Take that, Vice Principal! With that non-issue out of the way, we get yet another assailant to bring drama to the koto club. This week, Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life puts its passion for music on the back burner in favor of leaning into its teen drama angle. The title “An Invisible Boundary” refers to the club’s emotional weak spots, which both Hiro-senpai and the previously unimportant koto club adviser seem to relish in attacking. Who would have expected a Japanese traditional music club to be such a drama magnet?
I love how the koto club kills the vice principal with kindness. Satowa and Chika know exactly what they’re doing when they “thank” the VP, while Takezo and the rest are a little purer in their motives. The group enjoys wild applause, the adoration of their peers, and a soda toast (except for Chika, the big softie who gets strawberry milk) to their renewed commitment of aiming for Nationals. On the surface, the koto club’s challenges are all music-based; Takezo wants them to compete in a regional music festival while Satowa wants them to develop a more well-rounded sound by adding a classical piece to their repertoire. But lurking just beyond the club room are two unexpected threats: a callous club adviser and a sinister new member.
Both of the koto club’s new villains have something in common, and unfortunately it’s weak motives. Takinami is lazy, and Hiro is bored. Takinami-sensei’s concern seems to be that if the koto club does well, he’ll have less free time and god forbid he possibly have to chaperone them to nationals. But since this show has a habit of slowly peeling away its characters’ facades to get at their gooey koto-loving centers, I suspect Takinami may be reformable. There had to be a reason he became the koto club adviser in the first place, right? Maybe some sort of trauma involving Nationals made him stop caring about whether his students make it there or not? Kurusu Hiro is even more of a one-dimensional villain. Her friends call her sociopathic hobby of manipulating people and tearing apart friendships “Hiro’s bad habit” and “the worst way to kill time.” But could there be a passionate center underneath Hiro’s terrible personality? She tells us that she’s not a beginner, and we learn she isn’t lying when she says her grandmother plays the koto. It’s just that she’s clearly distanced herself from it lately—the first thing Satowa notices about Hiro is her elaborate manicure, definitely not the trimmed nails of a musician.
Chika continues to live up to his role as the delinquent with a heart of gold, and while some of the other members may be swayed by Hiro’s manipulative insinuations, Chika flat out declares that he doesn’t believe anything unless it comes directly from the person’s mouth. It’s almost enough to make Hiro give up, until she learns that Satowa has a secret that she suspects could be exactly the wedge she requires to destroy the club once and for all. But why, Hiro? It’s all drama for drama’s sake, the kind of thing that will soon be resolved with a little direct communication between Chika and Satowa—and their budding love story gives them more vested interest in learning to understand one another. It’s just not believable that a brand new koto club could possibly make this many enemies so soon, making this one of the show’s weaker episodes so far.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.