Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
Episode 12

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life ?

This episode of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life felt unusually long, but not in a bad way. It simply covered twice as much story and character development as I expected, exploring four different rival koto clubs—Meiryo, Himesaka, Hakuto, and Eidai Fuzoku—without feeling strained, and it still had enough time to top everything off with Takinami-sensei's backstory. In the process, this episode sacrificed any bandwidth for visual storytelling and didn't look particularly good; Satowa's face especially transformed in shape and size from scene to scene. That said, this episode was nearly as musical as last week's, featuring a startlingly speedy koto solo from Eidai Fuzoku that informed the tempo for the accompanying narrative. If there's a triangle surrounding Kono Oto Tomare! with three corners of “storytelling,” visuals,” and “soundtrack”—and each week they can only pick two—it's clear which side the creators chose this time around.

It's fitting that an episode titled “Rivals” hits so many sports anime beats. Our protagonists spend the episode gearing up for their turn to perform, scoping out the competition and trying not to get too demoralized by all the talent on display. There was a great balance between and humor and drama this week, too. First we're introduced to the tragic Meiryo love triangle, discovering that Ousuke's nonstop flirting is just a brave front he puts on to deal with the fact that the one girl he wants is interested in somebody else. Next, we transition away to Eidai Fuzoku, a two-man comedy act of a koto club. With his short stature and inability to behave like a human being in front of a woman, Sen is basically a walking punchline. But as usual, Kono Oto Tomare! quickly gives us reasons to care about him, conveying his lifetime of being underestimated contrasted with his outsized talent. Even an amateur like me can tell from the soundtrack just how intricate the fingering is on this fast-paced koto composition. The comedy is still the best part though; the visual metaphor of the demon dragging a dog by its leash is the perfect comparison to Sen's reckless tempo and Haru's desperate attempts to keep up.

I thought Chika's aunt Isaki was here to serve as the Designated Sideline Newbie, the person you tend to see in sports anime giving a layperson's perspective so the story has the opportunity to explain. But instead, her observations (and impromptu nap) add a new wrinkle to the challenge these performers face—even at the highest level of play, if the composition doesn't have heart, the technical skill level of the performer doesn't matter. Isaki also holds the key to Takinami-sensei's past. This apathetic Devil's Advocate who once told Satowa he had zero musical experience (before using a nuanced comprehension of rhythm to help Kota improve) turns out to be a musical genius. There are some clear parallels between Satowa and Takinami; they're both prodigies whose talent brought them a lot of pain. But while Satowa decided to keep going (“suffering” much like Takinami's pianist sister), Takinami ended up rejecting music altogether. I love the way that the show's narrative encourages me to find common ground between seemingly opposite characters. Otherwise, it'd be a difficult sell to say that Takinami can ever find redemption with the club he neglected for so long.

We end the episode with another sports genre trope—the injury right before a pivotal moment. Chika managed to save Satowa and the two kotos, but his hand looks pretty rough. Just the thing this club needs to go with their pre-performance jitters! This episode may have taken a lot of visual shortcuts and covered tons of narrative ground, but it still had time to leave us on a classic sports anime cliffhanger.

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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