AR: Sound! Euphonium and the Frustration of Failure

Sound! Euphonium or rather, Eupho for lazinesses’ sake, is a scarily accurate depiction of emotions in music. It really is scary. Although I couldn’t relate to characters individually, their in-the-moment emotions were ones I could get behind and in fact, their immediate moments of frustration, repulse, joy and passion ultimately ended up being the main selling point of Eupho. Yes, even a bigger point than Reina’s existence…I can’t believe I just said that. I’m sorry, Reina, I still love you don’t hurt me.

Image result for reina x kumiko fanart

As someone who actively participates in a band (percussionist), Kumiko’s disappointment and frustration are all familiar feelings to me. Then again, a rock’s disappointment and frustration are also familiar feelings to me. What matters isn’t the feeling, but the presentation of them. I could draw two stick figures hugging but it’ll never have as much meaning as the meticulously crafted image above. Eupho is able to create attachable characters that succinctly convey frustration, disappointment, anger, remorse and beyond. Kumiko could rapidly blink; Reina could scream; Asuka could play her euphonium efficiently – no matter how miniscule the action, Eupho always manages to magically get the heavy weight of said action off to it’s audience without fail. I’m pretttyyy sure a rock can’t do that. A lifeless husk conveying such emotions could succeed, yet inevitably feel like empty noise.

Eupho’s immaculate delivery of emotions through compact yet meaningful actions serve as a close connection from us to it’s cast and thus, getting invested in our band members’ emotional state, goals and musical achievment are an easy feat. Hurrah for musical relatability! I can so relate to the frustration of failing whilst everyone pushes ahead of you. Eupho captured that specific sense beautifully and gracefully. So gracefully to where I even put it in the title! Unluckily for you, that will hardly come up for the rest of the post…Inskidee is not running out of ideas, I swear!

Eupho’s emotional delivery is truly the best part of the series. It’s even better when music is used as a catharsis. The show does best when put in it’s natural music enviornment after all. The phrase “show, don’t tell” shines like a beacon in moments like such. Even if a scene of the likes of Reina’s tooting trumpet or Asuka’s Sound! Euphonium solo is as small as three minutes, it doesn’t fail in conveying more emotion than any haystack of compressed dialogue ever could. Eupho’s fervent emotional language fits like a sock in the boot of Eupho’s musical story.

Image result for reina x kumiko fanart
Totally not masking my need for Reina X Kumiko through fanarts…

In response to Eupho’s over-exceeding emotional conveyance, our characters are as equally well-done. However, in order to make them as solid as they are, an exponentially large amount of time are spent on each individual not to scale with the musical themes of Eupho. Sometimes arcs spent on characters are hardly necessary because later in the series, they’re cast away like worn-out socks. What was the point in all that time devoted into them then? The first season of Eupho spends more time in it’s emotional conveyance through music, the impact of musical efforts and ambitious objectives/thoughts in competition. Eupho traverses a wide and flexible route and corresponds to that route accordingly, making the first season’s emotional conveyance as great as it is. But please note, I’m speaking from a musician’s point of view. I have no idea how an outsider from music would feel about a piece like Eupho.

Contrary to Eupho’s first season, the second season reduces its special skill’s screentime drastically and spends more time on individual character arcs. It consistently unloads weighty drama through them and doesn’t give us a whiff of breathing room. The minority in the second season ultimately becomes Eupho’s key musical aspects with the small exception of occassional (well-done) demonstrations of musical catharsis from Asuka and Reina. Thanks to the second season’s assertive and ambitious goal in melding perfection in its characters, it had to abandon certain characters from further attention which were, unfortunately, the few characters developed in the first season, Sapphire and Hazuki. They basically became convenient proos – like trees in a play.

I am stuffing this review chock full of images of these two

But as I said, the characters we’ve been with since the beginning like Reina, Kumiko, Asuka and our mild antagonist, Yuuko are all good. Kumiko and Reina’s relationship is developed across a tidy timeframe. They go from zero to hero before we can say “I ship it”. They create a supportive, vehement dynamic that I can’t help but get absorbed in and they help each other grow thus, leading into their ability in helping other characters find their way and grow too which…is all the second season is about now that I think about it…They have a can’t-have-one-without-the-other type relationship and it goes hand-in-hand with the nature and scene of Sound! Eupho. They were made for Eupho both literally and figuratively.

Yuuko does a decent job as a minor antagonist for season one. She manages to rile conflict powering Reina and Kumiko’s, at first, stagnant relationship forth without her acting irrationally douche-y. She was able to maintain her likability even with her abrasive role as antagonist. In truth, her maintaining her likability isn’t an eye riveting remark considering she never had a strong likability to begin with. We never see anything extend past her besides her antagonistic rule. All she did was issue change as all baseline antagonists do.

Like Reina, Yuuko is ardent for success in the form of Kaori’s (Her senpai idol master thing) success. It’s her consistently passionate reason for why she’s always going against Reina, who too vigorously seeks for achievment. Yuuko’s reasoning may be straightforward, but it’s far from irrational or bitchy. I’ve heard a lot say she’s bitchy which, I can guess, probably stems from her upfront and unfiltered stance in her objectives. I love straightforward characters like her so maybe that’s why I can’t see her bitchiness.

Image result for reina x kumiko fanart

Before finishing this post off, let’s talk about Asuka, who inevitably became the main focus for the entire second season. Her purpose in the second season, albeit simple and straightforward, was at best, adequately presented. It’s difficult for me to say her demonstrations were above average or great because, in relation to other characters we’ve been close to for far longer, she feels underwhelming. She had hardly any weight as an individual in the first season and now, she comes into the second as a primary main? It doesn’t add up and it’s difficult adjusting to her abrupt shift in positions considering I watched both seasons back-to-back. But, despite that, I can’t say her characterization was bad. However, her role towards Kumiko’s characterization – a character whom we’re more than attached to by now – was great. Truly.

Admist the second season and the first, Kumiko deals with the existing threat of her older sister’s (Mamiko) wavering future and raging moods coming and going. Finally, after tension explodes at the seams, Mamiko takes it upon herself to start living her life for herself and becoming more adult than ever before beginning with mending her unstable relationship with Kumiko. Asuka embodies Mamiko as her foil and, in essence, tortures Kumiko through constant reminders of Mamiko, inside and out. Although Kumiko may have found Mamiko as a pain in the butt of a sister, when Mamiko finally decided to break free of her emotional prison, Kumiko couldn’t help but remorse. History repeats itself with Asuka and Kumiko knows it hence why most, if not, all of Kumiko’s breakdowns are in Asuka’s company.

Image result for reina x kumiko fanart

Knowing Kumiko as the distant star she is, seeing her succumb to her emotions of regret and remorse because of her lack of time and memories spent and made with Asuka (Or, metaphorically, Mamiko) packs a punch. To me, Eupho’s second season isn’t about Asuka and her problems, but about Kumiko and Mamiko’s broken relationship they so desire to mend. That mindset makes me feel better about the ordeal considering Mamiko and Kumiko’s teetering relationship has existed since the very beginning of Eupho. In the final episodes of Asuka’s approaching departure and blossoming maturity, Kumiko sorrows but concludes happily knowing Asuka, despite their differences, will always be her ‘big sister.’ Even though they may not be together physically, they’ll be closer than ever.

Kumiko shines her brightest in those instances and they are, by far, the best instances of Eupho’s slightly lacking second season. Well done, Eupho.

Image result for asuka sound fanart euphonium
Image result for reina and kumiko fan art

Ultimately, Sound! Euphonium offers great emotional conveyance in utilizing its musical themes and prowess. Its characters come off well but sadly, don’t cross the threshold of adequate after a slightly lacking season two. However, both Reina and Kumiko are characters on the high-end of adequate. I plan to bite into Reina’s character at a later date which totally won’t be a post about high-end waifusin disguise or anything…Overall, Sound! Euphonium is a worthwhile experience worth giving a try – especially if you’ve participated in a band at one point in time. Eupho isn’t a natural borne masterpiece but it’s by no means, a bad demonstration of the life and emotions treaded through from playing in a band.

Rating: 8

Thank you for reading! I love how every anime KyoAni puts out always gets the most wholesome fanart accompanied with it. Have you seen the majority of Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid and K-on fanarts? WHOLESOME.

7 thoughts on “AR: Sound! Euphonium and the Frustration of Failure

  1. That was a great review and I still have to see the rest of the series. As a musician myself, I could relate to multiple aspects of some of the characters and I was never in an orchestra or concert band. The animation was phenomenal even though they could’ve worked on the upright bass animation a bit more, but that’s a minor complaint.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. KyoAni’s amazing art makes us proud once again! Every frame of Eupho was simply gorgeous – especially the golden luster and detail of the instruments. Those were so satisfying to look at. Especially considering KyoAni could’ve easily just splashed a dull yellow on it and called it a day. Their effort is phenomenal!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It truly is. I haven’t been as knee deep into KyoAni compared to most anibloggers since a ton of their stuff came out during my “anime fan hiatus” although I’ve seen Air, parts of the Kanon remake, the FMP! sequels, and Haruhi Suzumiya. They put a ton of effort into the art style and animation. Very good points. I was thankful to have seen the first season and reviewed it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of my favourite anime series. I’ve never been in a band and I’m about as musically talented as a bar of soap, but this show is just beautiful. I see so much of myself in Kumiko, especially in the first season. Her whole indecisive, ‘let’s not make waves’ attitude was just me at school all those eons ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kumiko truly was a dynamic character. I too found her indecisive, laconic attitude to be one of her key features. It’s nice seeing a character as naturally curt and hesitant as her without needing to stray away from realism. That steady balance only further increased my joy in watching Kumiko grow and communicate!

      Liked by 1 person

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