Sound! Euphonium – Episode 13

The culmination of a lot of hard work. Let’s go band!

– A nice tranquil opening. Damn is it early.

– Also she’s definitely sight-singing her part right when she woke up. Kumiko must’ve been up all night just mentally going over her part. Getting your fingers to move is one thing, but having it mentally with you is 80% of the fight.

– PONYTAIL TIME!

– I liked the two consecutive cuts of Kumiko’s feet moving after she puts on her uniform, and her feet getting in shoes to show the flow of time.

– The nudging each other on the train was funny too. They’re full of energy and ready to go!

– Music stand banners aren’t usually used in the west too much as it’s more a thing for show. That said, it’s a decorational thing over here. Definitely looks very cool when you have an ensemble with each stand covered by one of those.

– The percussion mallets shown here are cool. The wood mallet looks like something that would usually have a flat head on both sides and would be used on tubular bells (also known as chimes), but since it’s tapered on one side, i’m curious as to how it would be used or the sound that would be produced. The bass drum beaters are on the bookshelf too! They’re seen putting the covers over the timpani heads, which is important during transportation.

– The section leader roll call brings me back to high school stuff like this too. For marching band especially, i’d have a notebook used to keep track of members and their attendance. We’d hand them in at the end of each session.

– Depending on your school, sometimes your program may own its own truck for moving instruments. Mine did. We had to move our own stuff, so seeing them mention having movers would probably imply that they’ve rented one, and that there’s likely some kind of service for this (because instruments sure are delicate). I wonder if the people with the smaller instruments will carry them with them on the buses.

– Kumiko is still nervous about that part. Even in that short cut she’s still practicing the fingerings on her thighs. It’s something all valved brass players will likely do at some point in time.

– And while they’re getting stuff on the truck, they’ve covered the mallet percussion too, as they should.

– I wonder who that is in Taki-sensei’s picture. They made the wedding ring pretty obvious, so maybe it is/was his wife? Either way, it feels like a somber moment while he’s looking at her for inspiration.

– And look at Taki-sensei, wearing his tux with suspenders. I’m surprised he didn’t go for the more standard cumberbund, since it’d be less restrictive on his arm movement. That being said, it’s possible he will have a conductor’s coat with an extended tail on back.

– Those charms are cute. And Natsuki is hilarious.

– It’s good that they have some levity during this moment. They seem confident and that’s pretty encouraging.

– Niiiiiiiice, they rode coach buses for this.

– The no playing sign is there for obvious reasons. The loading area is likely near the stage area in some capacity.

– Azusaaaaaaaaaaaa

– PONYTAIL POWER

– Green room time. Anxiety is likely building. Easily the best and worst part of these competitions, this period of time feels like it lasts FOREVER.

– The detail on that tuner/metronome is insane. You can definitely tell that whoever drew it had one in front of them. From the buttons, to the way everything is labeled, to the screen color, to the screen display… everything is spot on. Even the distance and cents indicator relaying the distance between perfectly centered pitches is there.

– One minor inconsistency here is that the tuner lists 442 hz. Depending on your part of the world, or if you’re in an orchestra or band (they also sometimes diverge depending on the conductor), some ensembles tune slightly sharper or flat than others. The standard used for bands in the US is A440 (the concert pitch A, at 440 hertz). 442 is not B-flat like the tuner indicates, it’s the pitch A but up two cents from what we usually use in the west (slightly sharper). B-flat is 466.16 hz. Even on a B-flat transposing instrument, it would still be the pitch B-natural. Usually basic tuners like that do not transpose, but some that do exist. The audio is correct that a B-flat is being played, and the B-flat note on the tuner is correct, but tuner has the wrong pitch for the hertz. Bet you didn’t notice that!

– Try comparing the two A pitches (A440 and A442) to see if you can hear the difference. That’s how finely tuned ensembles strive to be, and pros are pretty much expected to be perfect with this. It’s actually a really big deal! This is a B-flat (466.16 hz).

– When Goto is told he’s sharp, this is reflected in the sound (verrrrrrryyyy noticeable that he’s reaaaaaalllyyy sharp). There are sharp people everywhere! TUNE.

– Now an ensemble tuning. As is with bands, this starts with the woodwinds and begins with the 1st chair clarinet setting the tuning for the whole ensemble, moving down to brass, then to the low brass, and then a small amount of time with everyone to really get unified. Midori is uniquely lucky because she has an instrument she can plug directly into the tuner should she wish to do so, but should still play the concert pitch with the ensemble to ensure unity. An out of tune player is very noticable to trained ears.

– This speech from Taki-sensei is getting me fired up and emotional at the same time. They flawlessly nailed the atmosphere in the room during moments like this that it’s hard for me to not get really invested in this. Like wow.

– It sounds like the band ahead of them is playing Scheherazade Movement IV, right near the end (one my first orchestral performance pieces! I had 4th horn). Here’s a Youtube link to the exact moment the band on stage is playing during this section (orchestral version though)! That motivic material is instantaneously noticable. You can hear that the band in front of them has a harp too! Not a very common occurence for a high school band. A band arrangement of a piece like that is ballsy in a way, as band reductions of orchestral scores are usually viewed as compromises on what some consider to be pristine material. This isn’t the opinion of everyone, but it’s a view some take.

– Good guy Shuuichi. And Kumiko is too cute here.

– YEAH! LET’S DO THIS. I WANNA GET EMOTIONAL WHEN THEY HOPEFULLY DO WELL.

– PONYTAIL POWER!

– Asuka ;_; You gotta believe!

– The lightning when the stage lights comes on is so cool. They really nailed the look and feel of the intensity and hues of the stage lights.

– So they do have a required piece. As is usually expected of a competition. While the second piece is usually to show off, the first one is basically a test of sorts to ensure that you meet a minimum competency standard. In the west it’s usually Sousa marches as they can be very technical pieces, but they’re extremely transparent in presentation so it’s easy to hear whether a group has a grasp on key fundamentals and a good ear for interpretation. Easy judging music is what it is because it lays everything so obviously bare.

– Let’s go CRESCENT MOON DANCE!

– And look how spiffy Taki-sensei is in his tux. He’s even got the white bow-tie, white vest, and handkerchief! Very nice design for this. Long coattails too!

– On the first far shot of this performance they actually use CG for the ensemble, while Taki-sensei is in 2D.

– I love how they animated the bells/instruments up to get ready for the performance. Even Taki-sensei’s count-off was fantastically animated, and I love that they include the breath before the first note in the sound design. Such minute attention to very important details is outstanding and breathes life and believabilty into the show.

– The clarinets have the melody in this first section, and I love that the performer’s body moves along with how she’s playing the melody. More often than not, I’ve noticed that clarinet players will exhibit this tendency while playing.

– Man, the conducting animation is so good. When they have the dynamically contrasting section, they include details like Taki keeping his left hand low with a more closed hand while he conducts with his right. He keeps the shape small with his left hand to indicate the lowered intensity of volume needed in the section, then gives the cue with perfect timing (from closed fist to open hand), and with correct hand and body physiology, as well as eye contact too. His body shifts ever so minutely toward where he is cuing as he makes eye contact, and uses an open hand to deliver the cue properly. All of this is part of how good conductors do what they do. Then you have the way the coat/shirt/vest moves with his arms and the way his fingers move finely detailed too. The attention to detail is staggering.

– In the next section, during the louder brass part, Taki raises his right hand up high with a closed fist to indicate power and intensity to a dynamically louder section, as well as a powerful brass moment.

– Cymbal player animation is spot on in the cut with her, and syncs up with the music perfectly. Body positioning is accurate too, being slightly angled and playing the cymbals into the edges.

– Also neat is that they show the wear on Haruka’s ligature, ever so slightly.

– No clapping between pieces in a competition. It’s a rule.

– Tapered chime mallets go go Those look awesome. All of the details are spot on. They even have the hardened tops of each chime note correctly drawn too (which is the correct part of the instrument a percussionist strikes to produce sound). Also notice that she leads with her right hand at the ready first (the hand you lead with when playing percussion), and the positioning of her body relative to the instrument. You can tell that she has her foot on the damper pedal.

– Man, these Taki count-offs look so good. Seriously.

– The snare drum here plays his roll fp (fortepiano) in both the animation and in the audio. A fortepiano is where sound is initially loud for the first note (or two) then immediately pulled back in sound to a lower volume (it’s good for building intensity). Frame by frame he holds the left stick on the snare head to make the initial strike loud, then moves to the roll. Additionaly cool is that they show the proper technique in the animation for how this would be performed. The percussionist strikes the center of the drum with a single hit (where the loudest sound is produced), moves into a roll immediately, then immediately moves the roll towards the rim to lower the sound intensity and holds the sticks closer together and with a lowered stick height. As the ensemble crescendos (gets louder gradually) out of that initial fortepiano, he moves the roll back towards the center of the snare head, raises the stick level, and separates the distance between the two sticks to increase the volume. Even the snare head is animated to show the vibration of the snare head as the roll is being executed. That’s a heck of a lot of attention to detail and accuracy for such a brief instance.

– Then in the following cut the trumpets breathe together, the valves are being pressed at correct moments, and the body posture is upright.

– When the trombones come in with their cue, I love that they uniformly raise their instruments, but no two players do it at the same exact speed, giving a more human feel to how this is animated. Then you see that they all have the same slide position (3 (which is roughly at the bell) for middle C) at the correct length for the slide position on each player. The note in the audio is indeed a C for the trombone part too, so the audio and animation match up perfectly here. They each have alternating postures too, which yet again makes this feel more natural as no two people will hold their instruments exactly the same way since our bodies are different. They way they hold the trombones is correct too, even down to the way you hold the slide with your fingers.

– And flute hand animation in the next cut? Damn impressive stuff, down to the way they rest the instruments on their face, the positioning of the hands over the keys and holes, proper amount of rolling for tuning purposes, and the fingers move at the correct time with the audio.

– The horn player has a great marking on her music 😀 What’s additionally neat about the sheet music is that (if you recall in a previous impressions post) it properly shows the divisi (where horn 2 and 4 will take the top and bottom notes on the same page, split to which part they have) too!

– Even the next trumpet cut displays slight finger moment, and when they sustain the B-flat, the fingers stop moving appropriately. And since concert B-flat is the trumpet note C, the correct valves are used to play this note are accurate in the art (0/open, as in no fingers pressed down to play a concert B-flat on trumpet).

– Taki, in the next cut to indicate a stronger crescendo (where they gradually get louder), ends up using both hands and his body posture to indicate intensity. Very cool.

– The chime hit in the brief cut looks so awesome. You can see the physicality of the hit and the reverberation even in that split-second instance, as well as the correct mallet speed and area of the chimes hit.

– This next cut is the best thing. This bass technique properly animated is so good! She does the single hits with her right hand and holds her arm over the drum with the left stick hovering above the bass drum head. With the left hand, between each hit with the right hand, the left hand’s beater is placed on the drum head to dampen the sound after each strike to avoid the reverberance bass drums are known for, making a clean, dry hit. And when she goes into the roll, the body positioning is perfectly animated! You can see the exact moment she switches the grip in her left hand to traditional grip (right hand overhand grip, left hand underhand grip) for the roll, as is correct bass drum performance standards. As the ensemble crescendos (gradually gets louder), the stick heights are also increased, which shows the physicality of the increase in volume as it would be on a real life performer. I LOVE the way this bass drum part is animated. She even has her sleeves rolled up as to not get in the way.

– Even Midori’s fingers are moving at the correct timings.

– There’s the contrabass part Kumiko struggled with!

– If you pay attention to the timpani player on the left hand side of the screen, she also starts with her right hand. With how timpani are set up, the higher pitched drums are always on the right-hand side of the performer, and as you move your body to the left, each drum decreases in pitch. So the correct drums are being played at the correct time, with the correct hand alternations, which lines up perfectly with the audio. Even the physicality of the loudness of that section can be seen with the way her arms are positioned.

– I love how each of them wrote on their sheet music. It’s really cute and really personal to each performer.

– That rolled hi-five to keep it silent when the bass/low brass nailed it! Haha.

– THIS TAMBOURINE ANIMATION. The hits, the hand+finger positioning, the roll, the way the instrument physically moved when rolled/hit/tapped, aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

– Another good use of CG for the longer range shot. It’s easier to see on the bluray for sure, and it’s well implemented.

– THIS SOLO YESSSSS. (don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry). The fingerings and timings are perfect! (ahhhhhhhhhh when they show Yuuko and Kaori with the depth of field, then to Kaori as the solo ends, legit tears rolled down my face)

– They even show the bassoonist as well as the neck-strap that they wear!

– The chime animation and audio line up!

– Look at that clarinet animation! The detail with each fingering and the way the hands/fingers move and are positioned look so good!

– AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE EXTENDED IN THE MOVIE?!? IS KYOANI TRYING TO KILL ME? AND THEN PROCEEDED TO DO EVEN MORE OF IT?!?!? THEY ARE ACTUALLY INSANE! ARE THEY EVEN REAL HUMANS?

– Ah maaaaaaaan, I got those feelings in the pit of my stomach! JUST SHOW THE RESULTS.

– Welp, this show broke me. Legit cried as the results got revealed.

What a heck of a journey. If you asked me if I thought anyone was ever capable of making a series like this, yet alone with actual good instrumental animation, 2D animated instruments that looked realistic, and with audio and visuals that lined up near flawlessly, I would’ve probably said it’ll never happen, such a feat is way too difficult and detail-oriented to be done successfully. I’ve never been more glad to be proven wrong in such a spectacular fashion. Kumiko’s growth as a character, as well as all of the members of the ensemble, was really done well. The way they worked hard and got to where they did was so told in a really engaging fashion that was grounded and realistic for its setting.

The group dynamics, drama, and character interactions were believable for a band ensemble, and the way the conflicts and resolutions occurred were really engaging. This series brought back fond memories of my time in a high school band program, and vividly brought back the emotions that came with each of those moments. It’s kind of crazy to think that with such a huge cast something like this could feel so intimate, but it really nails it. I love how relatable it felt.

The visuals are just outstanding throughout. There’s such an intense attention to detail that I can only begin to fathom how long it even took to create something of this caliber. The sheer amount of reference materials they must’ve poured through, as well as seeing actual performances, and even studying something like how hands move for every single note of an instrument is testament to how insane the quality of something like this is. And to think that they managed to line up the hand animations on each instrument with the music, with all the correct keys being pressed at the correct moments, all the percussionist idiosyncrasies correctly displayed, the conducting technique being proper, across the entire series, with any amount of performers on the screen at a time, across such a wide diversity of instruments (let alone this massive undertaking of a last episode)… It’s actually blows my mind to think of the logistics of putting together a production like this.

Anyways, there are still plenty of things to come in season 2 that i’m looking forward to! They have some stiff competition in the next season, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can overcome that. More relationships will be forged, grow, and change. More great music will be impeccably animated! And will we finally get more info on Taki and Asuka, arguably the two most enigmatic figures by the end of season 1? I sure hope so. Also more Kumiko noises, I definitely want those too.

(I’ll do the Monaca OVA sometime later)

Bring on Season 2.

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