Triumph! Sound the Euphonium!

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Sound! Euphonium”

I’ve been joined at the hip with music since a young age, and, having been a first-chair orchestra member for seven years and counting, I have not only the right but the responsibility to announce that this series exemplifies the hearts and minds of every concert band and orchestra member to T. Putting KyoAni’s ideal cuteness aside, Sound! Euphonium accurately depicts how rigorous classroom music can be when kids become critical of themselves.

Talented euphonium player  Kumiko Oumae enters Kitauji High School’s brass band club during her first year (‘Euph’: a “good sounding” small tenor-pitched tuba, sometimes referred to as a baritone). There, she encounters her old classmate Reina, and memories of a previous junior high incident flood back, causing Kumiko to be hesitant. As Kumiko remains strong buddies with other girls, though, Reina slowly opens up and the two become very close friends. Looming in the darkness is the national contest, which their meticulous new teacher, Taki-sensei, proposes to have the students decide for themselves whether or not they should pursue the gold.

Much like in real life, hours of practicing, enduring hardships, insanely challenging musical passages, kids who have talent that start to waver, competition among new and old recruits, wanting to drop out to focus on education and countless other issues bring a shining realism to the table – a characteristic that I haven’t sampled for a while now. From start to finish, the show knows exactly where it wants to go, and as much as I want to say it was the practical setting to thank, it’s because of the characters that this drive was so truthful.

Euphonium‘s cast does not rely on one or two characters, but rather the entire ensemble. Kumiko herself is strong-willed, though sometimes acts a little empty-headed, and her budding romance with the silent yet brilliant Reina is certainly our sweetest relationship. But there are several other duos that bring the issues listed earlier to light. The vigilant Asuka and occasionally sheepish Haruka tackle youth leadership with unsurety. The lackadaisical yet easy-going Nakagawa manages to keep Kumiko on her toes in terms of skill. Sub characters like the hot-headed Yuuko and gentle Kaori pose a nagging trouble to the professional Reina when they all duke it out for the trumpet solo. Seeing as how I play a string instrument, I was dying to hear more dilemmas from the only string player in the band: On the oversized contrabass everyone, Midori “Sapphire-chan” Kawashima! Too bad she only existed to cheer on the other girls 😦

I was overly pleased with what the anime had in terms of cast, as nearly each member of the band, major and minor, received standout character designs and individual thoughts and scenes. Having Taki-sensei  as a rather disoriented teacher also made situations more ambiguous. For instance, he’d ask “Are you having trouble with that?” Then instead of following up, Taki would declare, “Please have that ready by next week.” There were just certain aspects to his character that made me want to cuss, but then he would return on scene with a heartwarming smile and encouraging speech, kinda how a real director would.

If I had to pick something about the plot that seemed off, it would be the sudden love interest and misplaced drama. In the first few episodes, we clearly see that things between Reina and Kumiko are really awkward. After climbing a mountain trail path in a certain middle episode, however, POOF! The two become super intense friends – for some, too close for comfort. It’s not really yuri, but you could ship the two by just looking at the poster art now.

The non-music drama stems from a miniscule love triangle between Kumiko, an energetic girl pal Hazuki and Tsukamoto, Kumiko’s childhood friend. Seeing how Tsukamoto only cares for Kumiko, who feels indifferent, Hazuki becomes a forced trope just to milk some sort of depressing drama out of the whole shebang, not that the show already played perfectly fine without it. But like the sudden love, it’s all only one episode, so it can easily be overlooked.

I KID YOU NOT when I claim that Kyoto Animation performs their finest job I’ve ever seen from them in terms of animation!! All of the shining brass instrumets, the natural movement of people breathing during practice, the beautiful people themselves, and that side-of-the-river bridge where Kumiko always goes to chat and play the euphonium – it’s all so soooo gorgeous; a true crime not to watch the opening at least once to get a glimpse of BREATHTAKING EVERYTHING!!

The OST is also remarkable! Orchestra tagged along with a piano for melody hits up feels from slice of life to cliff sunsets to tension in the classroom . “Flow of Destiny,” the simplest variation of the main theme can be elegantly heard throughout the series. Real classical music is also pulled into the soundtrack for during performances and practices. Especially noted is Reina’s ditty of the “From the New World Symphony’s 2nd Movement,” which everyone stopped to listen to. 🙂

Hitting off each note is the exciting opening “DREAM SOLISTER” by TRUE! I love the inclusion of the brass instruments – it makes the song coherent to a show about a brass club, ya know? The ending “Tutti” by the Kitauji Quartet is also tons of foot-tappin’ fun!

In terms of character interaction, the featuring of the entire class as a whole and as individuals, stunning animation, topnotch voice acting, realistic musical presentation and content, Sound! Euphonium did several things right and executes everything with near perfection! The ending is also standing ovation-worthy for including the uncut concert performance rather than just cutting that out to view the results. Concert band and orchestra kids were given the best representation in anime – for most, more than what we could ever ask for. 5/5 stars, a triumphant “Caffé Mocha!” Congrats, Kitauji High School Band – You most definitely deserve the Gold in my eyes!!

+ Relatable and realistic anime for high school band and orchestra classes (or at least some); best representation anime has given us students

+ Themes of hard work VS raw talent are executed quite well

+ Absolutely breathtaking visuals, instruments look excellent, actual music is awesome, too

+ Story knows exactly where it’s headed, and delivers with a triumphant, satisfying end

– Sudden romantic relationship drama unnecessarily threw plot off course, though only for an episode

Thank you for reading my review over the wonderful Sound! Euphonium! It was definitely one of the most fun and fulfilling shows to follow this past spring. Did you have similar thoughts on this show? Were you as impacted as I was? Leave your comments below so that we can chat! Now while the inspiration is hot, I’m gonna go work hard myself and practice my cello! Haha, until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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14 thoughts on “Triumph! Sound the Euphonium!

  1. I suppose you were referring to episode 8? On the other side of the anime fandom, it’s actually the most celebrated episode of this anime, throwing all yuri-lovers off their chair. I’m one of them, but I can see what you mean. It’s still great to know you like the show a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’d figured those Kumiko x Reina fans would revel in the yuri under tones and squeal! I enjoyed their relationship a whole lot – like a lot – but it felt a little sudden for me. That’s my only con.

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      • Just my two cents: As we would describe it, the whole Eupho (or rather, KumiRei) experience was like magic! To me it seemed like Kumiko and Reina had been interested in each other (however you may interpret this–friendship? romantic?), but because of that incident in the past, they couldn’t get any closer. That changed from episode 8 onwards, when they showed each other their ‘real selves’. The progress in their relationship felt natural to me, though the pacing might have been too sudden for a lot of people.

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      • Ah, I see. I only saw them as acquaintances who became better friends. The first time around, I was too busy watching Hazuki get dumped that I dismissed some of what was going on in the mountains 😉

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  2. Excellent, excellent review, wow, you touch on everything I loved about this show! I especially appreciate hearing the thoughts from someone who’s been an orchestra. I’ve never had any exposure to that atmosphere, but I have played piano on and off growing up and it seemed like Euphonium did capture the struggle and spirit of musicians!

    In comparison to Assassination Classroom, who had a large cast of characters but did nothing with them, Euphonium did SO MUCH MORE with its characters–I’m very surprised I didn’t see the comparison till now! You’re absolutely right in that the story is pushed forward by more than just Kumiko, but really the entire band! Since it is about a band, that’s as it should be!

    And the animation–GAH. MY FAVORITE OF THE SEASON. SO GORGEOUS. I WANTED TO DIE FROM THE BEAUTY. If my life was look like an anime, I would want KyoAni to animate it! XD

    ~Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG thank you so much! It’s cool to hear that you played the piano – I could never do that even if my life depended on it >.< I've heard that Assassination Classroom didn't really touch up on its characters very well, but that it was still a great show. Also, I'm glad to know I've opened someone's eyes to the entire band class as the characters rather than simply Kumiko. She's very cool, but to me it was the weight of the entire group that pulled the show towards the finish line!

      And YESSS!! That animation is so gosh darn beautiful I had to pause a couple of times just to take in the fresh breath. I would be too happy for words if they were to animate my life story, too! Though it would mostly encompass a boy sitting in his room watching and writing about anime :3

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Seeing the number of plus points versus the minus points, I can see that this anime is probably one of your favourites for the season 🙂 Haha, glad to know that you were inspired to play the cello because of this, I remember the same adrenaline rush when I first finished Nodame Cantabile 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was my favorite of the season, YES! I was very happy with the whole package, each episode bringing more input than the last. Solid animation, music, characters, and plot, with nearly perfect execution of the story – you can’t be disappointed with those results. And hehe, thanks for commenting. I haven’t seen Nodame Cantabile, but if it was inspirational for you then perhaps I should look it up 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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