Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life ?
“Cool show but I wish there was more koto music,” I've said week after week—but not this week. This time, Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life sounded fantastic, and at a time when the mood and tone of the music is such a major storytelling device, it really delivered. A vibrant and diverse soundtrack elevated what ought to have been a bridge episode between the training camp and the tournament into an emotional and artistic experience.
"The Sound We Were Searching For" can be divided into two different arrangements for the koto. It's impressive how the music itself sets the tone and guides the story for each half of the episode. First there's Rokudan, the traditional piece that the club has held this training camp to practice. There's scant description for what the piece is about, and Satowa is struggling to make this cryptic explanation—“leap through time like the wind and wish”—less abstract so the club can relate to it better. Kota lands on a relatable interpretation when he suggests that it's about fleeting days that you wish would last forever—like this training camp, for example.
There's so much of the bright novelty of youth flying around that it's no wonder that Takinami-sensei is getting cynical over all of this fresh-faced bonding. Even when he gives Chika and Takezo apathetic advice, Chika earnestly takes it to heart and the resulting synergy in their duet, illustrated deftly through connecting puzzle pieces, shows that even a lazy explanation had an effect. (It's also clear that there's more to Takinami than the chilly nihilist we've been introduced to so far—if somebody as shrewd as Satowa suspects he has musical experience that he's concealing, she might well be right.) As the team improves rapidly, the audience is treated to a taste of their performance. With Kota's interpretation behind them, the intricacies of the soundtrack take on new meaning.
The second half of the episode is about another koto piece, Hyakkafu, as performed by the Meiryo club. I'm so glad that I'm watching Kono Oto Tomare as an anime instead of reading the manga, because I feel like the nuances of this particular piece coincide nicely with Ousuke's backstory. Ousuke seems cheerful and even goofy in his pre-performance chatter with the club, but his music shows several more layers to his character. In the “winter” portion of the piece, we experience the cold friendless life that Ousuke is terrified of returning to. A sickly child, he discovered the koto because it was something even he could play with friends without overexerting himself. It feels odd to go into Ousuke's life at this point—he's a character we've barely met, and now he's completely bared his soul to us. Just remember how long it took for Satowa or Takezo to open up to the same degree! (There are also certainly parallels between Satowa's childhood and Ousuke's, though Satowa's isolation was brought about because of the koto, not ended by it.) I think the reason for such in-depth character exploration is to bring context to the koto piece, the same way Satowa sought to do when she struggled to find a theme for the club to keep in mind during Rokudan.
With stilted animation shortcuts but a stunning soundtrack, this episode sounded much better than it looked. It has achieved a great balance, where the music guides the story and the story gives context to the music. As this tournament progresses, I hope we get to hear even more.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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