Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
Episode 8

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life (TV 1) ?

It was more like “scenes of life” this week on Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life. We got a grab bag of various loosely-related scenes regarding the koto club members without committing fully to any one plot thread. “A Sign” was a world-building episode that followed the characters through a series of vignettes, demonstrating their growth in small but significant ways. Consider it a bookend episode that pays tribute to the koto club's past success and acknowledges its future challenges, without following through on any major narrative advancements.

First, let's check in with Chika and Satowa. This pair went from zero to “just date already!” at least three episodes ago, and their growing closeness continues to be the most engaging part of this story. In a potpourri of an episode, their brief exchanges stand out as some of the warmest moments. From the cold open in which Chika indirectly pushes Satowa to get lunch with friends to the way his teasing gets Satowa to open up about her feelings toward the koto club, it's clear that Chika has found somebody to nurture in her. It's not only Satowa who benefits from this new kinder Chika. When he plays his grandfather's koto for his friends (and his sassy, instantly likable aunt), they're moved to tears not by his music, but by his smile. (It helps that there are just a few bars of music played this episode, leaving me wanting more.)

It's not only Chika who has changed; the underlying message of Kono Oto Tomare! is that people always have the potential to improve themselves. Hiro is a great example; she's on her well-intentioned but poorly thought-out apology tour, getting the slaps she deserves for her manipulative behavior. I think part of this comes down to Hiro finally growing up. All the drama happened when she was in middle school, and maybe she wasn't ready to turn over a new leaf until now. Now she's got a better attitude, a renewed commitment toward the koto and trimmed nails to match, plus a new soft spot for her former target, “Hozuki-chan.”

Speaking of which, “Hozuki-chan” is a nickname we hear a lot this week. With a koto competition on the horizon, the storyline borrows a cue from sports anime by giving us a look at the club's opponents: an all-girls school's koto club where Hozuki is the stuff of legend. Kazusa is the successor of the Kao school of koto music, and she sees Hozuki as half romantic crush, half arch-rival. The attempt at comedy here comes from a stereotype lost on Western viewers, that koto music is mainly for girls, and the rival team is shocked to see so many boys in Satowa's club. It's a brief surface-level glimpse at what the team is up against, and it didn't leave much of an impression on me.

Far more interesting is the way that Takezo is developing as a character. Not many weeks ago, I said he was the most boring of the main trio. But a few throwaway lines in the first episode about how Takezo turned to koto in the midst of his depression over not getting into a more prestigious school are beginning to bear fruit. We meet Takezo's jerk brother (why does everyone from the vice principal to the advisor to Big Bro have a chip on their shoulder about the koto club in particular?) and learn that the koto competition will be taking place at his school, which is also the school Takezo didn't get into. Even the club's unkind advisor, Suzuka, welcomes this development more enthusiastically than nervous Takezo does—Suzuka figures that going up against prestigious schools will take the wind out of the koto club's sails. (By the way, Satowa's burn was perfect; rather than rising to Suzuka's bait, she simply asks him if he has any musical experience, which he of course does not.) Takezo and his club have come this far and they still have a lot of improving to do before they're ready to tackle nationals. But this episode is really about skimming over all that without digging particularly deep.

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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