Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life is a beautiful anime which is based on a manga series written and illustrated by Amyu Sakura. They published this manga in the Jump Square Magazine in August 2012. It has been compiled into 25 tankobon where over 5.5 million copies were sold. They aired the anime in 2019 from April to December, which we will be talking about here today.
But before we get to that, don’t forget to read my other reviews like the comedy Arakawa Under The Bridge or my favourite work yet, Fuumetsu no Anata e. But maybe you want something pumpier, then do check out some of my favourite One Piece’s quotes or One Piece greatest Villains. And my latest review on the Chinese animated series Scissor Seven, A bloody funny series! check it out!
Introduction on Kono Oto Tomare!
As someone who loves instrumental music, I immediately fell in love with this Anime. While there is always Asian Classical music appreciation, I however kept falling back on western classical music of Bach or Mozart or Vivaldi as the instruments used are familiar and well known. But, I was quite happy that the sound of a certain string instrument which I had liked but not knowing its name became the Protagonist of this Anime and now I have multiple playlist on my phone which showcase the beauty of this Japanese Musical Instrument.
In this Anime, like many High-school based anime, involves the club activities of the students. Now I don’t know if this is the real deal in Japanese school system but I think this is brilliant that students have to join and be part of a club. It encourages learning, social interaction, and skill building. We do not have that here in Shillong and India as a whole. Schooling here is nothing more than simply sharpening one’s memory. Which is definitely useless considering all information is only a click away.
Anyway, “Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life”, follows that similar pattern and the focus of the anime is on the Koto Club. The club, in this case, was heading towards extinction, but one last effort was taken by Takezo Kurata. He’s the only returning member of the Koto Club after the seniors graduated. He was able to save the club by recruiting some unique but odd members.
Takezo’s frantic efforts to recruit new members brought in Chika Kudo. A person known or thought to be Tokise High’s bad boy. His reputation of being a bad boy, or a delinquent, came because there were accusations of him thrashing his grandfather’s workshop. Apparently went to jail for this crime, well at least according to the rumours. However, like how it is even in the real world, people are quick to judge and label people as delinquents, even if reality is not as it seems. In fact, his membership in the koto club had allowed him to bond with his late grandfather. All his emotions and rage, which he has been suppressing, were dealt with through music. Thus, it is important for us to always look at things from a rational and logical point of view. Swaying to the beat of this rotten habit of society will always be detrimental.
While for Takezo, the revival of the koto club meant the world to him. Also, a promise he kept. For Chika, it became a life force that releases him from the shackles that had tied him all the years. It was also to pay homage to those that stood with him when the world had seemed to give up.
While the addition of Chika and his friends had saved the koto club from extinction, yet it just barely survived. The addition of a prodigy named Satowa Hozuki rejuvenates the club to new heights. It suddenly excels and thrives beyond expectation of the once thought to be dead Koto club.
Satowa Hozuki herself is a musical prodigy but her family also runs a prestigious koto school. With the death of her father, she became pressured to carry the school name. Her mother was also under a lot of pressure to perform as her husband once did.
While the anime portrays the mother as being on the colder side, I however found myself to sympathise with her. Being Female, without a husband and running a highly reputable business is never easy. Even in our society today, we constantly belittle women in society, in the workplace, and in our homes. But still would expect them to be perfect all the time or they’re useless to society.
Some of the viewers may develop a feeling of resentment towards the mother and perhaps would even see themselves in the role of Satowa who is constantly trying to make it on her own and still aims at pleasing her mother and that is natural, and it is exactly what the anime wants to portray. However, as a counsellor, I can only view it from a very neutral stance and cannot just judge a situation wildly without registering all the facts of the case. So I highly recommend those that have any feeling of resentment towards their parents or guardians to seek professional psychological help (not social work) to have clarity and objectivity in their thoughts and feelings.
The instrument and the music of Kono Oto Tomare!
Japan considers Koto as the national instrument. And before I continue, I would like to say that I am no expert in any musical instruments. I will only describe the Koto to what I feel it is rather than what the accurate description of it is. I encourage you to do your own research to find out accurate information about it.
Now, for me, the Koto is a beautiful string instrument, which is plucked rather than strum making the sounds sharp yet melodic. If I were to compare it with an Indian instrument, I would say that the sounds is as melodic as that of a ‘Sitar’. Sitar is a string instrument played like a guitar, or the middle east influence ‘Santur’ which is played by spoon shaped mallet hammers in each hand. They play the Koto with the fingers and the instrument laid flat on the floor. The Koto artist wears finger picks on first three fingers of the right hand because it is a plucked string instrument.
The Koto produces beautiful sounds, and the anime was able to beautifully showcase that. There were many personal favourites of mine played in the anime (yes, I cannot name them but I can recognise the sound and melody). I have listened to them as a collective of Asian classical music on my playlist.
The Anime could even captivate a first-time listener if they are a lover of music. They are be able to express the uniqueness and finesse of the instrument and the music very well in the anime. The portrayal of said instrument is beautiful throughout the anime. The creators did not skip the parts or ended them abruptly as I would have expected, but every music piece got the respect it deserves. Even if it’s some supporting nameless characters in the anime playing.
Just for reference, the “Kono Oto Tomare!” CD had won the record category excellence award at the 72nd Agency for Cultural Affairs Arts Festival Awards and also the Traditional Music Album of the Year – 32nd Japan Golden Disc Award. Here is also a link to the Track List of the OST I & II and I do recommend finding them on any music app or on video sites to give it a listen because it’s better than those Lo-Fi music people are listening to :-
Conclusion to Kono Oto Tomare!
Kono Oto Tomare is brilliant in terms of balancing the character story and the music. The focus wasn’t one sided on either the practising or the result, but had quite a delicate balance. Which worked really well for the Anime. The Koto club, because they had only a few members and not an orchestra of sorts, made the character development that more interesting. If it was a crowd too large, it would have made it impossible for the viewers to be pulled into the storytelling. The story would have been too much or the focus would have been diluted. But here, each character seems to be an essential part of the collective, and the dependence was mutual on all ends. Even the side characters, for example, weren’t too mediocre nor became a tool for the anime to sidetrack, which usually happens in other anime series.
Overall, for me it is a fun little anime with nothing too extravagant but introduced me to a wonderful world of Asian classical instrumental music.
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