Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
Episodes 1-2

by Lauren Orsini,

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

How would you rate episode 2 of
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life (TV 1) ?

If you dropped Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life after one episode because it didn't have any actual koto-playing yet, I'd implore you to give it another look. This anime is based on a shonen manga that's been in print since 2012, with 19 tankobon volumes and counting! With a story that enduring, it's no wonder it took a little time to warm up the engine. By episode two, “Having What It Takes,” we've gotten to know each member of the story's main trio and heard two very different perspectives on koto music. This story is prioritizing character introductions first, so that when their shared interest in koto music finally takes center stage, we'll care about this hobby because we care about its participants.

Poor Kurata! He just wants to continue the koto club his upperclassmen left to him, but he's running into one problem after another. If it's not delinquents taking over his club room, it's their acquaintance Chika Kudo's brash attempt to rescue him. Once Kurata finally accepts Kudo and his troubled past, his second recruit is Satowa Hozuki, a haughty koto prodigy with her own ideas about the club. Between these two clashing personalities, Kurata already has his hands full. One thing that's certain; even though this anime is about one of Japan's oldest traditional instruments, its distinctly modern characters keep it fresh and vibrant, never stuffy or dry.

A series of misunderstandings drive the plot in the first two episodes—first between Kudo and Kurata (not to mention between Kudo and the world at large), and second between Hozuki and Kurata. In both cases, Kurata's new recruits walk in with an agenda to match their respective outsized personalities, and they have to learn that participating in a club means you can't just walk over everyone. For Kudo, this means becoming vulnerable, allowing others to accept and understand you even if you've been burnt before. For Hozuki, it means learning that no matter how talented you are, you can't do everything yourself—you need to be a team player. Although Kurata is arguably the least interesting of the three, with a muted personality and a one-note mission to make his upperclassmen proud, he's already the team's moral center. He's the one who brings the disparate Kudo and Hozuki together and provides each of them with the hard facts they need to hear at exactly the right time.

So far this story has maintained a fast pace, but it's also used some cheap repetition to get there; I've never seen so many “storm out of the room” scenes happen in one anime so quickly. If Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life wants to keep our attention, it will need to move beyond the “easily-resolved misunderstanding” as a plot device. But there are already positive signs of growth. Neither Kudo nor Hozuki is the same person they were upon their introduction. Another strength of the show is that no matter the player's skill level, their koto playing has so far been depicted with a lot of heart. This show is only getting started, so I'm still seeing it more in terms of potential than true results, but the elements for a successful high school drama are already in place.

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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