In my case, I’m rather glad that my younger brother is able to make his own decisions about things like career paths and life choices (his talent for applications of calculus in structural mechanics is magical, and I doubt he’d be happy with writing sorting algorithms), but it seems that he’s taken interest in almost all of my hobbies, including anime.

  • Frustrated by her sister’s cold attitude, Kumiko takes off into a rainstorm, and encounters Taki at a local florist. From Taki, Kumiko learns a bit more about his late wife, who was a music teacher seeking to take Kitauji to the national competition. Being someone he loved dearly, Taki was devastated by her loss, and over time, comes around, deciding to pick up where his wife left off in her memory.

  • According to those who have read the light novels, Kumiko’s friendship with Reina is presented with much less detail than in the anime. The second season covers the whole of the light novel’s second volume and most of the third volume. There are four volumes in total, with the last being released in 2015. An English-translated version of the first volume will be coming out in the summer of 2017.

  • Kitauji performs at a station concert to the public audience. The soundtrack for Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season is set for release on January 11, although at this point in time, nothing is known about the soundtrack’s length or its tracklist , but it will retail for 4320 yen (49.65 CAD at the time of writing) and consist of three CDs, being a mix of both instrumental and vocal pieces. I note that it is typical for an anime soundtrack to release after an anime has finished its broadcast run: in the case of Brave Witches, a delay in production meant the episodes were delayed by a week, and consequently, the Brave Witches soundtrack released prior to the finale.

  • Mamiko expresses disgust with her situation, stating that it was never her desire to study and enter a post-secondary institution. Her father counters that she should’ve made herself clear, but at this point, she’s obligated to finish if he is to continue paying for her tuition and living expenses. There are some occasions where I speak with my parents about my time as an undergrad, and they wonder if they’d pushed me too hard to finish in a timely fashion while taking a shot for medical school. However, things have stablised for now, and I whole-heartedly know that the path I ended up taking was one that would adequately prepare me for the next step. I do not regret doing my honours degree in health sciences to any extent.

  • Concurrently with the crisis at the Ōmae household is Asuka’s withdrawl from band after her mother forces her to leave, on claims that her involvement was detrimentally impacting her academic performance. It is here that Kumiko realises that Asuka, someone she’d long held to be the personification of perfection, is still human: while there definitely are people who look like they can handle everything, this often comes at a cost, and it was for this reason that in high school, I took on only a number of extracurricular activities that I knew I could handle. In my final year, I was on the yearbook committee as a photographer and layout designer, organised one of the parties in Model Parliament and was the director of the graduation committee’s evening slideshow team.

  • Outside of this, I was also enrolled at the Chinese Academy and did karate, but in spite of this, I somehow managed to keep my grades generally high. Of course, looking back, high school was a walk in the park compared to university. I bring myself out of my trip into my memories and return my focus to the present, where Kumiko’s fallen ill with the flu. Reina is visiting her here. Hibike! Euphonium released on Wednesdays, but I typically watched episodes on Thursdays during lunch hour owing to the fact that most of my effort was focused on Brave Witches, and for my scheduling, I’ve had a reasonable number of fried rices to enjoy while watching the anime.

  • Because I still vividly recall my thoughts as a high school student, I have a slightly different take on Reina’s pursuit of Taki’s heart than most people. Rather than trying to decide on its legitimacy based on an adult’s perspective, I understand that sometimes, students can develop a bit of a nascent crush on their instructors, and it is only because there’s quite a bit of a time gap that I share this story now — when I was in my first year of high school, I had a crush on my science instructor, who only remained at my school for one term. Childish, perhaps, but this is something that people do grow out of quite quickly.

  • With Asuka’s absence impacting Kumiko particularly hard, partially because she draws parallels between Asuka’s situation and that of Mamiko’s, Kumiko finds herself drawn towards trying to figure Asuka out and talk out what’s happening, even dropping by her residence with some sweets that’s been said to be Asuka’s mother’s favourites in an attempt to sway her decision. Kumiko, being Hibike! Euphonium‘s protagonist, is highly perceptive, and Asuka’s the only person she’s never really figured out.

  • Thus, throughout season one, most people cited Asuka as the biggest mystery: she presents as being a highly competent leader and euphonium player, but otherwise remains quite detached from the comings and goings within the concert band itself, acting only with the band’s overall performance in her interest. As such, she remains neutral about a great many things, including who she feels to be the better soloist. However, by season two, it turns out that Asuka’s father is a judge in the competition and left her mother: Asuka yearns nothing more than to play for him, and as such, is determined to have Kitauji reach a point where it can compete in a competition he is judging.

  • Despite her quiet personality, Kumiko can be moved to tears by a variety of things. She cries her eyes out during a talk with Asuka, demonstrating that she’s slowly growing to care for and understand the enigmatic senior that is Asuka. As far as I can tell, I never heard of any high school drama that resulted in tears, but then again, I was only focused on my own goals and my friends’ interests in high school, preferring to ignore drama and get the job done. This disregard for social hierarchies is another reason why my existence did not sit well with the more popular folks in my year, even to this day.

  • Asuka’s story arc comes to an end with her triumphant return to the concert band club. Having managed to perform to her usual standards in an examination for post-secondary admissions, her mother allows her to rejoin, and it is likely that Kumiko’s words may have motivated her to do all that is necessary for her to make her dream a reality. Asuka’s return revitalises the whole of the concert band, whose music had taken a hit in performance when Asuka had left.

  • Returning to the lookout point over their town, Reina and Kumiko share a conversation; Reina is absolutely smitten with Taki, who appears to be an old family friend. Shocked that Kumiko has not told her despite knowing, it’s a bit of a communications mishap that results in Reina’s surprise that Kumiko had been in on it the entire time. Reina and Kumiko’s friendship is taken with far too much rigour, with some folks asserting that to watch any possibility of a yuri dynamic shot down so firmly was physically painful. I’m not believing for a picosecond that this was relevant to Hibike! Euphonium at all, when the first season’s main theme was plainly about working towards a shared goal.

  • As it turns out, Reina’s feelings for Taki drive her own motivations to see Kitauji’s concert band win the national competition: knowing that Taki still very much loves his late wife and that her chances with him are poor, she decides that helping him find happiness by means of a victory will have to suffice. This is why she’s attending Kitauji when her skills would have allowed her to perform at any other high school of her choosing. While this prima facie seems to contradict Reina’s claims that she wanted to be special, these two objectives are not mutually exclusive: she wants to excel at trumpet to stand out, but she also wants to stand out so Taki will acknowledge her.

  • Hibike! Euphonium‘s third volume involves Kumiko coming to terms with her own feelings for Shuichi, and ultimately, the two begin a relationship. In the anime, Shuichi’s role is much more minor, and there is no kokuhaku: with only minimal time on-screen, he gives Kumiko a hair clip here, but its significance is not shown for the rest of the anime. In the novels, she acknowledges that she gets the hair clip from her boyfriend after Asuka asks her, and accepts her feelings for him, having moved forward from what had happened in middle school.

  • Kitauji’s performance at the national competition is never shown — once everyone is on stage, the scene fades out, and the band members are seen relaxing outside of the performance venue. However, they return inside the hall to await the results. Here, the conductors receive an award for their participation and efforts, with each school having prepared a special thank you message for their respective conductors. However, owing to the tumultuous events that preceded the competition, Kitauji’s band was focused entirely on practising and neglected this detail.

  • When none of Kitauji’s students can come up with an appropriate gesture of appreciation, Reina seizes the moment and declares that she loves Taki as he walks across the stage, drawing surprise from the others. Taki interprets this as a sign of respect, and even when Reina tries to clarify later, he neither accepts nor rejects her feelings, seeing her as a capable student. Here’s a bit of trivia about Reina’s character that is noticeably absent from the anime that was in the light novels — she tends to drop or break things whenever angered, smashing a glass when under the impression that Satomi is dating Taki back when she is first introduced (the anime merely has her stiffen and freeze in shock).

  • Because Hibike! Euphonium is more focused on the dramatic rather than the comedic, there are very few moments in the second season where there are amusing facial expressions relative to the first season. Hazuki promises to Midori here that she will work her hardest so she can play alongside her and Kumiko, but I suddenly realise that Midori and Hazuki do not figure greatly in my discussion: they were reassigned to more minor roles this season.

  • Asuka’s wish is fulfilled when she learns that her father approves of her performance, and she cheerfully passes leadership of the concert band to the second years. Meanwhile, Kumiko finally comes into the open with her honest feelings, saying she is thankful to Mamiko for inspiring her to take up the euphonium. At this, Mamiko smiles for the first time — she’s beautiful when smiling, reminding me somewhat of Brave Witches‘ Takami (if only for the fact that both are depicted as having proper lips), being a world apart from her usual scowl.

  • The thirteenth episode is the finale, feeling more as an epilogue of sorts as the third years graduate. The band put on one final performance for the third years, and later, Yūko is elected to take on the mantle of being the concert band’s new president, while Natsuki becomes vice-president. The two have a prima facie vitriolic relationship, with Natsuki frequently teasing Yūko, but in spite of this, the two can cooperate and work together when things really matter.

  • It turns out that Hibike! Euphonium provides a cold open both in a literal sense and in terms of the technique used: the first episode opened with Kumiko standing under snowy skies with an old euphonium manual. The finale shows that receives it from Asuka, who entrusts her with it so she may find joy in the euphonium: the light novel and anime’s title comes from 響け, or sound, to suggest that a euphonium’s sound is intended to warm the spirits. By this point, Kumiko’s come to realise that she no longer hates Asuka, having bonded with her through the season’s events, and will be sad to see her go. The ending is a conclusive one, showing that Kumiko’s resolved to continue playing for those around her.

  • When everything is said and done, Hibike! Euphonium is ultimately about the complex interpersonal dynamics and intrapersonal challenges that arise from the congregation of a diverse group of individuals who share a goal of competing at the national level in concert band. This is something that the anime captures exceptionally well. This is the main goal of Hibike! Euphonium, and in the end, romance just isn’t marked as being relevant to the narrative: Hibike Euphonium does just fine without fantasies of Kumiko and Reina, or the newly minted Kumiko and Asuka, neither of which hold any significance to the theme. Misconceptions of the anime notwithstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed Hibike! Euphonium, and with the second season having covered most of the elements in the third and fourth volume, I do not imagine that there will be a continuation.

Distinct from its first season, Hibike! Euphonium continues to impress: aside from engaging characters whose struggles and aspirations are very relatable, the artwork, animation and sound in the anime are of a top calibre. This should hardly be a surprise, since Hibike! Euphonium was helmed by Kyoto Animation. Consequently, the resulting anime is one that earns a strong recommendation for all audiences in being able to immerse viewers in an anime about the life of high school students and their journey towards bringing success to their school’s concert band. Regardless of their reasons for participating and desiring a top place in a national competition, everyone is unified by their love of music and respect for one another. While it is very straightforwards to recommend Hibike! Euphonium, determining whether or not it merits the title of “Best Anime of 2016” is a much trickier one; I will not be making that call, since I do not do “anime of the year” posts on the virtue of not watching enough anime to fairly make an assessment, but I do predict that it will be high on the lists of one of the most-enjoyed anime of 2016, a well-deserved title for a strong story and top-tier execution.

Hibike! Euphonium 2: Reflection and Review After Three

“That’s your new target, unless it’s not big enough.” —John Clark, Clear and Present Danger

Having earned a gold and securing a position in the qualifying tournaments, Kitauji High School’s concert band prepares for the national level competition. In the aftermath of their victory, and the intermittent breaks afforded by the summer season, Kumiko learns more about the rifts that developed in Kitauji’s previous year among the second year students. Between practises, she spends more time with Reina and accompanies her to a summer festival; Reina grows more friendly towards Hazuki and Sapphire. Taki later announces that Kitauji’s band will be attending a training camp to further hone their performance. It is here that Kumiko learns that Taki once had a wife, and her passing resulted in his leaving his musical career behind. Similarly, Reina attempts to deal with her own feelings for Taki, and with Kumiko’s encouragement, asks Taki as to whether or not he is involved in a relationship with her. The myriad of interpersonal conflicts and challenges, so audaciously swept aside so Kitauji could perform their best last season, return: this particular aspect shows that although their band might be a contender, its members are still human and as such, are characterised by distinctly human elements, from regret and longing to jealousy and doubt. Coupled with Kyoto Animation’s magic touch (the animation and audio effects are of a top calibre), Hibike! Euphonium‘s second season is off to a tremendous start.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 continues on in the path its predecessor laid down: the interpersonal dynamics are a part of the anime (and its original light novel) as much as their shared goal of accomplishing something substantial and leave with no regrets through their music. Some elements, set aside as the first season ended, make a return to show that the impacts of some decisions and actions are more far-reaching than initially apparent. Nozomi’s leaving the band is revealed to be one of the several factors that resulted in the oft-mentioned rift amongst the second years, and a part of Asuka’s reluctance to accept her re-admittance is in part owing to the possible fallout it may have on the band’s members (in turn, potentially costing them the Nationals). It speaks partially to the strength of the original novels and Kyoto Animation’s adaptation, that the complexities of human interactions are captured so solidly in Hibike! Euphonium. Furthermore, it appears that Kumiko is finding herself entangled in a larger amount of this drama owing to her personality, and this aspect could result in some unforeseen consequences within the band resulting from her decisions (or indecision): in upcoming episodes, the challenge for the narrative will lie within the extent that each of these elements are depicted as having an impact on one another. If this is improperly handled (say, some characters’ actions are conveniently negated or dismissed), the overall story could feel implausible or forced. So far, Hibike! Euphonium has performed satisfactorily, and as such, it is more likely that Hibike! Euphonium 2 will convincingly explore the sort of drama within the band to paint the characters in a relatable manner, while at once continuing on with its theme that music can transcend some human limitations.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Season two of Hibike! Euphonium picks up right where the first season ended, marking a far cry from how things had been during the first season’s opening episode. A double feature spanning some forty minutes, the opening of Hibike! Euphonium 2 was a fantastic watch that set the stage for what’s to come — its extended length contributes to why this post has thirty images as opposed to the usual twenty. Further to this, I’ve added an extra category on the blog’s sidebar, since I’ve got a non-trivial number of Hibike! Euphonium posts now.

  • All told, I can only identify a small number of characters from Hibike! Euphonium by name: beyond Kumiko, Hazuki, Sapphire, Reina and Asuka, everyone else’s names are not bits of information I’ve given the effort towards memorising. This is one of the hazards of anime with a large number of characters, but in Hibike! Euphonium, I can recognise roughly who a character is based on their appearance, so it’s not as though everyone’s identities are a mystery to me.

  • Reina and Kumiko speak with Taki to obtain the keys for the music room, and here, the amount of visual clutter in the staff room is impressive. Papers are piled this way and that, with sticky notes, textbooks and desk organisers littering the tables. Wires can be seen on the floor, along with other details, showing the visual fidelity available in Hibike! Euphonium. Quite truthfully, the folks who vocally stated that Kyoto Animation’s contributions are “harming the industry” during K-On!‘s run had limited foresight: in 2016, things like K-On! and Lucky Star are not commonplace, and anime remains quite diverse.

  • The unknown individual following Kitauji’s band around turns out to be Nozomi Kasaki, a second year student who was once a member. Following the incident in the second year, she quit, and now, seeks re-admittance into Kitauji’s concert band following their performance in the qualifiers, expressly looking for Asuka’s approval. Asuka does not immediately reveal her reasons for declining Nozumi’s request, and in the first season, the largest questions surrounding Asuka was which aspect of her personality was a façade.

  • It’s high time I actually consolidated present intel on the frequently-alluded to incident under one roof — my roof. Following the defeat of Minami Junior High’s musical program, Nozomi, Natsuki, Yuko, and Mizore joined Kitauji’s band with the intent of winning the Nationals. However, with Kitauji’s concert band lacking the motivation to practise and better themselves, the Minami students began standing against the goals of their seniors, splitting the band into two factions (one side favouring improvement, and the other favouring the status quo). Ultimately, Nozomi lead nearly half of the members, among them the top players, to quit.

  • Arriving early in the mornings, Taki listens to and watches videos of top-tier schools at competitions to better gain an idea of what Kitauji’s own concert band requires in order to stand against the best of the best. His laptop is plainly a MacBook Air, with its distinct keyboard and aluminium finish, but lacks the product name on the screen’s bottom. if such a device existed, its manufacturers would almost certainly face a lawsuit of gargantuan proportions from Apple: their product designs are patented, and a few years ago, Samsung was sued by Apple for utilising patented GUI elements and device design concepts.

  • Wide-angle shots of the concert band during practise are commonplace in Hibike! Euphonium: whereas other anime often utilise LoD tricks to simplify scenes when there are a great number of actors present, Kyoto Animation does their best to ensure that the details are not lost. From an optimisation perspective, this can be grossly inefficient, but the end effect in Hibike! Euphonium is one that is impressive.

  • The aftermath of the Kitauji Schism was that former friends were distanced. Guilt amongst some of the members also manifested, who felt that they were unable to prevent the events from unfolding. Nozomi is said to be at the crux of everything: a capable leader who is driven by goals, she is an excellent flautist and despite being in her first year at the time of the schism, managed to rally a sufficient number of band members to pack their bags.

  • The friendship between Kumiko and Reina has always been a point of interest among some of the audience members; Reina admires the darker side of Kumiko that is detached with the surrounding world. Seeing a side of herself in Kumiko, Reina and Kumiko became fast friends during the first season, speaking in ways that led much of the community to assume the worst. With this in mind, I believe that these elements are shown to emphasise that the two are more similar than one might initially believe.

  • The last time I watched an anime with a liberal helping of fireworks, it was Glasslip in summer 2014. At the time, I was just setting out on my journey into graduate studies. I could not make heads or tails of what message Glasslip was trying to convey, and now, two years later, I’ve finished that programme. Even with two years’ worth of additional experiences, knowledge and background, I still have no clue what Glasslip was about. However, in that time, I’ve fallen in love with Risa Taneda’s Kimi eto no Refrain, a song that brings to mind some of Stereopony’s compositions.

  • If Reina and Kumiko engage in yuri behaviours, I said right before Hibike! Euphonium 2 aired, I will eat an entire raw ghost chili (a cross between C. chinense and C. frutescensand stream the results live. One of the hottest peppers in the world, with a Scoville rating of around 1041427  (by comparison, a habañero chili ranks between 100000 and 300000 Scoville units), the ghost chili is so potent that a small piece can immediately water the eyes and cause immense pain. Consuming an entire pepper at once will result in sweating, vomiting and in severe cases, can even induce seizures. I’m glad that I won’t be taken up on this challenge: by Hibike! Euphonium 2, it’s clear that Reina and Kumiko are friends, albeit close ones.

  • Although I’ve not played a musical instrument in a band for upwards of ten years now, I was in a concert band many years back and played the clarinet. The full story is provided back during my first impressions post for Hibike! Euphonium (itself written a year-and-a-half ago), and in the decade or so that’s elapsed, I’m now completely illiterate as far as reading sheet music goes. With that being said, being in a concert and jazz band was still a fantastic experience.

  • The page quote is taken from an exchange between John Clark and Domingo Chavez in Clear and Present Danger: they are laser-designating a target where drug lords are meeting for a bombing run, and a large yellow monster truck appears. Seeing that is a suitable target, he orders Chavez to paint it. Curiously enough, the quote can also be interpreted to describe Taki’s perspective on Kitauji’s collective goal of winning the national level competition, and that their sights should be set high in order to motivate their performance. In addition, since I included mention of Tom Clancy in a Hibike! Euphonium post, I figured it would be appropriate to add a quote from a Tom Clancy novel.

  • Precisely a sixth of this post’s images deal with Kumiko and company’s day out to the community pool, relaxing before everyone embarks on a musical training camp, for the sole reason that, like Sargent Avery Johnson of Halo, I know what the readers like. Here, Kumiko and Sapphire react to Reina’s assets; Reina had earlier remarked that her swimsuit was growing somewhat tight, and I’m certain that veteran anime viewers would know what would follow.

  • According to some sources, Asuka and I would not be able to stare one another down, making her one of the taller of the female students in Hibike! Euphonium. Here’s a random bit of trivia about myself: I’m precisely the average height for a person of Cantonese background. I’m not particularly sensitive about my height: between folks who are of the mind that being “vertically challenged” has advantages, such as being able to disperse heat faster and not requiring so much leg room while on an airplane, and the folks who find that being taller means projecting more confidence and being able to reach things higher up, I can thus remark that  I’ve got best of both worlds: I’m short enough to sit comfortably on a commercial flight, and are still tall enough to reach most things.

  • Kumiko and Nozomi share yet another conversation: after hearing more background about the band’s schism from the previous year, Kumiko finds herself drawn in and wonders whether or not she’d be able to talk to Asuka herself to see what the outcomes are. I cannot recall whether or not Kumiko has been shown to be listening to Nozomi’s flute performances in recording form during the previous season, but she’s said to immediately recognise Nozomi’s style of performing.

  • I’ll break character for a mere moment and remark that Nozomi’s figure is very pleasing to the eye, before resuming and stating that Kyoto Animation’s attention to detail is impressive. Even in this image, scaled down to fit on the blog, it is possible to discern that there is a slight depth of field effect: Nozomi’s body is a little out of focus as the camera changes its attention to focus on Kumiko in the background.

  • An individual whose name will not be mentioned here has stated that “In a certain way…Kyo Ani is dialing up the Kumiko x Reina vibes, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, they seem to be backpedalling…”. Such an outlook could only arise if said individual genuinely believes that Kumiko and Reina’s friendship extend well beyond what might be considered ordinary. I personally did not find this to be the case: their dialogues and exchanges are par the course for how friends interact, and assert that the folks at Tango-Victor-Tango are making a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Taki introduces Satomi Niiyama, an expert in woodwind instruments, to help guide and improve the woodwind section’s performance. Upon remarking that he never flatters needlessly, some of the female members in the band somehow reach the conclusion that Taki and Satomi are in a relationship of some sort. Even armed with my incredibly vast powers of deduction and reasoning, I cannot figure out how this follows.

  • This is actually the greatest moment across all three of the opening episodes, to watch Reina react to the mere prospect that Taki might not be single #GG #GoodGame #LOLOLOLOLOL. All jokes aside, I’ve experienced thus and consequently, note that again, Kyoto Animation has done a marvelous job of capturing what these thoughts and feelings might look like. From some studies, heartbreak causes the brain to release the same neuroreceptor compounds that are released when one is physically harmed, resulting in an unpleasant sensation equivalent to actual pain.

  • Kumiko converses with Mizore Yoroizuka, a talented oboe player who was once friends with Nozomi. Detesting competitions, she’s generally quiet and enjoys practising alone, arriving even earlier than Reina. In the aftermath of the previous year’s events, she dislikes Nozomi and it is for this reason that Asuka refuses to readmit Nozomi into the concert band, expressing concern that Mizore’s performance will be negatively impacted owing to her strained relationship with Nozomi.

  • One aspect in Hibike! Euphonium 2 that seemed much more noticeable relative to the first season is Kumiko’s voice: she’s voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa (of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Itsuki Inubozaki). It somehow slipped my notice, but Tomoyo’s deliver of Kumiko’s voice in this second season feels more hesitant, giving it a life-like quality that mirrors Kumiko’s traits quite well. In fact, I feel that she sounds a bit like Five Centimeters per Second‘s Akari Shinohara (Yoshimi Kondō).

  • Quite truthfully, I’ve never been the sort of person to get caught up in interpersonal drama, and as such, during my days as a high school student, largely ignored it for each club or activity I participated in. It turns out, for instance, that there had been a bit of a mess in the yearbook club during my senior year. It seems that there was some sort of conflict behind-the-scenes, which accounted for why the numbers in the club dwindled, and the club advisor had assigned me the additional tasks, which I summarily finished. The yearbook thus came out on schedule to the students, who were none the wiser.

  • In general, I believe that drama should never be allowed to impact performance at any point in life, and decisions should not be made on the sole basis of minimising or causing drama. This “get it done” outlook means that I tend to clash with folks who place a great deal of emphasis on social hierarchies. Back in Hibike! Euphonium 2, Masahiro Hashimoto jovially addresses the students, saying that their music should be performed with a style representative of what Kitauji is, rather than mechanically. When Taki notes that Masahiro has his moments, the latter replies in kind, stating that all of his lines are quotable. Taki and Masahiro have known one another for quite some time and is an expert on percussion, being asked to help out with improving the band’s performance.

  • At the end of another day’s practise, which involves ten back-to-back performances with two minute intermissions, the entire band is exhausted and gather around a bonfire to light fireworks. As someone who is a morning person, I cannot get much work done by evenings and prefer to relax: yesterday, after a day’s effort in vacuuming the house and clearing out the bathrooms, I stepped out for dinner at the 桃園 Cafe HK, enjoying the katsu curry with spaghetti and a fried pumpkin slice.

  • Kumiko and Reina share a moment together with the sparklers. With Kumiko’s encouragement, Reina steps forth to confront her fears and ask about Taki’s marital status, learning that he’s not seeing Satomi, who is married. In the meantime, Kumiko learns something rather more surprising from Masahiro, who shares with her that Taki was once married. Following his wife’s death, Taki never remarried and, became more grim and silent than before.

  • This would appear to be the element that led Taki to leave the world of professional music, but when he applies to the music instructor position at Kitauji, Masahiro found himself relieved that Taki had slowly begun to gather himself and return to music. This element could make Reina’s endeavours a little more challenging: despite having known Taki for quite some time, it does not appear that she’s fully aware of his past.

  • Kumiko’s direct interactions with Yuko Yoshikawa (Hibike! Euphonium‘s equivalent of Lieutenant Angelo) in Hibike! Euphonium‘s first season were minimal, and being the straight-shooter that she is, when asked as to how she feels about Yuko, Kumiko responds that she’s not particularly fond of her. She learns of Yuko’s own perspectives on competitions: Yuko finds them to be an unfair assessment of a group’s performance, standing in contrast with Reina, who enjoys competitions because of the thrill of being able to gain a better idea of where her skills lie.

  • It actually took me the better half of a day to come up with things to say for the different moments in this Hibike! Euphonium talk, and it suddenly strikes me that even with more images, I’ve not covered all of the possible aspects that are meritorious of discussion. This attests to the amount of activity in Hibike! Euphonium, although for my own discussions, I will attempt to focus on the more basic elements in the theme, leaving topics dealing with the minutiae to the folks with more leisure time than myself.

  • This post comes to an end, and so, I’ll be returning once Hibike! Euphonium 2 wraps up in December to give a talk on the entire series. I’ll be keeping an eye on both how well the themes from the first season are retained, as well as what journey the band takes en route to their target. In the meantime, I’ll be resuming my weekly Brave Witches talks once the episodes begin airing again, and enjoy the fact that I’ll have the upcoming Saturday to relax.

With this in mind, I am greatly looking forwards to how Hibike! Euphonium 2 turns out; this is the prevailing opinion amongst the English-speaking viewers, who are likewise anticipating seeing more elements pertaining to the characters, their backgrounds and motivations. Aside from the life-like characters (who are portrayed as being multi-layered and complex as any characters from a Tom Clancy novel), Hibike! Euphonium 2 possesses top-tier artwork rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai and Studio Ghibli movies; this is impressive for the fact that a high standard is consistently seen in every episode. From the papers and clutter around Taki’s desk, to the reflections off the river during the fireworks show, and the detail in the brass instruments, Kyoto Animation has done much to ensure that each aspect is visceral, popping off the screen to capture that sense of realism. During my review of the full first season back in the summer of 2015, I remarked that a continuation would have been icing on the cake, but presently, with the second season under way, expectations are high for the narrative to deliver a compelling story about the next leg of Kitauji’s journey to capture the title of national champions in concert band.

Dash, Monoka: Hibike! Euphonium OVA Review and Reflection

“You have to work very hard behind the scenes, to make a message clear enough for a lot of people to understand.” — Stefano Gabbana

So named for the first syllables for three of the senior concert band members who did not make the cut, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA was released with the seventh Blu-Ray volume, following Hazuki’s experiences with her seniors as they practise for improvement and support the main concert band to the best of their ability. All the while, Hazuki is dealing with the aftermath of her attempt to ask out Shuichi, and Monoka’s decision to make individualised good luck charms for every member of the main concert band on the day of their competition. However, oversight leads them to leave the mallets behind, and realising that there’s no other way, Hazuki sprints off to retrieve them, making it just in time as Kitauji is set to go on stage. As a story set during the events of Hibike! Euphonium proper, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA details the events that occur concurrently with those of the main story, illustrating the unsuccessful members as resolved and supportive nonetheless. Far from being resentful or envious of those who had made it in, Monoka’s members are determined to work hard both to ensure another shot at concert band in the upcoming year, as well as to cheer on their fellow band members as they push for a shot at competing in the nationals.

Through its depiction, the Hibike! Euphonium OVA shows that systems in general are much more complex than what is visible. Set between episode eleven and twelve, the OVA shifts perspective to the group who had not made it and therefore, did not have a substantial presence in the final episodes. Between practising on their own and crafting good luck charms, the OVA shows that while Kumiko and Reina might have centre stage, Hazuki’s story merits telling. She comes to learn that, despite not making the cut in auditions, she’s discovered a joy in performing music, and while her involvement with the concert band ends for the present, she and the others nonetheless manage to find ways of continuing their passions for music. The importance of this contribution is highlighted when Hazuki decides to retrieve the mallets herself: though the band might be performing, it’s this singular action that demonstrates her commitment to Kitauji’s concert band. Hazuki’s actions, though not seen in the anime proper, saves the concert band a substantial amount of trouble. They are, in a sense, reminiscent of David Goodsell’s remarks on biological illustrations, that every single structure in one of his illustrations must be supported by other structures that cannot be seen in said image: their lack of visibility is certainly not indicative of a lack of importance.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For this OVA, I rolled with twenty screenshots, roughly distributed evenly to capture all of the moments within the OVA. Immediately, the lighting in the OVA is meant to evoke a sense of what the characters are going through: it’s shortly after these individuals have failed to make the cut for the band, and reflecting on this sort of melancholy, the scenes are permeated with greys. Even so, the girls immediately set about crafting an identity (“Monoka”) and goal for themselves.

  • Shuichi encounters Hazuki trying to carry her tuba and becomes somewhat embarrassed, suggesting that this is a ways shortly after Shuichi turns down Hazuki. On average, an orchestral tuba weighs around 25 to 35 pounds (and with its case, up to 45). While this is not particularly heavy (our lab’s Mac Pros from 2009 weigh 41 pounds and I move those around with reasonable frequency for presentations without difficulty), the fact is that they are quite bulky, and Hazuki’s preferred method of carrying them could result in back problems.

  • Struggling to find the words, Hazuki decides to set aside the past and encourage Shuichi forwards to do his best. Though Hazuki received less screentime as Hibike! Euphonium wore on, we recall that this was a consequence of Hibike! Euphonium having Kumiko as the protagonist: things are told from her point of view and as such, as she spends more time practising, there’s less time to relax.

  • That Hibike! Euphonium managed to work relationships into music was a nice touch: while it was certainly not subtle, it did not detract from music as a whole. After being rejected, Hazuki is struggling with the aftermath: friendships can and do turn a little unwieldy after such, and Hazuki wonders about Shuichi’s feelings for Kumiko, as well as expressing similar thoughts concerning love as I do.

  • Though this might be a mere OVA, Hibike! Euphonium spares no expense to ensure that the landscapes and lighting look as nicely as they did during the TV series, where the amount of detail put into the instruments was nothing short of impressive. Besides bringing all of the settings in the anime to life, the lighting does as much as the dialogue and music to set a particular mood.

  • Owing to its high production values, solid narrative and relatable characters, Hibike! Euphonium was well-received, sharing the spotlight with Shirobako and One Punch Man as one of the top anime of 2015 in the community. It represents one of Kyoto Animation’s finest works for quite some time, although I disagree that Hibike! Euphonium should be treated as “what K-On! should have been”.

  • The rationale for this is simply that the original materials are inherently different: the only thing that Hibike! Euphonium shares in common with K-On! is “music”. Beyond this, the K-On! manga was about a group of friends meeting through light music and eventually, figuring out that their junior is an irreplaceable treasure that made their club meetings special, and the Hibike! Euphonium light novel follows a high school concert band’s desire to see how far an honest effort will take them. Both works have a  different theme and are intended to tell a different story, so the comparison is invalid.

  • Quite honestly, I’m resentful of the society that places so much emphasis on finding someone “perfect” as “soon as possible”, and that single individuals are somehow “incomplete”. The resulting pressure drives people to pursue relationships even if it means hurting others in the process. Hibike! Euphonium, through Sapphire, supposes that pursuit of love is not a wasted endeavour provided that the feelings are genuine: I agree fully, and this is why I don’t ask people out on a whim. The downside is that being rejected here hits for double damage.

  • We’ll set this rather disquieting topic aside and return to Hibike! Euphonium, where we see Monoka shopping for the components required to craft their good luck charms. After the greys earlier in the episode, the warm colours of a sunset bathe Hazuki and Sapphire in a gentle light as the former puts her feelings out into the open. Colour saturation is amped up as Hazuki and the others busy themselves with creating their good luck charms, conveying the positive spirits everyone’s in.

  • Each good luck charm is lovingly constructed to properly capture Monoka’s wish for Kitauji’s band to succeed. I remarked in my review that ultimately, Hibike! Euphonium (or at least, Kyoto Animation’s interpretation of the light novels) suggests that the magic of music is such that the way there is only a part of the journey: once on stage, every struggle, challenge, triumph and memory fades as everyone concentrates on the singular purpose of delivering their best performance.

  • Natsuki’s generally apathetic attitude during the earlier sections of Hibike! Euphonium made her difficult to like, but her interactions with Kumiko allowed her character to mature. Seeing Kumiko’s earnest desire to improve reawakens a side of Natsuki that was lost after the events of the previous year, and despite not making the auditions, she nonetheless fulfils her role as a senior, hugging Hazuki here before imparting some advice. So, I’ve become fond of Netsuki’s character as a result.

  • One of the biggest strengths in Hibike! Euphonium as a whole was the character development; changes amongst the individuals are subtle but noticeable, and characters become more relatable, human, as the series gradually explores what drives their actions.

  • Noticing that Kumiko’s spilt something on her tie, Hazuki helps her switch to a clean one, continuing on with her support role. The OVA consistently reminds audiences that the folks behind the scenes serve just as critical a role as those at the front lines.

  • Though it might be in complete disagreement with what prevailing sentiments about Hazuki are, I feel that this OVA was a solid showcase for her actual character that the main series did not have sufficient time for. Hazuki is a rather likeable character who, despite experiencing her own doubts from time to time, always finds a way to smile nonetheless.

  • Though there may be that uncomfortable feeling between Shuichi and Hazuki, they get by reasonably well and are still on speaking terms with one another. Kumiko and Shuichi’s fist bump prior to their performance was in part motivated by Hazuki’s words of encouragement, and in the light novels, Kumiko and Shuichi eventually begin going out.

  • Hazuki’s message to Shuichi carries a dual meaning, wishing him both luck on his performance at the competition, as well as his pursuit for Kumiko’s heart. While most feel that Reina and Kumiko are the so-called “one true pair”, the light novels did not place particular emphasis on this element. So, for all intents and purposes, it is more natural to see Kumiko and Shuichi work out their differences and come to terms with their feelings to one another.

  • With the full weight of the concert band’s predicament coming to bear, Hazuki decides to leg it back to campus and recover the mallets. This is where the OVA’s title comes from, and the presently-accepted translation for かけです (Romaji: “kakedesu”) is “dash” because of its brevity. “Run” or “sprint” would be acceptable alternatives.

  • In a flashback, Hazuki reveals that if she was given a do-over, she’d pick concert band again, reinforcing Monoka’s overall sentiments about their current situation: they do not regret what has happened and have taken things in stride.

  • One week into 2016, and as predicted, I’ve hit the ground running with respect to being busy, which is why I’ve not been blogging with all that much consistency. Jay Ingram and his band visited our lab on Tuesday to see what research we’ve been conducting: my CAVE models were well-received, as was my thesis work. On Wednesday, I spoke with my supervisor about the remaining details of my thesis, and for the present, I’m working on another conference publication with a deadline on Valentines’ Day. Thursday saw a second presentation to executives from Telus World of Science in Edmonton, and yesterday, I swung by the Core for a hot, delicious bowl of seafood ramen on account of it being the coldest day of this year so far before returning to campus for a TA meeting. Lectures begin on Monday, but for me, my priority will be to get as much of the second conference paper done before term becomes more busy.

  • The OVA ends right as Kitauji takes to the stage and prepares to perform, with Hazuki looking on. Though specific reactions to the OVA have varied, viewers generally found it to be an enjoyable experience that sets the table for the upcoming second season. With this image, the figure captions are done, and I’ll be reviewing Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai within a week of its release. With how busy things have been, I imagine that 2016 is only going to intensify, so blogging frequency may fluctuate a little over the next while.

Consequently, while some might feel that Hazuki’s presence was unnecessary, and that the OVA’s contributions to Hibike! Euphonium are somehow inconsequential for being lighter in tone and content, I contend that this OVA is in fact necessary to appreciate the finale of Hibike! Euphonium. While the atmosphere lacks the same gravity as it did during the main season, the feelings and intents Monoka conveys about their passion for music cannot be understated: if this were not the case, Hazuki and the others would not have sufficient concern for their peers to have retrieved the mallets. In this way, they contribute behind-the-scenes to Kitauji’s gold and shot at the nationals. At the end of the day, this OVA’s contributions show that despite not making the cut, Hazuki and the others’ mindset make them more mature and perhaps, meriting a shot to play with the concert band itself in the future. For the present, the main topic on the audiences’ mind is the fact that Hibike! Euphonium is getting a sequel at some point; those who’ve read the light novels will likely already know what it will entail, but it’s not too difficult to surmise that we’ll be seeing Kitauji’s concert band gearing up for the national competition.

Hibike! Euphonium: Final Reflection and Review

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” —Vince Lombardi

This season’s premier anime about music concludes on a high note: after three episodes, Hibike! Euphonium details the personal aspects surrounding Kumiko, Hazuki and Sapphire as they continue practising to make the auditions. Such events include the mini-scandal that arises when Reina is chosen over Kaori to be the trumpet soloist, a love triangle between Kumiko, Hazuki and Shuichi, and Kumiko learning about her own passion for music as she spends more time with Reina. In spite of these turbulent events, all of these minor scrapes and bruises fall to the wayside as the day of the competition draws closer; spurred on by their own motivations, and by instructor Noboru Taki’s training regiment, Kitauji’s concert band put in their best efforts in practise. When the day of the competition comes, Kitauji’s performance, brimming with their honest intentions of excelling, leads them to be among the bands chosen for competition at the national level.

For all of the discussions and debates out there about the character growth in Hibike! Euphonium, the anime’s final performance illustrates how in the end, the internal conflicts in the characters ultimately are not as great of a concern as the band’s overall will and determination to give their best possible performance. Kitauji’s concert band members are able to set aside their own doubts, hesitation and reluctance to accept Noboru’s methods and their fellow band member’s dedication, working towards a tangible, meaningful goal. Thus, when all is said and done, the final performance shows a band whose members have successfully overcome their conflicts, both internally and amongst one another. This is often the case wherever a journey is undertaken: as things culminate towards the end, the bumps on the path matter less compared to what lessons were learnt from those bumps. Through Hibike! Euphonium, Kyoto Animation captures this notion perfectly.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Since I ended my last Hibike! Euphonium post with a picture of Reina, so I shall begin this post with the same. Despite being aloof and distant, viewers will warm up to Reina’s disposition as she interacts more with Kumiko: her smile is warm, and this is a side of her that she only displays towards Kumiko.

  • With the emphasis on competition, improvement and self-reflection, one might consider Hibike! Euphonium to be what viewers were anticipating when they saw K-On! for the first time. The only similarity the two anime share are that music is involved, and they’re both produced by Kyoto Animation, but beyond this, Hibike! Euphonium is about a band’s journey towards the National competition, while K-On! presented a more relaxed story about the value of time spent with friends.

  • Near Hibike! Euphonium‘s halfway point, Kitauji participates in the SunFes festival as a marching band. Despite performing after the prestigious Rikka academy, Kitauji demonstrates its commitment towards improvement here, surprising the audiences with their performance.

  • That Hibike! Euphonium was adapted from a light novel, rather than a four-panel comic, would speak volumes about why there’s a cohesive story here: after SunFes, Dr. Crane Noboru announces that there will be auditions for the upcoming competition. This adds additional weight to the story, and although audiences wouldn’t doubt that Kumiko will make it in, suspense comes from wondering whether or not Hazuki will pass.

  • Auditions, or “try outs” for the athletically-minded are intended to weed out members whose skill level and hearts are not fully on board. When auditions end, the end result is a team or group consisting of the players that satisfy the minimum requirements. Hibike! Euphonium is able to subtly capture the sense of dejection for the individuals who did not make the cut.

  • Another subtle conflict raised is the love triangle forming between Kumiko, Hazuki and Shuichi forms the conflict prior to the audition. One of the things that Kyoto Animation excels at with Hibike! Euphonium is the inclusion of natural conflicts and challenges amongst the characters without diverting an unreasonable amount of time to explore these stories. Naturally, there are some (especially those of Tango Victor Tango) that may gripe that this creates flat characters and prevents closure.

  • However, the deliberate choice to leave some elements ambiguous or unexplored is similar to how real life works: one does not necessarily know all the details of those around them, and to ask would be considered impolite or discourteous in some cases. In Hibike! Euphonium, audiences only have access to Kumiko’s narration, and as such, can only see the story from her eyes. It would therefore make sense that only what she perceives is explored in greater detail.

  • Thus, Kumiko, Shiuchi and Hazuki’s relationship woes are presented as being quite fleeting. Quite similarly, when the results of who will be the trumpet soloist are announced, there is a great deal of strife within the band; Kaori loses to Reina, leading Yuko Yoshikawa (a second year trumpeter with a bow in her hair) to accuse Noboru of playing favourites. This bit of competition drives a rift through the band, but again, finds resolution on relatively short order.

  • Reina confides in Kumiko that she wants to excel and become special at her own pace, disregarding Japanese social convention. The imagery here is evocative of the Snow Woman legend in Japan, suggesting that Kumiko is drawn to Reina’s beauty in spite of the hazards. If we look past the superficial elements, Reina’s beauty is her drive to be unique, and the associated hazard stems from this violating social convention. For the astronomers amongst my reader-base, the Venus-Jupiter conjunction can be seen in the background. This serves as yet another reminder of how committed to realism Kyoto Animation is.

  • Kumiko’s experience as a Euphonium player allows her to pass the auditions, and similarly, Midori succeeds as well, but Hazuki is unsuccessful. Maintaining an optimistic outlook, Hazuki resolves to continue playing next year. Earlier episodes show that Kumiko was reluctant to take up the euphonium again, rather similar to how Miho was initially wishing to distance herself from Panzerfahren. Because what precisely led to this is never explicitly mentioned, it’s logical to conclude that the message here is that what matters is making the most of the present, rather than atoning for anything from the past.

  • Thus, with respect to the comparatively quick timeframe in which conflicts are resolved, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that the director views them as minor setbacks in the grand scheme of things; what truly matters in Hibike! Euphonium is reaching the competition and performing well. As such, I don’t see a particular need to analyse Asuka’s character. Behind her easy-going, cheerful veneer, Asuka might be hiding something, but again, because it’s not relevant to how well Kitauji can perform, it’s not necessary to consider how Asuka as a character will impact the overall theme.

  • Though Hibike! Euphonium is a drama, there are some moments where comical expressions are used to visually denote the incredulity of a particular moment.

  • Under the summer heat, Kumiko suffers a nosebleed that stains her uniform, an issue that would not have been present with the brown winter uniforms. The summer uniforms have a much lighter feel to them, and I read an interesting discussion on the uniform’s differences between summer and winter. For me, I do not see a change in approachability, but a change in atmosphere: the lighter, airier summer uniforms reflect on the characters’ gradually opening up more and following their hearts, whereas the brown winter uniforms suggest rigidity and formality, which was very much present earlier in the season.

  • K-On! featured a light rock band with five members. The number of members in Kitauji’s concert band number is more impressive, and the fact that Kyoto Animation is able to animate everyone playing their instruments is a testament to how their craft has improved in the six years since the K-On! aired.

  • The drive for excellence is what keeps me rolling: similar to Reina, I approach anything I do with the mindset of giving it my best, and will only stand down once I know for certain that all avenues have been explored. Spending time with Reina allows Kumiko to understand the same, and coupled with words of encouragement from Noburu, Kumiko masters her section in time for the competition.

  • Kumiko’s ponytail makes a return in the finale, neatly evening out the series the way it started. However, when Hibike! Euphonium started, Kumiko decided to wear a ponytail merely for appearances’ sake, to leave behind her past self in a manner of speaking. By the finale, she does so out of practicality’s sake, and these minor differences in motivation can do much to convey the sort of character growth that Kumiko’s undergone over Hibike! Euphonium‘s run.

  • On the day of competition, whatever unresolved tensions between Kumiko and Shiuchi have largely been set aside as tensions and pressure mounts prior to performance. Some of the band members who were not selected to compete worked together to create good luck charms for the performers, showing that this is a band whose members do care for one another, and that any bad blood from earlier have largely dispelled.

  • Thus, when everyone is on stage, there is only music: nothing else matters. This is really what Hibike! Euphonium boils down to, and while the anime takes the time to show the scratches that occurred on the journey here, the sweat and tears that each member have contributed ultimately result in a payoff, illustrating that for all the challenges faced, with the right motivator, Kitauji’s band can indeed perform well.

  • Naturally, being an anime about music, I imagine that the soundtrack for Hibike! Euphonium will be an excellent listen. It’s set for release on July 8, a short ways from the present, and I most certainly look forwards to hearing “Crescent Moon Dance” in all of its glory. I was originally intending on writing about OreGairu Zoku first, but a quick glance at the site metrics made the decision for me: there does seem to be a great deal of interest in all things Hibike! Euphonium.

  • The finale comes full circle with Reina crying, although this time, Reina’s tears are of joy rather than disappointment. It’s finally over now, and what a journey it was. This is an anime that is relatively easy to recommend, as it succeeds in telling Kumiko’s story, balancing the main story with side elements to provide realism (in life, there’s always more than one’s occupation), and making use of audio-visual elements that show KyoAni as a studio that’s always improving their game.

With this theme in mind, it’s not too surprising to see dynamics between Reina and Kumiko, or the conflicts that Shuichi remark as having afflicted Kitauji’s concert band in previous years, become less relevant as the day of the competition moves closer. Hibike! Euphonium is an anime about a band overcoming past limitations and doubts: under Noburu’s watchful eye, each member learns to awaken their own drive for excellence. The role of these smaller details, serve to push Kumiko towards understanding her internal desire to excel and reach the nationals, rather than contributing to the theme directly. When Kumiko embraces her passion for music, these internal conflicts are resolved in a satisfactory manner. While the uninitiated may claim that this does not result in good closure, Hibike! Euphonium in fact resolves the all of the sub-stories that gradually developed in a rather elegant and logical approach. This marks the end of Hibike! Euphonium for the present, although to close the anime off here is to leave room open for future developments, either in the form of a movie or second season. While a continuation would be nice, it’s not necessary, given that Hibike! Euphonium successfully conveys its message to the audience.

Hibike! Euphonium: Reflection and review after three

“You know, if I can survive marching band, I can survive anything.” —Nellie McKay

Hibike! Euphonium, or Sound! Euphonium, is Kyoto Animation’s anime of this season, structured around Kitauji high school’s concert band who once participated in competitions at the national level. However, they’d declined dramatically and since then, have not made it past the qualifiers. This changes when Noboru Taki , a new music advisor is appointed, and under his instruction, the concert band begins its journey to restructure and perform as well as it once did. Kumiko Oumae joins Kitauji’s concert band with Hazuki Katou and Sapphire “Midori” Kawashima, and is once again persuaded to take up playing the euphonium. However, the journey to a recovery is not an easy one, and already, a divide has formed, with some of the concert band’s members not pulling their weight adequately. This does not go unnoticed by Noboru: despite his laid-back and calm demeanour, as well as his value on allowing the music students to grow independently, he is also very forward about what he thinks of their performance. This sort of attitude is precisely what shakes people out of their apathy and complacency; from a literary perspective, he is the preson who disrupts the status quo and will set in motion what’s to come. Coupled with the emphasis on the smaller details, such as breathing from the diaphragm and training up the embrasure, Hibike! Euphonium immediately lets the audience knows that this is going to be a series that is about music, and the sort of commitment that one must take to improve sufficiently such that they can realise their aspirations.

At the time of writing, it’s been nine years since I last picked up a clarinet or trumpet. In previous posts, I’ve alluded to being a reasonably proficient player with both instruments; I was once a part of my junior high’s concert band, and picked the clarinet as my first instrument. Why the clarinet? There’s nothing particularly deep here in my case: I chose the clarinet becuase it was the only instrument that I could initially get a sound from, and within a year, I became reasonably proficient. My grades in concert band were always quite good, and I spent countless hours a week practising, both the music in the practise books, music for school performances and competitions and playing music by ear for the sake of it. I intrinsically have no musical talent, and spent my time doing martial arts and reading in place of piano and violin lessons as my peers were wont to sign up for. Nonetheless, being a part of a concert band was, for the lack of another word, fun: I loved practising with the entire band, and although I was infamous for playing my parts too quickly when I’d started, eventually, I managed to synchronise with everyone else. Our band won several competitions, as well, and in my final year, I played trumpet for the jazz band, having taught myself how to play during the summer. Looking back, I find it to be somewhat surprising that I managed to participate in music and perform well on the virtue of just practise alone, and consequently, if someone with no musical background can do this, I anticipate that the characters in Hibike! Euphonium will naturally realise the scope and implications of their intentions to compete at the national level, and above all, understand the joys associated with succeeding, having cultivated such a strong commitment to something they genuinely wish to contribute to.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • As the central character, much of the events in Hibike! Euphonium is told around Kumiko Oumae, a pragmatic, yet indecisive first year. Kumiko is to Hibike! Emphonium‘s what Yui Hirasawa was to K-On!, although Kumiko is presented being quite similar to Girls und Panzer‘s Miho Nishizumi; both girls are seeking a fresh start in high school and their actions suggest a reason for desiring to distance themselves from something they once did.

  • Sapphire Kawashima has a timid disposition and is embarassed by her given name, preferring to be called Midori instead. She is a contrabass player and comes from a wealthy background. From the typographical perspective, I’ll refer to her as Midori because that’s far easier to type.

  • Hazuki Katou is one of Kumiko’s friends: easy-going and spirited, she winds up playing the tuba despite an initial interest in playing the trumpet because she inadvertently purchased a mouthpiece for a tuba.

  • Kumiko and her newfound friends react in shock when Asuka Tanaka, a third-year euphonium player, welcomes them to watch their concert band perform.

  • Shuuichi Tsukamoto and Kumiko are childhood friends who’d since become more distant towards one another after he made an unflattering remark about her in their final year of junior high. Despite this, they still converse with one another in more casual manners, and quite possibly, one of the things I’m going to be looking out for will be whether or not the two can reconcile; no love story is necessary, but to see two formerly close friends rediscover their friendship through music would be a nice (if somewhat cliched) addition to this anime. Shuuichi later informs Kumiko of a schism that led half of the more dedicated students to drop the concert band club the year before they arrived.

  • Kumiko and her older sister, Mamiko, don’t share a particularly cordial relationship. The use of camera angles and spaces to emphasise this distance contributes to this feeling, but their dialogues also serves a minor role, and consequently, both suggest that there might be something that merits further exploration in future episodes.

  • Why is it that the protagonists always sit near the windows of their classrooms? The practical answer is that it simplifies the animation process: by placing a character near the window, other students need not be drawn and animated. Some have speculated that this has some sort of literary significance, but this is done purely for ease of animation: anything the characters subsequently do (such as looking longingly out the window) is a bonus attributed to their spot in the classroom.

  • It will have been almost ten years since I picked up a trumpet for the first time, and for my first week of self-study, I practised on the mouthpiece alone until I could play a few rudimentary tunes by vibrating my lips at different frequencies. I personally think it’s a nontrival feat that I was able to, over the space of two months, attain a sufficient level of skill to keep up with other members of the jazz band, who had two more years of trumpet skills compared to myself.

  • Insofar, Midori, Kumiko and Hazuki do not appear to fit in with the K-On! archetypes, which defies initial predictions that Hibike! Euphonium is a moe anime that will play out like K-On!. The comparisons between the two are inapplicable, since the atmospherics and setups are inherently different, and while I disagree with anyone who would argue that there are similarities, the fact that such a comparison exists suggests that K-On! is still relevant, even five years after the TV series ended.

  • As the brass section’s leader, Asuka plays the euphonium and is the vice president of the concert band club. She’s very forwards and mischievous, unnerving some of the first years with her mannerisms, and oftentimes finds herself being reigned in by Haruka Ogasawara, the concert band’s president.

  • The euphonium is a baritone brass instrument that is used predominantly in concert bands, rather than orchestras, and play a large role in marches. The amount of detail Kyoto Animation breathes into the valves and other structures on the euphonium, and other brass instruments, is nothing short of impressive. It is quite possible that the technology, techniques or tools required to construct a satisfactory-looking instrument to Kyoto Animation might not have existed earlier, hence the preference for instruments with a simpler design.

  • As Hazuki discovers, the trumpet requires a certain skill to use: with the highest register amongst the brass instruments, it’s widely used in concert bands to provide the melody.

  • Noboru’s physical appearance is not unlike that of Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Batman Begins‘ Dr. Crane, although thankfully, rather than trying to spread a fear toxin throughout Kansai, Noboru’s only objective is to cultivate a sense of independence and drive to perform well, and harsh his words may be, this is probably precisely what Kitauji’s band needs to pull itself back up.

  • Kumiko expresses a degree of stress about her situation with Reina; whereas she was content to have achieved a ‘dud’ gold (where a band wins a gold but does not advance to the next level) back in junior high, the latter was dissatisfied. Consequently, Kumiko finds it difficult to talk to her, with the aim of expressing that in spite of what’s happened, losing is not the end of the world.

  • Aoi Satou is two years Kumiko’s senior and plays the tenor saxophone: she remarks to Kumiko that the latter ought to make the most of her three years of high school, since this time will pass by in the blink of an eye.

  • Kyoto Animation’s craft has always been impressive, but the artwork and level of detail in Hibike! Euphonium appears to be even more impressive than their previous works. I’ve previously mentioned that this attention to the visual component is one of the reasons why their adaptation of Haruhi Suzumiya was so successful; Satelight’s interpretation of The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan feels far more minimalist by comparison.

  • Aside from all of the merits that are already present in Hibike! Euphonium, I add to the list sort of humour that can only stem from concert band-related topics, such as over-exerting oneself during breathing training. From the looks of things, Hibike! Euphonium will be able to maintain a good balance between the story component, and the humour component to really bring out a story that viewers can relate to.

  • There’s no point in doing something if one isn’t giving it with their fullest effort. This forms the foundations for why I do things the way that I do; if we journey further back in time, to when I was in primary school, my earliest years were characterised by instructors citing that I lacked focus, and couldn’t pay attention to classes. At some point, I realised that it would be more meaningful if I tried to do a good job, regardless of whether or not I liked the topic or assignment.

  • Thus, we fast forward back to the present, and looking back, I’d think that for the amount of trouble I caused my primary school instructors, I turned out alright. Coming up next will be a talk on my initial impressions for Wolfenstein: The New Order, followed by Terror in Resonance and RWBY. The latter two are by request from readers, and I do occasionally take up anime if requested.

  • I waited until the very end to feature an image of Reina Kousaka, one of Kumiko’s classmates who was also at her junior high’s concert band and an excellent trumpet player. Distraught that Kumiko was not particularly worried about losing, their relationship has been rocky. This scene reminds me of Rio playing the trumpet for Kanata in Sora no Woto, and looking forwards, I imagine that Hibike! Euphonium will also follow the reconciliation that Kumiko and Reina must undertake before Kitauji’s concert band club can truly succeed.

Hibike! Euphonium stands to become a solid anime for the same reason that Girls und Panzer was enjoyable: both anime feature a formerly top-tier club that had fallen by the wayside. In Girls und Panzer, twelve episodes was all it took to tell an immensely thrilling and meaningful story, and though it might’ve been troubled by some production issues, the series was by all means exceptional. However, with Kyoto Animation at the helm, and the fact that I can relate to the story immediately, I foresee that Hibike! Euphonium will probably be one of Kyoto Animation’s better anime. The story is already highly engaging and relatable, but Kyoto Animation appears to have stepped up their craft further. The sound is fantastic, and though I’ve not picked up a clarinet or played in a concert band in over nine years, Kyoto Animation is able to portray both the excellent and inexperienced bands: in Kitauji’s performances, I can hear individual clarinets squeaking. Different sections going off-tempo and off-tune can also be discerned, illustrating the sound quality that’s gone into production. The visuals have also taken off: the amount of detail that is present in the individual instruments (and in particular, lighting effedcts) is absolutely amazing, and the landscapes themselves are detailed enough to challenge even Makoto Shinkai’s. Three episodes in, I cannot find any substantial faults with Hibike! Euphonium, and would easily recommend this anime- a fantastic voyage doubtlessly awaits, and I look forwards to seeing what happens with Kitauji’s concert band as they improve and spend more time with one another.