Hibike! Euphonium is an excellent visual storyteller
Note: Slight spoilers for episodes 1-4 of Hibike! Euphonium 2.
KyoAni has been on fire lately and the second season of Hibike continued the efforts of what makes the previous season so good — a quiet, but focused story through it’s visuals.
Hibike has all these little moments where each photogenic screenshots can tell a thousand words, and the cinematography is excellent in capturing all these subtle movements and framing that portray a character’s emotion and motives better than any lengthy expositions. You might have caught onto this in season 1 but dare I say, season 2 has gotten even better in this aspect, which is an amazing feat considering season 1 was already top-tier in the visual department.
For example in the above series of screenshots, Kumiko is listening to “POLOVETSIAN DANCE”, a classical piece by Russian composer Aleksandr Borodin — the very same piece Yoroizuka and her previous concert band used in their performance in middle school, and lost. Obviously, she hates the song and you will also notice Yoroizuka is playing a rhythm game on her phone during this scene. The camera cutting briefly into her missing all the notes is an extremely nice touch, subtly telling you that she is disturbed. The show is literally full of subtle cues like this to help enhance the story. This particular scene does sticks out to me for some reason.
The above screenshots marked the end for Yoroizuka’s arc. This one was noteworthy for me too, in fact it’s one of the most powerful scenes so far where KyoAni’s use of cinematography and lighting contributed to the emotions substantially. Yoroizuka is insecure, and that insecurity is blanketed by the scene’s dull tone in colors. After Yuko’s ardent effort at reassuring her however, Yoroizuka finally breaks out of her “shell”, a visual narrative told excellently in the last two screenshots — where Yuko pulled her out of the shadows, slowly transitioning from darkness to brightness.
The two examples I gave are just two noteworthy ones among the many scenes where it’s visuals nicely accentuated the storytelling. The visuals truly worked wonders for Hibike, as I feel Yoroizuka’s arc was spectacularly engrossing — not just because it’s a good story but also how the visuals provide the perfect complement to it as well. KyoAni is literally a master at bringing out the little nuances from the backdrop to significance, and that ability really benefited the most from a slice of life drama like Hibike.
Hibike has a visual style that feels inseparable for what it’s trying to do. In fact, season 2 has proved all the more so that it’s literally impossible to watch the show without KyoAni. In any case, Hibike is an excellent visual storyteller. It’s a series full of subtleties and for people who prefer their storytelling a little more subdued, Hibike will be an extremely rewarding show.