Sound! Euphonium 2 Series Director Naoko Yamada Interview

This is another translation that I originally translated in 2017 to run on another site, but due to various circumstances, it was never run. With the recent arson incident, I’m posting these so that they’re out in the public for people to read. This is from the Sound! Euphonium 2 fanbook published by Kyoto Animation in 2017.

Series Director Naoko Yamada

The second season displays drama

– First, what duties did you perform while working as “series director” for this title?
To speak in general, I imagined my role close to a “trusted associate” to director Ishihara. There are performance scenes, and a lot of characters appear, so I served as support for the director’s job. I would constantly be thinking of ways to further improve the work from the general framework that the director and scriptwriter Hanada-san created by doing things like investigating into the characters’ emotions.

– So there were points where you treated the expression of characters’ emotions very importantly?
I wanted to treasure and ensure that all of the conversations felt like they were being said by living high school students in the midst of puberty so I took great care in moving lines around in scenes so that they wouldn’t sound like exposition. Technical discussions about concert music would appear in this show and characters would explain the necessary terms in dialogue at the right times, but I took great care to make sure what they were saying felt natural for that character. If I came across something that made me think “this is a bit too explanatory,” then I would untangle the lines and arrange them thinking about how to convey the information to the viewer and the balance between dialogue and imagery. While it’s important to disassemble information that should be conveyed into natural conversation, there are points where explanations are necessary. Balancing that is difficult, but in the end, I was able to safely and calmly increase the characters’ personality.

– What type of direction objective did you and director Ishihara set in place?
We began wanting to direct the Eupho series as making something like a documentary of high school students, so we aimed at creating drawings that felt like a cameraman was recording the atmosphere of the world where the girls were in the middle of adolescence in the concert band. The storyboards that director Ishihara drew for episode 1 firmly depicted the objective path that the second season would start with, so I think that was the best format to get close to the characters.
As the main direction for the second season was to show the drama of the story, we pulled back a bit on the atmosphere we used to showcase the first season with. As we would show the characters conflicting with one another, I think that would be the easiest way to convey the tales.

– The tempo greatly increased through the various stories in the second season.
It did. If we immediately showed the answer to the questions that arose from the story, then there wouldn’t be any stress. One strength of that tempo is that it became easy to understand how the second season itself was interlinked. This wasn’t a set of self-contained tales one-by-one; I think the series itself weaved together tales and presented them together.

Weaving stories

– As series director, what was the objective you hoisted regarding production of the second season?
The second season would be based on novels 2 and 3 of the series. It was necessary to end with Asuka handing over “Sound! Euphonium” to Kumiko, but I felt the essence was packed with Kumiko acting as a “protagonist” even in the tale with Mizore and Nozomi. Personally, I love the tale in novel 2….. I found it incredibly charming, so I wanted to take great care of it. Their story doesn’t end in that novel; their relationship gives a suggestion to Kumiko when she’s encountering her problems. Kumiko’s appeal comes to the surface when she’s chasing after their story. Kumiko and Reina’s issue, and then the stories that intertwine with Asuka after that and the issue between sisters are based from Mizore and Nozomi’s relationship. The stories in novels 2 and 3 are weaved together entirely, so I spent a lot of time talking with Ishihara-san and Hanada-san about how to refine the scripts to make the TV series one story.

– How was altering Kumiko’s emotions based on depicting the issues she had in the second half with Asuka and Mamiko?
The story with Kumiko and Mamiko was immensely beautiful. The story of the sisters misunderstanding each other, jealous of one another and yet respecting each other is very entertaining. They love each other, but they begin to separate accidentally. I think that came out very well.
For Asuka’s problems too, I think her immensely loveable side gradually came out. She had many issues with her family from when she was young and carried them inside her all this time. She’s not the type of girl to show off those family issues to someone else either. It was great to show Asuka changing her mind to think “it’s alright for me to talk if it’s Kumiko” and to show Kumiko’s growth having been moved by Asuka’s heart.

– What did you focus on when checking over the storyboards?
This season has a lot of scenes where we detail the subtleties of characters’ emotions, so I paid attention to ensure that we weren’t portraying those emotions one-sidedly while giving a wide breadth of interpretations. This was seen in particular in the first half of this season where Kumiko has a lot of scenes where she’s talking one-on-one with various characters. I consciously knew that by going through the perspective of Kumiko, these conversations can be conveyed evenly. It’s not about who is right in this situation; it’s about Kumiko accepting each person’s thoughts and happenings in order to widen Kumiko’s view of the world.
Kumiko is always pleased when Reina is there, so during the scene when she and Nozomi are talking at the pool, I consciously though that it would be best if we could convey that Nozomi is a straightforward type of person by having her tell her information as simple as possible.

– Besides the general flow of the story, what scenes or direction still have left an impression on you?
The gags with Kumiko’s hair. It’s so cute how it’ll stick up here/there at times. (laughs) She tries to hide herself when eavesdropping on Yuuko and Natsuki’s conversation at the lodge in episode 3, but the side of her curls juts out past the wall and so she’s seen. And Asuka playing around with her curls when she passes by. Those type of innocent gags. I think they’re great for getting people used to curly hair Kumiko as her character trait.

It’s because they’re adolescents

– We heard that the insert song “Polovtsian Dances” was your suggestion. What was your intent with the song?
In brief, I was thinking about the oboe the night before the script meeting. I suddenly remembered an acquaintance telling me about that song and I thought “doesn’t that song feel like it’s an oboe song?” so I listened to it again. Somehow the sheet music connected the melody from the flute to the oboe. Nozomi is the flute and Mizore the oboe…. “Isn’t that just perfect?” (laughs) I thought it closely fit their story. “It must be fate!” Surely everyone has heard that song once in their life, but I imagined it would incredibly beautiful if they hadn’t heard it and would meet such a lovely song by encountering it in Sound! Euphonium.

– What did you experience when you went to research real high school concert bands or when going to the school that collaborated with the performances, Senzoku University School of Music?
First I memorized the peculiar scents of the music room. The scents of the woodwinds. The scent of the brass. The scent of the music room. As the novels very much conveyed the image of the music room the moment you went inside, I aimed for the anime to “express the feeling of the music room down to its scent.”
When I was able to feel the state of the students while I observed them, I thought that concert band was a microcosm of society. Inside this large gathering of the band, there’s teams with each section and each section has their own rules and relationships they maintain. Surely they’re not on good terms all the time; in order to achieve a goal that everyone sets together, there’s times where they can’t say something harsh that they want to say or they can’t have something they clamor for. (Author) Takeda-sensei was able to depict that courteousness with her relationships and emotional portrayals. I’m always moved by her work.

– Now that production on the second season of Sound! Euphonium has finished, what do you think the charm of this series is?
I think it’s loveable charm is that the characters themselves feel like people. There’s nothing grand like “we must save the world,” it’s charming seeing something completely trivial feel like it could crumble at any time. Because we believe they’re people, we’re able to convey the emotions that everyone hid inside themselves and gradually become frank with others like Mizore and Nozomi and Kumiko and Mamiko.
Also, it’s lovely that everyone gets to stand out. There are so many characters with their own desires and drama and yet there are no portions where everyone is blurred. You know that “this girl is this kind of girl” and so it’s a title that protects that individually protects those beliefs and ascetics. When you assemble a dramatic section of kids with cores that don’t blur, you assemble a great play of adolescents.

– Finally, please give a message to all the readers.
The second season’s story continued to further bloom from the first season and now we’ve met its end. There were a lot of serious portions in the content of the second season, but for us making this anime, it was very refreshing. If everyone who watched was able to experience the refreshingness of adolescence we ran with despite the troubles we carried, I would be happy.

3 thoughts on “Sound! Euphonium 2 Series Director Naoko Yamada Interview

  1. One of the things that struck me when I started reading the novels was just how much more exposition there is, especially for the music. The only thing kinda similar to that in the anime is when Nozomi talks about the composer of the Liz and The Bluebird piece and even that is about 1 sentence.

  2. Huh. I didn’t know Naoko Yamada was still considered series director for season 2, I thought it was only just for season 1. I’m guessing that her role as series director though is still much more diminished in season 2 than it was in season 1?

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