「みちしるべ」 (Michi shiru be)
“Guide for an Unknown Path ~Guidepost~”
After a Jekyll-Hyde episode that lost the plot a bit in the B-part (faithfully to where the manga briefly lost it, it should be noted), Kono Oto Tomare gets back on the rails this week. This isn’t the sort of series that’s going to have a lot of breather episodes, mind you – it’s pretty much always got lots of stuff going on. That, I would argue, is a direct reflection of the fact that it doesn’t employ throwaway characters – it has a big cast, and fleshes each of them out as individuals with their own lives. That’s a good thing, but it requires a lot of plot to keep everyone involved.
There’s a difference, though, between “busy” and forcing development through too quickly – which is what we saw with Hiro last week. There is a little ghost of that this week actually, as she goes to all the people she’s wronged (if there’s a 12 steps for high school saboteurs, she skipped right to #9) and gets a blitzkrieg of slaps for her trouble. But Hiro is fully committed to the club, now – Takezou even half-unwittingly shames her into becoming serious about it – and the story is free to move on to other things.
And boy, there are a lot of them. Chika is still struggling with “Rokudan”, and Satowa’s advice to “meet it head-on” clearly isn’t connecting with his intuitive rather than analytical nature. Eventually it slips out that he’s able to practice at home since he lives with his aunt (Tetsu knew, the musketeers didn’t) and the boys worm an invitation to come practice. The aunt, Isaki, turns out to be of the young and sexy variety, and is played by Mizuki Nana to boot. She’s loaded (Chika isn’t sure why) but he still sleeps behind a screen in a corner of the living room.
The first (well, not the first) thing the lads notice is two kotos at Casa Kudou – a result of Chika’s reluctance to actually play the one his grandpa left him. He’s the only one who feels this way – Obaa-san, Onee-san and his friends all scold him for his reservations, and he reluctantly unwraps it and prepares to play – not “Rokudan”, but the one piece his Gen taught him. Isaki reveals that he actually wrote it, and also that she knows her way around a koto herself (she tunes it for her nephew). We’re only teased with a few notes of Gen’s composition, but it’s enough to move Chika’s buddies to tears (which is admittedly a pretty low bar).
Meanwhile, we get a little glimpse of Takezou’s home life, and it reveals that he’s as put-upon there as he is at school. Little brother Takeru (Hanae Natsuki of course) seems to take belittling his brother as a matter of course, and expresses relief that Takezou doesn’t embarrass him by going to the same school (Meiryou). There’s a backstory there to be sure – Meiryou was the school Takezou was seemingly destined to attend, but failed to get into for some reason.
A wild card played at this point is the introduction of Ootori Kazusa (Sakura Ayane), who attends koto powerhouse and Kanagawa representative Himesaka (Princess Hill?) Girls Academy. Together with her friend Fumi she comes to visit Tokise after hearing a rumor that Satowa is there. The successor of the Hoozuki rival koto school Kao, she’s idolized Satowa since they were little girls. Ootori has a hard time believing that Satowa could be happy in such a place – especially when she discovers she’s surrounded by boys (who she seems to loathe as a general principle). She invites the koto club to hear a joint practice with Meiryou (another powerhouse), just to prove that Satowa doesn’t belong in such a place as Tokise.
It isn’t so much Satowa for whom this is awkward – she’s truly happy at Tokise now, and even admits it (reluctantly) to Chika. But for Takezou this is a bitter pill – it’s clear Meiryou calls up some unpleasant feelings for him. Still, he can’t say no – it’s a chance for Tokise to get an idea of the gap between themselves and the schools they hope to challenge. And Takinami-sensei (who Hiro calls “Suzuka-chan”) for the first time seems to admit that having a goal isn’t such a ludicrous idea for the koto club. What he doesn’t make clear is how he can help them pursue it, but there’s plenty of time for that.