OP: 「DREAM SOLISTER」by TRUE
“Welcome, High School”
Before you say it, no, Hibike! Euphonium is not the second coming of K-On! This is a novel adaptation filled with music, drama, and a dash of slice-of-life, seen through the eyes of a main character that feels very real. If anything, this first episode was more like Hyouka than anything else KyoAni has produced. I also got some Tamako Market vibes from certain shots and light flairs as well, but I think that’s more KyoAni’s current aesthetic than anything else. Going into this, I refused to buy the idea that this was going to be K-On!!! and would be nothing but cute girls doing cute things, with a bit of music on the side. Thankfully, I was right in not buying into that frankly lazy assumption. I’m very glad I’m going to be blogging this show and be able express my feelings as I go – I’m a self-confessed Kyoto Animation fan, but I haven’t loved all of their works. Thankfully, this one hit all the right buttons with this first episode.
A Main Character That Feels Real:
Every good story has a main character that you can get behind – ideally they need to have something unique about them, or just simply be likeable – and I’d say Oumae Kumiko (Kurosawa Tomoyo) is just that kind of character. What makes her unique? To me, it’s the fact that she feels real. Everything we see is from her first-person perspective, so it’s important that she has a narrative voice that stands out, and she does. She is blunt in what she thinks, yet can be silly when no one is watching; she wants to open a new chapter in her life, but she’s still conforming to the trends of her classmates; she can’t decide how to wear her hair to make the best first impression, so she ties it back to play it safe. It’s only at the end that she lets her curls sit freely, yet no one notices or says anything about it. To me, it felt like a subtle moment of acceptance, where she realises that no one is really interested in how she wore her hair, and that she didn’t have to ‘change’ herself upon attending high school. Kumiko is full of contradictions, aka, she acts like a normal person would in many of these situations, and manages to show a goofy side to her as well for good measure. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been this impressed by a main character in the first episode.
The other characters were a little less realistic, but that’s okay. It’s only been one episode, and the introduction of these girls and boys is what’s most important, and I felt that after this episode we’ve got a fair idea on what to expect from these characters. Katou Hazuki (Asai Ayaka) feels like your typical well-intentioned best friend to keep you happy, Kawashima Sapphire (Toyota Moe) very much soaked up all the ‘moe’ from everyone else, and Kousaka Reina (Anzai Chika) gives off a stiff exterior, yet also displays how emotional she can be. Tanaka Asuka (Kotobuki Minako) was the funniest of the bunch, who definitely had me giggling whenever she did anything; she’s definitely one to look out for. We also saw two male characters, Tsukamoto Shuuichi (Ishiya Haruki), Kumiko’s childhood friend, and Taki Noboru (Sakurai Takahiro), a man (who looks like anime Ben Whishaw) who just so happens to be listening to Kumiko and Kousaka’s middle school performance. Even if I hadn’t read a synopsis of the story, I would be able to tell how this is going to play out, and how these characters are going to come together. Hint hint: it’s the concert band.
Beautiful Visuals + Sound:
It’s Kyoto Animation, so this was guaranteed to be visually impressive. And it was. I’d say it was probably their best looking premiere since Hyouka (which I don’t think will ever be beaten). But the sound was impressive as well, even when the bands playing was off, it still managed to feel all-encompassing. I didn’t expect anything less from the production, but I think it’s worth pointing out that, yes, this looks fantastic. Maybe you could nitpick that the characters designs are too similar to what you’d expect from KyoAni, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I wouldn’t think that as a bad thing either.
Novel, Not Light Novel:
As I mentioned earlier, this is an adaptation of a novel (not a light novel), and it shows. From the first few minutes, once we started hearing Kumiko’s inner thoughts and understanding her quirks, I could feel that this was a novel adaptation. That was likely where the Hyouka-vibes came from, since that was KyoAni’s last adaptation of the same sort. If this hints towards anything near the quality of Hyouka, I think Hibike! Euphonium may be a pleasant surprise to those who think this is just going to be another slice of life that they’ve seen by this studio before. And maybe it will be… but I don’t think so. Not after this first episode.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Without an actual preview of the next episode, it’s harder to predict what’s coming next. But there are a few things that are for certain: they’re all going to join the band, Taki Noboru is going to be their new club adviser, and we’re going to see these characters find their destined instruments. Count me excited. This first episode was great, and I’m completely sold on Kumiko as a main character.