Fall 2016 – Previews (Part 3)

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Oh yes. Oh, oh yes.

It’s finally here. Sound! Euphonium 2 is just as grand a production in as graceful an execution as you’d expect, and its first episode comes to us as an extended pilot viewing. But that’s not the only thing that wowed me for this third installment of previews. Yet again do I catch wind of “that one show”, and this time around it’s about ice skating and flabby abdomens. Yup, I’m talking about Yuri!!! on Ice, which for many reasons has reignited my interest in this year’s fall offerings. I may have said I thought this season was dull, but boy was I delightfully misinformed.

Sound! Euphonium 2

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There really is a lot to love about Sound! Euphonium, from it’s confident portrayal of youthful aspirations and the frustrating demands of self-mastery to the basic dramas of simply growing up. The strong aesthetic of the series and its branding ranks it up as, arguably, one of the greatest shows to come from the venerable Kyoto Animation Studios, perhaps only bested (on my personal barometer) by Hyouka. But that said, that is certainly a very high bar to have set, and basically any anime that tries to portray high-school competition is striving to be just this show.

Because Sound! Euphonium isn’t really all just about the competition. It has a very high respect for each of its characters and gets us right into the headscape of a very interesting main character, Kumiko Omae. And it does so without unnecessary exposition; rather, there’s a lush expressiveness in the use of tonal palettes, first-person perspectives, and depth of field effects. The masterful talents of KyoAni is in full display in this show, which is less the centerpiece than it is the flourishes for an already impressively engaging narrative.

Taking place immediately after the events of Kitaouji High’s success at the regional championship, it’s off to the prefectural competition where they’re up against big-name schools. But instead of jumping into the action, the show takes a confident stride in building up its characters, adding texture to previously introduced characters and zooming in on the history of the concert band club that was only treated lightly in the first season. With these new conflicts established, Kumiko ventures forward to understand her relationships with these many variables — her friends, fellow bandmates, and even her own family — and how it reflects on her genuine (and newly-found) passion for playing the Euphonium.

The charm of Sound! Euphonium is in full force in this extended pilot screening of the second season, and I’m definitely more than ecstatic to know that I will be thoroughly enjoying this show through and through for the remainder of the season.

Initial Rating: 9.5/10

Yuri!!! on Ice

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Approximately half of the number of shows on my viewing list are anime originals. This is actually probably a first for me. The prospect of watching something “untested” has it’s own “thrills” attached to it, but that usually implies a pretty high set standard in terms of what is to be expected. The same can be said for Yuri!!! on Ice, which boasts impressive animation feats. For one, it executes the art of figure skating so beautifully, it feels as if figure skating was simply MEANT to be animated. The movement is so natural but at the same time distinctly animated that the union is a joy to behold.

But even the basic premise of Yuri!!! on Ice is an intriguing one. Focusing on the recent failure of a washed-up international figure skating hopeful Yuri Katsuki, the show takes efforts to highlight a sense of regret and emotional instability without any unneeded expository dialogue. This is achieved with carefully detailed facial expressions and purposeful narrative cues — everything moves with a certain amount of purpose that you feel the sense of inadequacy in Yuri Katsuki’s life choices. From his failures in the international grand prix to him squandering his chance of confessing to the girl he likes after running away from his home town for five years, sulking over his failure.

But there’s an interesting contrast in his character, as this is exemplified by a liberal use of comedy and SD characters. Instead of coming off as awkward, the comedy is quite charming. As much as one would be depressed with the events that lead up to Yuri’s returning home as a washed-up “has been”, his earnest dedication to the craft and failure to “simply let go” grants him a certain amount of admiration as a character. We can lose ourselves in stories that explore the depths of human depression and the anguish of defeat, but this story seems to want to paint a story of perseverance and dedication to a dream. Sometimes, it’s easier to simply turn away and ignore the challenges we face, protecting our egos in the assurance that avoiding risk is better for us.

But Yuri’s optimism feels infectious, almost urging the viewer to deny the pretenses we have regarding our own passions and simply going out and doing it. His “shrug it off” attitude is less denial than it is really “just do it”. Yuri!!! on Ice is shaping up to be a wonderful show that harks to the indomitable human spirit and the power of dreams. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be enjoying this show as much as I will be enjoying Sound! Euphonium. (And on an unrelated note, what’s with all of the “!” in these titles?)

Initial Rating: 9/10

 

Wow, these two shows really did surprise me. Fall 2016 might not have that many offerings for me at first glance, but boy are they very STRONG ones. I think I’m going to be enjoying this season! Still up are two more shows — so that means my viewing list has bumped up to seven titles. Oh dear.

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