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Sound! Euphonium

Kumiko Oomae from Sound! Euphonium

My first review on this site is “Sound! Euphonium“, as it’s not only one of my favorite animes, but one of which I have the most to say.

Spoiler warning: I’ll keep them to a minimum, but there will be some.

It’s hard to choose just one phrase to talk about this anime, but I think Kumiko, the main character, said it best: “I’ll never forget how warm it sounds.”

How Warm it Sounds

Sound! Euphonium is a beautiful tale of coming of age, but it’s so much more than that. It is a “love letter to adolescence”, as many think, but it’s also a love letter to music. Derived from a light novel by Ayano Takeda, Sound! Euphonium follows the main character Kumiko Oomae as she begins attending Kitauji High School in Uji, near Kyoto, Japan. She played the euphonium for years, and while she wants to play trombone instead, her “secret” ends up getting out, and, well, she’s playing the euphonium now.

Kumiko starts out as a passive, distant, “wishy-washy” girl who doesn’t want to make waves – and many of her early decisions are because of that character trait. For example, she started Kitauji because she liked the uniforms. But as the next two seasons unfold, she comes into her own. She grows as a person and musician, as the concert band grows along with her and finds success of its own.

Eufo ga suki da mo!

There is a lot of drama in Sound! Euphonium, but it never feels forced. The interpersonal relationships between the characters are well developed, and are beautiful in their own right. Reina Kousaka is a quiet, intense girl who forms an unlikely and unusually deep friendship with Kumiko. Asuka Tanaka is a third-year who is completely inscrutable and who Kumiko has a difficult time forming a connection with. Shuuichi Tsukamoto is a male love interest with whom Kumiko seems to have a love-hate relationship. Also, Kumiko’s older sister Mamiko starts out as a very unlikable character with whom she does not get along well.

However, along with a few other characters who appear throughout the seasons, none of these characters are shallow, and the story treats them with care and sensitivity. Even though some characters are not very likable, by the end, you understand them. And in most cases, you can even forgive them.

There is also a running storyline in the background about some drama that happened the previous year, that the band still seems to have emotional scars from. The upperclassmen refer to it frequently and avoid talking about it. But that is fleshed out as the story progresses.

Love Letter to Music

And the music. The music is amazing. Even the OPs are amazing. The main piece of the first two seasons, the “Crescent Moon Dance”, was composed specifically for Sound! Euphonium. It’s good enough that people, even now, perform it unironically as part of the repertoire. The attention to detail with animating the instruments is amazing, even details like the sounds of the valves and breaths are included. My only criticism is that they’re just a bit too good. Some of the students are of professional quality, and that’s a little difficult to believe, especially in the first year of high school.

I love the first OP. When I went to the second season, I thought I wouldn’t like it as much. But I do! Everything they do in Sound! Euphonium regarding music is amazingly thought out and so well done.

The Elephant in the Room: Yuri-baiting

Now, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Kumiko and Reina have a very close friendship, which is, at best, ambigious. Are they close friends, or something more? A lot of people feel baited by this. I don’t. It just is what it is. While I understand KyoAni might have intentionally created that ambiguity, that’s not how I see it. I choose to interpret it as Kumiko getting caught up in the moment (and maybe even falling in love, to a degree) but ultimately settling into a very strong friendship with Reina. After all, Reina’s heart lies elsewhere (but you’ll have to watch to find out where).

Also, in these scenes, the English subtitles actively interfere with the story. There are multiple words for love in Japanese, with different contexts for each, but English only has two words: “like” and “love”. The word used in the controversial scene is “ai”, which carries a very different connotation than “suki” or “daisuki” (“Ai” is deeper and more familial). So while I understand others’ opinions, I don’t see “baiting”, nor do I actually see any (lasting) yuri elements. Put another way, I think people with conservative morals could enjoy this, even though they might interpret it differently than I did.

The Subtitles don’t Sound Warm

Speaking of subtitles, Crunchyroll’s subtitles aren’t great. While I need subtitles because I am not fluent in Japanese, I am conversational. I don’t need them for some of the more basic interactions. Some of the translations are dubious or, worse, flat-out bad. For example, In one scene, Asuka said “tadaima”, which means “I’m back” or “I’m home”. It is translated as “thanks”. These choices completely disrupt the emotional aspect of a scene.

In another example, the word “sabishii” was constantly translated as “sad”. While “sad” isn’t wrong, “kuyashii” or “kanashii” are better words for that. “Sabishii’ actually means more “lonely”, and a better translation would have indicated the characters’ state of mind much better than just “sad”. (At one point, I probably would translate it “I really miss her”, for example). Also, “kuyashii” is translated as “upset”, and, again, while that’s not wrong, maybe other words are better choices. (Frustrated, angry, crushed). Sometimes you choose words to keep the emotion of a scene, and not just because that’s what the dictionary says.

But that said, I think the voice acting is amazing. When a character is crying, or angry, or sad, it kind of stabs you right in the heart. They put their all into it, and it really shows.


I will write another post about how Sound! Euphonium personally impacted me, and it did have a profound effect, but I’ll leave that for another time. This is one of my favorite animes and I’d recommend it whole heartedly to anyone of any age, whether you’re a musician or not. In fact, it’s one of the best media I’ve ever seen, in any genre and any medium. There’s a reason it’s so popular, and it’s not because there’s full body pillows of a half-naked Kumiko (ahem).

My rating: 10 out of 10 stars, and I will post more about Sound! Euphonium on this blog. After all, I need to review every episode. Right? Not every anime will get that treatment.

Sound! Euphonium. I’ll never forget… how warm it sounds.

2 thoughts on “Sound! Euphonium”

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