The individual competition is well on its way, but not without its dramas. From Kaji’s two-string performance to Umeko’s drama queen interventions and finally the pressure on Setsu to produce his grandfather’s sound, this second-last episode was action-packed, to say the least. Inspiration right off the bat as Kaji plays through the tragedy of a broken string on the fly is met with heartbreak when his performance did not live up to what it could have been. His moment in the spotlight was short-lived, and things quickly gravitated towards Setsu’s performance, which was essentially the talk of the town.
Umeko’s constant interference started to show its true colors, as she scolded Setsu and used emotional blackmail to get him to play Matsugorou’s sound rather than his own, in order to “not let his sound die.” Interestingly, this was never what the old geezer hoped for before he passed on, and Setsu’s memories with him indicated his will to let Setsu find his own sound, essentially claiming that imitating others’ sounds is “garbage.” Nonetheless, Umeko achieved what she wanted and Setsu became determined to carry his grandfather’s legacy with his performance, or so we thought.
During what could be described as relatively slow performance, Setsu was successfully keeping his grandfather’s sound alive and well in the first stages of his showing, but quickly began to question his actions and reflect on his motives. Memories of his grandfather start flooding his mind as he ponders on his dying wish, realizing that what he truly wanted was for his grandson, and all those linked by the shamisen to find their own sound, and bring a unique light into the world that can only be produced by the individual. Umeko’s wish was no doubt a noble one, as her father Matsugorou was indeed a legendary figure worthy of being imitated. What she did not understand though, was the bigger picture.
Yes, Matsugorou had a legendary sound, and many yearn to hear it once again, but as we’ve seen on many occasions, for instance, the episode with Shiru’s grandmother, that Setsu has his own unique sound that is worthy of becoming legendary. While he was unable to reproduce his grandfather’s sound at that time, he hinted at his own sound which had “the ability to heal,” as Shiru’s granny put it. These feelings combined with Setsu’s unique experiences, encounters, friendships, and overall journey in life ultimately gave him the motivation he needed to transfer his performance into his own, as we began to see in the final few scenes, and to the disappointment of Umeko.
Truly a spectacle of finding oneself, and a reminder that every person in this world is unique and worthy of hearing, this series has done an incredible job of portraying so many themes, most notably the aspect of “conformity versus the individual.” Setsu, who is both blessed and cursed by being the grandson of a legendary shamisen player, is not only tasked with keeping his spirit alive, but displaying his own sound to the world so that one day the torch will be passed on to his offsprings, and his own sound can be carried forth. Setsu achieved this perfectly with his performance, dedicating the first part to his late grandfather, and transitioning the second part to his own unique sound, ultimately carrying on his responsibility perfectly.
Can’t wait to see what the final episode of this incredible series has to offer!