Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
Episode 10

by Lauren Orsini,

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Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life ?

Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life walks the line between club anime and sports anime this week for a training camp episode! In “Near Yet Far,” the gang travels to an inn to level up their koto practice, aiming the spotlight at Kota, an ensemble character who hasn't gotten much story focus until now. It's a refreshing indicator that the koto club's members aren't simply there to pad out the numbers; they're all individuals that the story cares about. Aside from Sane and Mittsu, everyone gets their share of character growth this episode for a series of plot developments that left me impressed with how far everyone has come.

Kono Oto Tomare! employs a lot of genre tropes, which isn't a bad thing. It simply borrows the tools of its club/sports anime genre to progress the main storyline. For example, we've got a prodigy character (Hozuki), a character with a previously-undiscovered preternatural talent for the koto (Chika), and one obstacle after another in the form of weakly-motivated antagonists. One of the reasons plotting tropes can be good is that they set the tone, manage audience expectations, and most importantly, free up time for the show to dig deeper into character development. This episode utilizes one of the most expected tropes of its genre—a training camp—in an unusual way when it focuses the story on Kota for the first time. We've only seen Kota as one of Chika's three friends rather than his own person, but as Sane and Mittsu quickly grasp the fundamentals of the koto and Kota lags behind, we finally get a look inside his head.

Kota's anxieties are deeply relatable to anyone who watches a lot of sports anime. Most of us aren't prodigies at the things we love to do—we have to work at them. On even the best days, it's no doubt difficult to be around somebody like Hozuki, who is practically a pro, and somebody like Chika, who can pick up new skills simply by watching. It's no wonder that Kota gets overwhelmed by the camp and goes out to practice on his own. (Although it would have been better to leave his things in the room, so people didn't think he went home!) It's Chika who finds him and delivers the most powerful line of the episode: “I'd hate it if you weren't around.” With this one sentence, Chika reframes all of Kota's worries. It's not about having or not having talent, it's about how the koto club needs all seven of its members to function. This story prizes the specific personalities within the club above its primary “aim for Nationals” arc.

It was especially great to see how everyone supported each other this episode. Hiro has grown so much; when Kota goes missing, she's emotionally aware enough to blame her own harsh teaching style. Later, Suzuka-sensei is the one to identify the actual reason Kota isn't keeping up with the rest of the club and how he can improve things. (I've definitely veered over to the “Suzuka is good” camp after Takezo's outburst asking him to quit, which seemed to be exactly the way this Devil's Advocate encourages his students to stand up for themselves.) The club is shaping up into a group of people I want to root for, and it's even better that they take so many opportunities to cheer one another on as well.

Rating:

Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life is currently streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.


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