If you had to ask me what one of my favourite series of the past few years has been you would easily find Sound! Euphonium near the top of the list, a series not about epic intergalactic battles or being a sports superstar but instead about a simple school band. Yes, while anime is covering just about everything known to man from being a Train Station Attendant, A Theme Park Manager or even a Fisherman we go back to something quite simple in a school band, this isn’t a rock band or an idol group but simply a band made out of normal boys and girls.
The overall plot in Sound! Euphonium comes as Kumiko Oumae; a ‘plain’ girl with ordinary clothes and an ordinary backpack starts high-school and is convinced to join the band, unlike most protagonists Kumiko is actually more self-loathing as she feels she is swayed by others too much and struggles with getting her feelings across to others causing rifts between herself and trumpet player Reina Kousaka.
The first series comes across as Kumiko and her friends Hazuki Katou; a classmate who is only a beginner at music and Sapphire Kawashima; a timid girl who lacks self-confidence who join the band and the months after. Each character grows naturally among the series and looking back you can see just how much they’ve grown up and matured, something which a lot of series fail to manage.
The series is paced almost perfectly, as the characters build themselves up and improve their talents, and unlike other series, we begin to see gaps form between the friends, not on a conflicting nature but rather in talent we soon find them on different levels. This gives the series an interesting approach as some characters begin to feel left behind it only spurs them on to push themselves further. Rather than the happy-happy ending, we are seeing in other shows the series ends with a mixture of emotions. And that’s simply the main characters, to say this was only about them would be a crime, each of the band is unique in their own way and the series does go ahead and focus on a most of them giving them their own individuality.
Other parts come from the fact that real life just gets in the way of some things. From students having to drop out of the band due to studies to parents getting involved and questions are asked by the characters as they mature, wondering if they should focus on their future away from the band or keep trying because they genuinely love what they are doing. It’s a fact that everyone in the world has to face at some point and the series manages it perfectly.
Sound! Euphonium’s visuals are a delight to the eye and you can tell that Kyoto Animation (Amagi Brilliant Park, Free, A Silent Voice) are masters at their craft as almost every little thing is perfected. It’s rare you’ll find any dodgy pieces or lazily drawn sequences, each character is well put together and the animation surrounding any of the musical scenes is drawn, a lot of the time feeling that these were real people playing the instruments.
It covers the little details in each episode, from the city and classroom to even small details down to cleaning, tuning and maintaining the instruments, stuff which most series would skip over, or if they do focus on them they’ll be more of an afterthought than anything else.
Of course where this series absolutely shines is the musical scenes. Each and every one is lovingly crafted, from the dramatical performances as a band to the individual practise sessions you can see that this has been a well thought out series, even as someone who knows very little about music you could see when there was a slip up or an error made by the characters, this adds a nice extra touch that you, as the viewer can feel involved in and certainly something that cannot be attached to the Light Novel the series was based off.
While the series is incredible in so many ways there are a few small issues, mainly with the second season’s 2nd half focusing more on the drama between characters than the music itself however on the upside, this allowed me to appreciate other characters at the expense of the band itself.
Aside from that little niggle, I can honestly say that Sound! Euphonium is one of those rare series that manages to do so much right and if you’re a fan of slice of life series. This isn’t a series of happy endings where everything will work out because ‘we tried hard’ it slaps real life into the face of its series and does it perfectly. It’s one of the few anime I would seriously consider being a ‘must watch’ for people who want more from their anime than what most series will ever offer.