The live performance is one of the most important moments in all music anime. If it’s good, it makes the characters feel more real and alive. If the anime skips the performance, it makes us wonder why it is a music anime in the first place.
Many music anime such as Stop This Sound, which I recently watched, have so much dialogue during the performance. As they play their instruments, the characters watching them play would make remarks like, “It’s very good. I feel like all the seasons have changed” or “oh my God they all play the impossible notes in sync even though it’s… well, impossible!!!” The remarks, to me, break the flow of the performance. I want to listen to the performance and let me catch it first hand how awesome or awful they play and how good they’ve become. But I can’t because other characters keep interruptin me and describe how they play to me.
The anime would also not let us listen to their practice sessions. It always goes off to something like “and then they practised hard for the rest of the night”. This makes it difficult for me to know how bad they were and how good they’ve become. The only thing the anime let me listen to is their actual live performance but I can’t compare their actual performance with anything that comes before it. So how am I going to tell if they’ve improved or not? The answer is, other characters’ remarks… Which is very annoying to me.
I get it that many of the music anime are adapted from the manga and since the manga don’t have any sound, they’d have to describe their performances with words. But this is anime, I think it’s much better if they change things a bit.
Sound! Euphonium is so far the best I’ve experienced when it comes to performances. All their performances and rehearsals, don’t have any unnecessary explanation. No words are spoken at all during the performances. They convey all the messages using only visual presentation. But of course, visual presentation alone isn’t enough for the audience to accurately interpret the meaning. What we need is background information.
With enough background information, we will know why certain characters glance at each other during the performance or why the anime focuses on a specific character at a particular section of the song. Maybe a character had trouble playing a specific part so the camera focuses on her, maybe two characters fight to play the solo part, maybe a character plays in an ensemble for the first time. Just by focusing on certain characters at the right moment, given that we know the stories of the characters prior to the performances, we get to derive meaning out of it. Sound! Euphonium does this in all of their performances, even their small practice sessions making them feel full and action packed.
The best example is the rehearsal from the movie Liz and The Blue Bird. No words are spoken at all but we understand everything because of the visual presentation of the blue bird, Mizore’s sudden improvement with her oboe and Nozomi’s reaction towards Mizore’s play. Before this rehearsal, we are already exposed to the story of the blue bird, thus we have enough information to interpret how it resembles the relationship between Mizore, the oboe player and Nozomi, the flute player. Accompanied with the very beautiful musical play, it’s just perfect.
It also helps that all Sound! Euphonium performances are not just static, still images like other music anime tend to be, so we get to see the characters play as if they’re really playing in front of us. Their hand movements, their breathing, they facial expression, all are explicitly shown to us. We don’t need to fill any gap with our own imagination. Kyoto Animation has done this since K-On. It’s quite impressive.
Musical performances in Sound! Euphonium is the main reason why I like the series so much. I began comparing performances of other music anime with Sound! Euphonium but usually end up disappointed. I wish more music anime would follow what Sound! Euphonium did. Then again, I haven’t watched many music anime to begin with so I might stumble upon a great one in the future.