「突き刺さる言の音」 (Tsukisasaru gen no oto)
“A Piercing Sound”
One of the things I talked about with Kono Oto Tomare, right back to the season preview, was that it had a bit of a false main character scenario going on with Takezou-kun. Not everyone agrees with that by any means, I should point out – it’s very much my own opinion. What we can’t ever know, of course, is what was in the mind of the mangaka when she wrote all this. It always struck me that that there was an intentional decision made early on to shift the focus, either by the Sakura herself or (more likely) an editor.
An episode like this is is illustrative, I think, of why such a thing might have happened if indeed it did. It’s absolutely Takezou-centric, and for me it works – but it’s not easy. Not an easy watch, and surely not easy to write. Kono Oto Tomare is certainly a multi-protagonist series (three in the main, with even supporters being more protaginist-y than in most series), and that I’m sure was always the plan. But when one stacks up Takezou against Chika – olive drab vs. bishounen, quiet and introverted vs. misunderstood yankee, self-doubt vs. tragic personal history – there’s no question where the path of least narrative resistance is. Chika is sexier in every sense of the word, certainly in literary terms.
But that said, I think in the real world there are more people like Takezou than there are like Chika. And in the manga and anime world, there are a lot less. That makes Takezou’s storyline worth the trouble as far as I’m concerned. Do I get frustrated and irritated with his relentless deference and lack of belief? Absolutely – and so does Chika, which makes him more relatable. Hell, even his parents get frustrated with him. But what Takezou is going through plays as very real, even if it’s challenging in dramatic terms. You don’t see it that much in manga because it’s not flashy and it requires a lot from the audience (which is why I always suspected KoT was nudged in another direction mid-stream). And some of the hostility I see from fans towards Takezou, I suspect, is because he hits a little too close to home for comfort.
I think the way the various club members react to the Himesaka performance – a blistering rendition of “Two Personalities” – is quite illustrative. They’re quite stunned, and even Satowa is impressed. Chika falls back on irritation at the obvious gap in skill, Takezou grasps this straw as a validation of his lack of belief in himself as a club leader. I think most of us can agree Kazusa is incredibly annoying (by design) but it’s Chika who stands up to her when she continues to try and bully Satowa into changing schools. Something, if we’re honest, Takezou should have been the one to do.
As for Meiryou, because of their tardiness the Tokise kids have already missed their performance, but Oosuke Kiryuu (Terashima Junta) has stuck around to greet them. He makes note of how the Himesaka club “fits” – which is certainly obvious in their performance, one which seems chosen to highlight their technical skill. That in itself is daunting for the Tokise players, who can’t see themselves ever meshing together the way Himesaka does. But later Oosuke-kun notes that if they’d seen Meiryou, Tokise would have seen a “real ensemble” – without expounding on just what the difference is.
The issue with this whole Meiryou trip is that it forces Takezou to confront everything he hates in himself – his failures, his weakness in allowing his younger brother to belittle and demean him, his shortcomings as an inspirational leader, and yes, as a koto player too. The divide that forms between he and Chika over this is – again – both hard to watch and very authentic. Chika doesn’t realize that he’s really making everything worse when he tries to help, because he’s reminding Takezou of everything he isn’t. Hiro notes that the koto club seems to be a group of disparate people helping to overcome each other’s shortcomings, but they’re still at the point where a lot of the time, they’re just disparate.
Anyone who’s experienced the kind of struggle Takezou is facing here knows it’s a not a battle to be won in a moment or a day, but an ongoing war. Baby steps, as they say – like standing up to his brother for a change, which his mother is both surprised and delighted to see. The fact is that he only snapped when Takeru attacked his friends, not Takezou himself – which is a reminder that he has a long way to go in acknowledging his own self-worth.