Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
Episode 3

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life (TV 1) ?

Stop me if you've heard this one before: the koto club needs to gain five members or else they'll be shut down! Oh, you have heard that one? Well, how about this: a mean vice principal is setting the club up to fail for his own insidious reasons! Don't tell me you've heard that one too? For its third-episode twist, Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life certainly isn't breaking any new ground. But a steady pace, new character development, and a budding romance keep the result interesting, if entirely predictable.

The way this show is going, I can practically guess the next four plot developments from here. Though the principal has a soft spot for Chika (due to being in the same koto club as his grandfather), the vice principal and his concerns about the students he sees as delinquents are painted in broad strokes of exaggerated villainy. His ultimatum for the club—to put on a public performance in a month that will surely embarrass them and expose them as frauds—is typical of so many club anime third-episode twists. We're supposed to see this as things getting real; if the koto club doesn't buckle down and deliver, this anime won't have many more episodes! Of course the audience already knows that's ridiculous, and no matter how much the VP moves the goalposts, the koto club will triumph in the end. It's better to look at this plot as a vehicle for character development instead. We know what will happen, but we don't know how these club members will react.

The most mysterious of the club members right now is Hozuki. This girl is wily, putting on her most charming face to use Chika's ne'er-do-well friends as warm bodies to pad the koto club headcount. Chika claims that Hozuki is two-faced, but I think that's one face too few; there's so much about her that she keeps closed off from the others. Even Chika's innocent-sounding question: “Did your parents teach you to play the koto?” is met with hostility. She seems resistant to meet up with her mom at the koto performance, and she won't let the boys come to her house and help her transport the 17-string koto to school. What is she hiding? “Which plot point is going to happen next?” is the wrong question to ask about this show. The real intrigue will come from the way that characters deal with Hozuki and her secret when it finally comes crashing down on them, at probably the worst possible moment.

I'm pretty sure I'm not reading too much into Chika and Hozuki's deepening relationship either. When she takes his hand with some hesitation to size him for plectrums, there's romantic tension between the two of them. The more Hozuki tries to push him away, the more Chika tries to understand her and impress her with his dedication to the koto. Their bombastic personalities clash so much that it's easy to ship them even before anything occurs. I look forward to their interactions, because even with Hozuki's secrets, she and Chika are the two most well-developed characters in the show—Kurata is still fairly one-note, while the three new members are characterized only as a group. Add “more character development” to my wishlist for Kono Oto Tomare, right after “actually, let's hear more than a few seconds of koto music at a time.”

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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