Kumiko has just started high school, although she picked the one she wanted based on the uniforms rather than the strength of the school’s Brass Band – which is relevant, because her middle school’s brass band had been good enough to win gold in the prefectural tournament. However, it was ‘dud gold’, meaning that they weren’t picked to compete at a national level – something that didn’t bother Kumiko as much but utterly crushed her bandmate Reina, whom she hasn’t spoken to since then.
As Kumiko’s luck would have it, her new highschool’s brass band is…not very good, although her two new friends – the energetic Hazuki and moeblob Saphire (who would really rather be called Midori) are eager to join up. They investigate the band – who don’t seem to have any idea how off-key they are – but any desire of Kumiko’s to join it is suddenly quelled with Reina shows up also wanting to join.
However, the enthusiasm her two new friends have for the band eventually makes her change her mind again, although she’ll have to finally confront Reina again – she’d actually offended her back in middle school by doubting their bands chances of ever making it to Nationals, after all.
I wanted to refrain from the K-On! comparisons here but it’s kind of hard not to when KyoAni’s biggest hit was also about girls in a school music club. However, Hibike! Euphonium being about a brass band isn’t the only main difference – one episode in and it’s already got a very different mood. K-On! was happy to let us follow the girls around and watch them fluff around eating cake and being cute with only the occasional nod to it being about music, while this one actually seems a bit more concerned with the music and the playing of it. There’s definitely a lot of cute fluffing around all the same, but the obvious focus it’s going to have on getting a failing brass band into shape to take on the Nationals actually makes the format of the show more similar to Free!. Skimming some of the comments about the show from people who are either in brass bands or knowledgable about the subject, it seems that KyoAni’s attention to detail went even further than I thought, and it’s a great representation. (Those who play a euphonium were also overjoyed to be given recognition – and I admit, it’s nice that they’d go with a lesser known instrument for the main character than something generic.)
It’s definitely a pretty show so far, although I can’t help but think that the character art is a little too shiny sometimes. I feel like the over-vibrant character animation sometimes even comes across as KyoAni parading their budget rather than actually looking good, although there’s still a lot of the usual beautiful character animation that makes this a high-quality production. At the beginning of the episode I didn’t particularly like any of the character designs as they weren’t really doing anything for me and didn’t seem to be all that special, but by the end they’d grown on me a little. Where the show really shines visually is in the brass instruments – they’re amazing detailed and highly polished and reflective (a studio with less of a budget would have rendered these a lot simpler) – and in the backgrounds. New-school-year cherry blossoms are as basic and ho-hum you can get as a background in anime, yet there’s something special about the background scenery in this that really stood out to me. I’d really like to see if the show ends up covering the other three seasons as beautifully as its covered Spring already.
While there seems to be four main characters, the cast of this show has the potential to be huge – brass bands arent small, after all, and the opening theme shows a lot of character silhouettes at the end, not all of which are female. I was actually quite pleased to see some male characters in the show – there’s Kumiko’s childhood friend, and later on a mysterious bespectacled man who could potentially wind up being something like a coach or mentor. Unfortunately, the personalities of the main characters that have been revealed aren’t anything interesting yet – almost any girl in this could have been transplanted from an existing KyoAni anime – and I’m actually having a hard time figuring out exactly what kind of character Kumiko is meant to be. She seems a little aloof and reserved so far but her character really isn’t leaving any impact.
It’s a show with a lot of potential, and at worst it might just end up being boring. I’d like to keep an eye on it.