At long last, we have reached the final episode, and boy were there a lot of tears. Only one school can continue their journey into nationals, and today it was Tokise. Their victory can be attributed to defying the odds that had been against them from the very start. When they first joined they club, they were a group of misfits who didn’t really know where they belonged in the world. They were misunderstood by many, persecuted for their past, alone, or a pushover, but when they found each other, they forge an unbreakable bond and friendship that not only healed each other’s scarred hearts, but bloomed into a force to be reckoned with. And with the help and guidance from Takinami, Akira and even Granny for allowing them to practice at her shop in the evening hours, through their tireless effort, their commitment, passion and soulful performance carried them to Nationals!
And to add a cherry on top, Satowa was finally able to reach her mother’s heart and the two will be able to start reconnecting with each other!It was also an endearing moment to see Kota run into join them in the hug, and her mother acknowleding what makes the group special. It was especially refreshing to see her just face Chika for who he is in the present rather than his past. It’s definitely a good start to mending their severed bond.
Speaking of Chika, what a heartfelt scene to see him go back to his grandfather’s lot to proudly present him the trophy. I burst into tears when his grandfather’s hand patted his head. It really meant a lot to see that, especially following the hug his aunt had giving him for winning (another moment that carried so much weight). Chika has truly come such a long way. I am so proud of him and so happy he has been able to find a new family through the koto club his grandfather had founded.
As elated as I am for Tokise winning the competition and continuing their journey into Nationals, I also find myself feeling sad for their competitors Himesaka and Hakuto. It was clear to us what was at stake for them, so it was hard to see them cry over their loss. For Kazusa, when she heard Tokise’s performance, she already knew deep in her heart that Himesaka had lost. Their speed and ability to be in sync while performing an incredibly difficult piece wasn’t enough to sway the judges. She not only acknowledged Tokise for their win in two instances (the first one with Chika, and the second one when she declared to them they must come back as winners), but she also felt the weight of being unable to fulfill the promise of giving remembers like Hozumi another opportunity to compete in nationals with everyone. In that moment, all she could do was apologize over and over again.
But given my affection Hakuto, I really felt for Mio when he broke down as well. It was so sad to see him cry and talk about his regrets of not being able to perform as he had in today’s competition sooner. He couldn’t help but feel responsible for not being able to carry his weight. It was good to see the team feeling they had let him down as well, and have a good cry altogether. Like Tokise, I think they are a special group thanks to Yamamoto’s guidance. It is so sad to see him go as an advisor when he has been such a champ at leading the group, and I am really glad that Mio was able to express how much he loved his pieces and how beautiful they were to him.
And boy was it a hard fought victory. The judges were torn between the Tokise, Himesaka and Hakuto, all had their own reasoning for why they thought each school would be the best to serve as Kanagawa’s representatives. Ultimately Tokise won because they were able to perform at a high enough level while nailing the emotional delivery, reaching the hearts of even those who are not familiar with the koto. The judge Mr. Matsunaga served as the tiebreaker made a point that he would like to bring that kind of element to the Nationals’ stage. But it also showed us Tokise was extremely lucky by who were on the judging panel today. Had it been judges who brush off pieces that are easy to listen to, regardless of how well they performed, they may have been overshadowed by the likes of Hakuto or Himesaka. It really all comes down to the judge’s taste.
And lo and behold, this was a risk Takinami knew about, but decided to go with anyways. That doesn’t mean he was entirely confident with his decision though. He later admitted to Akira that despite his despite his cool demeanor, he was on the edge about the arrangement being good enough to sway the judges. And had Tokise lost, he would have put the blame on himself for not putting together a strong enough arrangement.
But now that they are officially Kanagawa’s representatives, Takinami is going all out with their next (Untitled) piece they will perform at Nationals. It will be their most difficult piece yet, especially since it is still untitled and a work in progress! He is bringing out the big guns, and I really hope in the future we will have another season so we will have the opportunity to see and hear them perform it too.
Kono Oto Tomare is a series full of characters who start out often as misunderstood to the point you may actually hate them at first, but grow to love them later. This cour in particular we saw wonderful character growth from everyone, especially Akira and Kazusa who came off as extremely hostile characters. Akira was probably the most satisfying with the way she was pulled out of that darkness and quickly developed a backbone that would later be instrumental of not only protecting the club from her grandmother’s shenanigans, but also ensured that Satowa and her mother had the opportunity to properly face each other again. She has grown into such a badass character.
Then we have Kazusa, who really started off on a horrible note. She was noisy, annoying, obnoxious, imposing and selfish. She was everything one could absolutely hate about a character. She that character who needed to grow by getting over her inflated ego of elitism, and this cour we got just that. Kazusa was knocked off her high horse when Hakuto ended Himesaka’s historical winning streak– a performance she missed because she had gone off to throw a temper tantrum at Chika after Tokise had finished performing. The best part about this was seeing Kazusa take the time to reflect on herself enough to admit she is ashamed of how she has behaved. Ever since, she has definitely made big improvements, starting with acknowledging her rivals, both Hakuto and Tokise, and most of all accepting Chika for being by Satowa’s side. We also come to learn she isn’t exactly the best at communicating with others. Her fierce personality tends to clash heads with others, even when she only has the best intentions in mind.
I would also like to touch on Sane, a character I really love but doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. The beginning of the this cour, he finally had his turn in the spotlight hanks to how Akira could see herself in him, and her fear of him falling into the same darkness as she had. Like Akira, Sane wasn’t born with the kind of gifts that Satowa and Chika such strong koto players. He has to work harder to get his parts right and will even lag behind even when he had a head start. But the difference between him and Akira was the fact he had friends who were willing to be patient and support him until he got it right. His positive experience also served as a a healing for Akira as well.
Story wise, this season heavily focused on Satowa’s past which so happened to be closely tied to Akira’s as well. Satowa’s original composition of Tenkyuu in its untitled form carries a lot of weight for both of them. For a piece that was supposed to make people smile, it only led to more despair, ironically for both of them. For Satowa it did not reach her mother’s heart and only formed an even larger rift between them. Where as for Akira, even though she had (for the first time) won a competition, four years of dedication to a single piece was all in vain when the only thing people remember was Satowa’s performance which disqualified her by default. It is beautiful how Tenkyuu evolved into a piece that served as a way of mending both of their wounds and forging a new and healthy relationship between each other.
What was also great to see this cour was the romantic development. Right from the get go (episode 15 and onward), both Hiro and Satowa are forced to face their feelings and it was very refreshing to see how differently the two of them responded to it. Hiro having experience with love before knew exactly what was happening, but is trying her darnest to keep it under wraps so it doesn’t disrupt the club’s dynmatics. As for Satowa, this is all foreign to her and was so flustered, she had no idea what to do with herself. In turn it accidentally caused a bit of a misunderstanding with Chika, who didn’t really know what to do anyways other than simply be patient with her (and boy was he patient). However it was equally as good to see him finally decide it would be best to try and face her head on to iron things out. Hilariously while both girls are trying their hardest to not to be noticed, the boys (Takezou and Chika) definitely sense something is up. I can vouch for Takezou at least that he isn’t as dense as Hiro believes him to be, ohohohohohohoho! Chika on the other hand, is still learning but is hella smooth without even realizing it! (The same can really go for Takezou as well hahaha!)
As for the animation, I think it goes without saying that it is probably one of the weaker points of this adaption. Truthfully, I was going to grade this part a seven, but then I thought about the koto performances. While the instrument itself in the close-ups may have some CGI components, the animations of the hands and fingers performing were not. And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate seeing this kind of detail in a day and age where so many studios are using CGI or something of the sorts to animate these type of scenes. We also need to appreciate how they made the effort to change up the OP sequence not once, but on four different occasions involving Akira, Himesaka, Hakuto, and Satowa’s mother. It was such a nice additional touch to show the development of the story.
And last but not least, the music. All of the koto pieces were absolutely spectacular, but Tenkyuu is currently my favourite one to date. It was such a heartfelt and soothing performance, that it really puts my mind at ease. I am also glad they FINALLY started giving us snippets of their performance piece during practice time. Really it should have been something they done more of from the start, especially since silence and plugging in a jarring BGM only breaks the immersion and spoils the mood. The OPs and EDs for both cours were absolutely enjoyable to listen to, so much so it is hard to pick a favourite!
Ah man, it’s so sad that it’s over. I am definitely hopeful for a continuation since they ended it with “Episode 26” rather than “Fin” or simply a blank as many series do. Now that they have obtained the tickets to nationals, they are at the starting line for the next stage of their journey. It comes with a new piece, new faces and most importantly new members for the club. After-all, if they don’t recruit anyone, they club will be back to where it started at the verge of disbandment!
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10
Characters & Development: 9/10
Animation Quality: 8/10
Original Soundtrack: 8/10
Hopefully there will be another season in the future!
If you want to continue the series with the manga from where the anime left off, you can start at Chapter 55! (The end of Volume 14!)
But if you haven’t read the manga at all I strongly encourage you to start from the beginning! It’s really worth it! ENJOY!