Sound! Euphonium Season 3 Episode 1: New Euphonium



Ah, how I wish I could scream from rooftops across the world that Kyoto Animation has graced us with the first new season of Sound! Euphonium in 8 years. Even if you consider the 2019 movie as it’s an integral part to the story, it’s been a staggering wait of 4 years for this next piece to begin- the story of Oumae Kumiko as the club president of the Kitauji High Wind Ensemble. It feels… a little surreal, to say the least, and Sound! Euphonium season 3 episode 1 isn’t unaware of that feeling. And though I may be no kViN, I will all the same do my best in delivering my thoughts and experiences with this series- starting off with assistant director, and episode 1 director and storyboard Taichi Ogawa.

Ogawa’s relationship with series director Ishihara is one that runs incredibly deep. As expected from a pair that have been at the studio since its inception, and for the entirety of their career respectively, the two missed each other to a surprising degree in their early days. In their early days they never quite aligned on productions, but eventually found each other and reached a turning point where they cooperated on the storyboards for Beyond The Boundary episode 6. From there, well, the rest is history. The two have fostered a strong relationship over the years that’s resulted in Ogawa becoming a right-hand man to Ishihara, and the KyoAni favorite proves his faith in the KyoAni wonderkid by bestowing Sound! Euphonium Season 3 episode 1 upon them.

And I must say, Ogawa has come out of the gates swinging. Though the content may be light and simple, serving as a great reintroduction to the series, Ogawa doesn’t take their foot off the brakes, bringing plenty of standout style from Sound! Euphonium: Ensemble Contest and even a bit more. Specifically, Ogawa plays into the idea of the cycle that Sound! Euphonium finds itself in by creating self-referential boards. Whether its layouts that follow in the foosteps of its predecessor, or more tongue-in-cheek sequences that betray the differences between pieces, Sound! Euphonium episode 1 is full of parts provide an unmistakable sense of nostalgia and familiarity. Though, it’s not just Ogawa that conveys that sentiment to the viewer. The story itself eggs the viewer on to inferring the idea of a cyclical story that has been broken by Kumiko at each step.

The past is the past though, and by the same token the present is the present. I was really excited and impressed by what Ogawa was able to bring out that felt surprisingly fresh with this episode. Given how little there is to play into in terms of narrative or character development, Ogawa set aim at the setting itself- and pulled it off quite well. Where the 2019 Sound! Euphonium movie was comfortably ahead of the curve with its use of phone-style video for a sense of voyeurism and outside perspective, Ogawa employs much simpler and subtler tactics to accomplish it. In a sort of one-two punch, they make strong use of first person perspective, but through a shaky “camera” as the point of interaction. It comfortably removes the viewer from the perception of a static position, but reaffirms that we are watching through the eyes of someone. Conversely, they also make great use of space with high angle shots to establish emptiness, and very often push the focal point away from the center of the screen.

It really comes off quite effective when coupled with the far more personal and proximate shots of the episode that can feature almost impossibly detailed character acting. Over the years of Eupho, the series has strongly established the Kumiko profile used for unspoken contemplation, and under Taichi Ogawa Sound! Euphonium season 3 episode 1 continues on with that tradition. It remains a strong facet of both story and character…. but I do think it gets outshone by some of the wonderful walking cycles that appear within the episode. It also really doesn’t help that KyoAni’s CGI environment integration has gotten to levels that can only be described as insane, leading to pieces like these that seem almost impossible to match outside of the studio.

Though, I’ve certainly been waffling about production content when I already know that anything I say, kViN will blow out of the water, so I’ll quickly exit stage left after a quick comment on the staff behind the instruments of this episode and the season at large. In 2019, Kyoto Animation suffered a terrible arson attack that took the lives of many staff. Included in those was Sound! Euphonium character designer Ikeda Shouko, and instrument designer Takahashi Hiroyuki. Despite their passing, both are listed under their given credits for season 3, proving the immeasurable impact and value that the pair provided for the series that stretches even into the present day now. Ikeda’s work has been shadowed and filled by Ikeda Kazumi (no relation), but Takahashi’s position has been left empty- and no doubt would be an impossible role to fill. Their work that’s seen incredible evolution in design and quality has become a hallmark of Kyoto Animation’s triumphs over nearly a decade, and through the passion and dedication of this team, it exists as a pillar of this timeless series that will remain unforgettable- as evidenced by the impossibly stunning instruments of this episode.

Well, there’s no easy way to transition out of that, is there? All the same, the show must go on. Turning our focus back to Sound! Euphonium season 3 episode 1, I wanted to begin to wrap this up by discussing the narrative content of this episode. Though Kumiko ascended to the role of class president in an earlier instalment, this is the first real step into the role that she takes. And it’s a big step as it corrects the mistakes of her big sister-esque senior Asuka. With the conclusion of Asuka’s story arc in prior Sound! Euphonium content, we may not have the aloof and ineffable goofball present, but her influence on Kumiko can be felt all the same. The weight of the club may be heavy upon Kumiko’s shoulders, but her time with Asuka gave her the strength to carry such a burden.

Similarly, with the introduction of fellow Eupher Mayu Kuroe, Kumiko converges a pair of plot points. Having heard Kuroe’s euphonium at the river, the viewer immediately remembers the value of Kumiko’s favorite bench on the bank. A place of calm and contemplation that was originally a festering wound of doubt, it eventually was uncovered as a place of passion and desire for music. Following that, we’re properly introduced to Kuroe when Kumiko finds her in the well-worn practice area of an outdoor walkway at the high school. Though it’s not “exactly” Reina’s spot, I’m sure many would envision the area as so (largely because Reina has a penchant for playing in high up places).

Putting two and two together, it starts to dawn on you that Kuroe is meant to be a combination of Kumiko and Reina. The swirling doubt and uncertainty that’s mixed with unmistakable passion and talent. After all, Kuroe wasn’t present for the beginning of the Wind Ensemble Club, so it’s safe to say that “something” held them back, much like it did with Kumiko previously. I think it’s a really incredible narrative to explore, as it sets up “the next generation” of Kitauji Eupho as the centerpiece of the ensemble and firmly places Kumiko in the territory of “this is the end”. Similarly, it’s also great to examine how the extreme personalities of Kumiko and Reina have soothed one another and allowed the pair to form an incredibly strong bond through music.

Sound! Euphonium season 3 episode 1 doesn’t dare dive head first into heft drama or narrative mountains to climb, but it also certainly does not rest on its laurels. Continuing to take yet another step in its evolution and development, much like Kumiko and the others of this series, Kyoto Animation finds itself pushing forward in ways that only it can as a studio. Brimming with passion and quality that’s known the world over, the 8 year wait for this third season arrives with a bright smile cutting through bitter tears. An end approaches, and though not all may be around to see it, it remains inevitable for both fan, staff, and character alike.

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