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Sound Euphonium Collector’s Edition UK Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

The only anime ever that I could actually cosplay and play the instrument…if only I was a cute high school girl instead…

What They Say:
After the disappointment of defeat in a major competition during her final year in middle school, brass band music has lost its lustre for Kumiko as she enters high school. Despite vowing to leave music behind and make a fresh start, peer pressure from her new-found friends sees Kumiko once again taking up the Euphonium for Kitauji High School’s band club.
With an ambitious new club advisor at their helm the pressure is on for the club to qualify for the national tournament, but this lofty goal only serves to highlight the fractured relationships between cliques within the group’s existing members. As Kumiko struggles to make sense of this unrest, her attention is inexorably drawn towards former classmate and current club mate, the enigmatic Reina.

Love, friendship and rivalry collide against a musical backdrop as Kumiko searches for a passion or purpose to define her, in this stunning series from Kyoto Animation.

The Review:
The audio has 2.0 release in Japanese only, albeit with both English and French subtitles. Despite not saying 5.1 the Japanese release was high quality to the point there was no adjustment to the volume (pretty useful considering the musical theme this show has), there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall, just a shame no English dub.

Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in a more traditional sense, with no real problems with the subtitles, and with it being a fairly recent series (2015) it flows easily onto Blu-Ray compared to some older releases. The animation combines CGI with traditional especially with some of the orchestral sequences and the opening animations which seems to work well for the most part though there are times when it is a bit too noticeable…

There was no packing for this test release however with the collector’s edition you get the premium packaging and a 52 page art book.

The menu is pretty standard – we see clips of the show intertwined with the opening theme song in the background as below the scenes we get the selections of Play, Episodes, Settings, Extras and Credits. Easily selectable and like most Blu-Rays gives you the option to choose via a pop-up menu whilst in show some else (bar extras). Fast, quick, efficient and nice looking.

The extras are pretty good as we get 7 bonus short episodes which features the main girls basically in more comic situations from cleaning the instruments, Sapphire (it’s Midor!) hating her nickname, the lack of boys in a brass band, how Tuba-kun is a prince, the trials of the music club, what is Taki’s secret, and what is a transposition instrument. The episodes are about 4-5 minutes long and show the girls in a more fun light.

We do get 2 TV Commercials and three trailers for the show as well.

Sound Euphonium is a 2 season anime debuting in 2015 and based on the ongoing novel series originally released in 2013. Fun fact: I was a euphonium player back when I was younger so if there was a series that was made for me not just as an anime with the knowledge I knew from playing it, but also to cosplay from it, be perfect…

…then turns out all the euphonium players are girls. ^^

The show however takes an interesting dynamic as a go for the gold type of show, with the main focus being the relationships of the band, with the lead in particular and an old friend…

We start the show with the said two people in question in a flashback – in a finals we see a band losing – and the girls’ reactions are very different. The first a lovely lady named Kumiko Oumae doesn’t seem that bothered as a euphonium player, but her friend, a trumpeter named Reina Kousaka is upset by her reaction as she wanted to go to the top, causing a rift. Fast forward to present time, we are in high school and Kumiko is unsure about joining band, but on her first day she makes friends quickly with two other girls, Hazuki and Sapphire (or as she prefers to be called Midori) who played the double bass whilst Hazuki is a newbie who eventually plays the tuba. Kumiko was unsure and even whilst looking was thinking of choosing a new instrument, but thanks to an unfortunate slip up by one of her old friends Aoi (and the very hyper and fun euphonium player vice president Asuka pretty much kidnapping her for the group) we also get Reina returning, which makes Kumiko nervous to talk to her since she never spoke to her after that concert…

So she is trying to make friends with Reina (ironically Reina whilst stoic never seems to be that bothered about the incident) whilst the band is being formed for the new students – and their new conductor, a man named Noboru Taki who is a bit of a big deal we later learn. He asks the band one question, do they wish to have fun playing and just be casual…or do they wish to go to the nationals? The group vote to go for the gold but Taki is stern but fair and doesn’t want to see them until they are good enough to work as a group. Not only that, but it seems the group has had some differences in the past (the bass section for example seems to have no second years and there are obviously some issues with the crew – it’s here you learn that Asuka may not be as jovial as she appears, something which slowly develops throughout the 1st season and I know further expands in the 2nd…) With Taki not impressed, the group are in mixed feelings as they separate, practice drills, working in breathing, and his way of being good cop/bad cop depending on the skill of the group. This is where we learn that Reina seems to defend Taki knowing about his skill which leads to Kumiko finally properly talking to her, which starts an interesting friendship between the two as the group successfully start to work together well…

With it being a bad, there are a lot of players and not everyone is as good as others. We get focus of the four girls but other characters in the band do get their moments – one of note is Shuichi, Kumiko’s childhood friend who clearly has a crush on her yet it’s her friend Hazuki who seems to like him instead, Kumiko’s sempai in euphonium playing Natsuki, which suggests a rivalry as Kumiko despite being younger has more experience playing but ends much more nicely, the trumpets rivals in Kaori and Yuko, whilst Kaori is super nice she has a competitive streak wanting to perform whilst Yuko is practically in love with Kaori and defends her playing, despite the fact it is clear Reina is the best trumpeter in the group, and Aoi who being a friend of Yumiko’s, later quits the band when she needs to focus on her studies. That said, whilst all the cast get moments, aside from maybe Asuka, the focus is on the main four, and even then, more so on Reina and Kumiko (poor Sapphire doesn’t really get an arc despite her being quite a fun character, Hazuki at least has a mini arc when she confesses to Shuichi…)

There are tense moments though (Aoi for example has other reasons why she quit, links to the past) which leads to Haruka (the club leader) stepping down for a bit, leading to Asuka taking charge (and show she can be quite cold outside her fun attitude normally) combined with some other intense moments, some even verging on romantic between Kumiko and Reina…the festival episode and some more moments after that could even argue there was a confession between the two – but at easiest, the two are definitely getting close. So when the audition for the main band for the nationals comes, the two begin to bond whilst others do fail including Natsuki and Hazuki, but the surprise is Reina despite being a 1st year, is picked over Kaori as the main trumpet soloist. Whilst Natsuki doesn’t mind (even treats Reina to a drink to make sure she wasn’t upset that she beat her sempai, Natsuki ironically gets more airtime after she fails and becomes one of my favourite secondary characters), Yuko isn’t happy Kaori lost and learns that Reina and Taki actually knew each other beforehand, suggesting favouritism. In reality, Yuko is well aware that Reina is the best player but it was Kaori’s dream to be the main soloist for the finals, leading to a rematch where decided by a vote to prove no bias. And when it does happen, Kaori admits that Reina is the best player and the decision passes…

The last part focuses on Kumiko struggling to play a part and she begins to understand why Reina was upset in the flashback, as frustration sets into her heart. Thanks to Taki, Reina, Hazuki and Sapphire, she gets over it so as the performance gets closer, the non –performing members like Natsuki and Hazuki give them good luck charms and with the odd bit of tension there, everyone manages to be on the same page and comes full circle as Kumiko now sees getting to the nationals as the goal she wants as throughout the anime, she says she has no future goals. It leads them to come first in their region, ending with a hug between Kumiko and Reina as it sets up now getting ready for the nationals and for us, the 2nd season…

O.K, aside from the excellent music and animation (it’s KyoAni so you expect it) as you can guess a show like this would half, the draw of this series is basically a friendship story involving a lot of cast as well as the focus of having a goal. There are definite ways you feel the characters can be and some divides can happen – characters like Taki (is his way a bit too strict or is it the right way), Yuko (is she blind in realising Reina is the better player or genuine believes that she should drop out for Kaori’s sake as Reina can have two more opportunities after this) and Asuka (what is she hiding outside that fun exterior?) can be interpreted as lot, as can other things such as if Reina is attracted to Kumiko and vice versa…

…but if not heavily thinking, it is a very high quality series. Because it has such a high cast, obviously a lot of characters don’t get focus, but there is enough moments that you can be surprised by how much you like them. Asuka and Natsuki, the other euphonium players for example, both get their moments in throughout making them memorable and likeable, combined with a well developed lead two, especially Kumiko who is quite the character. I didn’t really focus on her much throughout the review but she is a very entertaining lead – she actually is quite the snarker and her facial and vocal expressions are on point throughout, both as passive and sarcastic – whilst Reina’s development as someone stoic yet can be quite emotional is relevant throughout as her friendship with Yumiko becomes more developed. Granted, I would say that Hazuki and Sapphire do get the shaft a bit (especially Sapphire, Hazuki at least gets her moments with Shuuichi but even that is just a way for her to play cheerleader for him and Yumiko…ironic as in comparison to Reina, the two don’t interact that much) – combined with some drama involved throughout which intermixes with the character relationships (what led to the 2nd years leaving, the change in dynamics when Taki takes over, Reina being pushed over Kaori as the lead, etc) makes this one of these shows that somehow gets through quite quickly. Heck, there are even plenty of comic moments just from some of what Kumiko has to snark through and how Asuka tries to steal the show every time….

I’m very intrigued to see how this plays up for Season 2 as whilst I did see it, it has been a while so I have actually forgot the ending, I know some of the cast get more time and we’ll learn more about Taki, so this sets up really nicely whilst being a very pleasant series in general. It’s not perfect (the Shuuich/Hazuki thing was rushed way too quickly though it did help set the Yumiko/Reina dynamic) but it’s definitely high end in a casual series. Plus an anime that has euphonium players?

The only time I could legit nerd out to my friends about how accurate the information was. Granted, they got bored after 5 minutes but I didn’t care 😛

In Summary:
Sound Euphonium is one of those unique series that takes an unusual premise (band practice) and turns into a slice-of-life story about friendships combined with hints of back-story, past and present drama and combining it into a coming of age classic as the band head to the nationals. There is enough focus on our two leads and moments with the secondary cast that you remember most of them despite the huge cast and with some fun moments from Kumiko, there is a little bit for everyone. It’s one of those series that explains things well with the music too so anyone can get into it, and is a good more realistic anime I can recommend for beginners. Can recommend though in general.

7 Short OVAs, Japanese Trailers, TV Commercials

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: September 24th, 2018
MSRP: £44.99
Running Time: 350 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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