Hibike! Euphonium

December 13, 2015

Tired of cute high school girl rock bands? Okay. How about a brass band now? Brass band?! An anime about a high school brass band? Yes people, it did happen and I suppose Hibike! Euphonium is the only anime focusing about a brass band out there. Sure, it might not be as glamorous as those rock band counterparts since you have so many people in it and everyone is carrying such heavy instruments that could serve as a murder weapon and you need lots of lung capacity and discipline to play them effectively and in a group. So what is so appealing about this anime then? Well, from the same creators who brought you that cutely moe K-ON!, now comes this series about a group of cutely moe high school students of a brass band. Yes people. Just like why Tamako Market was the reason K-ON! never got a third season, Hibike! Euphonium is also that exact same reason for this year why K-ON! won’t be getting another due season. Haha! So shall we play on?

Episode 1
During the concert band preliminaries, the middle school that Kumiko Oumae attends gets a dud gold. Although she is more than happy it is still a gold but her friend, Reina Kousaka is not. She is totally upset! Today it is Kumiko’s high school debut at Kitauji and the brass band is trying to welcome-cum-recruit the newbies but they sound so horrible… In class, she quickly makes friends with Hazuki Katou and Midori “Sapphire” Kawashima, both of whom had experiences in playing brass instruments before. So they go check out the brass band club and you can tell that Asuka Tanaka, the vice president is desperate to get new members. I hope she doesn’t scare them off. Luckily there is kind ol’ Haruka Ogasawara, the club president who doesn’t want her to be pushy to the new ones. As they watch the band practice, Reina comes in and signals her intention to join. Kumiko is surprised to see her and is loss for words. On the way home, childhood friend Shuuichi Tsukamoto talks to Kumiko about the brass band club she is joining. Although she said she wanted to join it but decided not to eventually. Really? Kumiko has a lot weighing on her mind. To join or not to join. Plus, her less than pleasant experience during that last preliminary competition isn’t exactly something you would want as memories either. Next day in class, she is surprised that Hazuki has bought a mouthpiece despite not choosing an instrument yet. Midori is amazed as she used to play the contrabass before and wants her to teach her. Kumiko remembers her sister, Mamiko thought her how to blow with the mouthpiece. Hazuki and Midori invite Kumiko to go join the brass band and she agrees.

Episode 2
The biggest challenge for Kumiko now is to go talk to Reina. It all looks fine and dandy in her mind. But in reality? A bundle of nerves. Lame. I don’t know if Reina is ignoring her or not. The friends head to the brass band clubroom. Kumiko once played the euph and doesn’t want her friends to reveal this because it makes her easier to change instruments. She wants to play the trombone. All the section heads introduce themselves and the instruments they play. Asuka is from the bass section and she is pretty passionate in ranting her part. Yeah, how pages is she going to go on?! Nobody cares. Next! Midori seems interested to join the bass section. As everybody else look around to find an instrument they want to play, Asuka keeps bugging Kumiko and Hazuki to join her! WTF?! Asuka’s guts tell her Kumiko can play the euph so she tries to hide that she has never touched it before. Asuka’s brainwashing on Hazuki now condemns her to be under her wing. Kumiko needs to get away before she gets dragged in but Shuuichi and Aoi Saitou accidentally reveal about Kumiko’s euph experience. Oops. Too late. You’re stuck now. Noboru Taki is the brass band’s advisor. First he wants to establish the club’s goal. Does the Nationals sound okay? The students aren’t sure. So he decides to take a vote. Hands up for those who want to aim for the Nationals. Wow. A bunch of them. Looks like a clear winner. And now who doesn’t want to go to the Nationals? Only Aoi raises her hand. And so it is decided that they will work towards the Nationals. On the way home, Kumiko seems to be suffering from the ‘guilt’ that she took neither stand. Aoi talks to her about this dilemma of hers. She leaves Kumiko with an advice that 3 years will pass by very fast in a flash so be careful. At that time, Kumiko doesn’t understand what that meant. Next day, Kumiko tries again to talk to Reina. This time she is able to strike up a decent conversation. Although it was just a short one, at least it made her feel relieved.

Episode 3
The newbies are doing circular breathing practice. We are told how the different sections practice in different rooms to avoid disturbing each other. Asuka has her newbies select their equipment. Midori takes a liking for the contrabass the moment she looks at it and calls it… George! Midori takes the tuba and Kumiko, well, hello again euph. As they tune their instruments, flashback shows Taki leaving the band to practice however they want and if they are ready to play as an ensemble the simplest piece for beginners, Marines’ Hymn, then call him. Besides, the upcoming SunFes (Sunrise Festival) will be the first concert they’ll be playing at. As the bass section practises, Kumiko notices fellow Natsuki Nakagawa not interested and just lazing around. Asuka is confident she’ll play when the time comes. This has Midori wondering why there aren’t many second year students around so Takuya Gotou tells her first years need not concern themselves with this. When Kumiko is instructed to go call the horn section to play together, she sees all of them fooling around and not practising a bit. As SunFes is inching closer, Haruka is pressured to make it happen as she goes to call Taki to hear the ensemble. Let’s say they obviously suck. He reminds Haruka that he told her to only call him when they’re good enough to play and defines what an ensemble is. Because Shuuichi claims they have been practising hard (at least for his trombone section), Taki decides to test his section by playing to the metronome’s pace. Not good. This is the same for the other parts.

Some want him to point out where they are wrong. He reminds them that they have decided to aim for the Nationals and should be at least playing the minimum standards. Right now they are unbearable and not even deserving for instructions. But what about SunFes then? They are in no position to think about that right now. If they cannot get to that minimum standard, they shouldn’t even think about participating. The students are left bitter and ashamed. Haruka is at a loss on what to do so Asuka suggests gathering opinions from each section and let the section leaders talk it over. After school, Shuuichi talks to Kumiko and friends what he found out about the second years. Seems there were some sort of disagreement and this led to more than half of them to quit. Some of those left behind (like Natsuki) laze around. Therefore at this rate there is no way a school like theirs could make it to the Nationals. Kumiko thought everything would be fine when tomorrow comes but her expectations were betrayed when Haruka announces that any practice is cancelled until the section leaders’ meeting is over as some feel opposed to Taki’s policies and protested in practising until something is done. Kumiko and friends are in a dilemma on what to do since they are dragged into this mess. Do they have to work hard and get angry with the people who don’t care? They hear Reina playing a lovely rendition of From The New World over the hill. After that, she gives out a great yell of frustration.

Episode 4
The section leaders start their meeting and are in a dilemma to continue protesting or start practising. It is decided they will practice till next week and if Taki says they aren’t going to SunFes, they’ll make their complaint. But Taki soon walks in and wants everyone to put on their gym clothes and run a lap around the field. Then he has each section do some sort of breathing exercise or practice playing a line many times. Kumiko and Hazuki could hear mixed comments from the band. Some are commenting on his unusual tactics and even one was crying while Taki was evaluating her performance (despite he was saying it all politely). After school, Shuuichi talks to Kumiko about Reina. Because she speaks her mind clearly when Taki asked her a question so the seniors are having an eye on her. He wonders if Taki is heavy handed since he is making them practice the same lines over and over again. Reina overheard this and tells him not to speak ill of Taki as he is a great teacher. Next day, when Reina calls Kumiko to talk, the latter panics and thinks she is going to kill her! Actually she wants to apologize for saying too much yesterday. Kumiko needs to say something or she’ll regret it like always. She sums up her courage to also apologize and praise her trumpet playing the other evening. Although Kumiko felt she might have crept Reina out, she did feel a little good inside. Kumiko is motivated that she asks Natsuki to come join practice. Everyone endeavours in their practice and despite it all started as dissatisfaction towards Taki’s methods, it became a unifying energy force for the band. A week later, the ensemble gathers to play Marine’s Hymn. Sounds much better now. Although there is a lot of nitpicking he could do, Taki passes them and they will play at SunFes. He hands them the programme. It is a gruelling one and they’re going to use all the remaining time to practice. He believes they can show everyone that they are different this year. Seeing his unwavering smile, everyone begins to believe he is serious about this.

Episode 5
Thanks to all that rigorous breathing exercise, Hazuki’s lung capacity is amazing when measured during the physical check-up. Kumiko has something else bothering her. Her chest growth is still nil! She thought Hazuki is pretty much the same but all that confidence shatters after she sees Asuka’s. After trying out their uniform, they practice marching. It’s hot and sweaty. Get use to it. With extra practice and effort put in, they make steady progress. On the way home, Kumiko bumps into Reina. She tries to start a normal conversation but the first thing Reina asks her is her opinion of Taki. Sure, Kumiko tells her opinions. Opinions from others. Kumiko fears she might have screwed up but Reina gives off a dazzling yet mysterious smile. On the day of SunFes, the band members get their instruments ready and prepare to depart. They notice heavyweight favourites from other schools like Rakushu and Rikka. Worst possible schedule for Kitauji as they are sandwiched between Rikka and Rakushu. Kumiko then spots her old band mate, Azusa Sasaki from Rikka. Azusa is surprised Kumiko enrolled at Kitauji. But Kumiko is surprised to hear that Reina turned down Rikka’s invitation to go to Kitauji. Azusa suggests to go meet their other friends but Kumiko will not accompany her. She tells her the reason she enrolled at Kitauji. She thought of starting a new by going to a high school where she didn’t know too many people. I suppose she has a place and friends to call her own now. Good. Because she’s not regretting it. As the festival begins, everyone is amazed and anticipating Rikka’s unique choreography. It is demoralizing Kitauji. But with Taki giving his motivation before their turn, they’re going out there to do what they have been practising so hard. So when they march through the crowd, the spectators are amazed to see this new awesome talent. Never heard of this school? Well, look it up! Never knew there were other schools this good, huh?

Episode 6
After SunFes, it is time for the summer competition. They’ve been handed schedules for the competition preparations and practice. Kitauji’s tracks record never has them traverse past the prefectural preliminaries and the highest they’ve ever got was bronze. When Taki suggests holding an audition to select which members take part in the competition (maximum of 55 members is the limit), this doesn’t sit well with the seniors but as he puts it, if the juniors are better than you, what else is there to say? The contrabass section takes a look at their musical score for the audition and it out. Since Hazuki is still having trouble playing her tuba properly, she thought she broke it when a part came off! It’s time for her to learn some maintenance work on how to dismantle and assemble tuba parts. As she wants to practice more, Hazuki gets permission to use a soft cover so she can take it home to practice. Hazuki and co try asking the senior contrabass members for motivation to play their section. Riko Nagase doesn’t have anything good to say (bass section always get blamed?) while Gotou has some cool lines but I don’t really understand it all. Finally with Asuka, she gives Hazuki something simple to play but she finds it too easy! Asuka then tricks Kumiko into wearing some tuba mascot (marshmallow character?) and pretend to be Hazuki’s tuba that has magically come alive to motivate her. Yeah well… Midori is the one who took the bait and Hazuki could easily identify Kumiko behind that suit. Embarrassing… Then Gotou gives the most meaningful motivation ever. Playing tuba alone feels boring. It is only when it is played with other instruments that it feels like music. Like harmony. They realize Hazuki has never played in a real ensemble before. At SunFes she was reduced to cheerleading as heavy instruments were sat out. Even in most practices, she sat out as she is junior to give way to seniors. Kumiko and Midori then invite Hazuki to play a simple song with them and it sounded like real music. Hazuki brings her tuba home but I guess it is too big for a girl like her to carry bag. She almost falls down when Shuuichi catches her. That look in her eyes… Is some sort of romance blooming?

Episode 7
Another day, another usual practice. When Kumiko is cleaning up, she hears Haruka talking how Aoi is planning to quit the band. So when Aoi’s performance takes an obvious dip, Taki questions her about her goal. This is when Aoi announces she wants to quit the band because at this rate with practice getting longer and longer, she will be unable to concentrate on her entrance exam and get into her first choice college. Aoi takes her leave. Kumiko and Haruka run after her in hopes of convincing her to change her mind. Nope. This is starting to have a domino effect as Haruka starts feeling she is worthless as the club president. Somehow this also drags Kumiko into it (and all she did was trying to name her nice points). Asuka takes control of the situation to bring that emotionally unstable girl back. So now Haruka is trying to blame Asuka for not taking up this post and because of that she has to shoulder it? Then why didn’t she reject it in the first place? Kumiko’s performance is also affected that Taki starts to notice… At least she isn’t quitting. Natsuki tells Kumiko and friends a little about their grade’s feud. Her grade wanted to practice seriously but was seriously ignored. They pleaded but they acted never to notice them till they leave. Shuuichi talks to Kumiko about the possibility of Haruka quitting and being replaced by Asuka. Kumiko doesn’t believe it will happen. Personally, Shuuichi doesn’t like Asuka because she is too perfect and doesn’t know how much of an act she is putting up. Then there is also about Aoi which might have been indirectly affected by last year’s friction as she was stuck in between. After Haruka takes a day off from practice, she is back refreshed and her mind is now focused in doing her best for the competition. And so life and practice go on without Aoi. But there might be another ‘issue’ looming. Hazuki asks Kumiko if she is dating Shuuichi!

Episode 8
Kumiko confirms she isn’t going out with Shuuichi. So why ask? Midori becomes aggressively pushy because she knows Hazuki likes Shuuichi. You know about the upcoming Agata Festival, right? If you didn’t know Riko and Gotou are dating because they’re doing it secretly. Asuka? Her euph is her only love! After school, Shuuichi talks to Kumiko if she would like to go with him to the festival. It leaves her in shock. Then she starts connecting the dots together. Hazuki asking Shuuichi. Shuuichi asking Kumiko. Oh dear. Looks like a love triangle is forming. She tries to avoid contact at all cost but evidently that guy wants an answer if she’s going with him or not. Better think fast. Then she grabs a random passing girl. Too bad Shuuichi. She’s going with her. Reina? Gasp! Then Hazuki wants a word with Shuuichi. On the day of the festival, Hazuki meets up with Midori first. She has a little cute sister, Kohaku who looks so much like her that I thought it was a mini version of Midori! Finally Hazuki meets up with Shuuichi. Without hesitation, she confesses she loves him. That shocking reaction… He didn’t expect it, didn’t he? But his answer? Sorry. Hazuki seems to be taking it in good strides. With this over, she will support Shuuichi to get together with Kumiko. Nothing between them says he? It’s so obvious that it’s written on his face… Meanwhile we have almost some sort of yuri time with Reina and Kumiko, both brought their instruments and hike up a hill! Reina admits she has always wanted to hang out with her. She’s hinting some form of twisted love for her… Reina explains how she didn’t want to be part of the group who thinks they are all the same. It is that kind of perfection she wants to avoid. That is why she plays the trumpet because she believes she can be truly special. That dumbfounded surprised look on Kumiko’s face just makes Reina laugh. They start playing a piece at the hilltop. When Hazuki reunites with Midori, she lets go all her tears. Aww… Poor girl. Time for a girl hug.

Episode 9
Everyone is focused on their practice. But Midori is getting sloppy and it is making Asuka mad! Talking with Kumiko, she believes something must have happened. Hazuki explains that Midori must have felt responsible for her failed confession. But Asuka doesn’t care about this and has no time to put up with kids who can’t practice. She goes to practice alone. Hazuki goes to have a talk with Midori (chopping her head multiple times?) and they put this issue behind them. Then Hazuki talks to Kumiko and believes she likes Shuuichi and will help her out. Of course Kumiko vehemently protests about this but this only makes Hazuki believe that she doesn’t know her own feelings. Then that guy had to come into the scene… As expected, this means lots of stuffs are occupying her head. As she practises alone, she heard Natsuki’s play and thought it was quite good. Then it hit her that everyone wants to play and be in the competition and at the same time, the fear of competing with her seniors. Then this funny scene whereby Kumiko and Reina pressing each other’s cheeks as a sign that they’ll not give up. Huh? The auditions are here and some are very nervous. Like Hazuki. Kumiko notices some audition is only very short like Asuka but some are drawn out long like Natsuki. When it is her turn, the short ‘interview’ before she plays has Kumiko wondering if she has raised the bar for herself. There are some parts Taki asks her to play but Kumiko felt scared because she didn’t practice enough those parts. Soon the audition results are announced. Going by sections, those who didn’t get their name called out are dropped. Instant tears of despair. For the euph section, only Asuka and Kumiko pass. Natsuki didn’t. While Midori makes it (is it because she is the only one with contrabass?) but Hazuki failed. Reina of course is chosen but even more special is that she gets the trumpet solo part.

Episode 10
Kumiko remembers during her middle school years, because she got accepted into the band, it made a senior jealous and got chewed out. She expected the same with Natsuki when she calls to talk. What a big relief that Natsuki isn’t bothered about it. She explains her drawn out audition was because Taki made her play parts she didn’t practice. Natsuki congratulates Kumiko and she won her place because she is capable. Meanwhile Yuuko Yoshikawa is talking to Kaori Nakaseko. Although both trumpet players passed the audition, Yuuko is not happy that Reina got the solo part. Kaori is fine with it but Yuuko isn’t. It sounds like Yuuko has a big problem if Kaori doesn’t get her dream come true since this is her last year. As Taki has the band members lay out used blankets on the ground (to absorb the sound as they need to practice playing their volume since the hall will be bigger than the classroom and the sound will spread), Yuuko boldly confronts Taki that he played favourites during the audition. Because he knew who Reina is before. Taki admits he knew Reina beforehand but denies every playing favourites. Reina interjects not to insult Taki and also boldly declares she got the part because she is better than Kaori! If she wants to complain, do it after surpassing her. Reina storms off with Kumiko following her shortly. But Kumiko starts laughing after seeing how Reina starts shouting out in frustrating about that complaining b*tch. Later Reina reveals her dad was a professional trumpeter while Taki a professional conductor. That is how they met and became best friends. He is the reason why Reina enrolled in this school. Yes, Reina loves Taki but the love is one-sided and he doesn’t know about it.

Soon rumours spread that the audition was a setup to have Reina play the solo part. The suspicion gets worse when Taki remains silent on the issue. Then at one time we thought we never seen Taki’s angry side before. Because the students put away the blankets when they’re not practising since it is hot and he yells back that he never told them to do so! So the different sections are playing separately again. At this rate they can’t play as an ensemble. Kumiko might have drawn the short end of the stick since her friends pick her out to go talk to Asuka to convince everyone as they feel she is closer to the vice president. Kumiko still sees Kaori practising her solo parts. Then she asks Asuka if Reina or Kaori is better. Personally, she doesn’t care. Kumiko doesn’t know if she’s lying or not because she can never guess what’s on her mind with that thick face. Haruka needs to get her band together so before practice starts, she talks about the rumours about Taki that are going around and at this rate they can’t concentrate. They’re not going to win the competition this way. If anyone has any problems, raise your hand now and she’ll tell Taki. Yuuko and the rest of the dissatisfied ones do so. That is when Taki comes in. He announces about the hall they’ve rented to practice in. He will be having second auditions there if anyone is interested. They will play before the entire band and they will decide themselves by vote of majority. So is anybody interested? Kaori becomes the first to raise her hand. She wants a retake for the solo part. This means Reina will also have to retake it since she is the current and only soloist.

Episode 11
Yuuko is admiring Kaori’s practice. Admiring enough to be considered creepy. Even creepier is how Yuuko dragged Kumiko to get her opinion when they eavesdrop on Reina’s play. We know Kumiko is a staunch Reina supporter, right? That sums up Kaori’s prospects. Kaori is letting Asuka hear her play but the latter is being cool giving middle ground comments. The better one will play. It is not her who will decide to play the solo parts. Even if Kaori tries a little psychology to ask for her personal opinion, with Asuka this cool, Kaori retracts her word. Better not to know. I guess Yuuko is desperate. She confronts Reina to tell her to let Kaori play. She doesn’t mind to become the villain that forced Reina out. She even goes into some history how Kaori was the best trumpeter but was left out due to seniority. But what does this all have to do with Reina? She still has a couple of more years but it is Kaori’s last year. So what? Reina is not bowing to pressure. If Kaori wants to play, all she has to do is to do better than her. Simple as that. So before the second audition in the hall, Haruka talks to Kaori about why she is obsessed with Asuka. Something about she could see through her and knows what she is thinking. She thought of wanting to surprise her. Now it’s Kumiko’s turn to talk to Reina. Reina asks if she would be mad if she lost. Of course she would. Reina is special. And Kumiko is passionate about that. She would even go so far to be a villain for her. Maybe. Heh. Then the most yuri thing ever happening so far. Reina touches her cheek and their faces so close that it just messes with your mind that they might even do it. Heck, they even say this is some sort of love confession. Because Reina is confident Kumiko will never abandon her. Because if she does, she’ll kill her. She’ll do it. Kumiko gives her permission. WTF. Is this some sort of yandere joke?! And now the rematch begins. Kaori goes first. Everybody closes their eyes to listen better. Only Yuuko is praying harder. Now it’s Reina’s turn. Some are shocked enough to open their eyes and watch in amazement. This sums it up, huh? Time to vote. Those who approve of Kaori please applause. Yuuko the first one to give a standing ovation. Those who approve of Reina please applause. Kumiko the first one to give a standing ovation. Because Kaori had slightly more claps, Taki asks Kaori if she would like to be the soloist. She won’t because she feels Reina should play that part. Wow. Yuuko breaking down like it’s the end of the world. Yeah, she’s really that sad. No joke. It’s just WTF and heartbreaking at the same time. So it’s final. Taki says Reina will be the one playing the solo.

Episode 12
Everyone is practising hard. Kumiko has a part which is tough for her so she practises alone and so hard that she didn’t even realize her nose is bleeding! Remember, in this hot summer please stay hydrated. She continues to improve herself and one night she passes by Aoi returning from cram school. She asks has she ever regretted quitting the band. Not once. Getting university will always take priority over the band. Even if there were no such problems, she’d quit anyway since she didn’t have a reason to continue. As the practice continues, Taki continues to point out parts that need to improve. Kumiko still has problem with hers so he asks if she can get better before the competition. Of course she will. Kumiko practises alone again but this time Reina joins her. Oh, don’t forget to drink water. Later Reina and Kaori apologize to each other for being obnoxious during the audition. And then it got to Kumiko when Taki points out a mistake made by Asuka. This makes her feel frustrated and upset that she wants to improve. It’s really getting to her. Well, I wonder if she really feels better having a shouting contest with Shuuichi (who is also feeling the stressed of trying to improve his weak parts) across the road that they’ll become better. That is when Kumiko realizes how Reina felt back then. She finally understood why she was so upset. Spacing out back home, Mamiko reminds her to start studying instead of devoting time to her club activities. But Kumiko says back that despite she quit the band, she didn’t even get into the university she wanted. Mamiko argues what’s the point of continuing in a band if she isn’t going to music school. There is. She likes the euph. Got a problem with that? That night, Kumiko returns to school to retrieve something she has forgotten. Taki is there working late. She talks to him about his father who was also a famous conductor. Although Taki initially didn’t want to take the same job like his father eventually it became his job because he chose it. It was something he enjoys doing. This gives Kumiko a lot of motivation. So she calls Reina to meet now just to brag she had a talk with Taki and her love for euph? I don’t blame Reina if she is feeling shocked. Because Kumiko gets distracted in buying a euph gachapon and gets the one she wants on her first go.

Episode 13
The big day is here. Check your instruments. Move them. Some words from Taki. Members who didn’t make the cut made lucky charms for the competition going comrades. At the big hall, Rikka’s Azusa is there too but only manages to exchange a short hi from a distance with Kumiko. Instrument tuning. Taki in a tuxedo. Last final words of motivation from him. Tiny bit of Kumiko-Shuuichi banter. Time to go on stage. Asuka feels sad that they had so much fun and now it’s all going to end. Kitauji starts playing their pieces. Kumiko narrates about the start whereby everyone said they wanted to go to the Nationals at the start was just talk because nobody really thought they would make it. Although it has been her dream to go there, she never really put hopes in it for fear of embarrassing herself. Now she knows wishes don’t come true unless you wish them out loud. Here comes Reina’s wonderful trumpet solo before their turn comes to a magnificent end. Now the most anxious part of it all. Waiting for the results. So nervous they could die. Will they make it? Never prayed to God so hard before. Then the unbelievable happen. Kitauji won gold!!!! Not fake gold but a real gold!!!! Believe it! This means they advance to the next round! REJOICE!!! I guess it is one of those times where it is okay for everyone to get emotional and cry together. Yeah. Reina x Kumiko hug.

Special 1
Kumiko tells Midori and Hazuki how she cleans her instrument. In addition to polishing the outside, the inside must also be well cleaned. How do you clean it? Soak it in the tub with hot water. This has Hazuki start thinking Kumiko and the rest of the gang bath with their instrument. Then Kumiko and Midori argue about using ketchup and soy sauce respectively to clean it cleaner. But Hazuki can only imagine the bathtub filled with either ketchup or soy sauce. So confused Hazuki asks Reina for her preference. She prefers salt. Salt? She’s referring to eggs, right…? What?

Special 2
Hazuki is tired of her nickname and wants a new one. She takes the liberty to give some of the band members nicknames based on their names. Midori thinks her original nickname is cute so Hazuki wonders if she should call her Sapphire. Midori it is! Now Asuka is going to help come up with a new nickname. Either it doesn’t make sense or is too long that it sounds like an insult. Hazuki threatens never to call her by her old nickname again and if anyone does, she will not speak to them. But Asuka cleverly weaves it inside Hazuki’s favourite topics. Like a charm.

Special 3
Shuuichi narrates that it isn’t a bed of roses for the guys despite the brass band club is dominated by females. You think you’re getting a harem? Think again. Like when you say something boring, the girls would chide you off. At times when they invite you out, they just ignore you while they do and talk their girly stuffs. Of course, there are times when the guys shine and that is when they are made to lift the heavy instruments. Sometimes I wonder if these guys would turn gay because when another guy joins, they’re so happy. Despite from different sections, they band together like bros. And the main reason why they continue being in the band is because they love it. Yup. I think they are really gays…

Special 4
Midori rants about her love for the tuba mascot that she has everything from accessories to items in his design. Except for the toy capsule that always seems to elude her… As for why she loves it so much, here is a little back story. When she and Kohaku were hanging out in the park, Midori went to get some juice and when she returned, Kohaku went missing. She started panicking but that soon turned into relief when the tuba mascot brought her back safe and sound. This is when she started liking the mascot. Even now Kohaku has become quite the fan. Even Kumiko notes the reason the friends are together is because of this mascot. It is no doubt that this tuba guy is king!

Special 5
Kumiko narrates some of the little problems facing the club at times. Like when your sheet stand just sometimes gets loose and drops. Or when you scribbled too many notes on your score that you just can’t read it right. What about interrupting and stopping the entire band just because you came in late. Then there is this finger synching tactic whereby one would help cover for you by just pretending to move their fingers. Of course it doesn’t work when Taki calls out a section to play that part alone. Especially one at a time. And it looks like Kumiko always gets it, messing up time after time in front of everybody.

Special 6
The girls wonder about Taki’s private life because it is as mysterious as him. They discuss what his private life might be. Hazuki thinks he is part of some visual kei group called NIA (Japanese acronym of Demonic Bond of Handsome Men). Midori on the other hand thinks he is a sniper and carries a suitcase with a weapon inside. The trombone is a bazooka? Lastly, Kumiko heard he takes cooking class and makes strawberry shortcakes. The only way to ascertain this is to peep on sensei himself. So what do they find him doing in the teacher’s room? Checking music scores for the band. They realize he always puts the band’s interest first and this gives them the motivation to return to practice and win the competition.

Special 7
Kumiko is tired after blowing endlessly into her euph. Her lips are almost swollen. That is when Hazuki asks about the meaning of transposing instrument. Kumiko and Midori explain about different instruments categorized by their different pitch. In short, the instruments all have their unique keynotes.  Using the Do from Do-Re-Mi as example, this only further confuses Hazuki. I’m not sure if she gets all that in the end. When she later asks Reina about it, she plays her trumpet note. That is her Do. More confused than ever.

The Sound Of Music
Oh well. It’s that feeling again. It might not be anywhere near a masterpiece but it certainly didn’t suck either. Although overall I felt that it could have been better. Could have. One reason being that having just over a dozen episodes just feels too short to flesh everything out and thus the ‘injustice’ of the series felt like it is being rushed with a handful of small ‘issues’ (jealous junior got it going a second audition for the trumpet solo part) and ended in an incomplete way. I am guessing that just like K-ON! when it first started, it only had 1 cour to its name before being expanded to 2 cours in the next. They never knew cute high school girls in a rock band could be such a hit. Maybe it could be the same for this anime? Who knows? Maybe there would be something like this in the future since this anime is interesting in its own right and has lots of potential. But as far as I know, nothing of it yet.

Although this anime and K-ON! are very different series, it is very hard not to draw comparisons with both of them. There are both similarities and yet differences that make both series so different from each other. This is personally from my view why I think this series is not as great as K-ON! Before you start calling me somebody bias, please listen out. Obviously my greatest point in saying so is the character development. Now, I am not saying the character development of this one isn’t great but my point is that there are so many characters in a band (around 60 over I believe) and it is very hard and definitely impossible to give all those characters their due screen time. Heck, I am very sure that I do not even know a quarter of the members! Or their names! Hey… Do they even have names? Some I believe don’t even have a decent line or just having so short lines that they’re just forgettable. Whereas in K-ON!, the primary focus are just on the 5 girls. Okay, so Hibike! Euphonium also focuses on Kumiko and her friends but the big difference is, we see Kumiko and friends working hard with all that drama practising and trying to improve themselves to achieve their goal. Whereas in K-ON!, the girls did no practice and spend most of their time frolicking! See the difference? In the latter’s case, you get to see the girls interact with their silly antics and bonding moments that make them really close as friends and as a group.

But here, you don’t even feel that. You don’t see every band member interacting with each other as they are mostly separated by the sections for their individual practice. They only get together when it is time for the big ensemble. Even with Kumiko, Midori and Hazuki the focus is on, you just don’t feel the closeness between them since you know, Kumiko is narrating about her future, goals and whatever there is to add to the little drama. Heck, even worse, Reina isn’t really seen mixing much with Kumiko’s group as she is in her own. Not even after practice. For a person who is standing with Kumiko and the rest in the poster, it is just baffling that despite the limited screen time between Kumiko and Reina have when possible, it just doesn’t feel that they are close enough. Perhaps it is their strained relationship when they enter high school and they are in different class. Maybe it is because Kumiko is always flustering whenever Reina comes into the picture. Lost for words. But even so, considering and viewing all this, the main quartet in this series certainly doesn’t stand a chance in this character development against the K-ON! counterparts.

Thus it is also hard not to compare Hibike! Euphonium’s quartet to K-ON! Kumiko to Yui, Reina to Mio, Midori to Tsumugi and Hazuki to Ritsu. The closest these characters will get compared to are just their looks as their personality differs greatly. Like Kumiko despite having a habit to say out straight what is on her mind (aside all that thinking and narrative), is not an airhead like Yui and is more decent and subdued although mainly it is because of her passive personality. Reina and Mio are the beauties with flowing long black hair of their respective series but Reina is not the scaredy cat like Mio although both are calm and collected, Reina is more serious and stoic to the point you’d think her scary unsmiling face is a sign that warns others from a mile away to stay away and not make friends with her. Midori is big on her positivism despite her petite size and timid character. She worries about being called as Sapphire (that’s her real name by the way) unlike the sweet and gentle Tsumugi who brings in tea and snacks for her band mates. Finally there is Hazuki and Ritsu who are the mood makers of the group. While Ritsu is more prankish and immature, Hazuki is more perky and cheerful. Both girls in a way also play the supporting role for their group. Ritsu as a drummer while Hazuki despite not making the cut, continues to support her mates from the sidelines.

Even with the main characters feeling so-so, what does that say about the other characters? Well, like I have said, so many characters in a brass band and it is just not fair not to cover all of them but what can you do when you have limited screen time? And even those supporting members too don’t make much of an impact. Like Haruka who is only president in name has a little self confidence problem and Kaori the gentle one. If I had to pick the best character out of the pack, it would be Asuka. Besides her extremely energetic yet playful personality, sometimes you don’t know if she’s just putting on a mask or if that is who she really is. This makes her an interesting if not a fun and thus the coolest person ever. She has a way with words and if she wasn’t part of the band, I think she would make a good negotiator or motivation speaker. Another amusing person is Taki. Despite his very calm, polite and gentle demeanour, his words do pierce your heart at times. And saying it in a very gentle manner is what makes it scary. I know we won’t like teachers raising their voice scolding or correcting us but how he keeps his cool and never raises his voice (except that one time) makes it even scarier. Maybe that is why slowly the students turn their fear into respect subsequently. He earned it.

Some characters you wonder what their role is or what happened to them. Like for Aoi who left halfway and never turned back, it makes me wonder what her role in the anime was in the first place. For a little drama effect? What about Natsuki who was bumming around in the clubroom without doing any actual practice and just starring out the window and due to that last year in-house fighting trauma thingy and then slowly with Kumiko warming up to her, she opens up a little but it turns out to be too late. Remember Azusa? Kumiko’s old friend who is now in Rikka? So what about it? Just to piece together the tiny puzzle bit of why Reina went to Kitauji? Yuuko who has always been giving Reina that suspicious look all the while eventually blows up her jealousy for a little dramatic effect for the final arc.

Romance feels like hit and miss. K-ON! generally lacks the yuri relationship despite their close bonds. Heck, they lack any male characters for any sort of romance too. But even with the short scenes of Kumiko x Reina, it was enough to earn the notorious nickname of Gayphonium to others. That yuri relationship itself feels lacking and a big tease for anyone who wants to see more of it. That is as far as they go. At least on TV. I wonder if there would be extra scenes of the yuri-ness in the BDs. It makes me wonder if there is any yuri type relationship between Kaori-Yuuko, Haruka-Asuka and even Kaori-Asuka. Or just admirers? I don’t know about Natsuki and Yuuko too because despite the former did say something about her love for the latter, it is just in a teasing way. But what if that could be true? Truly Gayphonium if all were true… I am not sure if Reina is using Kumiko as her substitute lover since it is only a one-way love with her and Taki. Maybe she should wait after she graduates to go after him to avoid any scandal for now.

Initially with Shuuichi as a childhood friend to Kumiko, this sets up some tantalizing romance. Since if you notice, Shuuichi has this sort of habit of popping up before Kumiko and then talk to her about things. Sometimes it feels like he is the gossip king because he is mostly the one who updates Kumiko about the happenings of stuffs. If their short scenes together do not warrant or lead to any romance, I don’t know what will. Unfortunately as we have seen, it did not turn out Kumiko x Shuuichi because Gayphonium feels much stronger. In the end they continue to be childhood friends whom Kumiko continues to keep her distance whenever possible. A big speculation that Kumiko may have hidden feelings for him as indicated at the start. She wanted to change from euph to trombone. That is the instrument that Shuuichi is playing. Why trombone of all instruments? Yeah… They try to shake up with a little love triangle with Hazuki falling for this dude but was quickly shot down. And would you believe she quickly gives up and play the supporting role? Wouldn’t she want to try again if she really loves this guy? I suppose she doesn’t want to be annoying. See, what did I tell you about Hazuki being the supporter role? I guess the only true couple is Gotou and Riko. But who cares about them?

Therefore this show is quite clean of any fanservice (for your information, that physical examination scene didn’t quite cut it). Even in K-ON! there are a few fanservice scenes like the beach episode when the girls head to Tsumugi’s beach villa for a training camp. Heck, I believe there were a handful of Mio’s shima pantsu fanservice going around at that time… This is a very clean anime overall and the Reina x Kumiko yuri is the most ‘questionable’ you’ll get of it all. So clean that even the Reina-Taki scandal didn’t really amount to anything. You thought there might be more than meets the eye. But Taki is such a decent and nice guy, he doesn’t play favourites despite knowing who Reina is prior to everything but continues to make his just and fair decision. So is there nothing not to like about this guy? Yeah, boo hoo. No student-teacher scandal.

Another aspect that I find that this series is mainly about the big drama of the Kitauji brass band is the lack of any potential rivals. It is the same case for K-ON! too but nobody gave a hoot whether they achieved their goal to play at the Budokan. But here, our brass band members eventually became serious in making their dream to participate in the Nationals. There were Rakushu and Rikka but the most you’ll hear about them is just their name and a possible little glimpse of them at SunFes. That’s all. Because as I can see, this season sees how Kitauji deals with their ‘inner demons’ in trying to get it right and improve themselves. If they can’t overcome that small step, are they ready for bigger things? That is why they’ve got no time to worry about other favourite schools and thus the lack of rivals like in other series that push our protagonist team to greater heights. It feels clichéd and prematurely that the series ended with Kitauji winning their preliminaries but with this kind of Japan high school tournament format, how far can you go in variation especially for a brass band team. So it is with mixed feelings that I thought it would have been better for this series to expand another season but it would have been more or less the same thing. You know, more drama, play against other better schools, the dark horse wins and advances to the next round. And perhaps take part in a little local side festival for a side distraction. Yeah, I can see where this is going.

It needs no introduction that everybody knows that Kyoto Animation is behind this series and thus the biggest factor of why Hibike! Euphonium is so much compared to K-ON! Their other works like Tamako Market, Kyoukai No Kanata, Hyouka and Amagi Brilliant Park may all have the same trademark visuals (the characters looking pretty familiar to those shows) but for the first time we have a 2 under the music genre. So it goes without saying that the characters look pretty cute KyoAni style and thus the moe factor that is much prevalent. Like I’ve said in a few paragraphs prior how our main quartet looks so much like their K-ON! counterparts. It’s not just confined to them. Asuka have this uncanny resemblance to K-ON’s Sawako is it because they are glasses wearing characters? And what is this Yuuko looking a lot like Kyoukai No Kanata’s Ai? Even creepier, they share the same voice actress! Hmm… Could she even be Amagi Brilliant Park’s Latifa? If not for her braids, Aoi would have been Hyouka’s Chitanda. Shuuichi does remind me of Tamako Market’s Mochizou… And maybe a little for Haruka and the titular character in Tamako Market.

With all the characters looking cute and moe, sometimes the only way I could tell them apart is their hairstyle. No, it is not they have very outrageous hairstyles in the first place. Because with their faces looking very similar to each other, I get a feeling that the only other way to differentiate greatly without confusing one character with another is the hairstyle. Some definitely stand out like Kumiko and Midori’s perm. Even Taki’s perm is also his standout point and not his glasses. Really. Then there is Aoi’s twin braids, Hazuki’s tomboy cut, Haruka’s twintail to Natsuki’s pony tail. There are other characters with even more quirkier hairstyle but they are minor characters that you probably don’t even know exist in the band. Really. But for added bonus and to make sure they are not ‘left out’, the mid-intermission shows the members of each section. It feels like the clarinet is the ‘most crowded’ section with over 10 members and contrabass being the ‘loneliest’ because it’s just Midori :-/. Is it me or do I notice that the characters have some sort of coloured dot as their pupils? Look closely and you’ll see… Aside the characters, the background and sceneries are also quite gorgeously drawn. The lush greens, the flowing river and the hot summer ambience sometimes really make it feel like eye candy. The brass instruments are also animated quite well though I’m not sure if they are that detailed to every nook and inch of it.

Although I am not a fan of brass band music, but hearing them once in a while is fun. Not that I have become a brass band fanatic after watching this show. With the big focus of this series on the drama, you won’t really hear the entire brass band music. I mean, if you have wanted to, you would have brought the actual CD for proper listening. So sometimes it just feels ‘sad’ that I didn’t get to hear the entire song although the final episode did play a lengthy one even though you can tell that it is edited with some parts missing. I think. Think about it. If you were to hear the entire beautiful music, you would close your eyes and let your ears concentrate in listening. Then what would be of the visuals? And of course, they’d ‘interrupt’ the music with some sort of narration like in many music themed shows such as Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso and Nodame Cantabile.

Speaking of music, the opening theme, Dream Solister by True is a very lively and energetic piece, employing the use of brass instruments for that grand effect (duh!) that leaves you in the mood to watch this series. But what strikes me even more is the ending theme. Tutti by the main quartet girls is so very like K-ON!!!! The damning proof is the moment you look at how the ending credits animation is played out. You see the quartet so close to each other like never before (they even didn’t get this close in the episode proper) and the rock music reeks of K-ON! type music (only with fanfare added). Oh, and that red string of fate that ties to the fingers of our girls. All too familiar. So K-ON!… Is it no wonder why we cannot stop comparing this series to that?

Voice acting feels okay since this is mainly drama. Those I recognized are Saori Hayami as Haruka, Takahiro Sakurai as Taki, Kenjiro Tsuda as Gotou (though I couldn’t recall his name but rather the other anime roles) and barely Minori Chihara as Kaori. There is a couple of K-ON! alumnae here too. Youko Hikasa who was the voice of Mio is behind Aoi while Tsumugi’s Minako Kotobuki plays Asuka. Unfortunately I did not recognize them :,(. The rest of the casts are mainly newbies and they include Tomoyo Kurosu as Kumiko (Tina in Black Bullet), Chika Anzai as Reina (Chaika in Hitsugi No Chaika), Moe Toyota as Midori (Fumi in Jinsei), Ayaka Asai as Hazuki (Mio in Shinmai Maou No Testament), Haruki Ishiya as Shuuichi (Ayumu in Selector Spread Wixoss), Konomi Fujimura as Natsuki and Yuri Yamaoka as Yuuko (Ai in Kyoukai No Kanata).

It just goes to show that having a big group is a big responsibility and effort in managing all the parts to play it right. Teamwork is the big key here so no instrument is too small for any part. Each has their own part to play and that is what makes the music sound so good and great. I don’t think playing the percussion has got the easiest job. Even if you’re holding just a triangle. It’s all in the timing. Just a trivial note, despite having a conductor, I wonder if you can call this brass band an orchestra since the only thing it is void of are string instruments like violin, viola, cello or the harp. The contrabass is so far the only string instrument here. Well, maybe a fanfare orchestra…

Overall, this anime has some hits and misses but it is still worth a look even if you are not a fan of brass band music.  Or even a fan of music themed shows. But such themes are hardly about the music. It is always about the people and the emotions and the music that connect them all together. As seen here, the characters were not born with talents to play in a brass band. They’ve earned it. As in the same case with respect. Next time if you start thinking that being an ensemble in a band that has over 60 members makes you feel insignificant, just remember this. Your effort is just like a tiny drop in the vast ocean. But had that single drop be missing, the ocean would have been less because of it.

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