OP Sequence

OP: 「Soundscape」 (サウンドスケープ) by TRUE

「まなつのファンファーレ」 (Manatsu no Fanfāre)
“Mid-summer Fanfare”

It’s back, it’s beautiful, and it’s more confident than ever. This double-length premiere sets Hibike! Euphonium apart from the crowd. While we’ve had plenty of good shows so far the past few days, it feels like the Fall 2016 anime season has truly begun now. It’s been a long time since Wednesdays have been my most anticipated day of the week, but with this and Yuri!!! on Ice airing beside one another, it’s hard not to appreciate the potential truly great anime can offer. I had the pleasure of blogging this show last year, and even though I gave SHIROBAKO the grand prize in the Best of 2015 post, make no mistake that Hibike! Euphonium was my personal favourite – it has a spot in my top 10 list, and is my favourite KyoAni TV series. Could this second season top that? It will be a difficult task, but I think there’s every change this could be just as great – if not, better – than the first season.

There’s so many key elements of Hibike! Euphonium’s success that shine through in this episode that deserve some discussion: pacing, animation, character relationships, and drama. First, the pacing. I’m happy we got a double-length episode to throw us back into the band drama and set-up for the season ahead. Had this episode ended mid-way through, I would have been content, but longing for more. Instead, these 48 minutes blended together seamlessly, and the second half delivered some seriously gorgeous moments; whether grandiose or subtle. If there’s one thing this episode had that exceeded the first season, it would be confidence in its own storytelling. The staff clearly know what they’re doing here, how they want to adapt these novels, and what original scenes they want to add in when they see fit. Kyoto Animation doesn’t adapt material panel-by-panel or word-by-word, which can be perceived as a negative by die-hard fans, but their identity and vision works best when they do what they want to do. As such, this episode blended from one scene to the next without the need for twists or cliffhangers. We’re past the point of being convinced to stick around, which resulted in a premiere that felt more like a short film more than a regular TV anime episode.

Of course, the animation is a glorious as ever. Just pick a random scene from the episode, pause, and it won’t be hard to appreciate the care that’s put into the details. The backgrounds and composition were especially impressive, with a nice mix of cluttered long-shots and extreme closeups. Whether it be Kumiko’s tense family relationship, Reina opening up to her one true friend, or the discomfort the second years have whenever that dreaded topic from the past comes up; this is Show Don’t Tell at its best. It helps to get some clarification every now and then, but this episode continued to prove that Hibike! Euphonium excels at the minute character animation, the slight expression changes, the subtle head tilts, the grip of fingers. It feels human in a way that many anime simply never manage. It could be due to budget, but rumours suggest that Kyoto Animation rarely gets more money for their production than your typical studio. What they do differently, however, is put their staff on salary, have regular bonding activities to keep spirits high, train upcoming animators to join their ranks, and ultimately, share a vision. A happy team with good forward planning and serious talent and well-regarded source material is sure to provide good content, and that’s exactly what we’re getting here.

Kumiko and Reina’s relationship is just as genuine as I recall, and once again takes centre stage for majority of this episode. Poor Shuuichi gets only a few seconds of screentime, and when he does appear it’s mainly to give us cute Kumiko squeals, or to prove how clueless she is to his advances on her. In comparison, the bond between Kumiko and Reina feels important – like they’ve opened up to each other in a way that goes beyond friendship. Perhaps it’s not romantic (though there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise), but their relationship is key to both of their individual developmentss, and every scene they share together is usually gorgeous. There’s plenty of pick from in this episode alone, and if the first season is anything to go by, I expect this second season to deliver an abundance of those memorable, fan-pleasing scenes once more.

Aside from our leads, we’re seeing hints of what drama is to come with various side characters. Going into this season, I knew the two novels this is due to adapt will focus on character who didn’t have the time to develop as much the first time around. The two newly introduced characters are classmates from the same junior high, Yoroizuka Mizore (Tanezaki Atsumi) and Kasaki Nozomi (Touyama Nao). Mizore has been hidden in plain sight during the first season, but has stayed out of the band drama and only now gets a formal introduction when it’s revealed that she practices earlier that Reina every morning. You would assume that’s because she loves playing the oboe – the most difficult wind instrument – but she seems passive in an Nagato sort of way that hints towards an arc of breaking out of her shell and learning to care once again. Nozomi is much more boisterous, and is one of the second years who left in the previous year, and seeks out Asuka’s approval to join once again.

Asuka is another one who is bound to get more development, as we get behind that comical mask she puts on and learn more about who she truly is. Is she really as friendly as she seems? Is she trying to put on an act to hide something darker? After telling Nozomi to leave, she refuses to give her the approval she desires, and comes off as the bad guy here. There’s more to this girl than meets the eye, and I’m eager to see what awaits with her arc. We’ve also got hints to Taki-sensei’s college days in the OP, as well as his college friend, Hashimoto Masahiro (Nakamura Yuuichi) acting as the new coach for future competitions. He’s a vibrant character, contrasting from Taki-sensei, and I’m keen on seeing what their scenes together are like.

Technically, we’re not supposed to reveal who’s blogging what for a few more weeks, but let’s keep it real for a second: There’s no way I would let this show go unblogged. So unless someone else really wants it, you can expect my weekly coverage of this highly anticipated sequel. It was a strong comeback, and has me excited for what awaits. I almost wish I could marathon it all in one go, but discussing the details of each episode on a weekly basis is even more fun. Let’s keep the shipping wars to a minimum, and hopefully we’ll be in for an impressive second season.

 

ED Sequence

ED: 「Vivace!」 (ヴィヴァーチェ!) by Kitauji Quartet

43 Comments

  1. Looks like we’re jumping in right where we left off. The amount of yuri subtext was even more than last season, and just in the first episode! I have a hard time seeing Shuichi having any chance at all.

    I loved the use of the Polovtsian Dances (https://youtu.be/TmfTqVqngO8), by Aleksandr Borodin, that played through the later half of this double episode. Fun Fact: The Polovtsian Dances were what Hideaki Anno wanted to originally use for Neon Genesis Evangelion’s OP before the producers balked and convinced him to use something more normal. What we got was Cruel Angel’s Thesis.

    goukaryuu
    1. Borodin! Using Polovtsian Dances just caught me off guard and had an emotional affect on me. The opening is a haunting melody that really fit the mood of that part of the episode.

      Bear
    2. In the original novel, Minami-Chugaku’s concert score is Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé.
      But the Polovtsian Dance is very effective to discribe Minami-Chugaku member’s sad feeling at the Bus scene.
      I think that Kyo-Ani staff chose carefully suitable score to the situation.
      The arrangements of score, featuring Flute (Nozomi) and Oboe (MIzore), are also good.

      MikumikuDance
      1. I’m they changed it, because as much as I love this anime a middle school band being able to play Daphnes and Chloe is super ridiculous xD We can barely play it and we are Bachelor students!

        Leire
  2. I find the very last part of the first episode to be kind of sad, even though the firework scenery looks good. Or is it just me?

    It’s the part where Kumiko thinks about how her relationship with Reina would one day ends like Nozomi and Mizore, and the way the end of the first episode presented to us, in addition to that opening song (in which shows a glimpse Taki’s past), could be one hell of big hint what this season is going to be about: parting.

    Will Kumiko and Reina part way by the end of the season? Nah, I am just being a negative sentimentalist here 😀

    metronome
    1. Considering the interview with the author where she talks about how fellowship between females (and males too) is really important, I doubt kumiko and reina will split after their highschool years. However, it’s great that the show acknowledges how much kumiko values her deep and intimate friendship with reina, I got K-on vibes all over again

      sonicsenryaku
  3. “Are we friends, senpai?”
    “I don’t know. Are we friends, kohai?” Fufufufu.

    I literally had tears in my eyes throughout the whole thing. Always love how the Polovtsian Dance can fit so well as an anime’s BGM, especially since its usage as a repeating motif in Rahxephon.

    I hope Oumae-san can come out of the closet soon. And that Kousaka-san can reject her gently.

    Petit
  4. As i stated elsewhere: daaaaaaaamnnn…ishihara (the director) decided to take the training gloves off and blow the competition out the water in terms of premieres. Kyo ani is really getting better with using their animation to tell stories. They know how to use shot composition and animation to facilitate good character writing. And they do all this without blatantly expositing it to you; it’s all very arthouse. I was actually impressed with this premiere; not to mention that it took me by complete surprise that it was an hr long, which to my memory, i dont recall kyo ani ever doing. People were wondering if the first season was just a fluke in terms of it’s glimmers of story telling acumen….nope…euphonium season 2 looks like it’s about to bring the big guns. My favorite piece of art from kyo ani to this day is still “the disappearance of haruhi suzumiya”, but euphonium’s premiere was on movie quality in terms of how it paced its story. Im actually stoked to watch the rest of this season: an 8/10 for me with this premiere (which is higher than the 7 i gave for the entire first season of eupho). One of my favorite pieces of the directing in this ep was the bus ride home for losing the competition in middle school. The low angle shots of the bus, the defensive position the girls were in, the lose up shots of the eyes of the important female casts. It says so much, without letting the characters say anything. Please, more of this. I would love to get hour long eps of eupho every week (unfortunately the anime industry is not quite there yet in making this common place for tv anime)

    sonicsenryaku
  5. Ah, I’ve been waiting for this (especially Asuka “Too Perfect” Tanaka senpai! <3).

    Hopefully we'll finally get to learn what exactly transpired to cause the previous second years to quit. If everyone just remains so tight-lipped about it and try to act like it never happened (even though it still clearly bothers a number of people), it only sets things up for history to repeat itself.

    And I can only hope that this blog section DOES NOT devolve into a whole "yuri or not" argument regarding Kumiko and Reina like it tended to do towards the end of season one.

    HalfDemonInuyasha
  6. Hibike! Euphonium Sequel is one of the main reasons I’ve decided to get back to following airing tv shows this season. And having double-length first episode is just like early christmas.

    It is really tough to express how good it was, animation, music, pacing, everything was just so smooth, so well done I couldn’t imagine better come back of Hibike. Firework scene was just another masterpiece from KyoAni and I really can’t wait for more from them, their quality is just off the charts.

    Great to see you Samu blogging this, hope you stick to it. I always enjoy your posts and also am looking forward to follow next episodes with you, thanks for your work!

    Pyon
  7. Any answer to why the premiere was an hour long? I don’t know it until I was 8 minutes in and checked the placement of the cursor on the scroll bar! I don’t remember KyoAni doing anything like this for other shows. I had stuff to do that night! Ugh.

    Nice intro! Though it’s nowhere near as great a song as the opening in Season 1.

    starss
  8. I really want to like this series, but I’m just soooo tired of the yuribaiting meme in anime. It’s been done to death and it really diminishes even the best shows for me because it’s just that cliche that I’m genuinely sick of at this point.

    Alice
    1. So you considered watching two girls having a very strong bond with each other yuri baiting? You must have watched a lot of crap to view that as yuri. It’s completely normal for girls to have a strong friendship like that. Have you seen them kissed already? Are they dating? No they have not.

      elmaton
    2. you are going to have a very narrow selections of series to choose from. Yuri and Yaoi baiting has been happening for at least a decade (or two/three) in anime. Except that the sheer amount of anime produced each season and year makes this quite apparent.

      sithstormjedi
    3. Yuribaiting is not a thing. It’s really isn’t, and anyone who thinks it is is an idiot.

      If a het pairing is hinted at but doesn’t end up happening (like Shu and Hazuki, for a relevant example) do we call it straightbaiting? No we don’t, because that’s fucking stupid. So why is it different when it’s a gay pairing?

      Seriously, they’re not “baiting” you. It’s just shiptease.

      (Also, there’s no guarantee that it’s not going to happen, anyway. Regardless of whether or not it happened in the novels, there’s nothing that says it won’t happen in the anime.)

      bebe
      1. @Andmeuths: As long as things don’t get personal (like they did last time around), I think it’s fine it people have civil discussions about the topic. But damn, there’s more to this than whether or not it’s going to be “yuri”. Kumiko and Reina’s presence on screen is enough to enjoy without having to label it one thing or another depending on whether your personal tastes are catered to.

        Samu
    1. If you mean whether we will continue to see Kumiko and Reina’s bond develop over the course of the second season, I think you can expect that 100%. Their relationship is important to both their characters, and the closeness they have shows how far they’ve come so far.

      Samu
  9. Wow. Just wow. I think everything has been improved upon from the 1st season. The visuals and the background music for this 45-minute long 2nd season premiere alone have been stellar. The kind of continuation that makes you ask “What else can they do?”
    As for the story, it’s a good decision that I re-watched the entire 1st season to get ready for this one, especially the finale since this premiere takes place right after. all in headphones of course. Also, you get additional details like why Nozomi was there in their performance.
    I know the first season gave a general idea of the debacle between the then first and third years in the band, but I still thing some detail were left out. I’d like more light shed on that, on why Nozomi quit even though she seems to love playing the flute no less than Kumiko loves playing the euphonium as well as how the kuudere that is Yoroizuka will factor into it, and, for the love of god, on the enigma that is Asuka. I don’t mind that more focus is taken from Kumiko and Reina and given to those characters instead, but it doesn’t mean they don’t get any focus either. They are the stars of the story after all. And maybe this just wish fulfillment, but I’d really like team Monaka to get another chance at performance. I don’t want to see them left behind. So yeah, this is definitely a continuation I’m so looking forward to.

  10. Can’t help but notice, is that the first time we see Asuka be completely frank about something? Always suspected she was harsh. Guess she was pushed into a corner there.

    Got to say, Nozomi sure did it the wrong way. Though I’m not sure there is a right way. I mean even Kaori didn’t get Asuka’s approval. Sadly Nozomi doesn’t know about that. If one of her best friends couldn’t get it, then Nozomi’s current method has practically no chance of success. It just ends up as harassment.

    theirs
    1. I would need to re-watch S1 again to confirm, but I do think this is the first time Asuka has expressed such an outwardly negative opinion. She certainly doesn’t pull her punches. I know she gets more focus in the second novel, so I expect her character arc to be a strong one this season.

      Samu
    2. In the first season, I don’t think Asuka ever gave her honest opinion of anything if it was negative. I remember her complimenting how cute her “kouhai” were, but when Kumiko or Kaori asked about Kaori’s solo, she deflected their questions. I think she did the same to Haruka too.

      I can see why she would refuse Nozomi’s request to rejoin the club. Maybe she thinks Nozomi is rejoining because they won. Or, there is a flutist that Asuka is friends with but we haven’t seen. If Nozomi is really good and if she gets into the club, Taki-sensei will put her into the main assemble and remove a lesser member. It’s clear that his goal is to win.

      Nozomi could screw up the whole social fabric, create more drama, and break up the club by auditioning directly with Taki-sensei. =P

      Bakapooru
    3. I’d say it’s more like this is the first time Asuka has taken a position (except perhaps on Haruka’s inadequacies as president).

      There’s at least one scene during season one in which Asuka is honest (according to Kumiko’s uttered thought, too honest). In episode 9, during bass section practice, Asuka gets frustrated with Sapphire’s poor performance. After Hazuki explains it’s due to her failed confession, Asuka sits backward in her chair, rocks back and forth, and says she doesn’t care. She then leaves to practice by herself, saying she doesn’t have time to waste on kids who can’t practice. It seems like it’s the explanation that really sets Asuka off.

      I’m also not inclined to dismiss Asuka’s response to Kumiko about the solo in episode 10 as an evasion. It’s too much like the above: she doesn’t care. As much as Asuka clearly likes the band, she’s also at times strangely disinterested in its welfare. Perhaps she has an intense aversion to conflict, or perhaps the previous year’s conflict has led her to give up hope (I’m not happy with either of those explanations). It’s interesting that, in episode 13 on the stage just before the performance, Asuka assumes the band will fail to advance to the regional competition.

      But now the band is advancing, and Asuka finally (after three days of pestering) takes a position on a question. Is she protecting the band from Nozomi’s potential drama, or is she simply avoiding Nozomi’s potential drama, or is she simply punishing Nozomi, or is three days her limit? I hope for a satisfying explanation of Asuka’s character, but I don’t foresee one.

      proper1420
  11. They put so much emphasis on Reina’s and Kumiko’s relationship that the line between friendship and love is too blurred. Sometimes I forget that Reina is actually in love with Taki-sensei.

    GYUZ
  12. Loved this ep, so glad this show is back! I’m very curious about that scene at the beginning with the notebook. Initially I thought it might be Shuichi that gave it to Kumiko, but he would probably be inside the building since the practice was about to start. I think it might have been her sister, a character I’m very interested in since it seems she has influenced Kumiko greatly. (The same notebook makes an appearance in the ending btw)

    Man though, Reina and Kumiko still take my breath away! Their interactions are incredible on both a platonic and romantic level – definitely the heart of the show. That said, going into this season I feel it’s probably better to keep expectations low. Though I’d much prefer a canon romantic relationship (it’s 2016 people), I’d be alright with an open ending on that front.

    What I would be really disappointed by is if they put Shuichi and Kumiko together without developing Shuichi a LOT more. As of right now, Shuichi remains the sore thumb of this series for me. We know very little about him and Kumiko seems indifferent to him the vast majority of the time, yet they keep bringing him back for these micro-interactions and other short scenes. If they’re going to get together, KyoAni has to give us tangible reasons as to why they are a good fit and why their dynamic is interesting, because right now it just isn’t, at least from my perspective. If they somehow pull a miracle and make Shuichi and Kumiko compelling, I’d be able to accept that, but I can’t help but feel they’ve made things really difficult for themselves.

    (And yes, I’m aware of what happens in the novel. It doesn’t mean KyoAni won’t have a different interpretation.)

    Anyway, as always, I’m amazed at how this show about a high school band can hold my attention so well. The drama and the relationships are fascinating – I’m happy to see Asuka get more attention. I’ve never understood the adoration her character seems to get; she seems like she has a dark side for sure, one that I can’t wait to see explored. Taki-sensei’s another I’m excited for; those scenes in the OP and the photograph he’s always looking at have peaked my interest!

    innerchihiro
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