Hibike! Euphonium 2 is more Hibike! Euphonium. And I mean this in the truest sense of the word – it is a direct continuation of the first season, and if you liked that I’m hard pressed to find reasons why you’ll dislike this.
Specifically, it’s more of the incredible second half of the first season – that is, loaded with intimacy, emotion and feeling. Much of the first season was devoted to Kumiko and Reina, with the two only connecting in the second half. This second season has the two as close friends throughout (as if they’re only friends…), so we get so many of those wonderful, quiet, close moments the two shared. And with that relationship thoroughly established, the show takes the opportunity to really dive into the supporting cast – Taki, Asuka and Reina are explored and fleshed out into much more depth, and with Kumiko being involved in everything we get a lot of growth and development out of her too. It’s a take on the Hibike! Euphonium cast only afforded by the familiarity already garnered, and the emotional payout we get from it is tremendous.
There is reasonable criticism to be made from the structural approach to those explorations though – the show is very clearly divided into arcs with only a bit of setup for the next one given during each. They’re not exactly seamlessly conjoined, and while there’s a central narrative it’s rarely the focus of the episodes – you are watching for these narrative arcs. The net effect makes it feel like a compilation of short stories slightly merged into each other rather than a cohesive whole, so taken as an entire package it lacks a meaningful overarching thing to connect it all together.
Hibike! Euphonium 2 also falls for what I call “KyoAni season 2 syndrome”, because it’s reall becoming a trend. Much like the sequels to Free! and Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!, a new character is introduced and shown to go way back with certain established characters, forcing them to be part of the main cast’s background, with conflict and drama then built around them. It was executed well with Sousuke in Free! Eternal Summer, but not so much with Shichimiya in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren; Mizore’s presence here falls somewhere in between, feeling a bit artificial and therefore lacking the emotional weight other characters have, but with a story that’s executed pretty damn well. At the very least, the arc based nature of the narrative ensures she doesn’t outstay her welcome.
Beyond those comments though? I don’t have much more to say that isn’t covered by my opinion on the latter parts of the first season. It’s still gorgeously animated. The characters are still wonderful. The drama still feels very real. Everything that made it great is still on display here. I will say though that whereas it took me a while for the first season to click and establish itself as something amazing in my mind, Hibike! Euphonium 2 captured that feeling from the start and never let go. And in addition to that, Hibike! Euphonium 2 hits heavy, powerful emotional notes that the first season could only have dreamed of. This sequel was a real treat for fans, and I will dearly miss it.