“A lot’s happened, but I’m glad things are okay now.”
Overview (Spoilers Below):
Tasked by Satowa with creating their own version of Rokudan, the members of the koto club are stumped. They just don’t know what it means to ‘face up to’ a piece of music they haven’t experienced before. But when Chika and the three stooges visit his house, they learn a little more about how to make music of their own.
Later, two girls from the Himesaka Girls Academy are caught spying on the club room. It turns out, they’re trying to lure Satowa away from the koto club in favor of a more distinguished and talented group. But despite the potential for more success, Satowa turns them down, telling them she chose this club because she likes it.
After the drama of the last several episodes, it was a nice change of pace to get back to a more relaxed episode focused more on the group dynamic than any sole issues between the members of the club. In A Sign, the eighth episode of Kono Oto Tomare!, the club members deal with their lack of experience in playing music. Finding their own footing when it comes to the koto is key, and that’s what a large chunk of this week’s episode was all about.
It starts with Chika, of course. As one of the first members of the club, and probably the most unlikely member, he takes the spotlight when it comes to the main plot of learning what it means to play a song while making it into your own. He begins by trying to follow Satowa’s advice to the best of his ability. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to make out what she means by ‘facing up to’ the piece. It’s rather funny, really, and it’s a welcome challenge. It allows Chika to come face to face with the memory of his grandfather, and he finally allows himself to play the koto that his grandfather left to him.
But he wouldn’t have even thought about playing it without help from Kouta, Saneyasu, and Michitaka (aka, the three stooges). Eager to spend more time with Chika, they barge into his home and encourage him to show them his room and his heart. Along with assistance from Chika’s aunt, they all learn more about what music means to each of them. These three guys are an excellent example of how to go about creating expendable cast members who still add value to the show. Always portrayed as a group, yet still individually distinguishable, they add numbers to the club while not taking our focus away from the more important main cast members.
Satowa takes somewhat of a larger part in the second half of the episode when a girl she knows comes to try and convince her to join the Himesaka Girls Academy koto club. (The girl is enamored with her, and if I wasn’t rooting for her and Chika to get together, I’d be all for them setting sail.) It’s a nice setup for some tension down the road, and I like that it’s never really in question whether Satowa will be tempted; of course not. Her place is here and these are the friends she’s chosen. Still, it might be hard for the club to recognize just how behind they are when it comes to the joint practice.
This week’s dub is nicely done, with Daman Mills turning in a particularly good performance as Chika. He clearly likes Satowa, but his charming nature makes it hard to admit: “Food I eat with you would probably taste terrible, so forget I asked.” Chika’s confusion about ‘facing a piece’ is hilarious: “I’m a feeler, not a thinker!” Chika’s grandfather is a real good ‘un: “I just want Chika to always be smiling.” It’s sweet how Kurusu has already warmed up to the koto: “You can’t play the koto with fake nails, anyway.” Oh my god, Satowa’s admirers are so quotable: “There’s nothing but boys here – is this hell?”
The eighth episode of Kono Oto Tomare! slows the pace a bit with an episode dedicated to exploring how the koto club members are progressing when it comes to their musical abilities. The episode does a nice job tying this together with their friendship abilities, too, and by the end of it, there’s no doubt in my mind that this group will stick together through thick and thin. But I can’t help but remain a little nervous about that joint practice coming up next week…