Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life ?
Chika Kudo does everything with gusto, and that includes loving and supporting the hell out of his friends—even if they didn't ask for it. In this week's episode, “A Piercing Sound,” Chika's positive peer pressure becomes contagious, raising the emotional intelligence level of the entire koto club. Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life brings us a good-looking episode without any of the weirdly stretched faces of last week, one that tackles the club's interpersonal problems without artificially prolonging the drama. As usual, I wished for more actual koto-playing, but the episode's pacing was great as it progressed from a dark uncomfortable place to an uplifting one in the span of twenty minutes.
Despite his personal misgivings, Takezo does the responsible thing and takes his team to the joint practice session at Meiryo. But his emotions clearly don't match his actions, and the rest of the team notices. When Chika sees Takezo laughing off his former classmates' cruel jabs about koto, he finally snaps. “Don't get used to being ridiculed!” It's a perfect echo of earlier, when Chika defended a hesitant Satowa from Kazusa's extremely forward advances: “Were you not listening before? She said she liked it with us, right?” Both defenses are delivered in Chika's trademark brash idea of socializing, accompanied by physical contact on the verge of a fist-fight. But despite Chika's roughness, his heart is in the right place. Whatever the viewer may be thinking, Chika shouts out loud. It's a storytelling tool to “cut the crap” that sometimes builds up in a story with lots of interpersonal drama, where you want to shake the characters and tell them to stop being so silly. This is the same thing that happened when Hiro was trying to break up the club—Chika's directness skips past the frustrating protraction of a character's internal struggle and accelerates straight to the conflict and subsequent resolution.
It's not that the characters don't make mistakes; its flawed and relatable cast is what makes Kono Oto Tomare! so engaging. But the other half of that relatability comes from the momentum that builds when they work together toward solving their issues. Hiro put it best when she came over unannounced to Takezo's house: “The reason I wanted to join the koto club was because I saw a group of people with seemingly no common ground supporting each other by compensating for what others lacked.” This anime is so rewarding because the characters, despite their own problems, build each other up. Hiro's words (and perhaps a bit of Chika's influence) are what compel Takezo to finally stand up to his brother, a move that makes even his parents proud. I really love Takezo's supportive parents in this episode. Though a lot of people give Takezo grief about the koto (including the adviser and his weird devil's advocate approach which I'm still unsure about), his parents commend him. “Don't lessen your own worth,” Takezo's dad says. Seriously, the percentage of this episode that favored direct communication and overt sharing of feelings, as opposed to internal sulking and isolated worrying, did wonders for my blood pressure!
This was also a particularly good-looking episode, with at least five artistic watercolor-esque washes of the club members, with a focus on the good times. As squirrelly club advisor Suzuka warns, the club's unity and mental strength is going to weigh hugely in their success or failure ahead, so this episode about strengthening bonds and improving self-confidence was a huge milestone in the club members' personal development. It was just a few weeks ago that I called Takezo boring and Hiro a sociopath, but this anime gives its characters room to grow, and that is its greatest strength.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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