Hibike! Euphonium 2 – Anime Review

Genres: Drama, Romance, Music

Studio: Kyoto Animation

 

Introduction

If you’ve been following this anime when the first season came out, you would certainly have some expectations for the second season. Namely, of course, for the excessive yuri-baiting that made this anime famous. I must claim up front that that would sadly not be my central focus point of this review, for Hibike has so much more to offer than just that.

 

Storyline and plot

Hibike! Euphonium 2 started off right where the first season left us – the Kitauji High Symphony Band had just won the Kyoto competition and were representatives to compete in the Kansai competition. Since this is already the second season, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the band drama that carries the plot along for this anime. The whole premise of this anime has pulled me in right from day one, and the growing tensions between the characters in season two has only surpassed my expectations for the sequel.

It started out as a pure slice-of-life with innocent high school girls, but as they start to devote themselves more to the band, it slowly becomes inevitable that they – or namely, Kumiko – would uncover the darkness and secrets that lie between the second- and third-years. I love surprises, and the way the plot of Hibike 2 played out was no disappointment at all.

The episodes of this season are largely character-driven instead of being plot-driven like the first one. It’s interesting that Hibike 2 opens with drama related to two new characters, but since it’s a story about a symphony band with so many members, I appreciate how we get to know more of the side characters instead of just focusing on Kumiko. From here, we also get to know how serious band members take to people quitting.

Yet another main aspect to the high school band life are the senior-junior dynamics. This is especially notable with Kumiko’s relationship with Asuka, which becomes the highlight of the latter half of the season. It is interesting to note how there is a parallel drawn between Asuka and Kumiko’s sister, and it is heart-warming to see how much Kumiko has come to appreciate both of them.

While I was rather shocked by some turn of events in the last episode, I can’t help but to accept the direction the plot took. It left us with hope for the future, even if it seems like a third season is unlikely given the air of finality the last episode closed with. Hibike showed us that the end results aren’t always as important as the journey, and the journey along the second season has truly been a great one.

 

Art and Animation

What can I say? KyoAni is one of the best animation houses in Japan, and their skills really shined in Hibike! Euphonium 2. From the sparkle in the characters’ eyes to the beautiful Japanese sceneries and even to the details of every band instrument, the animation keeps your eyes glued to the screen, even if you’re not a big fan of the plot.

 

Sound and Music

Just like the first season, I am impressed that an actual band played the pieces in this anime. I thought they might’ve used a regular soundtrack for a band piece and just cut it off whenever Taki-sensei stops conducting, but I suppose that would’ve been too low of a standard for a KyoAni production. I could actually hear it whenever Kumiko supposedly played “badly” in the last season, and when there is an actual improvement in her playing in this season.

However, I was rather disappointed when they didn’t animate the whole segment of the competition piece. I had been looking forward to listening to the band’s performance, but at least they made it up with playing the piece during the third-years’ farewell party, somewhat giving us closure to the series.

Characterization

Kumiko is a strange main character. She isn’t particularly expressive, nor is she very energetic. She is incredibly passive, but what drives the story along seems to be her curiosity and her ability to find herself at the right places in the right times. When paired with a mysterious genius like Reina, you could really see the contrast. It is also, therefore, not surprising why Kumiko is so intrigued and drawn to Reina.

I must also note that Kumiko’s voice actress voices her in a very special way. Her voice is always flat, and sometimes when she speaks in her monologues, she sounds monotonous and uninterested. I would actually applaud the voice actress for her choice in voicing Kumiko this way as it clearly shows her character. With that being said, hats off to her for voicing Kumiko’s breakouts with such raw emotions in the last few episodes. It really resonated with strong character development for our main character.

Reina has also undergone some great character development from when we first saw her in season one. She has somewhat softened, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The most prominent part of her development was surely the way she handled the news of Taki-sensei’s late wife, and it really forced her to break through her own barriers.

If I had to name a favourite character in Hibike, it would be Asuka. She isn’t as aloof as Reina, but she is definitely a lot more mysterious. Whenever her eyes darken, her mind is in someplace no one in the band can even dream of venturing into. This season focuses exclusively on her and her backstory, and I appreciate how we could finally get a glimpse of what goes on in her head.

Being a fan of Tsukamoto, I was pretty sad that he had practically no screen time at all. He appeared here and there to ask Kumiko about her sister, but that was it. He had a lot of potential as a character, and even though there was some actual progress with his relationship with Kumiko in the novel, the anime did not do him justice. I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with the fact that they even included the part where he gave her the hairpin, and sadly, it’s probably the only time he had more than three lines in one scene.

Overall

So it seems that I’ve made it through the whole review without mentioning much about the yuri-baiting, but what is Hibike without it? I must admit that while I admire Kumiko and Reina’s friendship, (as well as the shocking progress of Asuka and Kumiko’s relationship), I am not a big fan of the bait that KyoAni waved in our faces.

However, these relationships played out beautifully, and KyoAni handled them with great aesthetics. It seems that the yuri hints are a main reason that has kept Hibike its fans, so in terms of that, the bait did its job well. It feels like there were still some loose ends to the plot, so I won’t rule out the possibility of another OVA just yet. It has been a great ride with Hibike! Euphonium, and this anime has certainly became one of my all-time favourite school/slice-of-life/drama animes.

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