Should You Watch

Should You Watch Sound! Euphonium?

Are you a concert band geek? Do you want animation that make Ghibli films look like knockoffs? Do you like cute girls (and guys)? Well, I have the anime for you. This series focuses on human and emotional conflict through the power of concert band.

Cover art for Sound! Euphonium

Hibike! Euphonium  (響け!ユーフォニアム) a.k.a. Sound! Euphonium has its eyes set on a dysfunctional high school concert band and the attempts made to restore it to its former glory. Our main girl is Kumiko Oumae, an apathetic euphonium player. Her last concert band in middle school failed to get a high enough ranking to be able to compete in the national competition, referred to as the Nationals. Her bandmate, Reina Kousaka, is left gravely disappointed by the band’s performance, and the two leave middle school on sour terms. Both girls attend the same high school. Reina and, while hesitant at first, Kumiko join the school’s concert band, both noticing how poorly they play. The band has a sour history to them as well, and the series is spent having the band training for Nationals while working out the preexisting and arising conflicts between the bandmates.

Of course, what stands out the most in this anime is the quality of it. The animation is absolutely stunning. The colors are vibrant, the movement of the characters, whether they’re talking or playing instruments, feels natural and looks amazingly smooth, and the voice acting pulls you right into the scene. Not to mention how realistic the band’s performances sound. I’m a bit of a band geek myself, and hearing the band’s first performance actually made me cringe. It sounded exactly like a bad high school band. Whenever the band was practicing, I could hear the problems that the conductor was pointing out. These elements are essential for having your anime-watching experience be an immersive one, and Kyoto Animation pulls out all of the stops to make this something you will never forget.

Of course, aesthetic isn’t everything; there’s writing and characters to consider as well. Kyoto Animation decided to be rid of the “unnatural hair color” trend while still having original and recognizable character designs. Each character has their own recognizable personality, and the drama that occurs between them feels real. Some characters are a little too competitive and try too hard to one-up each other. Others simply don’t care about Nationals and this creates friction between them and those who do care. To makes matters even more complicated, not all members of the band can perform in some competitions. None of the conflicts feel overdramatized or unnatural, and they’re still engaging enough to keep me watching. None of the characters are just an archetype, none of them are just added for fluff. Each one has their story to tell and it genuinely feels like they’re trying their hardest. Nothing is done out of plot convenience, the story actually works with the characters rather than making them part of the background, and that right there is this anime’s defining trait.

In conclusion, Sound! Euphonium provides down-to-earth human conflicts while still keeping them engaging and interesting. The characters are developed and given actual personalities, and the production quality alone is enough to keep you watching. Sound! Euphonium is definitely an anime worth watching.

Should You Watch Lucky Star?

Slice-of-life anime all need to face one challenge: having relatable characters and situations while still making them interesting to watch. Because most people’s lives don’t feature fighting demons in the Underworld, battling foes wile sailing the high seas, or being trapped in a fantasy world, the possible premises for slice-of-life plotlines are drastically cut. Usually, the anime focuses primarily on humor or human drama to make a name for itself. Lucky Star takes a slightly different approach to slice-of-life than most other anime, focusing mostly on Japan’s otaku culture.

Cover art for Lucky☆Star

Lucky☆Star (らき☆すた)  is an anime well-known for its execution of the slice-of-life aspect. The main star, Konata, is a proud high school otaku girl, playing MMOs, eroge, and watching anime in her free time. Her friends don’t really understand otaku culture, but accept it nonetheless. The anime mostly consists of pointless discussion about whatever topics enter the girls’ heads, being cut off every once in a while by some zany shenanigans of some third party, whether it be the determined store manager, Aya Hirano’s concert, or Comiket.

At the end of each episode, we’re greeted with the Lucky Channel segment. I have never found myself laughing harder watching the entire series than whatever was featured in this segment of the episodes. Two more characters are introduced, Shiraishi, the intern, and Akira, a popular idol and the de facto star of the segment. Akira always goes on rants of what it’s like being an idol while Shiraishi is left to keep the segment afloat. Throughout the series, the conversations between the two begin to break the forth wall, and you’re left wondering how much of that was real. As in real real.

What I think Lucky Star does beautifully is making the dialogue both relatable and engaging. Every bit of dialogue from the main characters doesn’t feel overly exaggerated or overly dramatized; it fits perfectly into our actual world. The dialogue feels like an actual conversation between actual people. Sure, it makes less sense if you’re not heavily informed on 2000-era otaku culture, but that’s what makes it all the more engaging. Whenever Konata throws out some random reference, most people aren’t going to get it, and she knows that. I think what a lot of slice-of-life anime try to do is make the dialogue too easily digestable, having to resort to vague, nonspecific references. If you’ve seen a lot of slice-of-life anime, you probably know what I’m talking about. Whenever a character says something like “Remember that song that was super popular a long time ago?” with no other context added, the presented world suddenly doesn’t feel very inviting or interesting anymore. Sure, it’s easy to understand, but there isn’t a lot of substance to understand.

Of course, I’m not saying every line of dialogue from this show is worthy of being from the mouth of Shakespeare or Plato. Towards the halfway point of the anime’s runtime, more characters are introduced seemingly for the sake of featuring more characters from the original web koma series. The show puts a large amount of focus on these characters without expanding beyond their basic archetype. Because there’s not much to their character, the dialogue becomes exactly like what I was describing earlier: being very vague and breaking any sort of immersion you had.

In conclusion, Lucky Star doesn’t have any too ambitious goals, just to be a little different from the clutter of slice-of-life anime. Its humor explores an unexplored world of being too specific for most viewers to understand while still providing something for everyone to enjoy. I recommend that everyone watch at least the first episode through and through and see whether they like it or not. It does trail off later down the line, but not enough to warrant me from dropping the series entirely. Hell, I watched it twice and I thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

Should You Watch The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan?

Whenever anything Haruhi-related is brought up online, chances are people start to talk about its spin-off series, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (長門有希ちゃんの消失), a.k.a. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. I’ll say this right now: if you’re not a fan of the Haruhi Suzumiya series or a fan of the slice-of-life genre, then this anime’s not gonna be your cup of tea. If you are, however, then please stick around. Maybe you’re in for a treat.

Cover art for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

As previously stated, this is a spin-off series of the more known and renowned Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series. This in particular is based on the manga of the same name. As the name suggests, it focuses mostly on Yuki Nagato, also featured in the Haruhi series. Nagato is a shy, unmotivated girl that wishes to have fun as a high school student with her friends in the Literature Club, which doesn’t do anything specific. She manages to recruit Kyon, a sarcasm-throwing, laid-back guy. It’s revealed (though pretty apparent from the start) that she has a crush on Kyon. Nagato’s best friend is Ryouko Asasuka, who is almost the polar opposite of Nagato; she’s sociable, competitive, and reliable. Asakura acts like a mother of Nagato, making her dinner, waking her up, and teaching her how to get together with Kyon.

That’s the essential premise of the series. However, as it goes on, new obstacles and issues arise.I’ll talk a little more about that later. The main part of the series isn’t all that interesting, to be perfectly honest. If you’re a Haruhi fan, you’ll spot all of the references and nods to the original series. If you like slice-of-life, the laid-back atmosphere is very welcoming. However, that atmosphere changes constantly whenever Haruhi Suzumiya is involved.

Haruhi is exactly like the Haruhi from the original series. She’s overly eccentric, bossy, inconsiderate, and obsessed with the supernatural. Haruhi’s inclusion is the biggest problem with this series. We, the audience, get the impression that this is going to be a relaxing romance series. However, whenever Haruhi is on-screen, she takes up all of the attention, and story derails until she’s out of the scene. If you found Haruhi annoying in the original series, then you’ll find her to be outstandingly annoying in this one. She makes the relationship progression slow to a crawl, actually making it go backwards in some cases. Quite an achievement. The show spends way too much time on her and not enough on Kyon and Nagato.

I won’t give away too much, but the show takes a completely different direction with its story partway through, and it’s by far the most interesting section. I call it the Disappearance arc. The Disappearance arc focuses mostly on the psychological state of Nagato, about the meaning of identity and self. It’s night and day when comparing it to the first bit of the show, making me question why that first bit even exists in the first place. To makes the structure of the show even more confusing, the Disappearance arc is then followed by absolutely pointless episodes of exactly the same kind of uninteresting stuff the first arc had.

The series ends on pretty much nothing. The extra episodes had no purpose. Most of the show seems to have no purpose. The only interesting bit of the show is sandwiched by a mess of slice-of-life romance and Haruhi’s antics interfering with the pacing. Even with all of that, the show isn’t all that bad. Humor is subjective, so everyone’s left to their own devices in that regard, as this show is a comedy most of the time. However, as if a final nail to the coffin, this show actually fails to provide what was originally proposed: a romance between Kyon and Nagato. Kyon and literally everyone else are shown having more chemistry than with Nagato.

In conclusion, I do not greatly recommend watching The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. It fails on a storytelling level, it loses focus on its goal all too often, and doesn’t actually have a story to tell. It’s mostly just generic slice-of-life romance filler with Haruhi characters to provoke the fans. It’s meant only as a thing for fans of the original Haruhi series to watch. I’ll be perfectly honest: I like this show. I found it to be genuinely funny a lot of the time, and Nagato is my absolute favorite character (at least, as of now when I’m writing this), so there is some personal bias in that regard.

 

Oh wait, there’s more? Yep, there’s also an OVA for this show as well. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu: Owarenai Natsuyasumi (長門有希ちゃんの消失 第17話「終われない夏休み), a.k.a. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Incomplete Summer (Episode 17), aired shortly after the main series.

Cover art for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Incomplete Summer

It’s filled with nothing but references to the original Haruhi series. It actually manages to add even less than what the filler did in the main show. If you’re looking for anything more, it isn’t gonna be here. I do not recommend watching the OVA.