Season 2 of Hibike! Euphonium is yet another anime that is good to almost the last drop. Skip the final episode and you have a solid series.
So, what’s left to say?
Mostly some coverage of the second last episode (clever) and the finale (lazy).
The Last Competition
Episode 12 The Last Competition deals with Kitauji’s appearance in the National Concert Band Competition. The episode did not include Kitauji’s performance, instead that was handled with a discretion cut to the ad break.
This surprised me at the time, but after brief consideration it’s actually a moment of Fridge Brilliance on the part of Kyoto Animation.
We’ve been listening to Kitauji’s competition piece (or parts thereof) for something like 15 episodes by the time the series gets to The Last Competition.
That they can play it, and play it to an excellent standard, isn’t the point anymore. The point is the feeling of being at the Nationals, of being there as a novice school surrounded by more experienced schools who have been there, done that already.
The point is the feeling of being there after a disastrous previous year that nearly broke the band entirely.
To capture that properly, the focus had to be on the characters, and on the tearful reactions of the 3rd years to only getting Bronze when they won’t get another chance.
I quite liked that. Hibike! Euphonium had played Underdogs Never Lose straight at the Prefectural and Regional competitions, but subverting it slightly here made the finale that much more believable.
It is of course a sequel bait ending that sets up another season as Kitauji goes for nationals again next year, although no third season has been announced as far as I know. But despite the weaknesses of the finale, I’d be happy to watch another couple of seasons with Kitauji getting Silver in Kumiko’s 2nd year and Gold in her 3rd year.
What The Last Competition didn’t really do was return to the main themes of the season. There was a nice reconciliation between Kumiko and Mamiko, and an acknowledgement of Asuka’s playing by [REDACTED], but nothing more on the social challenges that were so central to the day to day story of Hibike! Euphonium.
Then again, an episode like this isn’t really the place for those storylines beyond acknowledging them. The Last Competition is an episode for the moment, for the celebration (or mourning) of the hard work of a year building the band from dross to awesome. In that context acknowledging the social harmony themes is enough of a seasoning to the episode; it forms part of the background to the band members’ reactions, but doesn’t need to be addressed beyond that.
Overall, a strong episode and would have made a good finale.
Alas the actual finale, Early-Spring Epilogue, is best described as lazy, and feels like Kyoto animation phoned it in.
As with The Last Competition the focus should have been on the characters, particularly the graduation 3rd years, the advancement of the 1st/2nd years, and the welcoming of the new students.
Instead there are two musical pieces, one of them the competition piece, which are used as a recap mechanism for flashbacks with re-used footage. I think that the re-used footage may have had a blurring effect applied since it didn’t seem as crisp as the new footage, and was probably intended to feel nostalgic. All it did was make me notice how clumsy the flashbacks were, and make me feel like KyoAni were cheating on the animation budget for this episode.
There is a nice bit of renewal conversation between Taki-sensei and Matsumoto-sensei, and a few other good moments, but too much character time gets eaten by the musical pieces that just don’t fit what this episode needed to be.
Overall Early-spring Epilogue is a disappointing finale to a strong season.
I really liked Hibike! Euphonium season 2 and felt that it did a strong job of examining the social harmony issues that were at the core of the first 10 episodes. This isn’t something that you see often in anime, and Hibike! Euphonium was much stronger for it. It helped immensely that much of what was addressed in season 2 was carefully foreshadowed in season 1.
The quality noticeably drops for episodes 11 – 13, although The Last Competition would have been a good place to leave it. Still, I’d be happy to watch a season 3 centred on Kumiko’s 2nd year if and when. Recommended overall.
Rather than put in the OP/ED again, here’s the rather fun station performance from episode 7 Station Concert:
 I think this is why I haven’t been able to finish a final thoughts post for Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: my first thoughts post already covered the key points.
 Don’t forget: that’s Bronze at a national level with maybe the 30 best schools from across Japan. Nothing to sneer at there.
 And the probably the year after.
 That would be a logical progression, especially if it was built on Kitauji getting better quality musical students in each year as their reputation spreads.
 Although that scene really needed a hug.
 Sorry, still not willing to spoil that.