Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Kono Oto Tomare! truly is the backstory king, and while it’s tempting to say “no character is too small to have one”, that actually misses the mark. The truth of it is these are not small characters at all – they get more than backstories, they get arcs. It’s not easy to come up with another series of this type that fleshes out this many characters, but one that comes to mind is Ookiku Furikabutte – another shounen with some distinctly shoujo elements to it.
In addition to the two main rivals we’ve already met (Himsaka gives their performance mostly off-screen, and it’s executed with their typical soulless military precision) we’re introduced to two more this week. One of them is another Kanagawa school, Hakuto – obviously one without much of a koto reputation, because despite their being locals Takezou has never heard of them. About them we’re not shown much, apart from one of their members, Kanzaki Mio (Aoi Shouta, who sings the OP) laying out in the forest to listen to the wind while the rest of his team is listening to their rival ensembles.
Then we have Eidai Fuzukou from Ibaraki, an all-boys school – something you’d expect is a rarity in the koto world. And indeed, the fact that their club consists of only two members would seem to fit that reality. Miya Sentarou (played by serious old-schooler Hoshi Souichirou) is small for his age and extremely sensitive about it, and the clear (tiny) leader of this tiny club. His teammate Haru (Yamaya Yoshitaka) follows Sen’s lead and tries to keep him out of trouble. It’s interesting to see Eidai perform, because they have a very different challenge than the other schools we’ve seen – trying to make an impression with only two musicians. This they accomplish by playing “Sarashi” at an insanely fast tempo – probably a gimmick in the eyes of the judges, but one that shows off their (especially Sen’s) skills, and gets the attention of the audience.
The other major backstory we get this week is a crucial one, that of Takinami-sensei. It was obvious that he had some sort of music background, but the reality is somewhat surprising – he’s the child of a pianist and a conductor, with an older sister who’s herself a piano prodigy, a boy from whom great things were expected. But Suzuka-chan was disinterested in playing music – happily, his parents weren’t the type to force it on him – but he cultivated a talent for composition that turned out to be genuinely exceptional. For Takinami, though, being exposed to how much work is required to be “involved” in music professionally is a turn-off – his interest in music is purely as a source of enjoyment.
Given all that, being an advisor to a koto club with designs on national competition is probably closer to being involved than he’s comfortable with. Still, he doesn’t totally abdicate his responsibilities as an advisor, registering the squad for the event and (much to his surprise) taking the administrative responsibilities off Takezou’s shoulders. And it’s a good thing, too, because Takezou has plenty to worry about (and that’s not even taking his own performance into consideration).
Somewhat surprisingly, it’s Hiro who’s the most ill=at-ease in the buildup to the performance. But then, she is the only one in the club who’s never performed on stage, so maybe that’s not so surprising after all. Her own performance is one thing, but her state of distraction causes a near-disaster when she lets go off a koto she’s supposed to be moving and forces Satowa to sacrifice herself to prevent a double-disaster. This in turn forces Chika to sacrifice himself to protect her, which he does – but while the kotos and Satowa are fine, the club doesn’t come away from the event unscathed…