025: Hibike! Euphonium
AKA: Sound! Euphonium
Aired: Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Apr 2018
Genres: Music, School, Drama
Date watched: Dec 25 2018 – Dec 27 2018
Series watched: Hibike! Euphonium (14 ep x 23 mins), Hibike! Euphonium 2 (13 ep x 23 mins), Liz to Aoi Tori (1 ep x 90 mins)
Why I started watching: The bitter aftertaste of Nodame Cantabile was still lingering in my mouth and I wanted to give another music-based anime a shot. There were several idol ones available, however I noticed that the Liz no Aoi Tori movie was also part of this franchise, and both Hibike and Liz were on my to-watch list, so it would be killing two bluebirds with one stone if I watched this one. And so I did.
Hibike! Euphonium was a very interesting series to watch. Kyoto Animation first released season 1 of the TV series in 2015, then a movie summarizing season 1 in 2016. Then they released season 2 later in 2016. And then a movie summarizing *that* in 2017. Together, the first two seasons cover the first year of high school for the protagonist, Kumiko, and her friends. Since there’s no need to watch both the anime series and the summary movies, I only watched the two TV series. I was surprised by how much club drama there was, it was a well-crafted tale that focused on things like factions and relationships between the band, and how important coming together and working as a team was, as well as how demanding being a music band could be.
While the story started off focusing on Kumiko and her first-year friends, other people in the band gradually become pulled into her orbit of influence as the show progressed, giving her all sorts of insights into various people and their issues and ending up with her trying to solve many of the problems. There are some light romances, and even some implied lesbian overtones throughout the show, but that never becomes more than merely a tool to drive character relationships forward as the team practices hard to try to achieve their goals and lay to rest some past demons. The anime by itself was well-paced and interesting, with lots of sweet memories, happy and sad moments, and solo and ensemble band music ranging from the cheerful to the mournful, and would have easily been a 9 by itself.
And then a wonderful standalone side movie, Liz to Aoi Tori (Liz and the Blue Bird), was released in April 2018. This shifted the timeline ahead by a year, so the former protagonists were now second-years, and new characters were shuffled in and out the band. But the movie did not dwell on them at all, instead focusing on two side characters, Nozomi and Midore, who had been the focus of a good part of the conflict early in the second season. As the pair of best friends were now third-year students, the movie continues their story of redemption and friendship as they face the prospect of graduation and separation from each other and struggle to come to terms with it. The two girls are chosen to play the solo sections of a song for the school band’s next concert, which tells the tale of a girl learning to let go of the person she loves. The movie then subverts the fable a little bit, ending up with a beautiful and tear-jerking conclusion to one of the best anime films of 2018.
They also had a renowned female director lead this movie, and I enjoyed the feminine touch that that seemed to give the movie. Not only are there a lot more gestures and body movements used to display intent, but I also love the sort of gentle, casual sexuality that the girls in the movie have. Not many shows allow girls to just be graceful and sexy in a low-key manner without overtly focusing on the girl or her feminine parts, or descending into romance or fanservice territory altogether. For me this is especially true for Nozomi (see inset), who gets to be very expressive throughout the movie without anyone ever calling any attention to it. Slender arms disappearing into wide sleeves, glimpses of her bared midriff whenever she stretches, slightly loose clothing that frames her feminine form, closeups of hair that sway expressively when she plays music, and her smile that portrays both happiness and pain at the same time. I love Nozomi’s character design to bits.
Come April 2019, a fourth movie will be released, this time featuring the former main characters again and properly showcasing the girls’ second year in the band, now that the hands of time have moved forward. This will likely be in parallel to Liz to Aoi Tori’s timeline, which should lead to interesting comparisons and epiphanies about what exactly people were doing at a certain time, although I am somewhat disappointed that there seems to only be a movie and not an anime TV series for this season. Perhaps in the future.
Music-wise, while there were plenty of lovely supporting pieces played through the show, I didn’t fancy any of them enough for my stash until the ending song for Liz to Aoi Tori, Songbirds by Homecomings, a rare English anime song that charted into the top 5 of my EDs list, which by this point was an incredibly difficult feat. The song matches the theme of the show, whispering about the passage of time and how it brings about separation and the loss of innocence, and leaves behind nothing but memories in its wake. When I’m in a particularly vulnerable mood, this song is still capable of bringing me to tears.
Final Score: 10/10