Season aired: Fall 2019
Number of episodes: 13
Genres: Music, Drama, Romance
Thoughts: Kono Oto Tomare first cour aired during the spring season of this year, so the second cour began right after the thirteenth episode of the first cour. The last we saw of the first cour was Tokise koto club’s first competition. Their performance started to waver when the members began to panic at the different tempos they played, but eventually, they found their footing and ended on a positive note.
As a result, the first episode of this second cour started right after they performed. While they all sighed in relief for finding their synchronicity before their performance ended disastrously, anxiety soon overtook them as they have yet to find out who had won the actual competition. The portrayal of this moment as the starting line to a second cour was particularly jarring, especially with three months in between the cours. Because the emotions of relief and triumph had faded from the gap, I couldn’t fully connect with the characters. In fact, it took more than a few episodes to once again reconnect with them. With no smooth reintroduction into the current scene, it not only took me but the overall fandom some time to readjust.
However, once that bump cleared and Akira is introduced into the story, the momentum restarted powerfully, and the series doesn’t let that momentum go to waste — not even at the very end. One of Kono Oto Tomare’s most powerful tools is how it transforms their characters into incredibly complex and three-dimensional characters. This doesn’t even stop at their antagonists; Akira alone proves just how good this series is at establishing character development and complexities.
From her introduction, through the eyes of the protagonists, we are convinced to feel annoyed and eventually despise Akira for her attitude, personality, and motives. However, as the story continues, her story slowly unfolds on the screen, and we move from hating her to pitying her and finally to sympathizing with her. Miraculously, by the end of the cour, we are supporting her and wishing her the best. These nudges are so subtle that I often find myself watching each episode with a completely different emotion towards Akira and wonder how my opinion changed so drastically in just twenty-three minutes. Just like how Hozuki’s mom claims, “Your koto is like a weapon to me,” this series uses its characters as powerful weapons to wring out emotions and change your perspective beyond your control. Akira, in my opinion, is one of Koto Oto Tomare’s greatest weapons to date.
Ultimately, however, this is not just a series about characters, but a series about the power behind music. And Kono Oto Tomare delivers in that regard with an incredible soundtrack in this second cour. Finally, we not only hear the entirety of Himesaka and Hakuto’s performances at the competition but fully witness the fruit of Tokise’s hard work and passion. For an entire eight minutes of an episode, we do nothing but listen to koto music as the characters play their hearts out to the judges and audience. Those entire eight minutes were some of the most cathartic minutes I’ve witnessed in anime, and I was left so entirely moved and emotional, despite the fact that, in a very literal sense, nothing actually happened.
Yet, so much did. Music is a form of storytelling since ancient times, and Kono Oto Tomare blends it into its series to show the audience the journey these characters had chosen to embark on and a future they saw with their own eyes. Their pasts will continue to haunt them in a sense, but they have now grown past them and see their struggles as incentives to run forward without shame and fear.
I wish I could call the series flawless. I very much want to because of how the storyline and characters had moved me tremendously, but unfortunately, I must critique the actual animation. I think it is because the production committee wanted to preserve their best animation for actual koto playing, but it is still blatantly obvious at times when the quality took a downturn. In particular, it’s hard to watch when the seiyuus are all doing an incredible job voice acting their respective characters with deep emotions, but the faces of the characters themselves do not portray such emotions. Often times, their faces remain blank, and then the series would shift abruptly into a very artistically drawn still, which only makes the poorer animation even more obvious. This constant jumping back and forth between art stills, bad animation, and then good koto animation undoubtedly distracts the audience. I can only wish there was either more time or money to make the quality of the animation consistent throughout all thirteen episodes.
However, I don’t want to dissuade people from watching this series— beyond the shakier animation, this series carries soul in its characters, music, and themes. It’s about healing, love, and friendship. And for the best enjoyment, I highly suggest everyone to watch both cours without any stops in between to fully experience the emotions it can draw out from you.
Voice acting: 8.5
FINAL SCORE: 80