Sound! Euphonium Review

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AKA: Hibike! Euphonium, Sound! Euphonium 1

Genre: Drama/Slice-of-Life/Music
Year Released: 2015
Distributor: Ponycan USA

Origin: Japan
Running Time: TV series, 14 episodes, 23 minutes each

Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+

Related Films/Series: Sound! Euphonium: The Movie, Sound! Euphonium 2, Sound! Euphonium: Todoketai Melody, Liz and the Blue Bird, Sound! Euphonium: Our Promise -A Brand New Day-, Sound! Euphonium 3 (upcoming sequel)

For Fans Of: Nodame Cantabile, Piano (anime series), Music of My Heart, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Chorus
-Technically, Sound! Euphonium was only 13 episodes long. The 14th episode is a bonus OVA that takes place after the first auditions in the last third of the series. The real last episode is episode 13. Just letting you all know.

-Special thanks to Shokamoka for introducing me to this anime! Check out Shokamoka’s article about competition in how it relates to Sound! Euphonium.
Fun Facts:
-Sound! Euphonium takes place in Uji, Japan. Uji is a suburb of Kyoto that has over 184,000 people. Also, this town is literally the home base of Kyoto Animation. Seriously. That would be like if a company called New York Animation Studios existed in Yonkers instead of The Big Apple.

-Language Bonus: Kitauji literally means North Uji in Japanese. It’s similar to how some high schools will say X High School North or North Y Academy. Even a Minamiuji (South Uji) school was mentioned in passing during the series.

-Sound! Euphonium is based on an ongoing light novel series by Ayano Takeda and Nikki Asada that’s been running since 2013.

-The teacher Noboru Taki is played by Takahiro Sakurai who you might know as being the voice of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII.

-The euphonium was invented in the 1840s and the name means “well-sounded”.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: When Taki-sensei was teaching breathing exercises to some of the students, he tells them to breathe towards the open windows while pretending to go “beyond the clouds”. Wow, someone has been watching my favorite Shinkai movie because if they go beyond the clouds, they can achieve that promised place where they can go to the nationals. You know? Like the original Japanese title of the film The Place Promised In Our Early Days?

Watching new anime is like a job for me. Having to work a lot and sift through my queue of movies and series to give the Iridium Eye treatment is such an arduous task. I review a lot of anime in addition to the live-action stuff, but I confess that one of my weaknesses is not knowing about the newest shows since coming back from my “anime fan hiatus” as I’ve referenced before. Part of this might be pride, but I didn’t want to be subjected to something trendy like harem shows, this whole Isekai thing (you do know that plot concept has been around WAY before Sword Art Online, right?), or the next shonen fighting series. When I heard about a certain anime thanks to Shokamoka, I thought to myself: “Self, there’s an anime about a concert band? Could this be a potential Hikaru no Go type of show that uses an atypical topic for its premise? Curtis, you did and still do musical stuff, so you should check it out!”. I gave in to that little voice and dedicated some free time to watch this series on Crunchyroll.

Is this anime worthy of a “bravissimo”?

Sound! Euphonium is about the life of euphonium player Kumiko Oumae. She recently enters Kitauji High School in suburban Uji, Japan. The thing is Kitauji’s concert band is quite mediocre. The best they’ve ever been was getting bronze at a regional competition. Kumiko is reluctant to join a concert band partially because of her indecisive nature to continue with the euphonium and also because of her old classmate Reina Kosaka who was lachrymose after finding out their middle school didn’t make nationals before they graduated. Kumiko makes new friends like the perky tuba novice Hazuki Katou and the shy upright bass player Sapphire “Midori” Kawashima. To make things crazier, Reina also got accepted to Kitauji which freaks Kumiko out because of her apt abilities of the trumpet, but also because of her intimidating personality. After some persuasion, Kumiko finally joins the Kitauji concert band and she wants the team to go to nationals. Under the new leadership of the conductor Noboru Taki, the Kitauji concert band is forced to step their game up if they can even make the Kyoto Prefecture regionals (much like a school going to the county or state levels) much less the nationals.

This is the first time I’ve reviewed something from the otaku darlings in Kyoto Animation even though I’ve seen some of their other works years ago. I can see why people really like Kyoto Animation because they have superb animation quality in their works. There is so much fluidity going on even in basic movements. The way they animated most of the parts involving the students playing instruments was just unreal to me more often than not. The scenery is also photo-realistic as I felt like I was in one of the smaller cities in the Kansai region. The level of detail for Sound! Euphonium in the animation department could make Makoto Shinkai or even Disney studios blush. Kyoto Animation certainly gets a round of applause from me in this regard.

Then, there’s the music since it plays an integral role in the series. They did a fantastic job with so many aspects even though some elements in the sound design are too good to be true (more on that later).

I really felt like I was listening to a concert band or symphony whenever they would practice or perform. They cover various classical, marching, and the occasional neoclassical piece. I will admit that I geeked out when Reina did a Dvorak piece as a trumpet solo when she practiced by herself. That was awesome. Could we throw in some works from William Grant Still or Olivier Messiaen in future series and spin-offs, please? The theme songs were interesting in their own right. The opening theme “Dream Solister” was a fun symphonic pop number. I even liked how the ending theme of episode thirteen was an instrumental orchestral version which was a really nice touch. The ending theme “Tutti” was a really perky piece. Even though I’m not a fan of really high-pitched vocals, they actually worked. The song fused elements of ska and J-pop together as if Morning Musume got Five Iron Frenzy to be their backing band. I even found an orchestral remix of the song which really gives it a cool dynamic.

There are all these original concepts, but they don’t mean anything unless one has good characters to go with everything. The main character Kumiko is a protagonist I found to be relatable despite never playing the euphonium. She has an indecisive nature about her which she slowly grows out of it. What I really liked was her desire to improve. As a musician myself, I related all too much when later in the series she practices nonstop while claiming the sound in her head isn’t matching what’s being played. That thought has happened several times to me whether I would sing and/or play an instrument. In episode twelve, she becomes so obsessed with her fear of failure that she has this mantra of “I want to improve” before screaming “I want to be better than everyone!”. I had that feeling whenever I feel that my hard work was all for naught. Taki-sensei was a fascinating character in his own right. He’s very calm and polite, but he is able to brutally roast any student to smithereens with a nice smile on his face. I liked that contrast of him being very strict, yet being so courteous about everything. However, he legitimately wants everyone to improve. One dark horse character that I liked was the school band president Haruka Ogasawara. She’s one of the seniors who doubles as the saxophone section leader. Haruka is very cool-headed and generous, but she’s not an imposing person at all in contrast to the extroverted eccentric euphonium playing vice president Asuka Tanaka. In one episode, Haruka is frustrated at some of the drama going on and she complains about her being nothing but nice. She says that people say others (like her) are nice when they don’t have anything else to say. That was a truth bomb hearing that from her because I’ve been too nice to people to the point where I was walked on. Luckily, I have a blog like this to break that habit.

Sound! Euphonium has a lot to like about it, but some parts were too flat or too sharp for me. For starters, there’s way too huge of a cast. It’s hard to keep track of all the characters, which instrument they play, and what special positions they have. During the audition arc, there was a maximum of fifty-five students and that’s not counting the ones who failed their musical juries. There were some filler moments in episodes like the obligatory festival episode. Yes, I know it leads to some character development between Reina and Kumiko, but those episodes are pretty cliche to me. While the animation is fantastic, I noticed some drops here and there. One glaringly obvious one to me was how Midori was animated while playing her bass. It looked off to me as opposed to the other bandmates playing their parts note-for-note. I also had a few issues with Asuka. I thought she was funny at times when she would randomly say English or Spanish phrases, but there are times when she came off as a Mary Sue with knowing everything or always having a comeback against anyone. If she has any flaws besides over-explaining the history of instruments, then maybe it’s in the sequel. If this is true, then please don’t spoil me. I also had an issue with Kumiko’s older sister Mamiko’s voice. Is it just me, or does she sound younger than Kumiko even though the older sister is supposed to be in college? That just weirded me out. Another thing I’ve noticed was the tuning scenes. I’m sorry, but the sound design was too perfect for those parts of the show. I’ve never heard a school band be able to tune that well before they begin practices or concerts. That was unrealistic to me.

This musical anime was a pleasant surprise for me to watch. I know classical and symphonic music isn’t for everyone which I can respect, but I found that aspect to be quite original as other music-based anime focuses on rock (Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad), pop music (Chance Pop Session, Idolm@ster, Full Moon wo Sagashite, etc), or even jazz (Kids on the Slope). The main characters certainly delivered and the plot was actually good. I wanted to see Kitauji succeed in being able to get real gold and be in the nationals. The animation was splendid despite some hiccups with the bass playing and the occasional still shot montage. The music itself was very good. If you want to watch an anime that’s both original, and familiar at the same time, then you can’t go wrong with Sound! Euphonium.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you like classical music or symphonic works.
Add 2 points if you were in a concert band in school or college.
Subtract 1-3 points if you can’t stand high school drama in your media.
Subtract 1-2 points if you prefer popular forms of music on display.

-Wonderful animation from KyoAni
-Believable characterization and character development
-Great musical score

-Petty high school drama elements can be eye-rolling
-Asuka having Mary Sue moments
-Crowded cast with little character interaction for secondary and tertiary protagonists

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: Sound! Euphonium would be safe for teens and up. There are a few swear words and some dialogue involving some innuendo like how someone pretends to be a mascot named Tuba-kun and says “I’m Tuba-kun! Blow me!”. There’s also some yuri subtext with certain female characters in how they interact with different ones, so one might be leery about that aspect.

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Sound! Euphonium is property of Ponycan USA. The DVD/Blu-Ray cover is from Right Stuf and is property of Ponycan USA


  1. Awesome review!
    I think I have the confidence to say tha your gripes with both Asuka and Mamiko will be resolved after the second season — that cour was evenly about the both of them!

    Well, half about Asuka while everything regarding Mamiko were subtle in the background, readying to impact.
    How did they do it I still don’t know, my goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Shokamoka! I have only you to thank for me finding out about this anime and eventually reviewing it. Sound! Euphonium was certainly a creative series that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone to watch newer anime.

      Okay, that’s REALLY good to know about the Asuka/Mamiko situation. I want to see what goes down in S!E2. If I get the chance to watch the sequel, then I will certainly review it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The second season lows down on the music department and goes full on character route. If you stayed with Hibike for the characters, second season will be some of the best welcomes for you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alright. The musical elements were great, but I did care about the characters as well, so I might be able to forgive that. Thanks for the heads up about the next season.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been thinking about watching this but I am overly critical when it comes to music anime and brass bands. I listen too much to the music and judge. Although, the music tends to be perform perfectly which in itself is a problem when it is high school kids. (I even listen too carefully to professional orchestras and pick out individual instruments to listen extra to. Yeah, I have slight issues after years working in music) Well, one day I might watch it.

    Kids On The Slope is not rock. It’s jazz. And it is amazing. And not like any other music anime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an understandable reason to be cautious. Music does play a huge role, but there’s still enough drama and characterization going on to balance it out. I did notice some musical elements that were too good like the tuning scenes, but if you have legit experience in orchestras, then I can see your concerns.

      Thanks for calling me out on that. I must have been on cruise control when I typed out this review, and I do apologize. I edited that sentence just now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t apologize about that. It’s easy to make mistakes.

        Yeah, but I shouldn’t be so critical just because I’ve got experience. I should just take it for what it is. I am the same way when it comes to movies with bipolar characters. Or really any area where I have more than average knowledge and it is obvious that the author/filmmaker whatever didn’t care to do the right research.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sure thing. Thanks.

        I see where you’re coming from. There have been times where a movie or series deals with something I have knowledge of or something that personally affects me where I see inaccuracies going on. A bunch of reviews I’ve written mentions things when filmmakers get something right or horribly wrong. The big ones for me involve ethnic portrayals/representation, mental issues, and things associated with my hobbies.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Something modern? GASP!

    I kid, this is a good choice for something mostly different from a lot of series out there. Especially with all the instrumental stuff that is so beautiful and cool. Yeah, the yuri subtext does weight the series down, but it’s still pretty decent I think…

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a shock, right? Haha!

      I certainly agree with you there. It was cool using this concept to base an anime around. The yuri subtext did get awkward and forced at times which I can’t ignore, but it didn’t get overboard.


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