Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life ?
This episode of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life may not feel like much of a finale, but this is all we're going to get until this split-cour series resumes in October. It's not conclusive in the slightest, but it captures a pivotal moment in time for the Tokise koto club that shows us their growth—less as musicians than as increasingly kind and self-aware human beings. Takezo, Takinami-sensei, and Chika all make bad choices in episode 13, but the reasons they make these decisions further cement this show's optimistic, feelings-first attitude. It's only because of the way the characters have grown to support each other over these past 13 episodes that they're able to turn a disastrous situation into a success, much to Takinami's surprise. Kono Oto Tomare!'s triumph is its emotional intelligence—over and again, characters are urged to express their true feelings and are consequently rewarded for doing so. The result is a show with a narrative tone as warm as the koto music it features.
The episode begins with Chika making the wrong choice: you should never hide an injury or try to play through it. Takinami is the only one that notices, but his decision to talk to Chika in private, telling him his lack of participation in the performance won't change a thing, is designed to rub Chika the wrong way. Even Takezo points that out to Takinami afterward: if he were really so worried about Chika, he could have just taken him directly to first aid. Fed up, Takinami tells Takezo the decision is in his hands now, leading to the third bad decision of the episode: Takezo encourages Chika to perform anyway. Why? Even though he knows “as club president” that it's the wrong decision, he couldn't leave Chika out after overhearing his impassioned speech to Takinami about how important it was for him to play with the group. Takezo's emotions overtook his logical side, and he made a decision with his heart instead of his brain.
Takinami is the least surprised of all when the performance starts off on the wrong foot. Chika's injury means he can't play with his usual resolute clarity, a development that causes a chain reaction of panic and anxiety through the rest of the club. All seems lost until an unlikely hero emerges: Kota! The member of the club who has seemed to struggle the most these past 13 weeks finds a new role as the center of the performance, nailing his part just when everyone else was faltering. His determination is one of the most inspiring moments of the show so far, a scene that breaks through the cynicism of detractors like Takinami. In this fictional world, honesty, emotional transparency, and mutual support actually pay off! This is the kind of wholesome message that has lately gone out of style in anime, but it doesn't feel corny or contrived. I think it's because the show has spent so much time developing each character: his or her beliefs and trauma and unique reason for being drawn to the koto club. It's not phoning it in, which means it can cash in big emotional payoffs later in the game.
I made a mistake in at least one previous review: I thought the contemporary piece they were playing was called Rokudan. But as the title of the episode makes perfectly clear, this is Kuon. You can listen to the official track for the performance in this episode here because while the plot is rewarding and uplifting, it deserves to be listened to uninterrupted by every character's internal monologue. In the end, it's a reminder of what Tokise has that other clubs don't—if not technical exactitude, the heart that Chika's aunt, Isaki, was looking for last week. This uneven but in-the-end successful performance was a microcosm of the first cour itself. This show had some downs (off-model face art, episodes with barely any koto music, villains with weak motives), but its ups (stunning emotional clarity and a powerhouse soundtrack) more than compensated for that.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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