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Sound! Euphonium: The Movie - Our Promise: A Brand New Day (2019)

As Highschool sophomore Kumiko enters her second year at Kitauji High School she finds herself with new responsibilities. As she is now an established member of the school's concert band, she has to juggle trying to make it to the nationals with taking on a mentor role to the new freshman recruits- not to mention schoolwork and a budding romance. And the newbies bring plenty of issues of their own. How will Kumiko manage?

Sound Euphonium The Movie- Our Promise: A Brand New Day is a sequel to the Sound Euphonium television series. Based on a series of light novels, the movie follows on from the events of the first two seasons of the series (aired in 2015 and 2016 respectively) and 2018 theatrical standalone spin-off Liz and The Blue Bird, directed by A Silent Voice's Naoko Yamada. The film was directed by series veteran Tatsuya Ishihara and animation production was by Kyoto Animation.

So first things first- yes, as mentioned this is a sequel/continuation of a TV series, and you will undoubtedly get the most reward from it if you have watched the full series. But by no means is it necessary to have watched any of the prior series to enjoy it- full disclosure: I have never watched the show. It's not plot-heavy and the set up of a new intake of orchestra members helps make it feel pretty newcomer friendly. There may be some character intricacies or cameos you'll miss as a newbie, but everything else is easy enough to catch up on. If you have seen basically any highschool anime, you'll be good to go.

The majority of movies or series about musicians (anime or otherwise) will focus on something seen as more "cool" such as rock, rap, R&B or even acapella. Orchestra seems an unusual pick. However, at its heart, it's the same as any other competition story. It's really neither here nor there that they are competing to be the best concert band- you could swap it out for cheerleading, volleyball, judo, swimming or any other sport or activity you can compete in and the series would be basically the same. The story follows characters that are giving their all to be the best at what they do, and how it impacts their lives. That said- as a focus, it's certainly a novelty.

In the film at least, the band very much stays the center of attention. All the 'action' takes place in a kind of twilight world before or after school, or during vacation. The only adult who gets any significant screentime is the bandleader. We never see the characters in class, and we rarely see their lives outside of band. It makes it seem very much like the band is their life.

Conversations between characters seem to focus either on the band and the competition or on their character relationships. Although it takes place in a mixed school, the male characters only really fill supporting roles.  In contrast with so many teen series romance takes a backseat- there's only really one couple of note and they appear only fleetingly and are not a major part of the story. The important characters here are all girls, and all the key relationships in the film are between them. They're strictly platonic in nature, although viewing some as potentially romantic is a perfectly valid reading (that will keep the shippers happy).

All the drama here is low stakes- will they make it to nationals? Will somebody leave the band? Will these characters fall out or still be friends.  I've never been a teenage girl (Japanese or otherwise) or a member of a concert orchestra, so I can't speak for how well it represents that. But Brand New Day definitely manages to capture something universal about how when you're a teen, everything seems heightened and those small-stakes concerns feel like the most important thing in the world. It captures a distinct moment in time and the fleeting nature of our formative years. It's sure to make those of us looking back feel a wave of nostalgia and a touch of melancholy.

To tell the truth, there's nothing particularly cinematic here. It doesn't particularly take advantage of the format, just telling the next part of the story that could easily have been told in a series over a longer timeframe. It works well as film regardless. It's well paced and despite covering events that take place over several months, it still takes its time within scenes itself. This avoids it ever feeling overly compressed or rushed.

As a Kyoto Animation production, you'd expect the film to have high production values- and you would not be disappointed. It doesn't quite have the theatrical sheen of the studio's previous A Silent Voice, or even Liz and The Blue Bird, and looks more televisual. But TV-quality KyoAni is still very good indeed so Brand New Day is a very good looking film. It has the studio's distinctive rosy-cheeked look, with lovely character designs by the late Shoko Ikeda (tragically a victim of last year's horrific arson attack). The animation is beautifully fluid and detailed- one shot in which a character ties her hair back struck me as a scene other studios would never bother to include.

The film's climax sees the band perform at regionals, and it turns out to be quite something. Playing out in real-time for the full length of the piece, it's a beautifully animated scene with some dynamic 'camera-work' to give it extra zing. Although its technically impressive its ultimately down to the excellent characterization done throughout the film that the sequence manages to be quite so compelling. If you're anything like me you'll find yourself invested, and rooting for them to win.

Japanese animation is often stigmatized by outsiders as little more than shrill, seizure-inducing toy commercials, or ultraviolent sci-fi for horny teenagers, but Sound Euphonium is compelling evidence that it can be much more. Not every story has to deal with a world-ending threat, or strange new worlds- this is content to tell a simple story and tell it well. Warm, cute as a button and unashamedly wholesome, Sound Euphonium The Movie is an uncomplicated treat.



IN A NUTSHELL:  Gorgeously animated and unabashedly uplifting, Sound Euphonium could be the ideal quarantine distraction.