Who would have thought that a show about girls playing in a band would become so popular? Wait, I just read that back again. Rather, who would have thought a show about girls playing in a competitive wind ensemble would be so popular! Much different.
Episode Review: “Mid-summer Fanfare”
It was pretty much inevitable that this series would get a continuation. It’s so heartwarming, in so many ways. There’s the nostalgia of high-school band life, and the tense issues of making friends in a competitive setting. Don’t forget that little bit of yuri floating around too – we see you, KumikoxReina.
Pretty much everything is exactly where we left it. There’s all of the familiar faces, still striving to make it to the nationals (up from the regionals), and all of the drama is still hanging around too. The main ensemble rejects are mostly content about their situation, trying to make the best of it. They even sound pretty great, and everyone loves a party band. But it’s that air of tension that floats about this series that is definitely still there, and it comes in several forms. Band politics and respect plays a pretty big part, and anyone who’s been there know it fits in kind of awkwardly with normal school friendship dynamics. There is also the relationship between Reina and Taki-sensei, no matter how awkward that is too.
The primary conflict, beyond competing, still seems to be the issue with the now second-years that quit before our heroines even arrived. It’s both kind of vexing and completely understandable that there could be enough drama to warrant not letting them play again. That Nozomi is pretty good at the flute (although it’s hard to tell when they’re all perfect), so I imagine they could use her. The sound of the solo making Mizore sick gives me some bad vibes. The situation could go a few ways, with them having quite because the band wasn’t motivated enough, or the other kids from the same middle-school blaming each other for losing. We already kind of know that the band wasn’t very competitive in the previous year, but that just doesn’t seem like enough to warrant not letting them back in. It’s the people still in the band who are the mean ones in that situation! Either way, we’re going to get to the bottom of it soon.
Because every stereotype has to play itself out in a show like this, there’s a fireworks festival! And was it ever cute. Kumiko and Reina go on a date, pretty much, and run in to some guys from school that would really want to be on a date with them. One of them even asked Kumiko to the festival, and she’s just remembering now! Harsh. But Reina’s response was both unexpected and perfect, asking if they would accompany them and then trashing them when they said no. You go girl – although her interactions with Taki-sensei have been pretty spineless up until this point. Relationship drama is pretty much the driving factor of tense situations in high school, so I can’t wait to see what it has in store for us here.
– A double-length premiere!? (So many more screenshots)
– Oboe players, always the keenest. Watch out, they have knives.
– Now that looks like a percussionist.
– Nice use of the Prince Igor there on the bus.
– Kumiko’s reaction sounds are especially cute.
– How are there only like 3 guys in the whole band?
– Yuri-overload! Abandon ship!
Summary: The drive to nationals continues, but not without some tense drama and budding relationships. Also fireworks!
As a sequel, most of the first impressions are long out of the way. We know the characters, the setting, the conflict (kind of) and generally what to expect of the series. The animation is still top-notch, with pretty much all the fluidity and motion characteristics of any major Kyo-Ani production. The music is top-notch, and although every band sounds like a professional recording ensemble, I can live with that. This is what quality looks and sounds like. It’s just hard to know whether I should be relaxed or in full drama-mode with the juxtaposition of beautiful presentation and high-school relationship story. So far it’s a wonderful middle-ground.
It might be useful to bring up some of the issues on the female image in anime that have been circulating recently. Those being that girls don’t tend to get the most complex of roles, and are often used as service machines to keep men buying discs. I almost find it hard to describe this series’ vibe when it comes to the female leads. It portrays them so well, with complex emotional backgrounds and motivations far beyond the archetypes of romance-player-two or gratuitous fan-service device. But at the same time it’s all just so warm, and fuzzy, and objectifyingly cute in that Kyo-Ani way, and I know that the primary audience for this series is men (as for pretty much all anime). It’s as if it’s trying to be the cutest (or most moe) representation of band culture possible, with little sprinkles here and there of mild objectification disguised as coincidental movements or natural behavior – the wind isn’t always that convenient, and convenient camera-angles be damned. If anything, this type of show is definitely pointing in the right direction for interesting female characters in anime, without the complete need to objectify them. Unless…
So the next episode is already a bikini pool/beach affair. Damnit.
Next time: “Hesitation Flute”