I've finally, months behind everybody else, caught up with the bonus 14th episode of Hibike Euphonium. It's a side-story that runs parallel to the finale of the main series, following Hazuki - poor, brave, heartbroken Hazuki - and the other nine members of the band who didn't make the cut for the big end-of-season competition. Most of the other Team Monaka members are background filler, but we also get a couple of great scenes with Nakagawa, giving sketches of her history just through body language and evasive answers. I hope we see more of her in the sequel.
It's reminded me of how amazing a series this was - truly incredible animation for a TV series, in places feeling like Kyoto's animators were just showing off. The plot is pretty basic sports-anime stuff; a rag-tag group of students get together with a seemingly impossible goal, and through hard work and just believing in yourself, they rise through the ranks to reach that final hurdle.
Where Euphonium shines is with its characters and their interactions; in particular Kumiko's reluctance throughout the series, both with personal and band matters, lends real dramatic heft to the points where she takes an active step forward.
Euphonium has a very careful line to tread with its second season, which begins airing in October. At the core of its emotional arc is Kumiko's relationship with Reina - which might be an all-timer, if the second season doesn't retreat to the safer waters of the source novels (obviously being held in reserve by the anime). I don't remember the last show that had a central pairing whose relationship evolved so naturally - maybe Planetes?
What a difference a few years make. If you'd told me, not too long ago, that my most anticipated show of the year was a Kyoto Animation series about a high school music club, I would have laughed in your face. But here we are, waiting for the second season of Hibike! Euphonium and it's not getting here soon enough.