Sounds of Life (この音とまれ！) is a shōnen, slice-of-life, music (koto) anime adaptation of the manga series by Amyū. It’s being produced by Platinum Vision with direction from Ryōma Mizuno. It follows a high-schooler named Kurata Takezō, who has been charged with being the president of the koto club from his senpais who have graduated and left the school. Since he’s having trouble finding members to join up, the club is at risk of being shut-down completely. Then on the first day, a new student—Chika Kudō—with a reputation for being a delinquent, starts attending. He wants to become a member, but Kurata refuses to believe that a ruffian like him would be serious about playing the koto, until Kudō proves that he may not as roguish as everyone presumes him to be.
In my preview post for the season, I mentioned how the biggest attraction for me with regard to this series is the instrument: the koto. This is Japan’s national instrument and it has some of the most beautiful sounds that I have heard. As a big music nerd, specifically with instrumental and classical rhythms, I simply couldn’t pass Kono Oto Tomare! up. I’m glad my weakness for traditional Japanese music influenced me here because the first episode was positively delightful.
As it stands, the pilot introduces us to a basic slice-of-life story. We have the kid with the glasses who is weak, but passionate about something that saved him from despair. However, he’s also a bit uptight and judgmental. Then the badass student arrives; the one who is viewed as being inherently tough and intimidating. But the more that you get to know him, the more you realise he has a tragic history that makes him so broody. Within all of those protective barriers is an individual who is emotionally vulnerable and seeking validation outside of his suffering. These two characters, who would otherwise never meet or become friends, come together via a mutual interest and a bond begins to take root.
The one thing that I love about feel-good, slice-of-life anime is that they are usually bursting with inspiration and motivation to keep moving forward with life in whatever capacity is available to you. They all do tend to follow a generic formula with some tweaks to the affecting focus [such as revolving around music or sports or weird aliens (Tsuritama)], but I think this is why it works so well time-and-time again. In each instance, it is almost always about confronting your feelings and learning to process through them in order to live your best life. More often than not that also involves creating friendships to last a lifetime. As an awkward and weird introvert, making friends has always been a big challenge for me (still is). Yet, whenever I did make friends, I always felt so much more positive and better about myself as a person and the direction my life was heading, even at a snail’s pace. I know this doesn’t apply to everyone out there, but for the ones it does apply to, engaging with stories like that can help reignite those feelings and thus become a source of comfort.
Kono Oto Tomare! feels like that is exactly what it shall become. It will be about a group of kids who have their own shite to deal with. Some of it will be serious, while others may be less so. They will build a connection via their love of the koto and find ways to emotionally mature and learn to grow as individuals. Since the first episode does offer up a helping of evocative elements, I believe that in conjunction with the good-natured comedic aspects, there will be more tear-jerker moments, which will help to add further depth to the narrative and characters overall.
I loved the animation for this series as well. While there’s isn’t anything too spectacularly unique about it, the lightness of the character designs (thinner outlines with a softer colour than darkest black) and the inherently spring-infused, watercolour backdrops formulate a delicate and charming ambiance. It’s aesthetically pleasing to watch and contributes to the traditional seasonal Japanese allure that most people associate with cherry blossoms and culturally traditional stringed instruments.
My only complaint about the first episode is that there weren’t any physical koto scenes, at least none involving the characters playing the instrument. So, we don’t get to experience that bit, which is a large chunk of what the series is supposed to centre on. I’m hoping that some semblance of playing shall begin in the second episode, even if it’s for a short while. Given that this series is only going to be twelve episodes long, it would be nice to get that part going sooner rather than later. Then again, the music geek inside of my heart may just be getting too impatient with their excitement.
Overall, I believe that Kono Oto Tomare!, or Sounds of Life as it’s known in English, is a worthy series to invest in, especially if you are someone who fancies slice-of-life anime and are interested in the more traditional elements of Japanese culture. It’s not outstandingly unique, but it’s uplifting and very sweet, and I’m mostly sure that shall be its trend as the season unfolds.
You can catch Sounds of Life on Funimation on Saturday afternoons. The SimulDubs shall be starting up at the end of April, for those who prefer dubbed over subbed.