Hibike Euphonium Review

Hibike! Euphonium Review
"Being relieved to know that you're the same as someone else is stupid... I want to become special. I don't want to become the same as others."
Hibike! Euphonium is not your typical music anime. It is quite different than the norm in the sense that unlike the regular music anime where the protagonist is usually a potential world class player (a gifted genius), here the story is about a 'normal' bunch of highschool girls in their school's concert band trying to make it to the nationals. So then, what does this 'different' setup bring to the table?

Well, first and foremost, it keeps the whole thing 'realistic' and, to an extent, grounded. The anime is about a normal highschool concert band with normal members. And it approaches that situation in an appropriate way. There are no over the top exaggerated reactions like "Wow! Listen to this. They are like the greatest ever!" No! They are highschool kids and not prodigies. So, they mess up, they bicker about things, fight each other and in the end just simply play their heart out. Not only that, the whole usual music anime routine involving the players and the listeners transcending to someplace beyond reality (with all the sakura blossoms and scenery) has been taken out of the picture to further assert the fact that they are merely highschool students. (i.e., to show that the music they play is good, but not that extraordinary)

The second thing that is different here is that there is no real romance. (besides the whole occasional yuri troll that KyotoAni pulls) This arises because of the fact that the focus here is more on the character interactions involving the whole concert band and the drama that results from that. (i.e., the band politics. Also, there aren't so many guys here.) And it is quite remarkable how well balanced this is with the music of the show. Throughout the show, there is never too much music or too much drama.So, if there is no real romance and the characters are not prodigies, then what is the motivation for them? Usually, love, for a person or the music, serves as a very good motivator for the character. But here, the story is different. Out of the four main characters, only two have the real drive to really improve themselves. Reina is playing because she wants to be special and Kumiko starts trying hard because of her infatuation with Reina. The other two characters are just there for the experience.

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Since we're talking about a full on concert band with 50+ members, the band politics play an important role here. I mean if you put 40-50 something girls into a single room, there's bound be some sort of conflict. And these conflicts can range from simple dislikes to seniors getting their pride hurt by their juniors or just some dispute with the teacher. And these conflicts are given a good amount of spotlight throughout the show. Heck, I can even go out and say that it is one of the primary foci of the series.

I think it I've made it clear now that this series is heavily driven by it's characters and their interactions rather than just music or the story. So, what makes this ensemble of characters successful?

The very first thing is that most of them are well written and how they develop throughout the series. Whether it be Kumiko, who, in the beginning, is just going by her life trying to get through highschool without a hassle but later starts wanting to get better at playing the Euphonium. Or the mysterious and talented Reina, who plays the Trumpet because she wants to be special but also seems to be infatuated with Kumiko's personality. Or the other members of the band who have their own personalities and their differences with each other. And these differences are resolved in a subtle way and aren't rushed or just left in a cold bag.


The second thing would be the unique relationships between these characters. Every other pair of characters have their own chemistry going on and most of the characters have a certain amount of depth added to them. Take the vice-president Asuka Tanaka for example. Usually she is just going around trolling the other girls and spooking them out but when it comes to playing the Euph, she is quite good at it. Not only that, her attitude towards the whole band politics is of "I don't give a damn about any of this." (not something you'd expect from a vice-prez) Or you can take a look at Natsumi. She is a senior to the main characters in the band. At the beginning, she is quite indifferent to how everyone in the band is progressing or the whole situation where everyone is fired up but later on she changes and starts pushing herself. (Not to mention how her attitude changes towards Kumiko)

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On the other hand, our two main characters are in a league of their own. I don't think that it is wrong to say that the chemistry between the two is largely responsible for the surge in popularity of this show. Because this show seemed lost and unknown among the huge amount of other shows in the spring season. It was only after the whole Yuri ship thing that this anime really came into the spotlight. Don't get me wrong, the other factors do play a significant role in the success of this anime but these two take the cake. Reina just can't keep her hands off of Kumiko and Kumiko is just ready to die for her. (And then there's the vice-prez Asuka with her "Euphonium-san in my only love!" thing)
In short, the characters are the driving force in Hibike! Euphonium.


Since the show is produced by Kyoto Animation, I think I should mention that the "moe" factor here is quite low when compared to their other productions like K-On! Despite the slightly "moe" character designs, the whole routine with the characters turning into blobs of moe isn't there for the most part. (Miles away from K-On! in "moe") I think it adds a good point to the whole show seeing how different this is from K-On! (Okay, that's the last comparison)

Speaking of KyotoAni, I must say that the animation for the show was absolutely gorgeous. From the spectacular character designs to the amazing depth of field effects, everything was brilliantly done. They have really outdone themselves in terms of animation. The characters' expressions, and how they matched the fingering of the instrument to the music, the designs of the instrument, it was all done perfectly. The final two episodes and the pilot had some of the best visuals (characters and scenery) that I have ever seen. So, I guess this anime could mark the "return" of the studio into the scene.

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Since, this is a music anime, the quality of the OST really matters. It is noteworthy how the parts where the band is not in sync or the players are messing up are done so nicely. They really bring out the fact that these are just amateurs at this and not pros. So, when they do get it right, it feels really good on the ears and even people who aren't used to noticing the little offsets in tone or pitch can tell the difference. Seeing that this is a concert band we are talking about, getting all those sounds must have been a tough task for them and I really appreciate the large amount of tracks and music samples from instruments that are present here. Some of my favourites include Rydeen's Yellow Music Orchestra that plays at the band march and almost all of the trumpet solos (especially the Crescent of dance trumpet solo that Kousaka plays at the audition). The Opening and Ending are quite good as well, though I like the opening much more than the ending.

So, overall, Hibike! Euphonium is quite a good anime with it's superb execution and the splendid balance between it's characters and the music. Sure, this might not be everyone's cup of tea as it is not your usual action or moe-heavy stuff but if you've ever been in a large band before (be it a concert band or a jazz band or an orchestra), you will probably love this anime for how relatable it is.
Hibike! Euphonium Rating

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