Ever since the end of Sound! Euphonium Season 1, I’ve found the conversations between protagonist euphonium player Kumiko and trumpeter Reina remarkable in their intimacy. While the acting is overall solid as each member of the Kitauji High School music club brings personality and history, there’s something noticeably different when it comes to those two.
Often when voice actors in anime are playing their roles, there is a sense of performance. This is not a bad thing, at least not inherently. They are, for all intents and purposes, actors on a stage bringing their characters to life. When Taki-sensei speaks with this slightly hoarse yet alluring voice, for example, one gets the sense of a teacher who’s dedicated, clever, and expects the best of his students, but seems to carry an internal emotional pain at all times. When Kumiko and Reina are talking to other characters, one senses the way in which Kumiko is constantly trying to find herself while Reina’s dedication and drive are ever-present. Together, howver, it’s as if their outer-facing selves begin to crumble, and we’re witness to the hush tones of a more naturalistic conversation between close friends (or something more).
I do not know how Sound! Euphonium accomplishes this. Perhaps they do something different in terms of the recording environment or the voice direction. What I can say is that this style of dialogue reminds me of a certain type of Japanese animation: the off-the-cuff humor shows that began with gdgd Fairies and include series such as Straight Title Robot Anime and Tesagure! Bukatsumono.
Made “on the cheap” using the 3D modeling and animation program “Miku Miku Dance,” these shows tend to feature offbeat comedy culminating in a special “improv” section. For example, in Tesagure! Bukatsumono (currently the best show of its kind in my opinion), the show is about a club where characters try to imagine what other school clubs would be like. In the middle of every episode, there is always a scene where the girls are supposed to come up with never-before-seen version of familiar clubs (like a baseball club where everyone has to dress fashionably), an in these moments the audio noticeably changes. To start, here’s a lot more mumbling. And where anime normally has characters speak and even interrupt each other so perfectly that you can’t call it anything but “staged” (because of course it is), these improv scenes have characters talking over each other like it’s a radio show. The fact that the actors often end up breaking character because of the success (or failure) of their own jokes makes it feel that much more like a private conversation that we the viewer are happening to eavesdrop on.
That’s more or less the feeling I get when I listen to Kumiko and Reina talk to each other. Whenever they’re together, it’s as if the rest of their world vanishes, and we’re privy to a space where only they reside. In it, even their outer selves fall away, and what we’re left is with is openness and comfort.
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