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Hibike! Euphonium (aka Sound! Euphonium) has been the brightest spark in a fairly weak season (I’m only watching 3 shows at the moment).

The Set Up

Kumiko Omae has applied to a different high school to most of her junior high school friends in the hope of a new start. Although somewhat timid, Kumiko is already a fairly skilled euphonium player and ends up playing it in the concert band club.

Again. So much for the new start… or is it?

This is, in essence, a cute girls doing cute things in a high school club show but one that’s been covering some interesting ground along the way.

Clubs Are Awkward: They Have People in Them

Many people. Many, many people. Many, many, people with all sorts of agendas.

This is a full scale concert band so Loads and Loads of Characters is definitely in play.

This is also a somewhat fractious club with a difficult history. There are tensions between the third years and the second years[1] that leave the ickle firsties[2] wondering what the hell is going on.

There is a new club advisor with some interesting instruction methods[3].

There are tensions about whether this should be a club for fun, or a serious band aiming for the national competitions[4].

Speaking of national competitions: one unexpected acquaintance from Kumiko’s junior high who was furious at failing to advance in the junior high competitions. Reina Kousaka is someone that Kumiko would like to have as a friend, but also someone that Kumiko finds hard to speak clearly to[5].

All in all, this is a fairly messy situation for the firsties to find themselves in whilst also learning music[6] and marching[7].

Keep it Personal

A tight focus on Kumiko is a major part of why Hibike! Euphonium has been working as well as it has been. The issues in the club, and with Reina, are being seen through the very personal lens of how Kumiko deals with it.

For the most part Kumiko is dealing with it, and slowly improving herself as she goes. It may not be the new start that Kumiko thought she wanted, but Kitauji High School may very well be the new start that Kumiko needs.

What makes this even better is that Kumiko is starting to realise this for herself, and reach out to help others along the way.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Tuba

Yes, episode 6 really is called Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Tuba. Episode 6 is an strong episode because of how it builds on the previous continuity.

The new advisor has implemented auditions for parts in the competition band, and Kumiko’s new friend Hazuki is struggling with her first ever instrument the tuba.

It doesn’t help that tuba is more of an ensemble instrument than a solo instrument; it’s hard for Hazuki[8] to feel the music when practicing on their own. Kumiko has to work this out, and find a way to help Hazuki connect to her instrument.

I won’t say how Kumiko manages it, but I am looking forward to the auditions episode next week.

The Music

So far the music has been fairly varied both in selection and in, ah, quality. This is a deliberate, and necessary, choice on the part of the script writers. It’s similar to the use of younger, rawer sounding, jazz musicians in Kids on the Slope – having the music sound less than perfect makes it more convincing to the audience.

The variable quality has helped with the suspension of disbelief, and with the story being told. There have been moments of fabulous music though – the From The New World[9] trumpet solo by Reina in an early episode was wonderful.

That said, the story will demand better performances from here on out, and that will be something of a relief.

Other Bits and Pieces

As noted by the excellent Artemis here, school girls in Japan will sometimes shorten their skirts by rolling up the waistbands. Artemis also notes:

Of course, the more strict or exclusive the school, the less likely these modifications are to be tolerated by teachers.

As far as I know Hibike! Euphonium is the first anime to both show this happening, and show the teachers attempting to crack down on it[10]. So kudos to Kyoto Animation for getting a dose of reality in there.

Less amusing was the brief appearance of that negative body image trope A-Cup Angst, including Kumiko actually using the term Pettanko in dialogue. Thankfully this only happened once, but it was definitely an off note moment[11] in episode 5.

The Interim Verdict

So far I’m enjoying Hibike! Euphonium, and I’m looking forward to the national competition episodes. Yes, this will be a fairly predictable tournament arc, but I expect it to be well handled and used to provide Kumiko with opportunities for character development.

I’ll finish up with the fairly good OP Dream Solister:

[1] Which I’m not going to spoil.

[2] To borrow a phrase from the Weasley twins in Harry Potter.

[3] Effective, but definitely interesting.

[4] Shades of forgotten glory there Kitauji High School was successful in this vein once upon a time.

[5] Kumiko is fairly timid to begin with. That does seem to be changing.

[6] In at least one case, that of Hazuki Katou

[7] For most of the characters apparently.

[8] And some of the other tuba players

[9] Which I spotted immediately. As you’d expect, I have form for this piece of music.

[10] With varying degrees of success.

[11] Yes, I just went there. You should expect that sort of thing by now.