In 2011, the producers at Kyoto Animation decided to make one of the honorable mentions in 2010’s Kyoto Animation Awards into an animated TV series. In contrast to the vast majority of the works produced by the studio, this would be a more action-oriented series. In order to capture the proper details of action animation, animator Taichi Ishidate was asked to helm a series as director for the first time. While he enjoyed the original novel, he, along with series composer Jukki Hanada, knew that it wouldn’t be enough for a full length 12 episode series. Tatsuya Ishihara had gone through that situation and decided to go heavily original with his adaptation; Ishidate instead incorporated the first novel’s main storyline into an original tale about two star-crossed teens trying to find their way in a strange world around them. In 2016, Kyoto Animation and Pony Canyon released a Blu-ray Box of the series. This is a review of that box, as bought at the Kyoto Animation physical store in Uji, Japan. Continue reading
Hyouka was a work of love by Yasuhiro Takemoto. While he honed his directorial talent on works with comedy like Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu and Lucky Star, Takemoto had also worked on more serious titles like Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. He had read the “Classics Club” novel series by Honobu Yonezawa and found them fascinating. As Kyoto Animation was beginning to move away from relying on Kadokawa Shoten and TBS to provide them material to adapt, Takemoto pushed for one final adaptation of this Kadokawa Shoten novel series. With how it could fit in Kadokawa Producer Ito’s schedule following Future Diary, it was a good choice since the first four novels only allowed 22 episodes worth of content. As with most Kadokawa titles (Future Diary being the weird exception), they released the show in 2-episode home video volumes for a total of 11 volumes. This is a review of all 11 Hyouka Blu-ray Limited Edition volumes.
In late 2013, Ayano Takeda’s second novel, Sound! Euphonium, was published by Takarajimasha under their paperback label. It was read by two producers at Kyoto Animation who instantly knew that they wanted their studio to adapt it into an anime production. In autumn 2014, Takarajimasha announced the anime adaptation and at Comiket 87, the first promotional video announcing it was to be adapted by KyoAni was revealed. Simultaneously, Takarajimasha took the publicity opportunity to publish 3 sequel novels to Euphonium in early 2015. The show was a success and KyoAni wanted to adapt more in a sequel. After maintaining interest in the franchise with a recap film in April 2016, the second season is set to air from October to December 2016. Last year, I wrote a primer on what to expect from Sound! Euphonium, having read the novel prior to broadcast. This year, I wanted to write a review of what happened previously and what to expect in the second season.
The first Sound! Euphonium novel introduces us to the story’s protagonist, Kumiko Oumae. Kumiko had a couple of traumatic events in middle school, concluding with her school’s concert band earning gold in the Kyoto Prefectural Competition, but not moving onward to the Kansai Competition. While Kumiko was happy they earned gold, her acquaintance, Reina Kousaka, was frustrated beyond belief since their path was stopped. Kumiko questioned if Reina thought they would go to Nationals and Reina got upset. Due to that, Kumiko chose to go to North Uji, a school not known for its concert band, mostly due to their uniform.
At North Uji, Kumiko meets Hazuki Katou and Sapphire Kawashima (just call her Midori) in her class. Hazuki and Sapphire want to join the concert band, but Kumiko remains timid, especially when Reina comes in and instantly joins it. Kumiko dwells, but eventually joins it and ends up playing the euphonium yet again. The concert band is heavily disjointed at first, but after instruction from their new advisor, Noboru Taki, they steadily improve daily. After a round of practicing, they perform at the Sunrise Festival, capturing some attention away from the nationally-known Rikka High School Marching Band.
After Sunrise, Taki announces that auditions to perform at the Kyoto Prefectural Competition will be held soon and to practice their parts. Kumiko’s other traumatic event was when she was chosen to perform as an underclassman in middle school over one of her seniors. Kumiko practices and fears a result where she’s chosen over her second-year senior, Natsuki Nakagawa. During this period of strife, Kumiko is suddenly asked if she likes her childhood friend, Shuichi Tsukamoto, since Hazuki is crushing on him. Trying to avoid the love triangle, since she doesn’t have feelings for him, Kumiko chooses to go to the Agata Festival with the next girl that walks out of the clubroom: Reina Kousaka.
Reina chooses to climb up Mt. Daikichi instead of attending the festival itself. She compliments how Kumiko always says the truth of what’s on her mind and explains how she wants to be special. This inspires Kumiko to practice more and improve herself. Both are chosen to play in the Kyoto Competition with Reina winning the trumpet solo over the third year part leader Kaori Nagaseko. A rumor starts going around that Reina personally knew Taki before he was employed at North Uji, which frustrates Reina. Kumiko remains by her side and gives her strength through a second audition in front of the band before the Competition. The result is the same: Reina will perform the solo.
As the Competition comes closer, Taki revises the score so that the euphoniums will double Sapphire’s contrabass on a section. While the more talented Asuka is able to play that section easily, Kumiko continues to struggle until she is told not to play that section by Taki. Frustrated, Kumiko finally realizes how Reina felt in middle school. She takes that determination not to fail to the Competition alongside everyone else’s renewed spirits. In the end, North Uji was one of the three schools chosen to move forward to the Kansai Competition.
And so the next piece begins….
Sound! Euphonium 2 begins right where we left off: the results of the Kyoto Competition. We get information about when the Kansai Competition will occur and plans for practicing for it. In an effort to improve herself, Kumiko decides to head to school to practice alongside Reina, meeting at the station at 05:00 each morning. When they arrive, a second-year is already there: Mizore Yoroizuka, who plays the oboe. Mizore’s tale involving her former friend, the former flute player Nozomi Kasaki, will be a big part of this upcoming season.
The road to the National Competition in concert band goes as such:
Prefectural Competitions (Early August)
Regional Competitions (Late August)
All Japan Band Competition (total of 30 schools out of over 1,500 in Japan – Early October)
Out of the 28 schools that participate in the yearly Kyoto Competitions, only 3 move forward. In the Kansai region (one of Japan’s most densely populated areas) there are eight other prefectures with a number of participants similar to the amount of schools that participated in Kyoto’s competition. Only the best 20 schools from those 8 other regions moved on to the Kansai Competition like North Uji, Rikka, and the unnamed Kyoto representative did and so the level of the field grew that much higher this time around. The scope of these competitions is quite vast, and to survive even one round of culling is a major feat. Now there’s 22 other schools each vying to be one of the three that move to the All Japan Band Competition.
In other words, North Uji has to be one of the top three schools in the entire Kansai region in order to attend Nationals. There’s three huge problems standing in their way: Myoujyou Engineering High School (MyouKou), Osaka Toushou High School, and Shuutou University Affiliated High School (ShuuDai Fuzoku). Those three schools have been at the top of the participating schools in the Kansai region for some time. If North Uji is to go to Nationals, they have to not only beat 19 other schools as talented or greater than they were at Kyoto, but they also have to dethrone one of the “top three.” Making it to Kansai was difficult, but doable. Making it to Nationals against this competition requires a miracle.
So in order to create this miracle, Taki calls upon his college friends: Masahiro Hashimoto and Satomi Niiyama. Hashimoto will help instruct the percussion section while Niiyama will help instruct the woodwinds. Taki will handle brass by himself. This allows each section to improve simultaneously.
Beyond that, season 2 will feature the Uji Fireworks Festival (which hasn’t happened in real life for the past couple of years), an outing by the four first year girls to a local pool, and more information regarding the two assisting characters people are most interested in: Asuka and Taki. Why does Asuka play the euphonium? Why did Taki become an advisor at such a young age? We’ll find out!
Will North Uji pull off the miracle and make it to Nationals? Will they survive their “Hottest Summer” and “Biggest Crisis”? What will happen with Kumiko and her friends? Also, what’s going on with Kumiko’s sister, Mamiko? Will they all reach Heaven…..or will they fall to Hell?
Find out in….. Sound! Euphonium 2!
In 2011, the producers at Animation Do and Kyoto Animation decided to make one of the honorable mentions in 2011’s Kyoto Animation Awards into an animated TV series. To helm it, Hiroko Utsumi planed and directed a production for the first time. The Free! TV series ran from July 2013-September 2013 for 12 broadcast episodes and was immensely popular upon broadcast. A sequel was never in doubt and it aired from July 2014-September 2014. At the fan events in March 2015, it was announced that a movie adapting the second novel would be released later that year. It would continually be advertised with re-runs of the TV series both at theatre events and during re-runs set across the country. While the immediate box office returns weren’t what people expected, it had long enough legs to be a success. Then on July 20, 2016, it was released onto Blu-ray and DVD from Kyoto Animation and the production committee. This is a review of the Blu-ray release (though the only difference between versions is the disc included). My thoughts on the movie itself are posted here on my tumblr page. Continue reading
Nichijou was a highly anticipated show. Why shouldn’t it have been? Kadokawa Shoten were riding high off of many successes in the late 2000s anime market. Their partnership with Kyoto Animation on the Full Metal Panic, Haruhi Suzumiya, and Lucky Star series earned them lots of yen from novel sales and merchandising. While there was a slight downturn with their collaboration on the Munto TV series, that could be easily explained as a blip, a statistical outlier. As such, Kadokawa Producer Atsushi Ito figured big things would happen for Nichijou and planned/marketed it as a success from day 1. Suffice to say, certain goals were not met and Kadokawa Shoten’s video division took a loss on the show. Likely putting a popular gag comedy in 13 BD/DVD volumes scheduled for longer than a year didn’t help. In 2013, Kadokawa began re-releasing older titles in compilation Blu-ray boxes. The very first title released in this format was Nichijou to earn a bit more yen from video sales. This is a review of that BD-Box from August 2013.
Following the hugely successful first season, TBS producer Yoshihisa Nakayama was easily able to get a sequel approved rapidly after the show finished broadcasting. Furthermore, he was able to convince TBS (and other committee members) to make this sequel twice as long as the first season was. In order to celebrate 5 years since broadcast, TBS released both seasons of the show in blu-ray boxes. After the successful first season box, the second was released in November of 2014. This is a review of that box set.
In 2008, TBS producer Yoshihisa Nakayama took on a risk when deciding to make a TV anime series adaptation of a manga right after the first volume was published! In the end, his risk paid off immensely for TBS as K-On! became one of the big hit shows of 2009 (really only behind Bakemonogatari in popularity). The series was the first Kyoto Animation production to be released on Blu-ray (back in 2009), so it took 5 years (and a necessity of additional revenue to shore up the fiscal year) for TBS to greenlight a BD-Box in March 2014. This is a review of that box set.