Review for Sound Euphonium 2 Volume 2
When it comes to disc count, in terms of price per minute, I think Sound Euphonium Season 2 is the most I’ve ever spent on a single home media release, or rather two releases. After I’d reviewed part 1, it would be an absolute turn up for the books if I didn’t review part 2. I actually spent less when I bought the Full Metal Alchemist Ultimate Edition, and that came with a statue and 51 episodes. Two releases in fairly standard packaging totalling 13 episodes and a smattering of extras for 30 pounds more... I have to ask myself just why? Is it love, is it obsession, is it a fannish lack of common sense, or is the show just that good?
Kumiko Oumae played the euphonium in the school band in middle school, and when it came to local competitions, she was delighted when her school won gold, even if it wasn’t sufficient to get into the national competition. But for trumpet player Reina Kousaka, the frustration of a ‘dud’ gold was unbearable. Starting at Kitauji High School, Kumiko’s decided to turn over a new leaf, and has chosen not to join the band. That vow lasts as long it takes to make her first new friends, Sapphire Kawashima and Hazuki Katou. Sapphire plays contrabass, and Hazuki wants to learn an instrument, so they pay a visit to the school band, and Kumiko gets persuaded to join as well. That’s before she learns that Reina Kousaka goes to Kitauji too, and she’s joined the band aiming for big things. The band has the ambition to make it to the Nationals, but the reality is that they kind of suck, and the new advisor Taki-sensei demands their utmost efforts if he’ll support them in any kind of competition. Poor musicianship is the least of their problems.
The concluding seven episodes of Sound Euphonium Season 2 are presented across 2 Blu-rays from Pony Canyon.
7. Station Concert
8. Rhapsody in Flu
9. Sound! Euphonium
10. After-School Obligato
11. First Love Trumpet
12. The Last Competition
13. Early-Spring Epilogue
Sound Euphonium gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. It’s a KyoAni show, and it’s the pinnacle of their achievement in television animation. It’s a show that looks absolutely gorgeous, delightful character designs and a world design that borders on the photo-real, with effects and style used to give the show a cinematic sensibility. The animation is smooth, detailed and driven by character. Of course a lot of time and attention has gone into making the musicianship, the playing of the various instruments look authentic. Unlike All the Anime, Pony Canyon pull out all the stops with the transfer, using two dual layer Blu-rays for the first six episodes. I’ve read on a forum that the episodes on the discs are encoded identically to the Japanese releases, and it makes sense given how good they look; no compression, no aliasing, and no digital banding. This is how I wish that All the Anime’s release was. But there is a price to pay for all this fidelity... literally.
Your sole audio option on this release is the PCM 2.0 Stereo Japanese track, which is just fine, bringing across the majesty and grandeur of the orchestra delightfully well. The dialogue is clear, and the music is enervating. The actors are perfectly suited to their roles, and the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos. There may not be any subtitle lyric translations for the theme songs, but in the show, the subtitles are perfectly presented, with no issues with on screen text in the way that marred the All the Anime release of season 1.
The two discs are presented in a clear DVD Amaray case this time, one on each inner face and now you can see that the inner sleeve has some nice artwork on it. It’s all wrapped in an o-card slipcover (the glue isn’t quite as effective this time), so there’s lots of art to look at. There are also 3 double-sided art cards in the case.
The discs boot to static menus,
The extras are all on disc 2.
You get short episodes #5, #6, and #7 running to a total of 9:15.
There are preview for episodes #7-#13 which last 3:37.
Finally there is the textless opening and the textless closing.
Sound Euphonium is for me that rarest of anime, a perfect little show. I’m not just saying that to justify to myself the price that I paid for this second season, although given the $100 RRP for just seven episodes of anime, I wouldn’t blame you for suspecting me of indulging in a little buyer’s remorse. Even given how much I love this show, it’s still too expensive for what you get. But the price tag was the furthest thing from my mind while I was watching these seven episodes that conclude the second season. The second season itself follows straight on from the first, following the band of Kitauji High School as they attempt to overcome internecine politics in the band, the various band members’ personal problems and the challenge of other schools to reach the national competition and see just which school orchestra is the best in the country.
These final episodes head straight to the nationals, after a wind-down diversion of a concert played in a railway station, a chance to relax after the previous prefectural competition at the end of the previous collection. But the closer they get to the finals, the higher the personal stakes are for the characters. To this point Kumiko has really been the mood-maker of the group, who somehow through sheer force of personality, or just knowing the right thing to say at the right time, has somehow had a part to play in resolving whatever crises have affected the band. Now, the crises are coming home to roost.
She not only gets ill early on in this collection, but the vice-president of the club, Asuka Tanaka, fellow euphonium player and mischievous mentor to Kumiko, has trouble at home when her mother demands that she quit the club. Asuka is the glue that holds the band together, so her departure leaves the band’s chances of doing well at the finals in disarray. On top of that, Kumiko’s home life is going through trouble as well, as her older sister, and the one who introduced Kumiko to music, suddenly announces that she’s quitting college, to which her father responds by throwing her out of the house. Meanwhile Reina’s crush on the music teacher, Taki-sensei is about to hit some cold hard reality.
Sound Euphonium has the perfect balance between music, comedy, and drama, letting the personal issues that the characters face feel meaningful and emotionally impactful without ever slipping into soap opera territory, and for its climax, Sound Euphonium hits all the right notes (pun intended). I also don’t begrudge it for holding back with the finals. Since the orchestra is playing the same piece that we’ve heard so often in earlier competitions, and they’ve improved substantially with each performance, it would be hard to exceed what has previously been shown without it feeling like a repetition. The competition happens off screen this time, and we only get the results.
Not that there is any deficit of music, as the final episode in the collection takes place after the Nationals, with the characters taking stock of how they fared, and more importantly, dealing with the end of the school year, and saying goodbye to the third year members of the band who have now graduated. It’s a lot more intimate, personal and meaningful an episode, and it also means that we get to hear music that the show hasn’t used before, as well as reprising a theme that was important earlier on.
Kyoto Animation’s work may just be its finest with Sound Euphonium, the backgrounds, the detail, and the wonderful character animation makes this a visual masterpiece, while the music is delightful. With the writing and the characters it all comes together to form the perfect package. The only thing to criticise is Pony Canyon’s pricing, but I personally don’t regret for an instant paying that for a show that I love this much. But I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone else does. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you like the show enough for that price. If I do have a regret, it’s missing out on Pony Canyon’s season 1 when it was still available.