In her final year of middle school and on the grand stage of the national koto competition, Satowa Hozuki, the prodigal heir to the Hozuki school of koto, composed a song. It was a piece that was all at once, a frustrated tantrum, a sorrowful cry, and a desperate plea to connect to her loved one when words could no longer bridge the gap. This song would eventually become a great source of regret for her, but also the initiator of her journey in finding the people that would give her the chance to try and connect again.
Kono Oto Tomare or Sounds of Life is a series that I’ve followed ever since the fan translation of the manga series first landed on my radar back in late high school. It became a series that I loved a lot and for almost unexplainable reasons now as, back then, I never thought to put to words my feelings for it. It’s been a very long time since I first laid my eyes on Amyu’s lovely line art and with the anime series coming to a close, I can’t think of a better time to try and capture some of the feelings that I had in regards to this messy and heart-warming story.
At its heart, Kono Oto is a story about a couple of kids that, for a variety of reasons, found themselves in a club together. Takezou, the president, was the sole remaining member of the koto club after his beloved senpai graduated and left the future of the club in his hands. Chika, the resident school delinquent, wanted to discover for himself why his late grandfather loved the koto as much as he did. Satowa, sought out a place she could finally just be happy playing the koto as she did when she was younger. Hiro wanted to find people she could genuinely connect with. And Kouta, Michitaka, and Saneyasu, simply wished to repay Chika for the long-forgotten kindness he showed them in their past.
Their various trajectories all pointed towards the koto club and as different as they all were, they all shared one particularly charming quality – a simple and straightforward kind of care for their fellow clubmates. The Tokise koto club is, in a few words, a club full of lovable idiots. When someone is hurt, everyone is quick to provide tissues, ice cream, first aid, or bountiful free hugs and apologies come in earnest as soon as someone realizes that they’ve unintentionally hurt another. It’s this is the kind of warm atmosphere that Kono Oto is built upon and the group’s dynamic and chemistry is absolutely the best that the show has to offer.
The song that I mentioned in the introduction to this post is probably the best example of the transformative power of kindness that the series loves to show. It was originally a piece that was meant to convey Satowa’s feelings to her mother. She wanted to bring their relationship back from before she was a prodigy and before she became an object of their family’s success. But it didn’t turn out as she wanted, the pair’s relationship only worsened, and the unnamed piece became a black mark in Satowa’s memories. Fortunately for her, it would be given a second chance as their performing piece in the qualifiers for nationals.
With the help of the various members of the koto club, the once solo piece became a group ensemble, overflowing with the feelings that she once wanted to convey. Far removed from the frustration and anger that underlay her original performance, the piece became filled with a gentleness and lively fervor that spoke to the experience she gained in the time that’s passed since its fateful first performance. This song, now titled ‘Tenkyuu’, gave her another chance to say the words that she’s always wanted to say, on the greatest stage that she’s ever played on – one with the people she cares about the most.
Kono Oto Tomare is far from the perfect show. It’s often melodramatic moments and sharp tonal shifts can be seriously jarring and take you completely out of important scenes. Its production quality is also a little on the poorer end with its heavy use of stills and noticeably inconsistent drawings of characters on unimportant episodes. Despite all this though, I still love the series for its incredibly warm atmosphere and its generally positive outlook on people.
I really do recommend checking out the series if you haven’t already and hopefully you’ll find the same kind of lovely warmth that I did.
Thanks for reading,
This is post number eight of twelve that I’ll be writing as part of this year’s 12 Days of Anime. Be sure to check out all other amazing writers that are participating in this year’s event here.