The second season of Sound! Euphonium follows the events of the happy ending of its prequel, but there’s still many conflicts to be resolved.
NOTE: This review contains mild spoilers
Sound! Euphonium Season 2 does not have an overarching storyline like Season 1 did, and is instead divided into different small arcs. Perhaps the first half of it is the least interesting one, as it doesn’t feel like a very natural way to start the season, and we were not familiar with the seniors, let alone their problems. However, the second half with Asuka’s storyline and the training for the Nationals is when the seasons peaks and delivers some of the series’ most emotional moments.
The characters continue being the main focus here, with most of the plot focusing on the inner conflicts born from how they feel about their playing. Season 1 had a lot of focus on Hazuki and Sapphire/Midori, who completed the main trio along with Kumiko. However, this time they’re barely present. It’s understandable that the series would want to give some attention to other characters, but it’s sad to see them being completely side-lined and becoming straight-up irrelevant. Sure, they were never that interesting to begin with, but perhaps a little scene with the three of them reflecting on how far they’ve come would have been a better, more conclusive way to end the series.
This time, much of the spotlight is on Reina (who already had a prominent role in the first season) and Asuka. Starting with Reina, her relationship with Kumiko is as adorable and special as always (if you learn to ignore and accept the yuri bait, of course). As Reina previously mentioned, Kumiko is “special”, but she rarely ever speaks her mind. This is something she learns to do this season, and perhaps that’s why this time around they get along really well. That’s not to say they don’t have their disagreements. Despite having become less cold towards Kumiko, Reina is still not afraid to call her out if she does something that annoys her. This time, their conflict comes from the fact that Kumiko doesn’t tell her what she knows about Noboru-sensei. In fact, Reina’s romantic feelings for their teacher take the main spotlight here, as we get to see not only his tragic backstory, but also the story of how Reina met him and fell for him. It evokes the kind of bittersweet feeling that comes from having a platonic love at such young age, and it’s also interesting to see stoic Reina show some of those emotions.
However, the one who gets most characterization this season is Asuka. In the first season, she was just seen as a lively, yet strict third-year who played the eupho. This time, Asuka’s personality and backstory are crucial to the plot. We get to learn a lot about her family, her relationship with her parents, and what music means to her. Because of her sad situation back at home, Asuka is the type who always wears a cheerful, fake mask to try to cover her true feelings. In a way, she’s kinda like an exaggerated version of what Kumiko used to be. Kumiko also happens to be the one who’s able to see through this mask, and who pushes her to voice and deal with her situation. Despite Reina and Kumiko’s being considered the main friendship in the series, Kumiko and Asuka’s was the most interesting and compelling one in this season. As a side-note, given that Kumiko doesn’t quite seem to reciprocate Shuuichi’s feelings for her, some viewers even half-joked, half-speculated that Kumiko developed feelings for Asuka.
Kumiko’s character also grows a lot, mostly because that’s what she needs to do in order to face both Asuka and her older sister, Mamiko. The conflict with Mamiko had been building up since last season, and as it often happens in anime, the situation was mostly blown out of proportion. Mamiko’s problems are exaggerated for drama purposes, but it still works as a good contrast and a good way to deliver the message of “do what you want to do, and not what it’s expected of you”. It also emphasizes the belief that it’s never too late to make a change in your life (and this is specially relevant given how the Japanese society see women Mamiko’s age). The fact that both sisters didn’t know they secretely admired (and envied) each other was also a nice touch, as well as the moment when Kumiko runs to her after the competition to tell her she loves her is one of the highlights of the season. The only character that doesn’t manage to convince the audience is Shuuichi. Leaving yuri frustrations aside, Shuuichu’s character is barely explored, and he doesn’t have anything memorable to him or his personality. By the end of the season, we are meant to understand Kumiko has to come to terms with her feelings for him, but it’s all very ambiguous (and that’s probably on purpose too).
At the end of the day, Sound! Euphonium Season 2 is more thee friendships and how they gave it their all, and not about how they ranked in the Nationals. While some of the aspects and characters from the first act are put aside, the ones that replace them are no less interesting. The series could perfectly go on after the graduation using the introduction of the newcomers to fight for the Gold medal, but Episode 13 also works as the perfect closure to the series. Not to mention that a title drop in a season finale is often taken as a sign that this is truly the last page of the book. I personally would welcome a third season of Kumiko and the band with open arms, but I would not be disappointed with this being the end of the story either. It’s not a perfect story by any means as some characters have been left underdeveloped, but Sound! Euphonium manages to bring enough entertainment, beauty, and emotion to rank once again among the best anime of the year.