Sound! Euphonium and sports shows

July 21, 2015

In reaction to my spring midway views on Euphonium, Author wrote:

When I mentioned that Euphonium was essentially a sports show with girls, a few folks were sceptical, but that classification seems even more apt now.

My view is that while Euphonium certainly has elements that also appear in sports shows, it is not one itself. A sports show like Ping Pong, Haikyuu!!, Yowamushi Pedal, or even Girls und Panzer strongly features the actual sport. Good characters and their stories are important, but in a normal sports show the overall story is in large part driven by the conflict inherent in the sports competition and actual 'games' feature prominently.

Sound! Euphonium's story is not structured like this. The actual band competition barely appears and there are none of the normal tropes of sports shows, like actual rival bands and rival performers in them; in fact we don't even see a competition performance from another band (we see one preparing to go on in the last episode, but that's quite different). This would be like a baseball sports show that entirely featured training, practice, and team selection and then didn't actually bother showing any baseball games. You could certainly do such a show but to me it wouldn't really feel like a sports show either.

(And in another example, although Cross Game was more about the people than sports, it featured plenty of baseball games and the climax saw a game actually being played out. See also Evirus on Cross Game, which features plenty of images of people actually playing baseball.)

So to me Sound! Euphonium is not a sports show but a show that is using competition as a setting to drive a character study and a meditation on the real costs of taking competition seriously. An actual sports show version of Sound! Euphonium would be structured quite differently (and likely would be less interesting).

Sidebar: Sports shows and nastiness

Author also wrote:

But I have a feeling, Euphonium would not be very welcome in any case. It’s almost a Yamakan or Shinbo show, stylistically and story-wise. Too nasty. I know a lot of people fall for it (see [me] above). They feel that it’s more real that way. [...]

One thing that distinguishes a classical sports show is that, to put it one way, the protagonists almost always win in the end (although they may have stumbles and setbacks on the way). In this sports shows are shows about just rewards; if you're a good, talented person and you work hard, you will get rewarded for it. Good people do not get cut from the team and they and the team do not in the end go down in defeat.

(This is complicated by noble, deserving opponents and rivals, but I wave my hands and restrict my focus to people around the protagonists.)

Real life does not work that way, of course. Real life is not that nice. But our stories do not have to be un-nice in that way and not all of them are. Really, it would be kind of a downer if a sports story did not feature people winning in the end.

In this sense, Euphonium is indeed 'nasty'. Deserving, hard working people do not necessarily get rewarded. Effort is no guarantee of success. Life can be unfair to you and snatch your dreams away (or force you to make harsh choices between a selfish dream and a selfless one). This is perfectly okay with me because I think of Euphonium as a character piece, not a sports show, and I am willing to see people fail in sympathetic ways in character pieces. But other people may not necessarily like that; they may want more strongly upbeat stories.

(That a number of people in Ping Pong do not get rewarded this way is one of the things that makes it an unusual and interesting sports show to me. Ping Pong is harsh in that; desire, work, and even some talent is not necessarily good enough to guarantee success. Note that Ping Pong explicitly admits that this is unfair.)

Written on 21 July 2015.
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Last modified: Tue Jul 21 20:21:29 2015
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