Happy Friday morning, chums! Today, I’m going to kick-off my weekend by talking about the Spring 2019, slice-of-life anime, Sounds of Life.
This was an anime that I gushed about a bit in my first impressions, even though everything about it was very basic and a tad cliché. The music geek within my heart just could not resist the koto, which is Japan’s national instrument and one of my favourite instruments to listen to. It’s an extremely difficult one to master as well (one day I hope to be able to try and learn it!).
Thus far I have seen two episodes of the series and I really like what I have seen. As I mentioned, it won’t blow your socks off with its originality—koto aside there’s not much there—but I do believe that the characters will be the key to making Sounds of Life a pleasant experience as a whole. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hoping for it more than anticipating it.
For today’s post, I’m going to share with you my episodic reactions for episodes three through eight with a small prediction on how I perceive things shall wrap-up! I shall be watching Sounds of Life over on Funimation.
Episode three focused on acquiring more members and then preparing for a challenge tossed down by the asshole vice principal who seems to enjoy judging people based on things he knows naught about.
Hozuki (the babe with the long hair) is such an evil person and I enjoy it so much. She’s really pushing everyone to work their damndest because she doesn’t want the club to get disbanded. On the surface she seems like a very superficial person in terms of her motives and why she joined the club to begin with. Her narrowmindedness is frustrating and frightening the other members as they prepare for a challenge that they don’t believe they shall conquer. But with titbits of her past coming to light and an individual reading her behaviour like an open book, it seems the anime is setting her up to be the way she is due to a sad and lonely past. It’s not too imaginative, but I enjoy the attempt at giving her more dimensions. She is my favourite character from the series so far, aside from Kudo.
As for the members who have joined our original trio of koto players, they are friends of Kudo’s who know absolute dick about the instrument. But they seem to be quite loyal to their friend that helped them out a long time ago, and I admire that quality in friendships very much. They add much more comedic relief to the series, although there’s already humour in spades. While the camaraderie is excellent, I can see this idiocy rubbing some watchers the wrong way, or even feeling like it’s being shared in overabundance.
The mirth is a welcome part of standard slice-of-life that I find quite delightful, however, I really hope that all of the laughter doesn’t outsell the more emotional aspects of Sounds of Life. Two main characters have backstories that, if taken more seriously and used to develop the present plotline with attention, can save the show from feeling like an unoriginal dud in the sea of this genre.
There wasn’t much koto playing here, which disappointed me very much. As I get ready to finish the first quarter of the series, my expectation is to see some damn koto playing. It’s why I’m here after all.
The fourth segment was probably my favourite up to this point. It follows the club members as they work hard to improve their individual parts of the performance so they can focus on working in sync.
The comedy went down a couple of notches in lieu of more character development, which I greatly appreciated. I think the part that stood out to me most with this episode—and is sort of making the series gravitate away from typical tropes—is how fast Hozuki is learning to work together as a team. She is recognising her shortcomings as being such an aggressive member and has been showing a willingness to do better. She’s apologised and listened to the members so she can help them rather than yell at them when she’s displeased. I wasn’t really expecting this to happen this soon (relatively speaking) or without some grand emotional trigger, which tends to be the standard route. So that the fact that it’s so normal was a great change.
Her interaction with Kudo is screaming hate-to-love, which is a trope that I actually really love in narratives across genres, so I have been relishing their fighting and bickering and the path it’s sort of laying down for a deeper emotional connection.
The club president feels a bit useless, which he’s openly admitted in the series himself. I’m trying to sort out the point of his existence in the story and am coming up short. It could also be that I find him to be a wholly bland and one-dimensional as a person. Considering he’s labelled as a main character I find that he is one of the most disappointing aspects of Sounds of Life.
Going into episode five, I expect Hozuki and Kudo to have some kind of bonding moment, given how this instalment ended (she learned some information about Kudo’s past). I’m going to have faith that it doesn’t turn into a negative confrontation scenario, because that is too predictable to be any fun.
They finally had their performance to determine if they would be able to stay active as a club or not.
I have waited all season for this moment, and it moved me to tears. This episode and their performance just solidified all of the reasons why I fucking love the koto, but more than that, Kudo’s story moved me towards such an emotional state, that I honestly don’t know if I can express it in words.
Their performance ran parallel with flashbacks of Kudo’s history—his delinquency, his relationship with his grandfather, and how he ultimately changed his ways, albeit it may have been too late. The entire time all I could think of was my brother… My brother was the type of person who always had my back even when the world felt that I was a waste of space, good for nothing, piece of trash; a brat who would never amount to anything. He helped me whenever I faltered and supported me every step of the way. Then one day he died, and I had no one.
As I watched Kudo play the koto with such sorrow and hope, particularly during his solo, I was reminded of my brother and the way he would play the piano. The piano was his soul and essence. This scene was probably where I started crying and I couldn’t stop until well after the episode ended.
I don’t have much critique or anything to say about episode five other than that it has cemented my adoration for it. Yes, I had to wait longer than I wanted to hear the koto, but it was so fucking worth it. This one episode showed me why I love narratives that revolve around instruments and stories about standing up in the face of adversity, especially when everyone else is expecting you to fall flat on your fucking face.
Aside from the performance, my second favourite part was Hozuki accepting that she was an asshole to Kudo and then wholeheartedly apologising to him. The negative confrontation I didn’t want, never happened and that brought me tremendous amounts of joy.
I guess it’s safe to say that I may be somewhat in love with Sounds of Life. Time for the next episode.
Since their performance went so damn well, the club members are getting notoriety around school, and a new member makes an appearance, however, her motives are less than noble, to say the least.
The beginning of the episode offered some more tender moments as Kudo receives an inheritance of sorts that was left behind by his grandfather. I’m loving the use of Kudo’s past and his bond with his grandpops as a way to provide his character with more depth and a driving force to keep the plot moving forward. But I admit that I have many biases that are probably playing to my enjoyment here.
If there’s anything that I hated about the episode, it was this new chick. Okay, if there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s people who have this incessant need to bring other people down or to stir up drama just because they are bored or feeling some sort of emptiness in their personal lives. That’s basically what this new member does, and I really want to punch her in the face. Not going to lie at all. Kudo, however, seems to be able to see through this girl’s bullshite for the most part, which I highly respect.
Aside from the inclusion of drama to add a bit of theatrics to the series now that the first challenge or conflict of sorts has been dealt with, hints are dropped about Hozuki being less than forthcoming about her family and possible social status. This may be an indicator as to why she’s so haughty towards a lot of people and keeps walls up to protect herself from getting hurt.
I don’t particularly care for this sort of conflict, as I mentioned above, so I’m hoping that it gets dealt with and put to rest rather quickly. I’d also like to believe that the club members are smart enough to place faith in Hozuki based on how she’s treated them instead of taking the word of some newbie, gossipy, attention-grabber. As far as Hozuki’s past predicaments goes, it screams underwhelming cliché, but we shall see.
Hozuki gets sick and Kudo discovers what she has been hiding. The new gossipy lady also tries to use the information to her personal benefit, resulting in this conflict getting wrapped up, thank the fricking kitty-kami.
The show is doing an excellent job of maintaining a great pace. Nothing is taking too long and all of the smaller skirmishes that arise are taken care of in a fluid way without being dragged on just for drama value. It’s so refreshing!
Learning Hozuki’s backstory ignited more emotional currents, and it’s been a pleasure to see why she was so closed-off and guarded, and how her experiences with the club and making new friends has helped her grow as a person. Although, her past really is subpar compared to some of the other facets of the show. Regardless, her and Kudo haven’t given me a single reason yet to stop adoring them as series favourites.
The interactions between Hozuki and Kudo, to me, come off as a slow-burn in the direction of romance; a very slow burn. Most anime romances are extremely rushed or tread on a bunch of overused tropes and conveniences. To see two individuals formulating a connection through heartfelt exchanges and understanding of one another is absolutely beautiful. I think I tend to have a difficult time enjoying romance in any medium, in general, because of how insincere they feel, yet I’m not getting that vibe from Sounds of Life at all!
The series is also doing a great job of depicting positive results of owning up to your mistakes and lies. This is another element that tends to focus on the negatives and the more tense, anxiety-fuelled sides of such confrontations. The camaraderie and the bonds between individuals are a lovely complement to everything else that seems to be going on.
The kiddos are trying to work on personalising the music to whatever it means to them, and we also get a teeny, tiny glimpse into the president’s past.
I keep forgetting the club president is supposed to be a main cast member. Hopefully as we learn more about him and what drives him to be so ambitious with playing the koto, he will feel less and less inconsequential.
Another component of the episode involved a young woman who is from a rival school to Hozuki’s family’s school. This girl seems to be obsessed with Hozuki and determined to rip her away from the “nonsense” club that she’s in towards an elite, all-girl academy. I like this conflict more than the last one because I feel it will lead the kiddos towards playing more koto and it feels more relevant overall! We’ve barely seen any inclusion of the instrument’s music since the performance in episode five. I’m dying for more, c’mon already.
Aside from that, nothing else of significance has occurred. My prediction for the next episode is that the president is going to slapped in the face with a harsh bit of reality that his friends will then have to drag him out of. There may be some underlying feelings of inadequacy as it relates to classmates from a previous school as well. If the episode maintains its current momentum, then it should be resolved in a quick 24-minute sequence, along with more predictive outcomes and possibly boring tropes.
Those are all of the episode available thus far. If the series keeps going the way it has been, I feel like I shall keep finding lots of unexpected amounts of joy in it, in spite of everything that is scantier and more unimpressive. It isn’t without its flaws or seasoning of tropes, but there are enough twists to it from the norm to keep me pretty interested.
I don’t believe we shall see the club perform at the National competition during the first season, by far. I do expect to see them jump into their first competition, though, probably as a season closer. The second season has been announced, and the possibility of them either making it to Nationals or partaking in a different competition to build up their reputation before the ultimate endgame is what I presume shall happen.
Have you been watching Sounds of Life? What do you think of it thus far? What do you like or dislike about the series?