Perceptive Kumiko is back with the rest of the Kitauji High School Concert Band for this second season, bringing with her more drama, more heart throb-worthy close-ups, and more musical performances! The sequel starts off exactly where the previous ended with the band having succeeded at regionals and now preparing for the national stage. Note: This 12 Days entry is part review and part promotion of one of my favorite series of the year.
I actually thought the first season ended perfectly, and would have been happy enough with just those thirteen episodes. Ensemble music is rare to find in anime–seeing Hibike! Euphonium brought to life by KyoAni was a treat I had not expected to experience since Nodame Cantabile. Then we were gifted a special episode centered on Team Monaka and their support of the band. The point of view from band members who did not make the cut for the competition gave viewers valuable insight into everything it takes to succeed as a group. Now, finally, we have a full second season to finish off the year.
Season two has much of the same tone as the first, with the exception of Kumiko being much more open with her feelings towards the people around her. As the audience, we’ve always had a line into her thoughts, but it was clear that her communication skills still lacked the means of making her intentions known to others. After making close friends in band and honestly facing her instrument, Kumiko has become one of my favorite characters due to her curious (dare we say, “nosy”?) and snarky nature. Much like another favorite of mine in the series, she sees what others do not, and understands without being told.
It’s that inquisitive habit of hers that gets Kumiko entangled in drama after drama, starting with a return to the band’s ugly past. The sequel keeps the idea fresh by approaching from a different angle with a new face. Yoroizuka Mizore, a second-year oboe player, was present but never explored as as character in the first series. Like Yuko and Kaori, she went through the previous year’s loss of band members and continued on despite breaking contact with a close friend in the process. As skilled as she is in her instrument, a part of her is missing from the music. This is immediately picked up by one of the visiting musicians who unreservedly describes her playing as robotic. Mizore’s confrontation with her past gives the history more depth and meaning for the band’s present goal.
Family also takes the spotlight with a few different story lines. There’s Taki-sensei’s past underlining his desire to succeed, Kumiko’s spats with her older sister, Mamiko, and Asuka’s complicated relationship with her parents. I wouldn’t blame viewers for feeling dizzy from all the twists and turns! These seemingly divergent lines actually point to a common destination that I probably will not have seen by the time this post comes out. I expect that their musical motivations initially born from familial encouragement have already evolved into genuine love for music and their individual instruments.
I continue to applaud Hibike! Euphonium for its musical performances, which other anime production studios may have chosen to chop short in favor of more dialogue and drama. Instead, we are invited to sit and enjoy the fruits of these students’ labors. Kumiko has improved miles above her original skill level, and the trills of Mizore’s oboe are delightful once she has somewhere to direct her emotions. As a former percussionist, I especially appreciate the portrayal of different percussive instruments–not only snare and bass drums, but also auxiliary percussion, cymbals, and mallets. I have this anime to thank for reminding me to check on our local symphonies’ calendars, and have half a mind to contact the closest town symphony and band to join if they’ll have me.
The show’s devotion to its music and cast shines through from episode to episode. If you’ve ever played an instrument or participated in any kind of group activity like band or even a sport, then I encourage you to watch both seasons of this anime. I bet you’ll giggle, gush, and possibly even sigh.