Three misfits join together to make beautiful music.
Overview (Spoilers Below):
Down to its last member, the koto club will accept anyone who is interested in the traditional Japanese instrument. But when a delinquent and a prodigy player sign up, finding harmony isn’t going to be easy—especially not with ensemble competitions looming around the corner. With enough time and some incredible skill at the strings, perhaps this motley crew can strike a chord with the judges.
New Club Members finds high school delinquent Chika trying to join the Koto club, but club president Takezo has trouble believing he’s serious. After learning what drives Chika to play the koto, Takezo steps up and allows him to join the club while clearing his name in front of the principal. In the second episode, Having What It Takes, the club gains a third member, Satowa, the daughter of a man who runs a prestigious koto music school. She’s talented, stuck-up, and very set on getting to the Nationals. She won’t be able to do it alone, but maybe the three of them can make it happen together?
The first two episodes of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life do a great job of setting up an intriguing series with cool characters that I’m already excited about. The first episode introduces our two main characters, straight-laced Koto club president Takezo and troubled young thug Chika. They’re both pretty interesting characters who already feel fleshed out after the premiere. New Club Members is heavy on backstory, which isn’t something I’m used to since that tends to come in later in most series in my experience. I didn’t mind it though, and it allows us to have a decent grasp on who these guys are after just twenty minutes or so.
The parallels between Chika being falsely arrested for fatally injuring his grandfather and for trashing the Koto club room are drawn a little too strong to the point of silly melodrama, but it was an effective way to form a connection between Chika, Takezo, and the club itself. The two of them have a sweet dynamic already, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow together as Takezo attempts to make the club his own as the only upperclassman member.
The second episode, Having What It Takes, introduces the third club member. Named Satowa, she drops her polite tone when she discovers that the only other club members are two dudes. She’s a delightful addition to the cast, and her chemistry with Chika is fantastic. When the three club members have barely met and they’re already kicking each other in the crotch, that’s a great sign! (I mean, that sounds bad, but they start getting along a lot better by the end of the episode!)
There’s already a lot of cool stuff going on in the show, like Chika’s constant struggle to prove himself worthy of playing the koto. And speaking of playing the koto, we sure haven’t heard much about it yet. I was assuming the show would begin by introducing the koto, and get around to drama between the members later, but Kono Oto Tomare! may just be reversing that. There’s a lot of pressure on Takezo to shepherd the club correctly in its new evolution. He’s barely able to play the koto himself – his presentation to the freshman was his first solo performance, in fact. And now he has to manage two Spitfires, one of them above his talent and the other far below? This is gonna be a wild ride.
The English dub is in the solid B+ range, with Alejandro Saab and Amber Lee Connors turning in excellent performances as Takezo and Satowa. Connors especially really sells when Satowa drops her polite act, and it’s refreshing to have a female character who isn’t afraid to be as rough and rowdy as the guys. Daman Mills sounds a little generic as Chika, but we’ll have to see how he develops in the role. I was excited to hear Felecia Angelle as Mashiro, the former club president who haunts Takezo’s memories. There were some pretty funny lines in these two episodes. I couldn’t help but laugh at Takezo’s dad: “He still does that stuff? I thought it was just a desperate cry for help after he failed his exams.” Also, I love how into recruitment Chika is: “We’ve gotta win over those naive first-years!” And what review could be complete without quoting Satowa? “Why do idiots have to be so loud?”
Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life comes out strong with two very good episodes. We’ve already got a great cast with excellent chemistry, some future plot lines developing to be expanded upon down the road, and a nice soundtrack! Takezo is spurred on by memories of his upperclassman, while Chika by his grandfather. We don’t quite know the backstory on Satowa yet, but I’ll bet it’s just as fascinating as the other two. Now if only that repair shop can get the koto’s fixed by next week!