Today I’ve got some thoughts on the first Sound! Euphonium novel! They are not happy thoughts, unfortunately. Although the original novel does give us a closer look into Kumiko’s head, that’s pretty much all I can say for it – the prose is pedestrian, the narrative is actually far less tightly composed than the anime, and the cast feels less well-defined here than they do in the adaptation. This is a readable book, but definitely not one I’d recommend. Nice work polishing this into a diamond, KyoAni!
Welp, only half my shows even aired this week, so I guess we’ll be keeping this one brief. It was all endings this time, which pretty much went down as expect – while Girlish Number’s last episode as a bit underwhelming, both Euphonium and Flip Flappers nailed the dismount, which was a great relief. As extremely good shows near their end points, I often feel more anxious than excited; when you’re competing for the big leagues, all I’m hoping for is an ending I’ll be happy to return to over the years. Euphonium and Flip Flappers both more or less managed that, so I can’t really complain. Let’s start Girlish Number and run these three down!
And somehow, another year has come to a close. This has been a strange year for me – as my first full year of wholly anime-related employment, it’s been often terrifying, sometimes uplifting, and always exciting. I’m not sure it means anything that my move to freelance coincided with the world catching fire, but hey, things happen. At least I also write for Crunchyroll now!
As far as anime itself goes, this has been a very solid year in general. The industry is currently at a somewhat unsustainable level of production, and though foreign streaming and other forms of revenue are putting the industry in a more stable place financially, that still hasn’t adjusted the workflow mechanisms that keep animators so terribly underpaid. That will have to change eventually, but as far as the actual shows go, there were plenty of anime I had a great time with this year, and solid hits in a wide variety of genres. In fact, this year’s crop was so good that I even have some honorable mentions! That’s honestly kind of unusual for me – I generally struggle getting to ten shows without including stuff I’m not totally sold on. So let’s start right there, and run down the shows that just barely missed the list before we count off the final ten!
At last, it ends. Euphonium’s second season was far messier than the first, and was partially hamstrung by adopting a middle book that always felt fairly superfluous, but it sure did come together well. Asuka and Kumiko’s material has always been some of the best in the series, and watching their relationship grow over the course of this season was a wonderful experience. This was a graceful and poignant epilogue to a consistently rewarding series. Those friggin’ euphoniums did it again.
Welp, the year is coming to an end. 2016 has been a tough year for the world at large, and a stressful year for me personally, what with transitioning entirely to freelance work the year before. Fortunately, 2016 was also a pretty excellent year in anime – there wasn’t anything I loved on the level of a Shirobako or an Eccentric Family, but the breadth of the year’s top tier was pretty dang remarkable. This season in particular was a real standout, offering a substantial portion of the shows that’ll make up my final top ten. We’re arriving at final episodes now, which is sad, but I’m never unhappy to see good shows end strong. Let’s run these titles down, and get ready for whatever 2017 may bring!
Today I return to Euphonium for the second half of my column on Asuka Tanaka! This one offers a bunch of close reading of her scenes all throughout the second season, because why not, Asuka’s great. She’s definitely one of my favorite characters of the year, and I’m very happy Why It Works offered me a chance to explore her wonderful characterization. Asuka may be kind of a jerk, but she’s our jerk.
Sound! Euphonium’s nationals competition arrived, and it was… well, certainly not the episode anyone was expecting. But skipping the big concert altogether was only the first of this episode’s goofy tricks – we also got a series of fist bumps, an absurd confession scene, and some of the most dedicated Reina dunking the show has ever provided. This was a surprisingly light and fun episode, given the band ended up only taking home the bronze, but it also landed a strong sequence of key emotional moments near the end. We might not have gotten another gorgeous performance scene, but this episode still seemed just about right.
Most of the shows I’m watching were pretty fantastic this week. Alright, I’m watching six shows, so we can more specifically say four of six. JoJo is nailing its final battle, Chitose is actually becoming a sympathetic character, Flip Flappers is pulling its story together, and March is drawing all possible pathos out of Rei’s anger and resentment. That’s a pretty good ratio! So yes, Euphonium may have dedicated a full episode to a nonsense conflict, and Yuri on Ice may still be a generally underwhelming sports production, but frankly, the standards are quite high this season. With all my shows having around two episodes left, this is still easily looking to be the best season of the year, and a season any year would be proud of. The coming winter may be a bleak wilderness, but let us remember: sometimes anime is good.Continue reading →
At last, I’m aiming a Why It Works post at Sound! Euphonium’s second season. I’ve been reviewing the hell out of this show for ANN, so it’s been hard to think of topics I haven’t already covered for Crunchyroll. But Asuka Tanaka clearly deserves many more words, and so here we are. Part One covers her understated sprinkling of characterization from the first season, where we basically only learn about her feelings in the context of unrelated conflicts. While I was certainly happy to see her get direct focus in the second season, the work done in the first is impressive as well. As I’ve said before, Asuka is a character who’s remarkably well-suited to a Kyoto Animation production – hiding her true feelings behind pleasantries and snark, the show’s close focus on body language and framing is instrumental in bringing her character to life. I hope you enjoy the piece!
Well, this episode kinda sucked. My review focuses on KyoAni “doing the best with the material they were given,” but apparently that’s not actually true – this whole sequence took up just a few pages in the book, and the studio crew apparently decided to turn it into a full episode of nonsense. Reina’s crush has always been a pretty silly conflict, and giving it a full episode right near the end of the season certainly didn’t help. Ah well.