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Kono Oto Tomare! – 13 (END)

「久遠」 (Kuon/i>)
“Kuon”

The whole “horses for courses” thing is a pretty important factor in any sort of fandom, there’s no question about it, and anime is certainly no exception. We like what we like, no matter how objective we try to be. I can certainly acknowledge that a series like Kono Oto Tomare! isn’t going to be everybody’s bag, and even why. It’s a sort of paean to anti-cynicism, a monument of emotional transparency in a medium where those things are increasingly out of fashion (and where being out of fashion increasingly means being out of existence).

Still, all of that doesn’t amount to much for me, as I can only watch and write from my own perspective. And I can say that as it winds down, there were two moments in anime this season which genuinely got me emotional – and they both occurred in Kono Oto Tomare (the flashback sequence of Touma and Otomi’s first meeting in Mix was the only other that came close). And both during musical performances, as well. I’ve seen the (to me) mystifying criticism that this series doesn’t have enough performance pieces, but do you really want to cheapen them through overuse? It’s all about impact, not frequency.

While this wasn’t a finale episode in any real sense (Kono Oto Tomare is a split cour and will return in October), it was still an episode steeped in payoffs. Not just as noted above, but I think it’s in moments like this that Kono Oto reaps the benefits of all of its extensive character development. It can seem cumbersome during the slow periods, but giving so much background to so many characters pays off when they’re at a crucible. The emotional connection is so much stronger when we feel as if we know all of the people involved, as true characters rather than abstractions.

Takezou seems up to the task of keeping his team together when the biggest challenge is Hiro’s freakout over her first stage appearance. But when he learns the truth of Chika’s injury, all the familiar self-doubts begin creeping back in. It’s Takinami-sensei who spots the problem, and he whisks Chika away from the others before he confronts him and orders him to stand down and get treated. Naturally Chika resists, and Takezou overhears all this. Takinami has already extended himself further than he’s comfortable with, so he kicks the can to Takezou to make the final decision.

Holding Chika out of the club’s performance of “Kuon” would no doubt have been the sensible thing to do. Even Takezou admits that his decision not to do so was the wrong one, but ultimately he doesn’t have the heart to after hearing Chika admit what all this means to him. And in truth, given how inexperienced most of the group is I’m not sure how they would have fared with such a drastic change at the last moment – not to mention the emotional carnage of not having Chika play (especially to Hiro). Takezou was caught in a no-win situation, so he indulged his sentimental side. And the way he confronts Takinami over his own involvement reflects how much Takezou has grown into his role as president over the course of the year.

Nevertheless, the performance itself is a problem. Chika’s hand is bad enough that he’s not able to play with his usual conviction, and distracting enough that he eventually loses the tempo in his duet with Takezou. Again, this is where experience matters – that, and the absence of a leader like Kiryuu-kun to shepherd the group through the rough patches. Things go south pretty quickly, and where she should have been steadying the ship instead Satowa’s own performance becomes erratic.

For me, the moment where Kota steps in and props up the team is that moment – like Chika’s solo in Episode 5. For Kota, the weakest and most insecure of the group, to be the one that saves the day is one of those payoffs – and it reflects the nature of the Tokise dynamic perfectly. This is where a suspension of cynicism is pretty much your hand stamp for entry, but there’s something so elemental and pure about the idea of how powerful it is to put the needs of your friends above your own. This is the very reason why clubs (and shounen manga) exist, theoretically, but we rarely see it depicted with such openness and emotional intensity.

This is also why Suzuka-chan is such an important part of the group dynamic, because he represents the antithesis of that purity. He’s not evil or cruel, but he is guarded and detached – for him, involvement is almost always a bridge too far. It would have been so much easier for him if the koto club had failed miserably as a result of Chika’s injury, but the fact that they managed to overcome it through the sheer determination of the lowest among them is a gauntlet thrown down in Takinami’s path. If he chooses not to be involved now he can’t toss off the blame on the weakness of the club or anything else – he can only look in the mirror.

Even knowing there’s another cour to come, I can’t help but feel a little wistful about just how little of the full story (still ongoing) of Kono Oto Tomare that’s really going to cover. We’ve barely scratched the surface, not just in terms of the story but character too, because this series never stops developing its cast. But even so, what the first season did is quite an accurate reflection of the essence and soul of this series – what’s to come isn’t so much different, but more. More depth, more commitment, more side characters with actual arcs. Even if it’s only two cours in the end, that’s still a hell of a lot better than nothing – and Kono Oto Tomare! reminds us that the world of manga is full of great stories just waiting for anime to get its head out of you know where and adapt them.

June 30, 2019 at 11:26 pm
12 comments »
  • July 1, 2019 at 7:32 amJeffers

    i can easily guess next cour will reach to the part of Show Spoiler ▼

    anyway, satowaXchika ship is now sailing…

  • July 1, 2019 at 5:38 pmShadow074

    Kono Oto Tomare has won my love and a place among my favorite stories. Without hesitation the manga is better, but the anime offers you the voice of the characters, the animation and the music.

    Like someone who has been in music class and played instruments (although I am a beginner) and I love all types of music, I love this story and I love how it expresses its themes.

    I’ll be waiting for the second season, and I hope it maintains the same quality as this one.

  • July 1, 2019 at 6:15 pmChisel

    I enjoyed this, but was never blown away. I’ll definitely be tuning in October to continue it, though it’ll definitely be overshadowed by Chihayafuru S3 for me at least. While this was a good show, it never reached Chihayafuru levels of greatness imo.

    • July 2, 2019 at 12:51 amGuardian Enzo

      I must say that while I agree KoT has never reached the heights of Chihayafuru at its best, the two series are trending in opposite directions for me.

  • July 1, 2019 at 7:22 pmGotta_Graduate

    I have mixed feelings about this adaptation, but I’m just grateful that we’re able to got an anime adaptation. I will definitely watch the second cour.

  • July 2, 2019 at 7:17 amShrubbery

    Great point to end the first cour on, that final note before the applause. Luckily not all went wrong due to Chika’s injury, and they gave a pretty strong performance, despite hickups early on. Now the wait till fall season begins.

  • July 2, 2019 at 2:51 pmKeep Refrigerated

    I picked this one up mid-season and I’m glad I did. I have to admit, it was kind of frustrating at the beginning adjusting to how the story is told, but I couldn’t give it up because of how even the secondary characters get to have some depth (I usually find them more interesting than the MC). Then, with the last episode, having one of these characters rally everyone and save the day was even better. Thanks for blogging this one GE. Hope you do the second cour this fall.

    • July 2, 2019 at 11:56 pmGuardian Enzo

      You’re very welcome. I definitely agree that the particular approach KoT takes – developing so many characters so deeply – is a kind of delayed gratification exercise. It can seem cumbersome as it’s happening but pays big dividends whenever the series hits a major check-point.

    • July 4, 2019 at 7:06 pmKyrukk

      Any old person can write their way into drama, but it takes skill to write your way out of it. The writer of this series more or less has been handling dramatic developments w/ aplomb that results in a satisfying payoff consistently, which is more than I can say for some of the more popular anime/manga series.

      • July 4, 2019 at 11:00 pmGuardian Enzo

        It’s almost as if they planned it, eh?

  • July 4, 2019 at 4:13 pmAndre

    I was worried about this show at the beginning because the first episodes were too shoujo: super hot guy making the main girl blush just by saying a word or looking at here. At one point it was just a bunch of generic shoujo scenes one after the other.

    It’s a good thing the focus changed to develop the group instead of just making Chika look cooler and hotter every single episode.

    It was a good show at the end.

  • July 5, 2019 at 3:37 amMi-Chan

    Beautiful anime, I liked it, I like anime’s that are pure clean and define human relationships, I can see resemblance to Chihayafuru, but Chihayafuru is on another level of course.

    HOWEVER – THERE WAS NO WAY TO END THE EPISODES LIKE THIS. I don’t care if they will complete it later on, BUT MAN YOU KNOW I FEEL FRIKEN STUCK. It is not a cliff hanger, coz they dead well, but rather my emotions, raw, sad, tearful, were cut short by an ending song.

    I will kill who ever thought this was a great idea.

    Of course, I will kill him by throwing some violin from all the way here to wherever he is. (Because violins are easier to get I guess.)

    Thanks Mr. ENZO-san. BW, M.

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