Kono Oto Tomare! Ep. 2: Painfully generic

Like most people, I know almost nothing about the koto, zheng, gayageum, đàn tranh or whatever you wanna call it other than that it is a string instrument that you don’t see too much of these days. So my approach to this anime is pretty simple: how will the show make the koto seem appealing to the layman? Well, I gotta say that it ain’t doing so hot.

— Like every show about every high school club ever, the boys will now have to find new recruits for their koto club. They need at least five members or the club will shut down. Ho hum.

— This leads to Takezo performing nervously onstage by himself. After all, Chika doesn’t actually know how to play the koto yet. The problem is that everything in this show is painted in broad strokes, so when I say that Takezo is nervous, what I really mean is that he’s pissing himself. Luckily for us, he’s not doing it literally.

— So the kid goes out there and starts playing some “fundamental” piece for the koto. Naturally, the kids in the audience aren’t all that interested in the performance. I wouldn’t be either. Nevertheless, the hotheaded Chika stands up before all the students and yells at them. On the one hand, it is rude to talk during someone’s performance. On the other hand, this is just so boring. Alright, this is my problem with the show. I get that the instrument is steeped in tradition and all that, but it’s also the 21st century. Where’s the imagination? An instrument can be made to play any song. You want to wow people? You want to draw them in? You gotta get on their wavelength. You gotta play something that they might be interested in. Then afterwards, if you wanna teach them some crusty ol’ “fundamental” piece, knock yourself out. I mean, look how cool this is (skip to 0:53 if you want to save some time):

I don’t even like the koto, but this gets my attention. Old meets new. Tradition meets modernity. We need to be broad-minded. You can keep a dying art alive by injecting it with some new blood. This means not forcing everyone to adhere so stubbornly to the past.

— Alright, mini-rant over. The boys come back to the club room to find a generic black-haired beauty waiting for them. No doubt an ojousama. Also, she’s here to complete the triumvirate of main characters.

— Takezo is all too excited to have her join the club, which Chika can’t help but notice. Hey, I’d be ticked off too.

— But upon learning Satowa’s family name, the bespectacled kid suddenly recognizes that he’s standing in front of a prodigy — the Jimi Hendrix of the koto. The girl is the daughter of some grand koto wizard master whatever. She’s destined to go pro one day with the koto, so she’s a big shot.

— When Satowa realizes that she’ll be the only girl in the club, she immediately drops her nice act. That doesn’t mean she’s actually a huge bitch, but eh… she’s like Takezo. She likes to judge people by their appearances. As a result, she instantly dismisses Chika as just another delinquent. They start butting heads, and they pretty much don’t stop for the rest of the episode. But you know how it is? It’s just the same ol’ nonsense about two kids disliking each other before shyly falling in love with each other. Like I said, this show is painfully generic. Anime’s gotta anime.

— Also, joining this dinky koto club is just one way to build up a narrative for herself. She says it’ll be a cool story to tell once she makes it big. It’s almost like something out of a cheesy manga. Satowa’s bluntness is somewhat appreciated, but at the same time, she’s kind of full of herself.

— I’ve never seen the kabedon outside of anime or jdramas. Maybe it’s just an Asian thing. Honestly, I’ve literally never seen it in real life.

— Anyways, it’s time for the major plot point of the second episode: Satowa doesn’t think Chika has what it takes to play the koto. It’s not like a guitar, y’know! You can’t just pick it up and jam out! You put it on the ground and jam out!

— Plus, I question the logic of driving Chika away when the club still needs fresh bodies to keep it going. At the very least, if you want to be cold-blooded, make sure you have six members before kicking this guy out.

— God, how can you write these lines with a straight face? Nobody talks like this. I fucking swear that no high schooler talks like this.

This line too. Get outta here.

— We get a single hint that the girl has some hang-ups regarding a woman in her family. Probably her mother, but who can tell from the back? Might be her grandmother.

— Chika isn’t the only person who has a problem with Satowa. Takezo is uncomfortable about her claiming that the club should aim for nationals. Again, everything is painted in broad strokes, so the guy has to make some pained expression as he confronts her. Nobody has any chill. If it was me, I’d be like, “Aim for nationals? Sure, let’s give it a shot. Let’s do our best.” That’s too reasonable? Sorry, I’m not used to wigging out over tiny molehills.

— So Takezo storms off, and this allows Chika to stop by the club but not go in. Since it looks like Satowa’s going to start playing the koto, he wants to see for herself what she can do. Well, she’s a prodigy, right? So obviously, she completely blows his mind. I’m an utter layman about the koto, however, so it just sounds like every other traditional koto piece that I’ve ever heard. Again, this show, story, or whatever you wanna call it has to decide what it wants to do. Does it just want to preach to the choir? Then go ahead, change nothing. Just stay the course. But I’d wager that the majority of us aren’t into the koto, and this show is doing nothing to make the instrument seem appealing. It just seems to assume that the koto automatically deserves respect.

— Alright, second mini-rant over. Satowa’s performance moves Chika so much that he heads straight to the principal’s office. When Takezo is done arbitrarily walking off to set up the next plot point, he returns to find that the principal has put in an order to have the broken koto repaired. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that Chika must have requested from the old man.

— Nevertheless, he spends the next week or so making himself scarce. This allows Satowa to dig in even further and proclaim to herself that the guy is worthless.

— Eventually, Takezo gets Tetsuki to reveal what Chika has been up to, so he decides to drag Satowa with him. He wants to show her that this delinquent ain’t such a bad guy! In fact, she’ll probably fall in love with him one day! Don’t fight it! It’s destiny!

— So we get to the koto shop where the instruments are being repaired. Naturally, Chika is in there, being berated by some granny who is probably less than 4′ feet tall. No, seriously.

— A dude who we’ll probably never see again conveniently walks up to Takezo and Satowa and tells them all about how Chika has been working hard to learn how to fix the koto. Yeah, he doesn’t wanna talk about it! But I can! I love how he can remember everything Chika has said word for word. To make a long story short, like every anime protagonist ever, you just work hard! And in doing so, he’ll now be able to face the koto!

— So this gets everyone else to calm down a little. Takezo admits that he has been a wimp. He didn’t have the courage to aim for nationals after the club failed last year.

— As for Satowa, she admits she has been too arrogant. Great, the ice queen’s heart is thawing. I can’t wait to learn all about her family drama.

3 thoughts on “Kono Oto Tomare! Ep. 2: Painfully generic

  1. ndqanhvn

    I remember watching one koto performance that the person play….Touhou music. It certainly grab my attention. The arrange is pretty neat too: it showcased the unique sound of koto, and it’s familiar enough to grasp the attention of all the Touhou nerds in that event…Actually recently, those kind of things (using traditional music instrument to play familiar trend, like the Star war theme, etc…) seem to be effective. Once they are lured in, you could move to other classic arrange, like “Running watter and wandering clouds” or something (sorry, I don;t know the exact translation) But I guess traditionalists have their own reason too: in most cases,with superficial interest, people won’t be interested enough to start to learn the art. However, whatever you do, traditional music would never be prominent in the culture scene anyway…

    On a side note, my friend learned đàn tranh once. She said it hurts like hell, so after a few month she quits completely.

    1. Sean Post author

      I dunno, I just think if kids see other kids jamming out on stage and having a blast, they might be inclined to sign up. But if you’re a nervous wreck playing something slow and boring sounding — no matter how fundamental or technically sound it is — the majority of teenagers aren’t even going to be engaged in the first place.

  2. Tang Pham

    The thing that makes me instance quit this anime is that Satowa berated Chika for treating Koto badly, yet no one, not even Chika, point out how Satowa treat people just as bad. So being a jerk to Koto is bad but being a jerk to human is A-ok?


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