Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)

Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium) is a glorious series that, and is great fun to watch. Yet, if I ever heard of it before a few weeks ago, it never registered until I saw the listings for Sound! Euphonium: The Movie, which hit select theaters on July 11 subbed. If you missed that, don’t worry: dubbed day is July 15. This review can be a prompt to play catch-up; as you’ll read below, that is very doable if you plan to hit the big screen showing as a well-versed fan.

Firstly, what is a euphonium? That comes up shortly. After Kumiko Oumae’s middle school concert band failed to advance to Nationals in her final year, she’s ready for a fresh start, choosing to attend Kitauji High School, which has the sailor uniforms she likes, also also which few of her old classmates opted for. What’s more, Kitauji’s concert band is awful. Kumiko doesn’t get her break with the past, however: Reina Kousaka, a passionate, talented trumpet player who was devastated by their old band’s competition loss, is also starting at Kitauji. Also, new friendships forged over a cute capsule toy (how anime), with contrabassist Sapphire Kawashima (who prefers ”Midori” to her standout name) and intrigued non-musician Hazuki Katou, leads Kumiko back into band before long. Throughout, the newbies’ presence provides an opportunity to introduce the euphonium, a brass instrument like a smaller tuba, and other less familiar instruments like Midori’s contrabass. Where exposition is skipped, comment on the relationships of instruments used in a given piece informs the viewer of their place in music.

From here, it initially looks like the series might become a K-On!! for acoustic music; when petite Midori has the spotlight she resembles Yui Hirasawa, complete with a cloneish little sister. Then new band director Taki Noboru enters the picture. Already renowned in the world of musical ensembles, he first lets the group vote on its goal for the year—a large majority backs “Compete in Nationals”—and holds them to it. Following a year when many talented 1st years quit when older students would not take band seriously, this means a major change, entailing immense amounts of practice, both in ensemble and among instrument groups, auditions to determine who can play in competitions rather than reliance on seniority, and a few laps around the school just to be sure. With the added stress and failure to meet Taki-sensei’s expectations, even the prospects of marching in the Sunrise Festival like they do every year are looking dim. Before long, Nodame Cantabile is the music anime Hibike! Euphonium most takes after.