Eupho-kun! Please don’t leave me!
What’s the Story?
Kumiko is just starting high school. She thinks the school band kind of sucks, but her friends convince her to join anyway, that is until Kumiko realises that a former classmate, Reina, is also in the band. Kumiko is still cripplingly embarrassed by an encounter with Reina back in the last year’s band competition, but getting past that is only the start. The band must face many trials and tribulations if it wants to reach the Nationals.
Now admittedly I’ve never been in a school band, and I don’t really watch a lot of shows about musical groups (I think the last one I saw was Glee, so you can see why that might have put me off watching a few), so it really is a surprise to me just how much I love this show. This show feels very realistic and human. It makes you feel like you’re apart of a band, you share the nerves and the frustration with the characters, cheering them on through the low points and applauding them during their highs. It also helps that this anime never feels clichéd, and the drama never forced. There’s drama of course, but it naturally flows from the plot and you can understand every action. You have the frustration of trying to aim for a goal, when it’s clear not everyone is pulling their weight, you’ve got the agony of auditions, and what happens when not everyone makes it, you’ve got band politics and unrequited love (but not in a cliché way).
This is an anime about music, so you can count on it sounding good, but damn is this anime beautiful as well. I thought after seeing Ufotable’s Fate/stay night that never I’d be truly blown away by the visuals of an anime again, let alone for it to happen in the exact same season, but this anime has done it. It is utterly mesmerising. The motion is always fluid, but what sells it the most is all the tiny little details. Every little flick of the wrist or jostle of hair is just perfectly animated. Like looking into a great big machine, you get to see how each individual part works, from the movements of the fingers to each expulsion of breath. Then there’s that fabulous lighting and the way the camera moves give some scenes this dream-like quality. It’s good, guys, it’s really good.
All of the characters feel really human. You know they’re just pictures replacing one another faster than the eye can see, but it’s the way they move is just so convincing that you can’t help but be sucked in. Their movements are so natural and full of character and personality. It makes you believe in every bated breath, every nervous glance. This is backed up by some fabulous voice acting that really puts across the anxiety and the frustration the characters are going through. These people are real to me, I don’t care what my brain is telling me, my heart tells me that these people exist, and I’m inclined to believe it. It also helps that there’s such a diverse range of characters (and character designs), and while most of them don’t get the focus you can still see them moving around in the background and existing.
That’s brings us to the stars of the show, the eternal Yuri-bait, Kumiko and Reina (may their ship never sink).
I’ll start with Kumiko. Honestly at first I wasn’t all that keen on her, don’t get me wrong I didn’t hate her or anything, but she’s kind of hard to cheer for at the start (for me anyway). You see Kumiko is a very distant person. She never really gets passionate about anything, and while her embarrassment is incredibly cute, it’s hard to get behind someone who can never get behind anything. To me Kumiko feels lost, looking for what she wants in life, a bit indecisive and uncertain of herself. The series does a wonderful job of developing her character though, helping her to fall in love with music again (and possibly a certain trumpet player), and really strive for a goal. By the end I adore Kumiko and how far she’s come.
That brings me to Reina, another odd character. At first she’s very cold and doesn’t really interact all that much with those around her, and she doesn’t change all that much, thankfully. Unlike Kumiko, Reina is extremely passionate, about music, about staying true to herself, and about becoming special. She’s doesn’t care what other people think about her or say, she’ll just continue to play to her own tune. She is a talented star rising high above everyone else. Now Reina could easily have been portrayed as a diva, or a horrible person, but she never is. Reina is a kind and loving person, when you get to know her. You are completely with her when she gets frustrated with all the crap she has to put up with from the band.
What makes me love both of them though is their chemistry together. The anime ends without ever giving us a clear answer as to the nature of their relationship (is this romantic love, or just a just a really strong friendship? You decide!), but without a doubt the characters are great together. They really spark off of one another. Also they have some really weird conversations, but that just adds to the human feel of the characters.
To me this series is crying out for a season 2, there are several plot points that feel unfinished by the end. We still don’t know exactly what Asuka’s deal is (I’m betting she’s crazy), and things aren’t completely resolved between Kumiko and her sister. These are only minor plot points, and the finale is a good conclusion to the main plot, but I just really want to spend more time with these characters, please!
This anime feels very real, and very human, it’s like being a part of a school band. You fall in love with every character. You feel both their joy and their pain as the band struggles towards the Nationals. The animation is utterly beautiful, and, of course, the music is great. If you’re into bands, or fancy checking out what it’s like to be a part of one, there is no better anime than this at the moment.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.