In a genre that’s so often filled with “genius” characters, it’s refreshing to have a little normalcy once in a while.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for Sound! Euphonium 2.]
Sound! Euphonium 2 is the continued adventures of the Kita-Uji High School concert band club. Centered around the euphonium player, Kumiko Oumae, the series is a story of maturity and responsibility. The plot takes place in a very down-to-earth and realistic setting–so realistic I’ve been getting flashbacks–and the character arcs have been compelling and relatable. In fact, everything has been so realistic that it wasn’t until the latest few episodes that I noticed that the series was missing something that is a staple in most anime: Nobody is special.
Allow me to clarify: None of the characters are your staple “genius”–the sort of “chosen one” characters who are the best at what they do. The Übermensch who can pick up a weapon or sit in a cockpit and can singlehandedly turn things around to their favor are nowhere to be found. In Sound! Euphonium, everyone got to where they are through hard work and perseverance.
In many anime, the main character will coincidentally turn out to be gifted at whatever is the driving force of the series. They’ll find their place and calling, and it will in turn define them as a character. For the protagonist, Kumiko, this is not the case. Kumiko has been playing the euphonium since childhood. Inspired by her sister who played the trombone, Kumiko took up the euphonium until the end of junior high school, where she put it down and entered high school, hoping to start out with a clean slate. She wasn’t a natural or anything. Like many beginning musicians, she was just a child who was inspired by an older sibling she admired.
Kumiko’s best friend, Reina Kousaka, is regarded amongst her peers as a highly talented trumpet player. But despite a skill level that earns her a solo position in the first series and a cool confidence that is characteristic of many anime genius characters, we can see that Reina, too, got to where she is through countless hours of endless practice. She’s not special, but she strives to be for her own reasons.
Asuka Tanaka is another character viewed by those around her as “special.” Essentially the spiritual backbone of the entire concert band club, Asuka shows a level-headed maturity that makes everyone look up to her for support and guidance. But, as the latest arc has revealed, her strength and maturity aren’t a natural characteristic as we might believe. She is driven to be strong because of her broken family background. Asuka plays the euphonium against the wishes of her mother, who despises the instrument because Asuka’s father, who left them, is a renowned euphonium player. The only reason Asuka is allowed to continue is because she has managed to maintain high grades. The pressures of loving what she does against the wishes of her mother has forced Asuka to mature more than her classmates. She’s not naturally strong, she’s been tempered by years of pressure.
Sound! Euphonium 2 is utterly mundane, yet it captures all the facets of mundanity that make it interesting. Similarly, all the characters in Sound! Euphonium 2 are perfectly normal. They’re human and that makes them interesting and relatable. Surrounded by various anime series where some kind of genetic wunderkind will inevitably show up, something initially felt off about Sound! Euphonium 2 in this respect. But once I realized what was missing, it made me appreciate the reality of the series even more.
Asked to describe Sound! Euphonium, I often use the terms “spectacularly normal” or “both remarkably unremarkable and unremarkably remarkable.” I stand by this assessment proudly.
Sound! Euphonium 2 can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.