A very appropriate title for what is unveiled in this week’s episode of Mashiro no Oto, as Setsu’s abilities are put to the test. We are introduced to a few key characters that continue to shape Setsu Sawamura’s journey of the shamisen. Yui Yamazato (Reina Kondou), the best friend of shamisen advocate Shiru Maeda, is a fiesty, glasses-wearing girl who is always looking out for her friend, wanting what’s best for her.
Yui even tries to get Setsu to join the school’s Tsugaru Shamisen Appreciation Club for Shiru’s sake so she is not alone, to which Setsu says “talk to me when you are (interesed)”, referring to Yui’s disinterest in the shamisen, and showing Setsu’s own disinterest in anyone with ulterior motives. At this point, we are also introduced to a character whom I feel will have some importance down the track (I mean, he does appear on the main poster for the series), Shiru’s unrequited lover Kaito Yaguchi (Nobihiko Okamoto).
During class, Setsu ponders why Shiru is interested in the shamisen, but more so, why she is interested in the Tsugara-shamisen, which is the style used by his grandfather and himself within the Tsugara peninsula in which their hometown Aomori resides. After being scolded by the teacher and getting her earphones pulled out, Shiru’s audio file of her grandma humming an old tune is heard by the whole class. While most people laughed at the absurd choice of music she was listening to, Setsu immediately recognises the tune as one his grandfather used to play.
Setsu approaches Shiru after class, and the two explain their individual links to that tune, as Setsu considers the possibility of his grandfather and Shiru’s grandmother having crossed paths at some point. Alluring to the free-style nature of Matsugoro Sawamura, Setsu claims that this piece is impossible to reproduce, especially for himself, as his “emotions would get in the way.”
The next sequence takes place in Setsu’s hometown, Aomori, and we are introduced to the handsome, and extremely skilled Seiryū Kamiki (Yuuichirou Umehara), as he is shown demonstrating his awesome shamisen skills at the Tanuma household. If that wasn’t enough of a potential rival for Setsu, the shamisen siblings Mai Tanuma (Shiori Mikami) and Souichi Tanuma (Tasuku Hatanaka) are certainly forces to be reckoned with. Seiryū learns of the hidden talent Setsu Sawamura in Aomori, and reveals his greatest frustration would be if “someone plays a sound you don’t have inside yourself”, alluring to a faint feeling of Setsu being a threat to him.
Seiryū Kamiki heads back to Tokyo to perform at a live show, where Setsu and the gang have come to watch, after learning that Seiryū is the original owner of the school club’s shamisen. Seiryū’s performance was another incredible display of sheer shamisen brilliance in this series, and even I felt the urge to stand up and applaude like the audience in the show. Interestingly though, his style differs greatly from what we’ve seen of Setsu in previous episodes, and I would describe it as a more “textbook shamisen” style, compared to Setsu’s “wild and free” style. Either way, both styles are a beauty to listen to, although I personally prefer Setsu’s for it’s more unstructured approach which invites the performer to bring out their own flavour to the song, such that it cannot be expressed by anyone else.
Overall, I would say that Setsu’s shamisen style is heavily based on feeling, emotion and just pure soul, while Seiryū is all about perfection of technique, and mastering the most difficult pieces. I felt this to be true particularly when Seiryū got Setsu to demonstrate his skills using his own top-grade shamisen, and watching Setsu struggling to bring out the awesome tunes he did in previous episodes was just heart-wrenching to watch. As we soon learn, Setsu simply cannot play to his best ability without a purpose as to why he is playing. Hence, the episode ends with Setsu promising Shiru he will attempt to play her grandmother’s song for her, in what could only be described as a heart-warming ending scene to another awesome episode!
So, are you with team Setsu or team Seiryū?
Let me know in the comments!