Review-Roundup: Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 01/02, Hibike! Euphonium 01/02
I like to believe that this is Eruna talking about herself. Everybody else in this series got some boring tropes to prove their existence after all.
This time I review:
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 01/02: Eruna is a Yuri-Otaku who’s the Chosen One in a school that’s all about fantasy-battles. And as the Chosen One she’s about to kick everybody’s ass while trying to find her ideal girlfriend.
Hibike! Euphonium 01/02: Being a teenager is the perfect time to learn about how dreams don’t come true. But everybody’s got a second chance. After all, even when you’re already THAT old that you enter a High School, you still have a couple years left to put things right. And since nothing interesting EVER happens after you’ve left school, Kumiko and her friends have to give their best to be the best – on a national level! It’s one last job before they can retire and leave puberty behind!
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 01/02 Review:
At times like these, the tone of this series somehow reminds me of the show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt … but without the story-depth to actually have an explanation for this frantic absurdity.
Eruna, the main-character of Mikagur Gakuen Kumikyou, lives in two fantasy-worlds. One is the elite-school she attends where supernatural shounen-battles are happening. The other world is the one of her making. Eruna is a yuri-otaku who every so often gets dragged into a daydream that isolates her from reality. And while the otaku-stuff is always the premise of comedy, the shounen-setting has the average mix of seriousness and trope-based ridiculousness.
That said, this show isn’t serious at all. You’ve got hints of it in these two episodes, some little moment of when serious drama gets hinted at but in the end that stuff always disappeared under the noisy wave of hyperactivity that is this show’s sense of humor. These first two episodes have established Eruna’s characterization as a very dominating presence in every scene. She dictates the pacing and tone of every scene she’s in.
Eruna’s characterization will probably be the tipping-point for many viewers. Can you bear to watch her antics or will she get on your nerves? It’s certainly a love-it-or-hate-it-situation. Her characterization is kinda overwhelming. She has no patience whatsoever and gets easily distracted while being entirely incapable of slowing down. On paper a lot of the jokes could be called repetitive but in reality the pacing of these jokes is SO fast that the series barely leaves room to compute the nature of the joke before the next joke has already started. For example, during the scene when Eruna tests out her “special attack” with her cousin Shigure: The scene starts with the premise that Eruna has no idea how to summon the power for a special attack but still tries to do it anyway. Then the joke becomes that Eruna is just beating Shigure with various stuff and then one of those daydream-sequences starts which then smashcuts to showing Eruna obsessively playing one of her games. At any point the scene could’ve ended. The scene could’ve ended with Eruna starting her training and futilely trying to summon a special attack and then go “Huh? Why does nothing happens?” which would then could’ve led to some cheesy line about “finding yourself” and whatnot. The scene could’ve ended with Eruna beating Shigure being the point as he just surrenders and tells Eruna to stop beating him with various things. But no, the scene kept going further than that with the daydream-stuff and the game-thing. And after that it immediately cuts to another scene in another location. The pacing in this show is simply frantic in moments like these. And even in the supposedly quiet moments Eruna’s hyperactive characterization is relentless.
These daydream-delusions are also subject to a peculiar directing-choice. Often a scene will seamlessly transition into a daydream-sequence without any indication and it’s only the smashcut back to reality which then reveals what really has happened. Of course, the tone of those daydreams is very particular and so you know when a daydream is happening but the transitions are part of the daydream as well, so it’s a little bit jarring to then wonder in hindsight when exactly the daydream had begun.
The overly frantic energy of the comedy is the best quality of this series, though. Without it the series would be left with a very trite battle-shounen-story. The elite-school with exceptional students, the rich daughter of some important dude at the school, a supernatural battle-system tied to the very way this school works and so on and so forth. Nothing about the plot in this series is that inspiring or noteworthy. Even if you hate Eruna’s characterization you can at least be satisfied by how her character gives this boring shounen-plot some much-needed personality.
Oh, and I assume the reason why this series is so frantic is because it’s related to a Vocaloid producer called “Last Note”. The fast pacing of this show probably tries to reflect the tone of that music “Last Note” has produced.
Hibike! Euphonium 01/02 Review:
Asuka is obviously the comic-relief-character of this series. I wonder if they’re gonna give her a dramatic arc as well in this series… I always wonder how the audience is supposed to react to characters that nobody in the story takes serious and who never say anything serious. It isn’t like you can relate to such a ridiculous characterization…
KyoAni is at it again: A series about cute girls doing stuff in a realistic school-setting. Hibike Euphonium so far is one of the better series of this type. There’s a very brittle and delicate atmosphere present in this series, like even the tiniest amount of drama is something akin to an elephant in a porcelain-store. All the characters seem very innocent and pure in how they present themselves but from time to time you can see these rough edges which will lead to drama.
What also helps is that the direction and writing of this series strikes a nice balance of giving each of the characters a nice introduction. After two episodes you’ve already got a good grasp of what everyone’s deal is. Kumiko, Hazuki and Sapphire have almost spontaneously become friends and in this second episode they already have established a connection and a rapport. And still the series introduces characters from Kumiko’s past to the story like Aoi in the second episode. Despite the big cast of characters that all get a fair amount of screentime, the series doesn’t seem overbearing. Every character gets utilized in the plot or delivers some short line further underlining his or her characterization.
The drama in this series, though, seems very sentimental and complicated. Just the “inciting incident” as you may call it is already VERY sentimental. Not only is Reina having a VERY emotional reaction to almost getting her wish but Kumiko feels guilty for not having had the same reaction as her. But that doesn’t mean that Kumiko is now choosing the same dream as Reina. At the heart of this drama is a lot of naïve confusion. It’s naïve because all Kumiko thinks about how she should’ve reacted to the whole National-contest-announcement but she never wonders why exactly it has meant so much to Reina. Her perspective is almost egoistic in how all her worries are about herself in the end. If not for the whole shy-shtick and earnestness Kumiko would be a very unlikeable character. She doesn’t want to talk to Reina because she feels guilty, although it isn’t solely her fault. She fears that Reina might hate her now, although it’s doubtful that in that what Reina would’ve gotten from that very emotional moment was her newborn hatred for Kumiko. So, depending on how Kumiko’s character-arc plays out she could either have a nice coming-of-age-storyline or she could become the most insufferable character of this series for the sake of cheap drama.
And what the second episode did with Aoi and the vote has already shown how dramatic and serious this series wants to be. Aoi and Kumiko have a whole dialogue about what the vote means to them. The whole thing gets saved by rather good writing. Stuff like how making these kids choose between “competing in the nationals” and “having fun/just playing around” is a bit harsh. And Aoi not having the ambition to be the best anymore leads to this “Well, trying hard doesn’t mean you win”-subtext of her resignation. I wonder how the series will resolve this question. Will it be all about teamwork à la “If we all want the same thing, we definitely can pull this off!”? Or will it be about how having fun is important à la “These are the best days of our lives and so of course, we are the best!”.
This series has offered a great start with these two episodes. You understand the characters, you know what’s at stake, there’s humor, there’s drama and above all these two episodes had the good kind of consistency all good slice-of-life-shows have. But of course, these two episodes don’t give any indication of how far down the rabbithole the melodrama will go and how cheesy the resolutions of the drama will be. But right now this is certainly my favorite series of this season.
Posted on April 15, 2015, in Anime, Hibike! Euphonium, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku, Reviews and tagged Anime, ミカグラ学園組曲, 響け！ユーフォニアム, Hibike! Euphonium, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku, Mikagura School Suite, review, Sound! Euphonium. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.