Hibike! Euphonium is a bit of an odd duck, and a stern test for the three-episode rule. The word that keeps recurring when I consider this show s “abstract”. In an abstract sense, I appreciate it – it’s very well-made, and by recent Kyoto Animation standards pretty restrained with the preciousness. And the show itself seems very abstract in tone and style, at least to me – there’s a strange distance that’s ever-present between the narrative and the characters. Not documentary in style, exactly, but certainly minimal.
I find myself wondering if this is going to be a two-cour show (I don’t recall any rumor to that effect), because it seems to be taking an exorbitant amount of time digging into the characters. Again, as an abstraction it sort of works – it’s interesting to watch these kids go through their rather routine paces, though I think the degree to which one is interested in the subject matter is unusually important here (the series is clearly extremely interested).
Why is that so important? Because the portrayal of the characters themselves is so detached. Apart from Sapphire – who’s pretty over the top and sticks out like a sore thumb as a result – the rest of them reveal themselves only in isolated moments of action or speech (including the protagonist). What’s missing for me, so far, is any reason I should really care about any of these people or their musical journey. And as pieces go, that’s a pretty big one to be missing.
On the other hand, there’s still time for that to change (though not much if the series is one cour). And there are some individual scenes that are quite striking – so far repeatedly involving Taki-sensei (who’s easily the most interesting character so far). The one where he matter-of-factly eviscerated the band with a smile on his face was as real as a slap in the face – the show’s usual detachment wielded like a weapon. And I do like the notion of the conflict between those who give a damn and those who just don’t want to be bothered being given some attention – it’s a clash that happens often in real life (in school and the workplace) and it holds considerable dramatic potential should Hibike choose to pursue it.