Posted on 4 January 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario, Sound! Euphonium 2

I must admit that out of all the series I was blogging last year, Sound Eupho 2 was the one I’m saddest to see it ends; not because it was my absolute favorite anime last year, but because the sheer amount of their attention to details and their ridiculously quest for perfection are something that out of this world, in this day and age, which I will get to that later in my review. This is a sequel to Sound Eupho last year but I will keep the comparison to the first season to minimum in terms of quality because this season is great enough to be judged by its own.

The story is a direct continuation from the end of last season, as the Kitauji high school concert band just qualified from the qualifying round, now heading to Kansai region competition and later on, the National competition. Unlike the first season where the main dramatic events like Aio pulled out from the music club to focus on her study; the audition to choose the best players for the competition or the challenge to pick the lead trumpet arise and resolved around the development of the band club itself, the second season concentrates more on the band members’ personal issues. This change of focus is more apparent in the second half, when the show completely drops the band practice, even to the point of not showing the national performance at all. I understand this bold choice can cause disappointment to many fans who want to see the band in action, and moreover focus on individual character drama can cause the lack of cohesive theme; this shift of attention, on the other hand, also brings out some of the best character developments and intimate moments the show has ever achieved.

I will get to the negative part first. When the show concentrates more on character’s heightened drama, those dramas can be uneven and doesn’t add up much to the big picture. Two of this season’s acts for example: Yoroizuka and Reina act don’t play well for me because they have the exact opposite problems. Yoroizuka (the only character that I used by surname here, as this is how Kumiko refers her) is a secondary character who was suddenly given the spotlight and while her final confrontation with Yuuko and Nozomi was effective, the drama was resolved too quickly, Yoroizuka changed so fast that I personally don’t see her grow as natural at all. Reina’s affection to Taki-sensei grow to another level this season, but I’m not alone to say that this was the show’s weakest act because almost everyone can see the outcomes. That drama isn’t much to speak of to begin with; it’s a shame because Reina was my favorite character the first season and I’d like to see other kind of developments for Reina, any other development but this.

Moreover, sometimes it does feel like Sound Eupho stumbles around those dramas in order to “create the situation”; as a result sometimes the show loses its focus because it has to cover too many grounds (like in episode 6), other times some of the conflicts feel forced and calculated (of all time, Mamiko choose she decided to tell her parents to quit college on that stormy night, and “she quited because it has to be now”. Why?). While the Mamiko act actually turns out pretty great, those issues speak to the lack of single unified theme that made the first season so tightly constructed. The last issue, which was also the show’s biggest flaw, lied in the fact that when they focus too much on one set of characters for the drama, other cast members unfortunately don’t have much roles so all they do is hanging around and making the best out of little screen time they had. Reina, before reaching her act, serves as a shadow behind Kumiko; Shuichi becomes the unluckiest guy in the world and worst of all, Hazuki and Sapphire don’t have any development anymore, given that they are still billed as the lead characters.

In contrast, if anything, this season will be remembered as the season of Kumiko and Asuka. They are the heart and the soul of this season, and it’s a blessing to see how far both of them have matured in the end. Asuka has been one of the most complex character in Sound Eupho’s universe and the show did a damn fine job to underline her struggles with both her parental figures, as well as gradually peeling off the mask to reveal her true feeling inside. The most brilliant part of it was that she never lose her strong side at all, never in many moments we are allowed to see her vulnerable side, because it’s more that she becomes honest to herself, embrace herself to what she loves most and comes out even stronger than before. In additions, most of Asuka and Kumiko moments develop into the highlights of the season. When Asuka played that Sound Euphonium piece to Kumiko in episode 9, it was one of the best moments of the whole show, period. When Kumiko poured her heart out to convince Asuka to come back to the band, it was one of the most effective drama the show could ever committed. As the two getting closer and more honest to each other, it makes a whole lot sense that we have that final confrontation between them that warmly tied up this whole season together. This show indeed ends on a high note.

Kumiko also deserved to be one of the year’s best character here as she has changed a lot from timid and passive with no real passion into the one who is really honest to what she feels. Aside from her interaction with Asuka, her moments with her sister, while soft and never overly dramatic like other acts, feel all too real ans intimate on how siblings care about each other. The last few episodes when we follow her through her quiet tears on the train, her outbursts, her confessions were a joy to watch and each step she made feel like a natural progression. I have to give extra gratitude Tomoyo Kurosawa, the saiyuu of Kumiko, for delivering such a deadpan, plain but strangely distinctive voice of our main girl.

But what make Sound Eupho stand head above the rest of the crop lies in its production values. That 10-minute performance in episode 5 simply outperformed everything else I watched in recent years. KyoAni’s always known for their gorgeous designs and their attentive to make every little detail right, but this is just another level of insanity the more you get to know what they achieved. Almost every performance you heard in the show was correctly timed to their single notes (meaning that if you hear the character hits the notes onscreen, they were the right notes), the position of their fingers, their postures, even down to the preparation of the members before hitting the notes, were all accurate. Now imagine all of these in animation with a band of thirty something characters for the whole two seasons. I can’t even think how on earth one could achieve animating all that, let alone making it all flawlessly. They even go as far as making the echo of the announcement on the firework scene in the first episode, because they wanted it to be real (the city Uji is surrounded by mountains). No, something as insane as this don’t happen often, especially on TV-anime level, so to see it finally at the end of its road suddenly make me feel a little sad.

This second season is indeed a worthy follow up to the Sound Eupho the series. Just a bit of note that the score I’m giving above is for this second season alone, if I have to give a score for the whole series it would be 93/100. Sound Eupho is an install classic and for me is up there as one of KyoAni’s best works to date. As of this writing right now, there is one more novel about our Kitauji school that is more of a collection of short stories (like the real reason Aoi quit the band, or the story of Shuichi finally confesses to Kumiko) so I think OVAs will be the most possible outcomes. Otherwise we have the spin-off novels that focus on Azusa (Kumiko’s childhood friend) and her Rikka high school marching band and for now I think there’s a high chance that in the future KyoAni will return back to that universe by adapting this spin-off. Well, they better adapt it, or on that note, why not adapting Haruhi season 3?

Posted on 29 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This original episode achieves something so simple: a reminder that the true ending is the new beginning. Now I understand why KyoAni decided to skip the National performance last episode, because we’re having the last performance this week, with all the memories from the past flooding in as the underclassmen play the piece as a farewell to the senpais, and I honestly couldn’t wish for anything more. Now that the third year students had retired, the second year is going to take over the club and the music band basically has to start again from scratch. Not really from scratch to be exact because the remainders of the music band are already National-qualified players. Yuuko, for her great development this season, totally is deserved to be the band president next year. For Natsuki though, it’s a bit weird to nominate a member who was cutout from the audition to be a vice-president, but Yuuko and Natsuki make a perfect pair so I’m done complaining.

Sound Eupho keeps defining the very notion of romance, huh? I never would have thought we ain’t done with confession. I originally brush Kumiko’s confession off as just “friendship’s affection” but no matter how you look at it, it’s a romantic confession. Which of course crush Shuichi’s love down the toilet’s sink, and eventually give an answer to an always-teasing-and-baiting relationship of Kumiko and Reina as just friends. Best friends. Over my dead body! At the same time though, I can see where Kumiko’s affection for Asuka come from: Asuka’s the one that Kumiko expresses the most, she pours her heart out to confront Asuka so it’s very understandable that when that someone is gone, she feels empty inside and realizes that she misses her. Now I kind of understand as well why the show pushed Reina’s crush to Taki to such extend. I am honestly not sure what to think about this new development. Asuka’s leaving now meaning that if there ever be a third season, Kumiko and Reina’s relationship still take a central stage and we’d never through with this baiting, ever. But judging that Ayano Takeda hasn’t written the sequence, instead focus on Kumiko’s childhood friend Azusa in Rikka High School in her next spin-off novel, I think the show is ended for good. At least Kumiko has a chance to talk out what really matters to her. She has grown quite tremendously since the beginning of this season. I am glad.

The band playing farewell song- a song we’re now all familiar with- is a nice wrap up to many past moments the band (and us) have spent together. I love the moment when Reina started playing solo, we have a next quick shot of Kaori’s smile. There had been much drama about deciding who played the solo part, and Kaori’s reaction here is as best as she could: facing it with a smile. Those other moments keep reminding us what a ride all this had been and the band grow and act like members of a big family. Speaking of family now Kumiko and Mamiko exchanging mails to each other (how cool that is! Even they all have mobile phones).

Sound Eupho has been a very solid drive and this episode perfectly closed everything up nicely. I left the series with a satisfied feeling of the warm sound of Sound! Euphonium piece. Judging this season alone, personally I think it’s not as strong as the first, just a slightly down because it focuses too much on band member’s drama, while at the same time kind of neglecting our mains, but it sure is a very welcoming follow-up to the first. Judging the show as a whole, it will be up there as one of KyoAni’s best works, both demonstrating their detailed superhuman production values that the studio is famous for, and at the same time this show feels like the studio’s most natural brainchild: a slice of life series that set on their very hometown, Kyoto. Full review will come probably next week, before the next season begins, so stay tuned until then. Overall I have a great time covering it, and frankly a bit sad to see it gone. But life moves on, so should we and here’s a toast for a job well done, Kyoto Animation.

Posted on 23 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This could very well be Sound Eupho confessional episode. We get all the confessions of sort, for better or for worse. This is an episode that gives satisfied conclusions to many ongoing plots. While it also means that the show pushes forward Reina’s feeling for Taki-sensei for literally everyone to hear- which as of now we can pretty much take it or leave it. I will leave it at that- other pay-offs, particular Kumiko’s and Asuka’s, are intimate and heartfelt. Kumiko’s longing for her sister on the performance day is easily one of my favorite Sound Eupho moments. Sometimes you just need to say what hold you back out loud to the one you love. The fact that her sister played music, and to this extend, came all the way to see her play matters to her. The whole sequence was animated quite brilliantly as well, followed Kumiko as she rushing to catch up with her sister. I haven’t really sold on Kumiko’s sudden development for the last few episodes, but this moment comes just so natural and ties very well with her growth that it rings so true to me; not because it reminds me of my own story but because this is what I truly know Kumiko would behave. This is the kind of character moments that I’ve been looking for in the show.

The national performance is decidedly low-key. Very low-key indeed. We have been spoiled too much on Sound Eupho that we would expect another full-blown performance from the band, but this anti-climax approach is actually very fitting with the second half of this season: as the show progressed, they shift the focus on the musical performance to character’s arcs drama, that of course brings a fair share of both good and bad points. On the positive notes, this approach makes the show feel fresh with their attention is squarely on other issues. Do we really need to watch another 10-minutes performance again? Why don’t the show, instead of repeating the same approach, focus to something else entirely? And that’s precisely what happened: instead of that big performance that everyone been waiting for, their very next cuts show the members of the band sitting and interacting with each other after the performance (I love Reina’s just sitting quietly and reflecting here- “Sometimes I sit and think. Sometimes I just sit”-type of situation). I know I’m in minority but I actually enjoy all those small moments here, every member that we all know and care for all have their moments to shine through (but, where are Yuuko and Natsuki??).

This choice, on the other hand, makes the stake of national competition surprisingly low, even much lower than the local competition. I’d rather prefer of instead of that Reina episode last week, they could focus more on the third years feeling towards their very last performance. As the result; even though the band only achieved bronze, we don’t really feel they’ve earned it. Furthermore, that Reina confession sure feels awkward, as she repeatedly banging her head against thick wall. Taki-sensei actually did his best to deal with her confession. He could just easily laugh it off, or right out scold her; but he acknowledges that he appreciates the thoughts but he won’t advance the matter anymore. Now if only that love story is the central theme of the show’s next season.

Shuichi finally has a real moment with Kumiko we’ve been waiting for. This poor guy was shut down from Kumiko just because she didn’t care too much about him. Forget about him being a romantic interest to Kumiko, Shuichi is actually one of those few people who really understands Kumiko, especially about her and her sister’s relationship. Many readers think of him as one of the most underdeveloped character out of the show, especially when it comes to his fruitless childhood crush towards Kumiko. While I partly agree with this, just keep in mind that in actuality many of our characters just hang in there because they don’t have enough material to grow. Reina had been in Kumiko’s shadow for a good number of episodes before reaching her arc, and most notably Sapphire and Hazuki appear so far and few between for main characters. Actually, I don’t even know why they’re still labeled as mains in the ED. I just read through one Ayano Takeda’s interview, the writer of the books that this show adapted (a really informative interview I would add), and in there she said that the main purpose of Sapphire was to elevate the material until Taki-sensei arrived, because otherwise people just lose their interest prior to the band deciding to practice for National competition. That explains a lot on how their roles are minimal this season.

In the end, this episode actually addresses many character arcs quite nicely, but at the same time I wouldn’t blame people who think this episode is a disappointment. I would just say that your feeling towards this episode entirely depends on how you feel about the second half of this season. Seems like we ending the third book by this episode and the next one will be the anime-original episode so who knows what will going to happen, but it’s the more reason that the final episode is a must-watch for every fan.

And let the final piece begin…

Posted on 16 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

At long last we have a whole episode focusing on Reina after being sidelined for the whole season. I had my fears going to this episode as developing her crush on Taki-sensei isn’t the direction I want the show to focus on. As it turns out, the episode’s execution is quite good as expected from KyoAni, and they did what they could to close this little Reina arc down nicely before the National competition, but I can’t help but think that this is their worst effort of this second season, especially in a narrative sense as it adds very little to the show’s main narrative.

So the main reason Reina was so cold last week is because she knows that Kumiko’s hiding about Taki-sensei’s wife. Poor Kumiko who got betrayed by none other than Hashimoto-sensei (remember he was the one who spilled the bean to Kumiko as well. Girls, if you want to find out any secret, ask this guy!). The sequence where they are up there in the mountain is played out slowly and steady and I love the direction of this sequence, remind us of course to that terrific episode 8 of last season. Reina is the kind of person who knows what she wants, but when the thing she wants isn’t what she thinks it is, she feels weak and vulnerable. It’s pretty understandable for a girl her age to feel insecure about that. But she also walks a thin line from being completely rude by asking her sensei about his late wife, in an expense of Kumiko no less. That’s Reina for you. Always head on to do things, regardless of how everyone else feels.

By giving Reina a flashback on her first-time meeting Taki-sensei, it actually justifies her actions a whole lot better. So apparently, Reina had an issue of getting along with other people ever since she was a kid because she was… eh… rich. She met Taki at that time and it’s him who encourage Reina to play better. In Reina’s eyes, Taki was like a prince riding horse out of some fairytale and she did attend this school because of him (she mentioned that before but now we know for sure). I guess the time that Taki gave her a music piece was the time that his wife just passed away. Hearing him talking about her with such sad and sweetness is quite touching, and seeing him now try to accomplish her dream is sad in its own way. The problem with that is after he achieving all this, what’s left for him? Hmm, I don’t really see the point of visiting grave from the person you don’t know, but that scene is still a nice closure for Reina to really accept it and mature a bit after this.

With that we get to an end of all those character arcs and with two episodes remaining we will now focus wholeheartedly to the National Competition. I haven’t really noticed but the last half of this season we didn’t get to much band practicing, even at all. In a way, this show is a nice contrast to Yuri on Ice in terms of their approach: while both shows concentrating on the competition aspect, Yuri on Ice spends its time entirely on the performances and the character’s personality and growth are showcased completely during the performances (which actually very fitting to figure skating sport), whereas Sound Eupho focuses strongly on the band’s music practices and personal dramas within the members of the band.

This little Reina act is the total opposite with Yoroizuka act, as in Yoroizuka act we have a heightened drama; where the character changed sharply after it ends; on a secondary character we don’t pretty much care about, this act is about our core character with very little resolve to work with. For those reasons, I would say Asuka act is a definitive act of this season. Then again, relying too much on character’s development acts might be this show’s weakest approach; as for me my favorite moments in this episode are when the show explores little moments between various characters: Yuuko with Reina (Yuuko is actually the best thing this season had developed right now) and Akusa with Natsuki. It’s those moments that remind me that every character in the show have their own lives and issues. They’re not some stage characters who just sit there and don’t do anything when they’re off the stage light.

As a very unrelated note, I got bored and searched for the Daikichi Mountain the girls went up to this episode and it was real.  In fact, that school Kitauji High School is real (down to the uniform), so are every other schools (the marching band school) and settings. That fact seriously blows my mind! With all the RPG fantasy anime, harem anime and limitless amounts of high school anime, I take it for granted that everything there is a work of fiction, of someone’s mindless wet-dream so I don’t prepare for the show that based everything on its real settings. I always know that this show is realistic but now it’s the whole other level of realness, don’t you think?

Posted on 9 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This season surely gives us too much of Kumiko-cuteness versions. After the fluffy little Kumiko last few weeks, the bedridden sore throat Kumiko, the surprisingly “always listening – always understanding” (such a pretentious slogan) Kumiko last week, what shades pf Kumiko is in store for us this week? Of course it’s an emo teary-eyes Kumiko. As much as a blank emotion when we first met her, this episode in particular shows us that she can express her own emotions, and on top of it actively resolves conflicts because she really wants to. That’s quite a development for our girl Kumiko to be that emotionally honest and I’m sure she deserved all the praise she got this week.

As contrasted to the Kumiko – Asuka showdown later on, Kumiko and Mamiko’s conflict was pretty quiet, soft but full of honest moments. The sisters don’t really make conversations to each other for so long, and the last times they talked there were a huge influx of misunderstanding from both sides, but to resolve the matters like this show how much maturity they both have become. It’s like the first time that Mamiko treats her sister like a companion, frankly tells her sister her issues in exactly the way she feels. That scene is layered by Mamiko literally cleaning up her mess (way too subtle KyoAni!), while Kumiko just stands there, cooking and listening. This is the most appropriate way to end their conflict like this, because ultimately Mamiko doesn’t need her sister’s help, she just needs her to understand. Like Asuka’s last week insecurity about being Eupho-girl, Mamiko was a bit jealous of Kumiko because she could do what she wants; while we know that Kumiko was thinking the opposite. The play of perspective is there to show us how they’re struggling with their own images. Speaking of perspective, my favorite moments out of this little drama has to be just after Mamiko said she was about to move out and said she’d be a little sad (don’t know about you guys but I personally find it real hard to talk about emotions to my siblings, just like Mamiko and Kumiko here), she looks at this little corner and knows that the place where she spend her childhood as home will be no longer her home. That feeling rings so hollowly true here.

But the most brilliance thing is how her sister’s drama helps supporting Kumiko in her “Operation Bring Back Asuka-senpai”. The event last week, powerful as it was, isn’t enough to bring Asuka back to the band. After all, Asuka’s main intention to invite Kumiko last week was because she needed someone to hear her out, not to resolve her conflicts. In her minds, the best solution has always been cutting herself off from the band, that’s where out Kumiko steps in. Yes, Asuka isn’t wrong about all that, but sometimes, just follow what you’re most passionate about regardless of any other things might be the best course of action. It’s no points to continue what you ain’t love doing. Be honest to yourself. Be a KID!! The showdown is atmospheric, tense and I love how Asuka lays bare what she thoughts about Kumiko. On that showdown, we have many shots from multiple perspectives: most of the time from Kumiko’s point of view, sometimes they pull out from different angles, sometimes they don’t even show the girls’ faces at all. Those shots aim to show us how much Asuka was still in control of the situation until Kumiko’s breakout. Kumiko’s body expressions after that talk is priceless. I can see so much efforts were put to make her gestures as expressive as we see here.

To align with the tone of this second season, this episode also leaves Reina absent for most of the time to do god-know-what from He-must-not-be-named (AKA spying from her teacher) and it looks like the next episode will focus on her crush issues with Taki-sensei. To be honest that arc might be the one I least interested in, because we already know the outcomes of this crush. Despite that, it also means we will have more Reina’s time so I remain optimistic about that arc might turn out worthwhile. Maybe.

Posted on 2 December 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

Two-third of this Fall season have passed and usually this is the time for our shows to reach to their full potential. Sound Eupho, comfortably delivers one of its best episode of this second season. As you can probably tell by the self-titled nature of this episode, our Eupho players are given as the centerpiece and what better way to end this week than a euphonium solo piece? Yes, this is the kind of development I want to see from Sound Eupho. I don’t want heightened drama when things resolve too quickly and seem to be forgotten soon afterward. I want this. In the end of this episode, things don’t really change at all. Asuka is still miserable and we haven’t deal with Asuka’s mother yet and there is no emotional breakdown, no tears. Just smile. We saw Asuka smiles as a mask to hide her true feeling from the start of the show, and in the end of this episode again we see her smiles, but this time it has changed. We get out of this episode feeling that we learn a lot better from these characters. Now, I have a glimpse of Asuka’s real thoughts, of Kumiko’s growing right before my eyes and of the great chemistry they share and those are honestly all I could ask for.

Let get to know Asuka a bit more after this episode. There’s two things about this girl that makes one of the most layered characters out of this series and the first is she knows exactly what she wants. Unlike the bandmates who keep practicing for golds and competition, she pretty much has her own hidden agenda. Starting Euphonium from a gift from her estranged father, she wants to play the instrument and no amount of efforts from her Mom can keep her away from it. After finding out that her father will be a judge for the National Competition, she wants to get her father hear her play so she cuts all the unnecessary band drama bullshit and pushes hard to reach the National stage. It’s a very selfish way of doing things when everything she does is for her own benefits, even at a cost of sacrifice something else (her friend Nozomi) but in a way she’s one of the purist band players out there: She plays Eupho because she really wants to play. She wants to play because she has something to express, be it her reach for freedom or her cry out for recognition from her father.

But there is another thing that made her role so compelling. Despite her carefree, uplifting attitude and her seemingly ignorant of her surrounding, she actually notices and cares about people surrounding her. The scene when Kaori tie up her shoes really highlights that quality of her: on one hand, the dark visual close shot of Asuka (something come straight from horror) indicates very well that personally Asuka don’t take it very well when others meddling to her own affair, but on the other hand she also aware about Kaori’s sincere intention of helping her out, hence the out of nowhere comment: “Kaori is cute, isn’t she” (because in Asuka’s mind that’s what cute girls do: trying their best to help her friend out). Even with her own relationship with her Mom, Asuka disagrees with many of her Mom’s decisions but “Once a Mom, always a Mom” – she knows that her Mom raised her up so she respects her all the same. This week she notices something about Kumiko that she knows that she could talk honestly to Kumiko. After all, sharing is caring so it’s nice to see Asuka open up her issues to Kumiko (the best part here have to be how Kumiko declared that she loves to hear Asuka’ sound… well, that special thing about Kumiko)

Kumiko just getting better and better at carrying her own weight lately. Like I mentioned before we follow every action through her perspective, we see what she sees (that shot where she nervously peeks through her senpai in a locker room really demonstrates it), so far she appears as plain as possible (kudos to both her voice acting and her passive personality) to not distract us so much from the main storyline. But in this episode the show suddenly gives her a spotlight for her to shine. I said “suddenly” because it’s kind of abrupted if you ask me since out of the blue, there were 3 different people complement Kumiko’s quality this week. First we have Natsuki, then Reina (My favorite part really!) and finally Asuka. So everyone been saying that our main Kumiko has an ability to understand people, doesn’t seem to notice things but actually do and has the right words at the right time. REALLY? Because I fail to see any of her characteristics here and I feel the show’s really stretching this part too thin, repeatedly remind us how “special” Kumiko is (There’s something about… Kumiko – that’s an alternative episode title) but I have to say I enjoy all those parts so I’m happy to overlook this silly little details this time.

And the bond between our euphonist is excellent. I love that even a strong-minded skilled person like Asuka can actually be insecure sometimes, the way she feels that she isn’t good at euphonium and admires Kumiko as the true Eupho-girl, while at the same times we already know how Kumiko always look up to her with admiration. So Asuka is a human, after all, huh? The euphonium music that Asuka played at the end is anime-original piece written directly for the show and it was played almost perfectly in that scene. I’m completely speechless just to hear her playing: The sad music, the sceneries, Kumiko’s silently listening, all are flawless. It brings the masterclass in music performance (something we witnessed before when the band played their entire piece in Kansai region), while at the same time grounded by strong emotionally charge. This sequence will likely be remembered as one of the best moments in Sound’s Euphonium’s, period, and for good reasons.

Posted on 26 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This week, the show delivers one of my favorite Eupho moments: as Kumiko and Reina quietly listen to the Euphonium CD, enjoying that little moments when the music is playing with drama or conflict yet to come. This little moment and the firework sequence back in the first episode are Sound Eupho at their best. They always excel at portraying characters’ little gestures and expressive reactions and those scenes allow our characters to sit back and breathe and let the atmosphere washes over them. While I don’t necessary disagree with their choice to focus on heighten drama and more in-depth characters this season, because we do need to know them a little deeper after 2 seasons, I do miss those little moments that the first season achieved so effortlessly.

So the big elephant in the room has finally addressed, as Mamiko told her parents that she wanted to quit college because she wants to be a beautician. She blames her parents for putting up pressure that eventually she had to study what she didn’t want to, moreover she was forced to quit the music band and now she just needs a break to all that. The way her strict father deals with the problems meaning that he won’t take no for an answer in everything he wants her to do; which is kind of suck. He does make a point when he said that it’s her who decided to take college so don’t put a blame game back to him, but that again is too harsh on his eldest daughter. But that family drama eventually points to the very relationship between Mamiko and Kumiko. If you notice carefully, this is the very first time that the passive Kumiko actually raises her voice to someone, because she freaking cares about her sister. Of course Kumiko doesn’t really understand her sister’s struggle, but it comes the other way as well: Mamiko doesn’t understand why her sister got so irritated at her decision like that. As this episode shows us many intimate moments when Kumiko were young, her sister was her inspiration to get into music in the first place and all Kumiko want is to play music with her sister. It’s only slightly hinted this week, but I can see that after her sister quitted the music band, it killed the joy to play music out of Kumiko (remember that in the beginning of season 1, Kumiko doesn’t want anything to do with music again) until she got swept up by the inspiration of Taki-sensei.

It’s a joy for me to be able to see Aoi back again this season, even with just a passing sequence like this one. Truth be told but I always found Aoi’s situation back in the first season the most resonant to me. I had briefly discussed this before but if I were Taki-sensei, I would think really carefully before pushing the music band to competition-focus. For me, it always seems too convenient for him to just let the band decided for themselves, then he just proceed to push the goal and cut all other craps. I know he wouldn’t mind if the band choose to just have fun playing music, but my main issues remain this: he should assist them to know all the consequences, all the pros and cons of these options are, because eventually if he pushes the band squarely into one direction, someone will eventually be pulled further away from that wheel. And that someone was Aoi because she can’t afford to have more commitment to music, but what get me the most was her comment later on to Kumiko that she never really regretted leaving the band. It all comes down to the decision we made and I know she made a right choice in her situation. But what is wrong with joining the band just for the sake of enjoying it as a spare time? Her role in the story, plus Azusa’s (the girl who plays in marching band in other school) gives Sound Eupho much more depth, because it adds another dimension to those who chase different pathways from our music band.

Although not actually appearing this week, Asuka’s mother air still lingers around this episode. Asuka has been kept things to herself so that her issue won’t be a bother to the band; but I’m still waiting, patiently, for herself to crack. She’s performing that happy persona so damn well that others don’t know if they should be happy or worry. She invites Kumiko over her house, which is a very abnormal sign, but that night might be the night that we understand her conflict in full extend. The show has been implied many times this week and it further confirms what I picked up last week: It seems like Asuka’s father is an Eupho professional named Masakazu Shindo (the girls even confirmed that it sounds like Asuka’s) and judging by Asuka’s attitude (the band comes first, cut the drama bullshit. But then again she seems happy just to play the instrument and doesn’t care much about the band drama), it seems that Asuka got inspired by her father. The reason I bought it up is because if that’s the case there is an equivalence between Asuka’s story and Kumiko’s own family drama: as both Asuka and Kumiko starting to play music as an admiration to someone, and then keep hanging on to the music even though that inspirations are gone. The strictness between the two families who pressure Asuka and Kumiko’s sister to quit the band to focus on what they think is better for their own child is another point of reference. Anyways, I’m pretty sure next week we will follow Kumiko to Asuka’s house to witness a rematch between Asuka and her mother and I hope this time we can really see what that girl is truly thinking about.

Posted on 19 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

After spending the first half of this season for second year drama and the regional Kansai competition, it’s only natural for Sound Eupho to turn their focus on the third-year students now. After all, National competition will be their last performance, so there’s a lot of meat to invest on. Now we know more about Asuka’s issues, her mother is an uptight parent who wants her to concentrate more on the entrance exam and forces her to quit the band. Apparently, her mother thinks the band is just a distraction towards whatever goals she wants Asuka to achieve because she “knows” what is best for Asuka. Well, I don’t need to point out the problem with this attitude, instead I’ll tell you a story that I know in RL. A friend of my friend (so I don’t personally know her) had her parents divorced when she was young and her mother forbid her to meet the father out of her own hatred. In high school, she decided to secretly meet her father by telling her mom she’d walk home that day and planned to meet him in front of school’s entrance. Unfortunately, her mother spied on them so as soon as the two met, she detested by jumping into the running car and of course that event scarred the girl for life (true story!). My point is this, when parents dictate their child into such extreme without considering the child’s own feeling (the same case here with Asuka), things bound to get more disturbing. There’s still something that only hinted very slightly in this episode about Asuka and her mom’s relationship. Her mom tells her that Asuka playing instrument is to get back at her, it might mean that Asuka’s father also played instruments before. We don’t know either what Asuka wanted to talk to Natsuki about, but really the way she acts like nothing wrong happened even though everyone knows how dire her situation has been actually signaled that she’s in deep trouble right now, and I know things will get worse later on.

Haruka and Kaori likewise have a good amount of development this week. Despite being a band president, it’s obvious that Asuka has more of an influence band members than Haruka and even she knows that she isn’t leader material. But that’s not to say that she isn’t a good leader and this episode really articulates well her characters and her personal struggles. First, the absence of Asuka leaves a bad mood to the band, so for once she stands up in front of the band and asks them to trust the senpais and keep moving on. It wasn’t a very good speech (but she’s never a good speaker to begin with), but it was the right timing to encourage the band to focus on their playing. Moreover, she was asked by Taki-sensei to performing solo, which of course made her nervous. She’s always good at staying behind the scene and supporting the band, so to become a center of attention isn’t really her thing. But she has grown too. She has grown to start embracing the leader role, be more comfortable with her own self-esteem, and that solo part really shows how far she has developed as a character throughout the series.

Now, to the time shift “one month has passed since Asuka stopped coming to the band”, it’s nice for Sound Eupho to focus on a specific narrative issue, but for me the show has always shined on making the band club as real and relatable as possible, and that included the messiness in narrative. In real life, issues and events come as random as the weather, some issues we already anticipated beforehand, some we don’t. That is why I really enjoyed the randomness and messiness of last weeks’ many dramas, because it feels like the very world we live in. Now, we just passed a month without any real moments, in expense of showing Asuka’s issues, and that take away the “real life” the show has built up to. I mean what’s about Kumiko’s relationship with her sister at that time? What about any other band member’s interactions? This is not their fault obviously as shows need to have focus drama and I frankly would do the same if I were in their position, but the point being I hope that they don’t push up the drama in the sacrifice of the naturalness of the show.

Everyone who watching this show know that the production values are overall top notch, even comparable to the quality of feature length movies; but here I want to press how attentive to details this show is. I’m not the man who judge the quality of the music played by the band, but by reading analysis from someone who used to play in an actual concert band (I’ll give you the links if you guys ask for it), most of the musical was played correctly, even down to the fingering, the notes they play, the position of the hands and bodies were all executed perfectly, and for me that’s just insane. KyoAni not simply done their research, but it feels like they animating the real concert band performing. The more I read about how correctly each segment played, the more I am blown away. Imagine they made it right for the whole 10-minutes performance by all the instruments played, now imagine they even got it right when the band practiced throughout this one and a half series-length. As it become a norm that the production quality would drop significantly towards the middle part in anime world, KyoAni’s consistency towards the quality, plus their willingness to get ever minor details right that frankly put other productions into shame. They set a high standard on how production quality should be and I don’t think there is many productions out there that could come close to it.

Posted on 11 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

After the performance in the Kansai competition, we get to a breather episode this week, meaning that there is no actual band training this week, instead we have school festival (geez, how many KyoAni’s school festivals have we witnessed already) and a stormy night where many things happened. Apparently, the show moves to the next arc of the season (we have a full color opening now. Love it), so it’s time for the show to focus on more characters’ development, and there are handful of character’s development to be found in this episode.

Now, let’s talk about Asuka first. Since the last few episodes we’re getting closer to the real Asuka, as there were many instances she dropped her mask and even said out loud what she really thinks. She might be one of the most complex characters in this series (the way she hides her real personality deep down inside), but that doesn’t mean she’s the most interesting characters out there. If the show fails to bring us into her perspective, we have nothing but the cheery, annoying fake Asuka. It’s about goddamn time now to get into her character arc. From the look of it, there seems to be a woman (presumably her mother) who might be the key to open Asuka’s inner mind. She has that strict look so I’m guessing without context for now that she doesn’t like Asuka to spend time playing in the band and that lead to Asuka having some responsibility issues, but I’m sure we will get the real answer soon enough. From what we did know about her characters though, she has a cynical outlook to everything and it’s always a question whether she really cares about the band and the performance at all. At the moment, it becomes clearer that she concerns about the performance and wanted to try her best for her last high school competition. Look like next episode will focus on her issues and I really hope the show will take proper time to heighten the drama, not to resolve it too quickly like that Yoroizuka arc. Speaking of which, am I the only one who found Yoroizuka’s affection to Nozomi very unhealthy? And after all that big talk from Yuuko about the problems of leaning too much to Nozomi, and that Yuuko treats her like real close friend (unlike Nozomi), she just basically devoted herself to Nozomi? (oh, and Nozomi seems to be back to the band without any more fuss. Good for her). Talking about creepy!!

Taki-sensei also get a good amount of development this week, as we realize how much he still loved his wife and where his determination come from. It’s good to see that Hashimoto-sensei and Niiyama-sensei back to help the club band as I mentioned before that they can still support Taki and through them we can know more about the past of Taki, but their immediate return made the whole farewell sequence last week feel rather pointless. The teacher himself sure doesn’t feel at all comfortable to talk about his wife or his past, and his conversations with Kumiko later in the car; while awkward, still deepen his narrative. There are only hints throughout this episode but it seems like this is Taki and his wife’s anniversary day, so even with the typhoon on its way, he still puts on his wedding ring and goes out the storm to buy her flowers. Even later when Sapphire conveniently points out the meaning of those flowers, the message is still beautiful. He, more than anyone else, really wants to take the National golds for his late wife and now understand that we can root for him. But still chasing the ghost is kind of problematic itself, right? Talking about problematic, yeah they really go for Reina’s affection to Taki. While admiration is certainly more of the case here, she’s actually capable of pushing things too far and I don’t really like that direction at all. Feel like she’s smashing her head against thick wall in this case.

And finally, this episode gives some more conflicts to our main heroine as well. I’m really glad that Shuichi is back (well, he never actually gone) after a rather muted last arc. The relationship between Kumiko and Shuichi still in its awkward phase, which is fairly normal for kids with opposite sex that age. Kumiko might be insensitive towards Shuichi, but she actually needs some interactions with boys (especially at friends level) once in a while. Focus too much on training and girls will do you no good Kumiko. I love their brief time together so I hope we will get to see more of them. Secondly, her home drama seems to take its turn now as her sister declared that she’s quitting college for reason yet to explain (well she doesn’t need to explain to be honest). As I had been through uni I know that the drop rate is always high and many of my friends eventually dropped out so this gives me no surprise. But it will affect Kumiko as she always looks up to her sister and now with this happen they get themselves into high-tension mode. It’s good to shake things up a bit for our Kumiko so I don’t mind some little drama and romantic plot revolving around her.

Sounds like I have complained a lot in this episode but truthfully I enjoyed the hell out of it. As a breather episode, there is not a lot happening but I love how all the little dramas are set up. Sure, they feel unfocused at times but that is precisely why it feels like the world we live in (now the more I think of it the more I don’t like that Yoroizuka’s arc): randomness but ultimately true to life.

Posted on 4 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

What a bravura piece of performance! Usually if a show wants to showcase how good a music performance is, they’d go for cheap tactics like fast cuts, over-the-top sparkling effects, key still frames, and drawing reactions from audiences. Not with KyoAni. They’re confident enough, and of course talented enough, to play out the entire piece and let that speaks for themselves about the quality. This is easily the highlights of this season so far and will be the one that fans will keep coming back to.

But the first half by no mean is no duds either. By following Kumiko and the band go through a day leading up to the Kansai Competition, the show again excels in showing many subtle moments and development that blink and you might miss it entirely. First, Taki announces to the band that his friends’ duty has ended, which for me was quite sudden because I still don’t know what their real roles are in the whole picture. I think the reason they are presented is to support and shed more lights to Taki’s character, but they actually didn’t do much except being either an info-dumper, or an obvious setup for Reina to get fired-up nonsensically. I hope they’ll be back soon as I still don’t see the show used them to their full potential. While on the train, Hazuki (who sadly was under-developed this season) gives a really light but on-point touch on what she is thinking the upcoming tournament. Being one of a few who isn’t qualified enough, it’s understandable that she sometimes feels like she was left behind by her friends. But being Hazuki, obviously she’s sad, but she isn’t the one who’d disheartened by that. Instead, she vows to work hard to get her place for next year, and encouraging her friends to make it to the Nationals so that would inspire her is a really nice characterization by the show. Aiming to the Nationals not only mean a whole lot for the competitive members, but for the rest of the team as well.

When Kumiko got back home that afternoon, she receives a phone call from her middle school friend, Azusa (who briefly appeared in the first season). Her school Rikka High School will compete in the morning, moreover she asked Kumiko to not to speak with her that day. That again is a nice touch from Sound Eupho because the show keeps adding more perspectives from other cast, making more layers to the story. I totally agree with Azusa here, they might be ‘best friends forever’ but on that one day they’re competitors (I love how Kumiko keeps picking up her toes), and like Kumiko later said the amount of time and efforts all of them put in to practice for that one day affects pretty much everyone in the band, so “no one can think straight now” isn’t an overstatement at all.

I have to give it up for Yuuko for again being shine in her brief moments. She basically acts like herself this episode but the moment feels truly earned. Although qualifying to the Nationals is their goals, the team (especially the third-year students) knows that it’s a hard goal to reach. In addition, for the third-year students, this might be their last performance so they sometimes feel like they’re at the end of the road. This sentiment is echoed by Kaori this week as she tells Yuuko to keep looking after then band or Asuka last season when she said that the fun of practicing is about to conclude when the competition ends. But Yuuko points out correctly that their journey isn’t going to be done yet, let’s try and reach the Nationals together. In other notes, while Sound Eupho never really a show that is strong in terms of comedy, this episode has its absurd moments. Upon hearing Yoroizuka saying that the she will play a solo piece for Nozomi (which still doesn’t sound right for me either), Reina asks Kumiko if she can play the solo part for her. I know Reina isn’t the one who is easily affected by other people so this is really more like the show poking fun on the very notion of playing the piece for someone else. In fact, the very last moments of the episode when Yoroizuka expresses that she’s happy with the competition sadly is the weakest part in otherwise flawless episode for me, as I see for much of her struggle, she comes out as too clean a cut, the drama of her last episode pretty much resolved everything that I don’t feel her grow is natural at all.

But this first half’s best moments come directly from the speech of Asuka. As this show has many times addressed this issues, while Asuka isn’t the president of the club, she has a leader traits and clearly everyone sees her as more influential figure than Haruka the president. This time, she speaks up for the whole band and for once, she lets herself loose and being direct in front of everyone. She wants to try to reach to the Nationals. I noticed the brief exchanges between her and Kumiko during the performance and at this moments I’m not really sure what those exchanges supposed to be. The very nature of concert band is teamwork as everyone contribute their parts to form a collective whole, but for those from the same sections sometimes it means they have to fight each other for the roles. This will put our main Kumiko in an interesting position as Asuka and she both playing Euphonium. I reckon Asuka and Kumiko relationship is going to be the main focus for the latter half of this season, which I will totally be on board.

And now to that wonderful second half performance, it’s just simply mesmerizing. KyoAni always has been very consistent when it comes to the production values, but even with their standard the performance is still a standout. I noticed they used some footages from the previous performance last seasons, but overall the whole performance flows magnificently. Some might say it’s not fair to just focus on the band’s performance so we don’t know how good other bands are, but that’s essentially the point here. When the announcement starts, we’re rooting for them not because how incredible their performance was, but because we have witnessed how hard they tried to produce that piece of music so the results are satisfying because we know they deserved it. And you deserved it too, KyoAni.

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