Weekly Digest 5/5/15 – Kyoukai no Rinne, Hibike! Euphonium

Rinne - 05 -6 Rinne - 05 -20 Hibike - 05 -6 Hibike - 05 -11

Almost caught up now…

Kyoukai no Rinne – 05

Rinne - 05 -1 Rinne - 05 -2 Rinne - 05 -3
Rinne - 05 -4 Rinne - 05 -5 Rinne - 05 -7
Rinne - 05 -8 Rinne - 05 -9 Rinne - 05 -10
Rinne - 05 -11 Rinne - 05 -12 Rinne - 05 -13
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Rinne - 05 -18 Rinne - 05 -19 Rinne - 05 -21

Happy Boys’ Day, the close of Japan’s Golden Week and (hopefully) of my gastrointestinally-induced posting delays (no promises).  We jump in here with two of the last bubble series of the season, firstly Kyoukai no Rinne.

This one fell into the “probably blogging” category, and if it were a decision based on simple enjoyment,  Rinne would definitely be in.  My only concern here, really, is that this does strike me as one of those “simple pleasure” shows that’s likely to be a bit tricky to blog.  The formula here is a very straightforward one, and this far at least the series has stuck with what’s working – a basic ghost story, likeable characters, offbeat humor with impeccable timing and Rinne inevitably left impoverished.

This week’s tale focused on one of Japan’s eponymous “seven school mysteries”, Hanako the Toilet Girl (Hidaka Rina).  Normally a fairly docile and harmless spirit, this one has been acting up rather badly – and’s the return of Tsubasa-kun (who exorcised her back in elementary school) that’s set her off.  Hanako has enlisted the help of a kind of loan-shark spirit named Toichi (Hirota Minoru) to lend her power to get even with Tsubasa – a loan which will be repaid with her eternal soul (it’s in the fine print).  Tsuabasa again sees the ghost as a simple target for exorcism, but Rinne as usual takes the humane approach – and he’s already involved, as Toichi carries a ¥100,000 reward on his ectoplasmic head.

The story is solid, but as usual here the best moments are the old-school timing-based comic bits: <pause> “What are you doing in the girl’s bathroom?”, or Tsubasa’s solemn vow that his “whack the spirit on the head with a heavy book” attack exhausts him so much he can only do it once a week (and the fact that he chooses a Christian bible really sells the gag even more).  I’m getting a bit tired of the “Don’t call me Grandma!” bit, and of poor Rinne getting screwed financially with every ending – I think he’s more bimbogami than shinigami – but on balance, the comedy and overall vibe here is definitely working for me.

Hibike! Euphonium – 05

Hibike - 05 -1 Hibike - 05 -2 Hibike - 05 -3
Hibike - 05 -4 Hibike - 05 -5 Hibike - 05 -7
Hibike - 05 -8 Hibike - 05 -9 Hibike - 05 -10
Hibike - 05 -12 Hibike - 05 -13 Hibike - 05 -14
Hibike - 05 -15 Hibike - 05 -16 Hibike - 05 -17

“There’s lots of heavy lifting, so at times like this the male band members can be useful.”  I wonder – can Kyoto Animation possibly insert a line like that with a straight face, or is it strictly tongue-in-cheek?  And even if it’s the latter, does it really make a difference?

This was probably the closest thing to a true tossup show for me going into this week, which I was pretty determined was going to be the make-or-break one across the board.  And I won’t say it’s a sure thing I’m going to blog next week’s episode by any means.  I’d hoped that after the last two pretty interesting eps Sound! Euphonium might close the deal, but this edition left me pretty indifferent.

I’m still finding this series to be a pretty hollow experience – it’s just not making any emotional connection at all.  And the odd thing is, it doesn’t seem at all interested in trying to.  There was a lot of hair-tossing and mugging for the camera in the first part of the ep, even by KyoAni standards (again leaving me wondering if there was some winking at the audience going on – and if it matters).  And the second half pretty much blitzkrieged through the SunFes that the entire first 4 episodes built up to.  Again – can a character in this show utter a line like “That was an anti-climax” under these circumstances and it not have been intended at least a little ironically?

As usual, the execution of events itself was fine.  The portrayal of the students’ dismay at being sandwiched between two band powerhouses and general nervousness at performing was nicely portrayed, and there was some interesting subtext at the beginning regarding the roles of the club president and veep.  But it’s as if Hibike! Euphonium is determined to deny the audience any payoff in any form, and that’s a bit vexing.

Some are wont to compare this series to Hyouka, and it’s easy to see why – I’d certainly love to get Hibike mentioned in the same breath as Hyouka if I was boosting it.  But there was an emotional depth to Hyouka that I can find no trace of here, even when Hyouka was stumbling a bit out of the gate in narrative terms.  Emotional reserve is fine, but an emotional void is not – and that’s what I’m getting here, at least so far.  Interesting in a clinical, abstract way – but that can only carry you so far.  For me, five weeks is about how far – now I need more.



  1. g

    I've tried to be more positive than you about Hibike!, I guess I really wanted some an other good music anime, especially my adventure with Shigatsu ended very early and our fall out was ugly and I was broken hearted a little.

    But this episode really feel like mostly dedicated to pandering than anything else. Only one of the third part dedicated to THE festival?! Especially after all moaning how it is important for their school and the band, because tradition, bla bla bla, how could they don't go, bla bla bla. So much built up and I have to quote one of "this-one-time-useful" boy: "That was an anti-climax".

    And the scene between Kumiko and Kousaka… it was like: "Ready. Yuri. Fap!" Especially I've red on some forums that there are traditional romantic parings in the novel. Well, still KyoAni could snip all romantic developments. Girls would look very impure, wouldn't they? For example I know only by accident there are some extra side materials from the studio that the tuba guy and the blushing girl, who sit next to him in one of episodes, are a couple, in the present time (again I saw it in the thread on some forum). Like, why they didn't show it in some small scene? At last one of the boys be useful in more ways than only handling heavy instruments. 😉

  2. Why? Because KyoAni, that's why. To thine own self be true. It's almost as if Hyouka was made by terrorists who stormed the studio, but afterwards they were rooted out and security increased so it could never happen again.

  3. E

    I find Hibike a pleasant enough show. Not better or not worse than Shigatsu. Having said that, both are mediocre at best. The biggest flaw in both is that they never really believed in the music enough to make it the hero of either show. In Shigatsu, nearly every music piece was cluttered over with dialogue. They'd let you really listen to the piece for only a couple of seconds before it simply became background. In Hibike, there have only been two music moments so far. One when the pretty long haired quiet girl plays her instrument out high up in the school building (sorry i forget names) and the other was their final practise in front of their teacher of marines' hymn. I watch these shows all the same because I will have a nodame hangover all my life and look for a show that can thrill me as much as it did. Funnily, i don't hold this against KyoAni because K-on actually did let the music shine in the show as often as the characters. Not as much as nodame did though..

  4. K

    Personally I Think this show is much better than Shigatsu but definitely not on Nodame's levels (at least storytelling wise, visually it's amazing)

    Anyways I disagree they made such a big deal out of the SunFest. It was just something fun they always did and wanted to do again but I never felt it was supposed to be an important development in the story.

    That being said I am hoping we get more actual musical performances soon.

  5. I wouldn't compare this to Shigatsu simply because to me they're complete opposites, if anything. Shigatsu is overwrought and emotionally manipulative – Hibike! is a refrigerator at the end of a long corridor of ice. Yeah, neither of them is a great music show in the class of Nodame, but apart from that the similarity ends for me. And I would say this for Hibike – it's least its view of music is not so infantile and simplistic as Shigatsu's.

    I find the argument that SunFes was never supposed to be a big deal to be a hard one to swallow – the first four eps were basically building it up non-stop. To me this looks like a simple case of giving it short shrift in favor of focusing on what's the path of least commercial resistance.

  6. s

    eh, i kinda have to agree with kim as she is right on the money regarding sunfes; it actually isnt a big deal in the grand scheme of things when it comes to the show. Their band has always participated in sunfes regardless of how good they were; and that was the problem: they sucked and yet still participated. It was just that this year, taki was having none of that. If they didnt play at a level that wasnt embarassing, he would rob them of the privilege to participate in festival. The four eps werent building up to the festival; they were building up to the students being able to play as an essemble, and if they didnt, the privilege to go to the festival would be taken away. Mainly, the festival served the purpose of pointing out how much the band has improved; and here's where the anticlimax comes in.

    Yes, it is intentional because the reason why the student points out how anticlimatic it was is because they have gotten good to the point where the festival is not satisfying as end goal. Until recently, the band had always played without much conviction, all with the intention of going to the festival as some sort of prize; like a way to feel socially important. But now they are better than that. Anticlimatic? of course it feels that way now, because playing at nationals is where the real prize is. The sunfes is just child's play, a simple school function and nothing more. But hey, at least they can play good now.

  7. That sounds like apologism to me, but whatever. The larger issue for me is that I still don't see the series doing anything it seems to want me to really care about. Everything on the character-level is paper thin, and when we finally get a chance for some serious music it's blasted through to leave more time for slo-mo hair-flipping and posing for the camera.

  8. s

    i can respect that 🙂 In regard to the rest of your comment, I dont think that's the bigger focus of this series in particular (though the stuff you've mentioned does rear its head from time to time) but i actually find some of the character writing (or at least the few bits we have of it) to be quite on point. That's how character writing should be done; not simplistic or apparently archetypal but with bits and pieces sprinkled the viewers way so that they can put the pieces together. The show has not said much about Kumiko through words and yet i could write a whole essay on her. That's not to say that she is an amazing character if we want to evaluate her as a person, but that she is given the multifaceted layers of reluctance and indulgence a teenager her age has and it's done so well. That and the band aiming for something grand with the writing balancing those two things so well is what is making me enjoy this series much more than most of the shows airing this season that while they boast great style and ambition, the writing makes those shows fall short in comparison

  9. I'm just curious – have you read the novel? Because I'm not getting anywhere close to that from what I've seen on screen, and it's not as if I'm not looking really hard. And I can't see how anyone could be without a whole lot of projection.

  10. s

    Havent read a lick of the novel; you know me; always over analyzing and stuff but there is stuff to chew on in this series to make such an analysis in my opinion.

  11. Fair enough, and you see what you see – nothing illegitimate about that. I'm just trying to figure out where the hell you're seeing it.

  12. E

    I really don't get what all the fuss about Kumiko is about, I don't dislike her or anything but she's going through a very typical high school transition arc which doesn't warrant much investment imo. A lot of her expressions and such also feel quite stock Kyoani, not helping her case at all. Taki-sensei is the small breeze of fresh air blowing through the stuffy generic Kyoani factory for me, even when he's posing for the camera the show becomes quite a bit more entertaining.

  13. s

    see but that's the thing; it always comes down to how you tell the story; I could make a scenario about paint drying sound like the coolest thing you've seen since captain america punching he who shall not be named. Kumiko isnt no hannibal lector, but the execution in how kumiko is portrayed as your average high school student is where the writing shines. It doesnt tell you much, but her actions say plenty about who she is and her convictions and well as opens questions about why she may do things because why you may understand certain aspects of her actions, there are times where you are left guessing what her intentions are because she herself is an ambivalent individual. When a show can do that, that's a sign of good writing. It's a similar case with digimon tamers were some people who watched the show said that the character writing wasnt as good as the previous seasons which i responded with a big "WHAAAAAAAAAA…." The main lead is ordinary and he is written to be ordinary with nothing special about him; but you still learn a crap ton about who he is and his personality and how he develops throughout the series. Typical boy? yes….told in an unconventional way that still fleshes him out adequately throughout the series? very (and dammit I just reminded myself that adventure tri has been delayed once again and relegated to movie format…sounds like this series is going through production hell)

  14. E

    I compare Shigatsu and Hibike because when all is said and done they are shows about music. I would even put Kids on the Slope in the same category for the same reason and compare it to these two and Nodame. I would forgive Shigatsu and Hibike a lot if they made the music the centrepiece.

    The reason i enjoy Baby Steps even though i've never played tennis and know nothing about it is because the game was really made the hero time and again in the series. It made me want to learn more about tennis, made me want to play it. Made me realise why tennis is so important to some people. If the characters and their development is well written, it serves only to make you care about the stuff they care about in the show. So in Baby Steps, it ALL comes back to tennis and playing competitively. Chihayafuru made me get so interested in a game that i hadn't even known existed before the show! Thats probably why I love anime actually. Because it helps expand my world.

    When a show chooses to be about music or a sport, it can't cheat on the very subject its drawing upon to shape its world! If it cheats there, I resent the show for being exploitative. Its like if Baby Steps only took the sunny skies and green lawns that tennis gives you. Hibike seems to like how sexy those instruments look but doesn't seem to want to play them enough!

  15. E

    Heh, I kind of doubt the paint drying part; with style, sure that kind of thing could be entertaining for a while, but having style without any substance at all and just doing the same thing for 13 episodes gets boring really fast. Thats not exactly what Hibike Euphonium is doing though, theres definitely substance in its characters but I feel a lot of it comes down to the way Kyoto Animation deals with them: posing for the camera, smiling and generally acting cute. Some people take that very well but for me its a bit dull and thats why I can't usually appreciate Kyoani works.

  16. Ekadish, that's a fair point, but I was really focusing on the relative merits of each show as opposed to the theme. I certainly agree that if a series builds itself around an art form or sport it should be judged on how it portrays it. I just don't happen to consider that to be among Hibike's greatest shortcomings.

    Somebody post something about Rinne already!

  17. E

    This conversation and the desire to verify if what I was saying I did in fact feel deeply or not made me start rewatching Nodame again 🙂 I'm in the middle of Paris Hen. And i feel so… refreshed. Its like taking a trip back in time and feeling so utterly reassured that what you loved deeply is still there, and it still makes you love deeply. I love anime and i feel so heartwarmed over the fact that you, who write this blog and all of you who comment on this and other articles love it too. Good or bad season, good or bad show… those are just things to talk about 🙂 Bottomline being that this thing we all love is still just as precious. So thank you all for making me feel like that. (I’m probably a bit maudlin from two glasses of wine on a sick day I’ve taken from work watching nodame).

  18. Yes, Nodame is and always will be a rare bird among music series. In Episode 10 of Paris-hen, Nodame plays the Mozart 23rd Concerto and nails it, and we realize that the conradiction that Mozart should have been perfect for her style yet she struggled with him was the point all along – it was all about her character arc. You just see that this show gets it when it comes to the musical side of the story.

  19. T

    I'm kind of hoping they start introducing the other characters soon like the other red head guy (If i remember correctly the PV said its Rinne dad) Rumiko Takahashi has always created interesting parent and child dynamics (ok more like the parents being horrible people) so I'm looking forward to that relationship whatever it turns out to be.

  20. M

    I really wish Hibike was being produced by another company than KyoAni. Hyoka was their best, and it was even that good, honestly – it was just far better than everything else they put out. This show could've been much better in the right hands – like the people who did Nodame Cantabile.

    KyoAni does get the instruments and the playing right, though. But I had such high hopes going into episode 5. Episodes 3 and 4 were great!

    The pacing keeps changing drastically. I feel like they made wrong decisions as to what they should pay attention to in this episode. I also feel like they're rushing to get as far as possible before the series ends. I would've rather have seen a good buildup to the SunFes (even if the anime series ended there on episode 12), and had a whole episode based on that.

    The music was so good (why won't they let them complete a song? they keep panning up to the sky, like in the movie in the first episode of Haruhi Suzumiya), the marching and explanation was good, but it wasn't enough. It doesn't need to be a Diamond no Ace or Adachi type multiple episodes to one event, but the SunFes should've been a bigger deal. I'm already thinking about using the song with my marching band that I lead (I'm a band teacher)

    Agreed, the whole thing about nervousness about being in between amazing groups was done well.

    Agreed, anti-climatic.

    I bet I would've found this better if I came across the series after it finished and could watch it through.

    I wish I could find the novel or the manga to buy so I could read it, but I can't. I hope the novel/manga is good, and this is just KyoAni's misadaptation.

  21. M

    THe song Kumiko's band played at SunFes –

    Yellow Magic Orchestra – Rydeen


  22. Z

    I simply hope it's the case of Kyoni prioritizing the wrong thing of the episode. It is indeed rather anticlimax and I want to hear more of the actual parade rather than listening to people saying how good/surprising it is.

    That said, I'm quite satisfied by ep 2-4 and fault of one episode won't make me to drop this show. Sensei indeed is carrying the show, but I also kinda liking Kumiko. Not due to any deep reason, I simply like to watch her fooling around with cynical face and listen to her VA. That, and of course KyoAni's production value which I think is tend to be underrated since "it's kyo ani, so it's a given".

    I guess that's not a bad reason to watch a show.

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