「知られざる音の葉」 (Shira rezaru oto no ha)
It’s pretty rare that you see an anime episode so neatly split down the middle – one that isn’t part of a series that explicitly adapts two stories per episode, anyway. Two different storylines, two different girls, two different guys with connections developing with them respectively. And in my view, one thread that works exceptionally well and one that frankly doesn’t for me. That was my immediate reaction when I read the manga, and the anime elicited the same response.
However… As I noted last week (or maybe the week before, I’m too lazy to check) “never a dull moment” is an operative phrase with Kono Oto Tomare. This is not a series that lets moss grow on its ass – things are always in motion, and there are parallel tracks to be observed. The recurring storylines plot out slowly and gradually, but within that framework the more immediate stuff tends to happen pretty quickly. That’s a pretty accurate depiction of adolescence as it happens – in my view anyway – so this dualistic narrative style works very well. But it does make some things seem like they’re happening pretty damn quickly.
The A-part was definitely the “A” part of Tomare this week, with the focus on Chika and Satowa. While the anime cold is certainly an overused trope, it’s rarely utilized to such good effect as it was here. What really strikes me about the way events play out at Satowa’s apartment is that Chika is a totally non-judgmental person. And that makes sense, given how he’s been a victim of judgmental people for most of his life. While whatever secrets she’s keeping (and of course he doesn’t see the flashback we do) may seem terrible to Satowa, but given what he’s experienced they’re nothing to Chika.
This is very consistent with what happened last week, when Hiro tried to dish dirt on Satowa behind her back. When you’ve been wrongly accused and convicted as many times as Chika has, you’re not going to take anything said about anyone else at face value. Obviously something weird is happening here, with Satowa living in a rundown apartment with no sign of family present, but he doesn’t press her for answers. He does watch one of the DVDs he finds in her closet, a performance from when she was 15 and still heir to the Houzuki school, and he can see in her performance that a hell of a lot is bubbling under the surface. But he’s prepared to wait until she’s ready to connect the dots.
The whole Houzuki story is ugly in a believable way, with Satowa very much caught in the middle of it. But even though Hiro thinks she can use it as a cudgel (or perhaps a scalpel) against the koto club, it has no such impact. Ironically Hiro does Satowa a favor by spilling the truth, because it saves Satowa from agonizing over when and how to do so herself. Unfortunately I don’t think the whole storyline works as well from Hiro’s perspective as it does from Satowa’s. Hiro’s development is one of those “pretty damn quickly” developments for me – we had six episodes of buildup with Houzuki-san to understand who she was, but Kurusu blazes through an entire arc in basically an episode-and-a-half.
Because of the accelerated nature of Hino’s introduction – her behavior is basically explained away through a three-minute flashback sequence – I think we just have to accept that she’s kind of broken and move on. It’s not so much that it’s not believable as it is that because of the pacing it’s not relatable. As I said, though, there’s a plus side to that and that’s if you don’t especially like how something in Kono Oto Tomare is playing out, you won’t have to wait long for it to change (or for the next thing to come along). That’s just the sort of rolling stone this series is.