I know. I’m starting to run an episode late for the remaining First Impressions posts. It’s too detrimental since I’m trying to cut back a bit on weekly coverage but still, I feel bad. As always, please bear with me.
I will wholeheartedly admit that I was massively skeptical of Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life. Were it not for the manga being an apparent critical darling, I would’ve shrugged the anime off as pretentious based on the synopsis I read and the PVs I watched. Sure enough, this series is as heavy on drama as I had anticipated. You have Takezou (Junya Enoki), the sole remaining member of his school’s Koto club getting bullied because he plays the koto. On the other end of the spectrum is first year Chika (Yuma Uchida) who wants to join the koto club despite accusations of destroying his now late grandfather’s koto shop due to his past as a delinquent. It’s an awful lot to take in for what is essentially another school club anime. And no, I don’t think the occasional use of comedy helped a ton in lightening the mood. If anything, they’re weren’t that funny at all.
Fortunately, this set up is all contained in the first episode. Maybe there’s more drama provided by future characters but a lot of the show’s pitch is addressed and resolved in just half an hour. Takezou and Chika are at odds with each other and rightfully so due to their differing personalities. At the same time, they’re not as different from each other as they’d think. Both boys love the koto but they’re held back by some sort of pressure. For Takezou, it’s his difficulty in asserting himself. For Chika, it’s the stigma that he’s nothing but a delinquent even though the truth is that he’s turning over a new leaf thanks to his grandfather. In the end, these two help each other out when Chika is set up by the bullies of trashing the koto club room. Takezou musters the courage to defend him which gives Chika the motivation to speak for himself. Seeing those two depend on each other to succeed together made for a satisfying resolution and I’ll admit that it got me really curious to see how their new friendship will shape the koto club from here on out.
If anything, a bigger issue I took from the premiere veering on melodrama was the fact that you don’t actually hear anyone play the stinking koto at any point. That seems pretty darn important for a series about how meaningful this particular instrument is to the characters. Without a doubt, the music will play in later episodes but in regards to the very start of the series, I think certain scenes would’ve benefited from actual koto playing. Imagine hearing the koto club’s clumsy yet charming performance that compelled Takezou to join the club. Imagine hearing Chika fumbling through the notes while his grandfather is simply happy that the two of them are finally connecting. It may go without saying but music in a musically driven series really does add to the experience so it’s weird to see such an aspect neglected even if just for this one time.
Again, that will probably be something that gets fixed real soon, probably in the second episode even. And from a writing standpoint, I will admit that this series fares better than I expected. The drama is too heavy handed for my liking but there’s still some good craft behind it. I’m still a little on the fence but maybe with more time, I’ll warm up more to this show.
OP: “Tone” by Shouta Aoi
ED: “Speechless” by Yuuma Uchida
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