In 2013, Ayano Takeda wrote a novel based on her and her friends’ experiences in concert band/wind music called Sound! Euphonium: Welcome to the North Uji High School Concert Band. This was her second novel published after she won the Japan Love Novel award for her manuscript Today, We Breathed Together. Takeda’s novel caught the attention of two producers at Kyoto Animation (Eiharu Oohashi and Riri Senami). They approached the publisher for the rights to adapt it into an anime and, after partnering with Pony Canyon, Lantis, and Rakuonsha, they began airing it in April 2015. This review covers the first Japanese Blu-ray volume of the show published by Kyoto Animation and the Hibike Production Partners.
The volume contains the first two episodes “Welcome to High School” and “Nice to Meet You, Euphonium.” Included with the disc are two postcards featuring the eyecatches of the band members, a big card of a newly drawn Asuka illustration, and a booklet all enclosed in a newly drawn digipak featuring the bass section members. A serial code to be entered in a lottery for priority status of purchase to the Euphonium event in October is included but not pictured (I gave the code to an acquaintance in Japan).
The booklet itself details Kumiko and Reina on the first two pages before delving into the instruments of the bass section. Next are details about the episodes on the disc with comments by the episode director and episode animation director. Following that are preliminary drafts of the character designs and art boards of various locations from the show. It finishes with a short dictionary of wind music terminology and the credits for the show/package.
Image quality is very good, though there are some spots with banding issues. The photography techniques used by the staff are very clearly shown in contrast to the streams from Crunchyroll. The additional detail provided is very noticeable and provides a much clearer/higher contrast visual product. These are definitely the versions you want to save.
Similar to the video, the audio included on the set is much cleaner and more crisp than either the legal stream or the fansub rips from Japanese TV. The performances sound much clearer and I was able to easily distinguish the issues the band played in episode 1 and the “very good” performance from Kumiko’s middle school at a easier level than with the streams. It sounded great coming from my surround sound system.
Included on the disc is a variety of extras. First we have a short running about 2 minutes long where Hazuki asks about bathing instruments in water/taking a bath with your instrument. It’s a cute little gag, aided by the short running time. Next are two “making of” features that show the Senzoku Gakuen Freshman Wind Ensemble performing the pieces in the first two episodes. Bits of commentary are provided before/during/after the performances to aid in comprehension. These were fascinating to watch and are a great supplement to the animated performances. There’s also the next episode preview published online for episode 2. We have the standard textless opening/ending and the promotional videos/commercials (excluding the short version immediately uploaded on the KyoAni channel) to close out the disc.
Two sets of audio commentaries are included. The first is a cast commentary featuring the main four girls’ seiyuu: Tomoyo Kurosawa (Kumiko Oumae), Ayaka Asai (Hazuki Katou), Moe Toyota (Sapphire Kawashima) und Chika Anzai (Reina Kousaka) covering both episodes. The second is a staff commentary with Tatsuya Ishihara (Director)/Naoko Yamada (Series Director) on episode 1 and Ishihara/Jukki Hanada (Series Composition) on episode 2. I confess to only listening to the staff commentary and it was pretty interesting. I loved Ishihara/Yamada talking about layers of reporting when describing her role as a series director.
And finally, since I ordered this volume from the KyoAni Shop website, my volume had a couple of bonus items included. The first is a newly drawn illustrated card featuring Sapphire and Reina. The original plan was to make an encompassing illustration with all 7 cards, but that text has since been removed. Secondly was a booklet containing original key frame and background artwork for the first two episodes. It’s a very cute little booklet that’s well worth paying the extra costs in my opinion.
That is the first volume of Sound! Euphonium‘s blu-ray sets. A new volume is planned to be released each month, and while I don’t plan to review each volume, I’ll include a picture review of the whole set when it is completed.