Unlike last season when the only show that really surprised me pleasantly was Junketsu no Maria, this season has 4 such shows. Season 2 of OreGairu surprised me by being even more serious than the already unusually insightful first season. Things are finally coming to a head, and I’m loving the character development. Owari no Seraph is a show I expected to be absolutely terrible “LN trash”(with apologies to the few LN series that are actually decent), but instead it turned out to be a fix for those of us jonesing for more Attack on Titan. Eren Yeager is back, and he still wants to kill all the titans, except the titans are vampires now. It’s got WIT Studio producing and Hiroyuki Sawano doing the OST(as well as the OP and ED!). That’s more than I asked for, and I mean that in a very good way. It was the same deal with Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, actually. I expected it to be a generic harem with some kind of gimmick – which, to be fair, is pretty much what it is, at least in terms of plot, story and jokes – but what surprised me was how much I enjoyed it. It’s teetering on the totally arbitrary and opinion-based line between “trash” and “non-trash”, but it’s not awful. It gets a few chuckles out of me each episode.
And the most surprising show of the season, at least so far, is…
Now, to clarify, Euphonium surprised me in the same way as OreGairu. I already knew the visuals would stand out due to the simple fact that KyoAni is behind it, and I knew that I’d probably like the story, what with it being about music and all. So I naturally hoped for it to at least look and sound excellent. My first impressions in this regard were already more than decent, but I honestly didn’t expect it to impress me with both its story as well as its style of storytelling.
I know I’m generalising and simplifying unnecessarily when I say this, but I feel like most of KyoAni’s shows are almost entirely character-driven, with the actual story taking the backseat, and I also feel like they spend a lot of time on making the dialogue funny. Not so in Euphonium. Admittedly, KyoAni are – and I’m generalising again – good at both of those things, but it’s interesting to see a show done a bit differently. I’m much more interested in the ensemble of characters rather than the solo performances, which is why the only character whose name I don’t struggle to remember is Asuka(and that’s because her name is Asuka). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The ensemble working as an ensemble is critical to the story, after all.
As for the comedy, the show has been fairly mezzo-piano so far. By that I mean that the show doesn’t rely much on panicked or excited yelling, or on powerful physical comedy. It’s pleasantly quiet. The one department of comedy where the story doesn’t pull any punches is visual comedy. There are many funny faces in this show.
In contrast to the funny faces, the thing I like most about this show, the thing that surprised me the most, is how serious the underlying story is. I’m not going to generalise again and say “KyoAni aren’t known for serious stories”, but I honestly didn’t expect the story to be as serious as it is. And because of how slow and melodical the pacing is, I didn’t even realise how serious it was until episode 2. I thought the first scene of the first episode was just an overly dramatic, throwaway, character-establishing intro. Actually, that’s still kind of what it was, at least so far, but it did do a good job of setting the tone. The show is not optimistic, it’s melancholic. Not energetic, pessimistic. Most pop music is written in major, this show isn’t.