Then go watch the series, it’s really good! Also because there will be spoilers.
So, yes, I’m one of those people who think Kyoto Animation’s style of adaptations are stiff. I think some works are really suited for them, right in their wheelhouse, or where the strength of the style complements the work they create, and where their weaknesses are not going to be fatal. This is mostly obvious previous in their take on Hyouka, but I think we can definitely add Eupho to it.
I don’t have any sakuga insights or the like, and I think thematically the story make plenty of sense on its own–not really in the mood of spelling it out the obvious. I just want to make some other obvious comments (sry), or observations.
First of all, in the past few years there has been an overt trend for TV anime to focus on “in the moment” rather than mapping out a work’s overall thematic coherence. These two ideas are not antithesis of each other and can at times harmoniously coexist, but focusing on in the moment is a common goal in order to get that page-turning drive to work in the audience. I think sometimes, the focus on this can take away other aspects of the work, making the narrative lose focus on other aspects of a story. Euphonium (and I think Kyoani’s works in general) is not the kind of work that did this, and it stands out, in 2016. It wouldn’t have 5 or 10 years ago (but it might stand out in other ways).
It’s particular poignant in the finale, where the series invites us to remember the first season. I clearly recall my own reaction to the waifu-picking that happened with the watch-3-drop-the-rest crowd and while that’s amusing and problematic or whatever, IDC, my reaction to Asuka has been almost like the now-revealed attitude shared by Kumiko. I didn’t like Asuka at all! LOL. But I also know the story is laying it on thick with the potential character development slated to happen later. And thankfully I too love Asuka now, in a totally different kind of way.
This makes me think about the nature of Eupho’s overall narrative from a character-driven point of view. If you didn’t hang with Kumiko’s emotional states, or at least understand what the story is trying to slant the ongoing perspective, will you also get the various change in the hearts of the characters? Do people get the whole Mamiko arc? When she made up with Kumiko in that strangely Tokyo-style, mid-distance yelling way, it actually took me out of it even if the narrative ramped it up to be a big deal for Kumiko. It’s just too dramatized and yet KyoAni played it so seriously (a rare instance where KyoAni’s flaw showed up).
And to an extent, the way the story has been layered into mini arcs dealing with the different members of the cast feel almost a little too artificial. To use a Persona 3 analogy, this is like a series of social links layered on top of each other, and only by making the sincere choice can Kumiko unlock the full power of the Kitauji orchestra band, resolving one mini arc after another? At times the story actually felt like this, but usually only in the retrospect.
Which is to say, like the shiny brass metal the band members hauled around, Eupho stood out like a gold-colored beacon in the swath of low-tier anime adaptations and their CG recycle palettes. Yeah, given the YA nature of the work I think I can give the various embellishment a pass if the characters are sufficiently invested by me, which it had. It’s just that I also don’t particularly know if I’ve taken on the right POVs and heart-attitudes to see everything that Kumiko (or at least, a similarly-situated adolescent) sees, to share that cup of perspective, as they say. But when the music is turned up (and again, now reminded by the finale regarding the marching band part from S1), Euphonium turns it on and it all clicks. That’s the power of anime!
PS. I keep on saying it, and it bears repeating: this is the most guilty pleasure epilogue since UBW TV.