Review-Roundup: Hibike! Euphonium 04-06, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 03-06
Asuka is most definitely the most entertaining character of Hibike! Euphonium.
This time I review:
Hibike! oEuphnium 04-06: A bunch of schoolkids deal with a teacher who seems nice but employs some really draconic teaching-methods. But it’s all fine because, as they say, pain is the best teacher. Also, we all know that you’ve wasted your childhood if you’ve never tried VERY hard to win a national competition.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 03-06: Eruna does some nonsense and somehow some droopy dramaqueens get cured of their droopiness in the process. Also, battles and stuff.
Hibike! Euphonium 04-06 Review:
I get why he said that, considering what the ensemble’s goal is, but did he have to be SO blunt?!
The strange thing about Hibike! Euphonium is that so far no matter how tense an episode gets the overall impression it leaves you with is always one of fluffiness but also anticipation for what comes next. I say this is strange because on the surface this really makes this series seem like any other generic “cute girls do cute stuff”-KyoAni-project. It’s so easy to get this superficial impression of this series just rehashing the familiar ground of KyoAni-series. So the strengths of this series are buried a little deep and it makes me wonder what will happen in the second half of the series when the drama gets ramped up. I mean, what will the series do when the needs of drama hit the ceiling of general fluffiness?
As the series progress it becomes apparent just how much it relies on Kumiko’s narration for the plot-structure. There’s always at least one montage in the series where visually the series speeds through several changes of location and perspective while Kumiko has a monologue or when something technical is happening Kumiko also occasionally steps in to provide exposition for the audience.
Despite that the series actually never let’s its perspective get limited by Kumiko’s perspective. The series still has a very elegant way of shifting the focus from one character to another and giving all of them distinct little character-beats which can be used for drama when needed. That part is probably the most engaging element of this series’ writing. It’s that the story doesn’t feel as linear as you’d expect as a lot of it is character-driven and said characters are in this complex flowchart of interconnected relationships which builds a solid foundation for plot-points. The series just needs to use these really tiny storybeats like the teacher wants to hold auditions and so you get all these characters reacting very differently for distinct reasons.
Of course, the actual story is still largely unimpressive. A bunch of kids do a thing and they have to learn that a good childhood is filled with taking responsibility and trying VERY hard to be the goddamn best kids there ever were who did a thing. And for some reason they also will have a ton of fun doing that. Those kids who are like “Ah, but I just want to play this instrument for, you know, fun.” clearly are considered to be misguided fools. This series truly believes that as representative of the school in a tournament-setting you either act like a real professional or you just shouldn’t try at all. And it’s here where the series loses some realism because beneath that goody-two-shoes-act most of the good characters put on, lies fanaticism. Those frigging characters are music-fanatics! You rarely get even a hint of those characters caring for anything else besides music.
So if you’re looking for a realistic coming-of-age-series about a bunch of schoolkids trying very hard to win the Nationals, this probably isn’t it. Obviously the exposition proves that the writers certainly have done their research when it comes to ensemble-music and the way one deals with playing a musical instrument. But this show is very singleminded in that regard.
Of course, there’s the danger of the series’ tone growing stale and tiresome but here’s where the scriptwriting once again does a brilliant job of covering that up. The pacing of this series is quite elegant. You not only have the normal character-driven scenes, you also got the narration to speed things up when needed and in general the series never shies away from montage-sequences when it’s necessary. But in terms of tone this is one of those few series that actually can almost effortlessly transition from drama to comedy within a scene. Most of that is thanks to this effective pacing which always keeps things moving. But together with the good mood-transitions you get episodes that are far better than the story-material should allow them to be. If you’ve never had seen this series and someone would tell you what happens in each episode you wouldn’t have much of a reaction. It’s only when you actually watch the episodes that you notice just how well-put-together this series is.
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku 03-06 Review:
Sometimes Eruna’s perverted nature seems like a crazy quirk of hers but other times it’s really just creepily over-the-top which makes it kinda funny, I guess, but at the same time this isn’t a comedy-series, so most character’s reactions are just the usual straight-man-routines. Essentially it’s lightweight-stuff with dull punchlines. If Eruna as a character weren’t so energetic, it would be downright terrible but this way it’s somewhat entertaining.
With Hibike! Euphonium being a series where the director and script-writers make the best out of the series’ story, here you got a series with a lot of pieces that don’t fit each other. Personally I actually like Eruna as the main-character of this series but seriously: Around her is an entire series happening she doesn’t belong in. Eruna’s characterization is so exaggerated and manic that even the fantastical battle-shounen-setting of this series pales in comparison to the craziness Eruna demonstrates. In this case ‘Unlikely Hero’ is literally the best description of Eruna’s role within the story.
And what a story it is! You got a tournament, you got characters with personal problems and there’s the usual dose of moralizing as well. And it’s all very bland. There are all these ideas on display and none of them seem particularly meaningful or original. If you take Eruna out of this series it would become a snoozefest instantaneously! Actually, whenever Eruna isn’t on-screen, it IS a snoozefest.
That little arc Yuto had was just dull. Alone the fact how this little arc started! We get a flashback about Yuto’s past and… all of a sudden Yuto’s got HUGE emotional problems. There wasn’t even a hint of any emotional baggage previous to this! Instead of building up towards the beginning of this little arc, the whole thing simply gets dropped on the audience and the series expects them to give a shit. These overly serious conversations between Seisa and Yuto and Yuto and Eruna… This series goes through the motions of a dramatic character-arc without ever making the audience care about his fate. Therefore the whole thing ends up feeling cheap and the emotional character-beats feel unearned.
Also, that little taste of drama revealed another big problem. Eruna’s a terrible plothook for these little character-drama-arcs. Eruna has no motivation. She’s probably the most utilitarian anime-hero ever. “Oh, that person is sad! Guess I know what I will do for the next few days!” is all the motivation she has. Eruna has NO personal stakes in resolving the drama. She just does it because someone being unhappy is an alien idea to her, I assume. It’s like you’re watching a manic Joker save Gotham City.
Eruna’s success in resolving the drama is also simply bizarre. When she hears of Kyouma having some personal problems which keep him from having fun, she simply starts engaging him and kinda manipulates him to become happy again. By forcing him to make a portrait of her and inspiring him to actually start drawing again, he returns to his more cheerful personality. But here’s the thing: How exactly did Eruna knew that this would be the right thing to do? The end of Yuto’s arc is the same. Eruna tries to help a person, does some oddball-stuff and in the end things just work out for some reason. You barely can get invested in these arcs because it’s impossible to predict how point A of those arcs leads to point C where some character becomes happy. It isn’t that Yuto’s and Kyouma’s arcs have been complicated but the disbelief is more on the side of “Wait, that’s it?!”. The resolutions are SO simplistic that it’s hard to give a shit about the whole thing.
Aside from the drama, things don’t look much better. All the battle-shounen-stuff is a snoozefest, too. Especially since this series clearly has some budget-problems. The amount of battles that happen off-screen in this series… And the battles aren’t flashy to begin with! Well, with the exception of the battle between Meika and Eruna. But all the battles are pretty short. Essentially the action in this series is boring.
And the one good thing about this series (in my opinion at least) is Eruna – who is a force of nature in this series. Nothing in this series touches her. She magically cures people of their unhappiness and other than that she just does whatever wacky stuff she wants without any real consequences. Also, one has to admit that she’s nothing more than an oldschool-otaku-pervert turned into a girl who’s a yuri-pervert coupled with a manic personality. All of which is material for a comedy but certainly not the dramatic battle-shounen-series that’s happening around Eruna. If you ever want to know what happens when you put a wacky comedy-character into a somewhat serious battle-shounen-series, you gotta watch this series.
Posted on May 14, 2015, in Anime, Hibike! Euphonium, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku, Reviews and tagged Anime, Hibike! Euphonium, Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku, Mikagura School Suite, review, Sound! Euphonium. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.