Season aired: Spring 2019
Number of episodes: 13
Genres: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Thoughts: Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life (Kono Oto Tomare) is an anime that follows an age-old formula. A group of misfits with nothing really in common discover themselves to be in the same club, in this case the koto club, and learn to bond and grow as friends while certain romantic relationships develop between certain characters. If the series does not have likable characters, the story will undoubtedly fall apart. Luckily, I can say that Kono Oto Tomare’s characters are extremely likable, and thus the story is successful.
While this anime takes place in high school, gone are the pettiness and manipulations that tend to dominate this hormonal stage of every person’s life. Every character’s personality and motivations are on the table, and their honesty as well as their unselfish desire to better themselves for their teammates and friends easily touch viewers’ hearts. This extends to even the anime series’ antagonists who are all very good people trying to fight fairly for a chance to prove their skills on the koto instrument. There literally isn’t a single important character to dislike.
This isn’t to say that the anime is just a comedic, lovely anime about friendship. In fact, many of the characters have absolutely tragic backgrounds. As the protagonist who’s rough around the edges, Chika struggles throughout the series to move past his prior violent activities, largely due to his father’s abandonment. Exiled prodigy koto player, Hozuki, deals with insecurities and distance with her club members which stem from her mother’s abuse at home. Every character has areas to grow and personal traumas that pushed them into becoming the person they are today. But what’s most important in the anime is that the characters’ pasts never get in the way of their growth. For every step in which the characters’ flounder, their friends are unbendingly at their sides to help them through it.
What shocked me in this series is that the story takes special care to cover every character’s background and growth. There are the typical three idiots often found in series used to provide comedic relief, but even they are given spotlights in the story that aren’t shallow, forgotten arcs. In fact, one of the silliest characters in the group of supporting characters winds up becoming one of the biggest driving forces for the team’s success in the last episode of the first cour, and the show made sure to emphasize that even the most comedic relief character in the series has a meaningful purpose and place in the team’s strength.
The characters could not have succeeded on screen without the employment of the incredible seiyuu staff. Yuuma Uchida once again uptakes a role of a rough-around-the-edges protagonist with a heart of gold, and as always, he excels. But to me, the breakout roles were actually Tanezaki Atsumi as Hozuki and Enoki Junya as club president Kurata.
Tanezaki Atsumi continues to surprise me with her wide range of vocals and expression. Sounding nothing like Rio Futaba of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, she proves her ability to voice passionate and confident yet feminine Hozuki as well as pull off all the emotional scenes when Hozuki is confronted about her troubled relationship with her mother. Though I have not seen any series yet with Enoki Junya, he plays the difficult role of Kurata in Kono Oto Tomare. The character, despite his insecurity and nervousness, has the ability to command and become utterly intimidating in a matter of seconds. His ability to seamlessly transition from an unsure, soft request to a calm, monotone demand sells the character more than any of the other voice actors in the group.
Unfortunately, the series is not without its critiques. For one, the first few episodes didn’t have the greatest start. The beginning protagonists, though very minor characters, were extremely generic “bad guys”. The series continued to improve in both characters and storytelling after the first arc and the main characters established, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the beginning was extremely predictable and chock full of exposition.
The animation is also lacking at times, especially when compared to the manga panels. But the most upsetting of all is the lack of koto music despite the series’ focus on the koto club. Many performances are skipped over or talked over by dialogue and inner monologues when at times, I really would just like to listen to the koto music. Especially when the audiences are privy to small sections of beautiful koto music, I think the series really would’ve benefited by cutting down some of the dialogue to make room for the actual instrumentals.
However, storytelling and character development wise, Kono Oto Tomare is definitely one for the ages. Its ability to blend music with completely likable characters as they grow and continuously better themselves for the people around them really reaches audiences of all shapes and sizes regardless of background or history.
Voice acting: 8
FINAL SCORE: 77