Kono Oto Tomare! Series Review

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A Mixture of Good, Okay, And Not So Great

As someone who isn’t a huge fan of school based anime and even less a fan of school based anime that focuses on the over-used plot line of the danger of a club being shut down, oh the horror, it seems weird that I got into Kono Oto Tomare. However, from episode one there was something about Chika Kudo as a character that made me want to give this one some more time.

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In fairness to Kono Oto Tomare, it is a very nice looking anime, provided soft pastels are your thing. Some of the visuals, particularly when the characters are playing their instruments or when they have one of those big heart opening moments are gorgeous and just sweep you away. The soundtrack is also quite lovely including the music the kids play on their kotos.

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While I’m on the positives I may as well point out the strength of this anime; the relationships between the club members. The way these characters interact, bump heads, come together, worry about one another, snap at each other, it all feels very natural and is the best part of the anime. If the anime had allowed itself to focus just on the club members going about their business it probably would have been a joyful slice of life to watch because it would have been built on a great cast with great chemistry.

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However, Kono Oto Tomare is not content to be a slice of life anime. MAL has shounen in its list of genres and to be honest, that’s probably where this all goes wrong. It is a terrible shounen. The cast have great chemistry when they are going about the everyday but none of them are strong enough characters to lead that kind of story nor do they have any kind of authentic rival or obstacle though the anime bends over backwards throwing literally every possible potential rival and obstacle in their path seemingly oblivious to the fact that all these did was break the flow and the enjoyment while we watched some weak tea show down that meant nothing.

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The vice principal who wants to shut down the club is a prime example of the pathetic nature of the ‘villains’ these teens come across. He has no motive. None. He wants to shut down the club. He believes Chika is a trouble maker. He has no evidence or grounds and the club isn’t actually hurting anyone, but he makes a huge spectacle of the entire thing to the point where it is honestly farcical.

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In terms of rival schools, there’s a few possibilities presented in the latter half of the season but none of these have really established themselves yet. More importantly, does it matter if our Koto club can overcome these potential rivals? Sure, if they want to get to the nationals, but despite the characters stating that as a goal it stills seems more like they just want to improve their own sound rather than actually compete.

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KONO OTO TOMARE - TOKISE KOKO SOKYOKU-BU

Then we have the club adviser who was definitely one of my candidates for worst anime teacher of the year (alongside the teacher in Hitoribocchi). He’s really quite a disturbing character with no motivation and actively trying to deter the kids from putting in effort. Again, the final episodes of the anime try to scrape together a back story for him and provide some sort of character turning point but to be perfectly frank it was far too little too late for a character I despised.

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Basically, this one ends up being a very mixed viewing experience. When the focus is on the club and the group working on a song or practising together, it is actually great.  A very solid effort and despite being the kind of story I’m not into it was one I enjoyed. When they tried to create drama or bring in outside tension it fell flat every single time and to be honest it detracted a lot from my overall enjoyment.

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There’s apparently going to be another season of this at some point but I’m probably done. Maybe I’ll change my mind, who knows. The problem is that when this show is good, it is very good, but there’s too many other parts of the anime that just aren’t working for me.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episodes 11 + 12

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The Contrived Drama Continues

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Kono Oto Tomare! Episode 11

There’s not a huge amount going on here. We get the end of the training camp which is satisfyingly sweet and then we head off to the tournament they’ve been preparing for. In amongst this we get some small character moments and they are trying super hard to humanise the teacher and make us not hate him after the fact but too little too late on that note.

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Hozuki continues to grow as a person and a member of an ensemble asking for help when needed and searching for what she can do to help others. It is a lovely demonstration of her character journey and when the anime focuses on moments like these it is adorable.

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The tournament beginning is less so. The guy we met at the joint school practice is there and his school is first in the tournament. Admittedly, their song is really good but the whole thing is interspersed with his tragic childhood and to be honest I just couldn’t invest in it because I just didn’t care about his character. As a rival school he works well enough but as someone I am supposed to sympathise with or connect with he’s had far too little showing in the anime for that connection to exist.

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Anyway, the episode ends with them all freaked out over how good the first performance was and they aren’t on until the twenties so plenty of time for them to either rally together or melt down but I guess we’ll find out next episode which path they choose.

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Kono Oto Tomare! Episode 12

And the contrived external drama is going to plague this anime right until the end. Let’s introduce a high schooler who looks younger and has a hot temper for an altercation that has no value early in the episode. Then we can all be like wow and impressed that he can play really fast. I’d much rather just focus on the characters we know and how they feel about this public performance and their first competition as a club.

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However, clearly we aren’t going to get that because at the end we contrive yet more drama where they injure Chika’s hand because the nerves of the situation clearly aren’t enough of an emotional situation.

It just hurts the overall enjoyment of the anime as they layer on these unnecessary trappings that detract from what works well in the story.

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Also the angst back story for yet another character was totally unnecessary. Maybe if we had more than one episode left I could see the point in all these additions but there’s no way to deal with all of this before the end and it all just is working against what makes the show interesting. Kono Oto Tomare remains a mixed bag right until the end and we’ve got one more episode before we wrap it all up.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episode 10

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The Anime Training Camp Edition

Kono Oto Tomare Anime Episode 10 - Takezou

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 10

And off we go to a training camp in this episode of Kono Oto Tomare. Still reeling from hearing a school koto club that is aiming for the nationals the characters determine they need to practice more and so decide a training camp is the way to go. Throw in the club member whose relative owns an inn (and apparently has no guests as is often the case in anime) and they are off to the hot springs.

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Fortunately, the focus is very tightly on the practice the characters are undertaking and their mental states as they roll back and forth between enthusiasm and drive and panic and fear that they’ll never get where they are going. While there is a focus on one of the characters, all of them get a moment for their internal thoughts to come out and you realise how much of themselves they are putting into the club.

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I can’t praise Takezou’s character growth enough in this episode. He is still the shy and awkward character we started with who often hesitates or doesn’t know what to say, but he steps up when it counts now. After the camp suggestion was made, as the leader he had to speak with their club advisor and when the advisor (candidate for worst anime teacher ever if only there weren’t so many terrible teachers in anime) turned the idea down flat Takezou told him to quit and be replaced by someone who would actually support them. It was a cheer worthy moment for Takezou and I hope we see more of them.

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Hozuki and Chika continue to also have an adorable chemistry this episode and any scene featuring the two of them is quite enjoyable.

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They are so cute together.

For the first time in a while the anime didn’t feel the need to shove in any kind of artificial drama into the story. Kono Oto Tomare focused on what it has done well and that is these characters coming together, over coming their own short comings, and working hard. The end result is one of the best episodes so far for the series.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episode 8

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The Distance Yet To Travel

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Kono Oto Tomare! Episode 9

There’s a lot that Kono Oto Tomare doesn’t get right in terms of adding tension or antagonists to their otherwise slice of life, high school club story, but one thing it consistently lands are those poignant emotional moments between the members of the club themselves. With the episode this week focusing almost exclusively on the inner workings of the club and Takezou trying to overcome his lack of confidence as the club president, we had a nice show case of the best Kono Oto Tomare has to offer.

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Throw in the musical performance by the other school and it was a pretty good episode. Even if every character from the other schools that spoke seems to exist just to becoming another stumbling block later on in the story and they are still handling antagonist’s roles with all the deft handling of a duck trying to spread butter on a slice of bread.

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Likewise, Takezou’s family is another red-mark against the series. Prior to now they’ve been little more than background but this week the father gives Takezou a pep-talk after learning he’s the club president and his mother congratulates him on telling his brother off. Saying how happy she is when Takezou normally says nothing. If the parents are aware one child belittles another continuously and have done nothing to rectify the problem while said child gets emotionally ground into the dirt continuously, it doesn’t exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy to see them congratulating the child who has finally had enough.

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Despite my annoyance at the family situation, I was still nearly reduced to tears when Chika and Takezou finally had a conversation and ‘made up’, even though they weren’t fighting. I managed to hold them in, but it was a close call. And seeing the club members making a new sign for the room and passing the pen, while it is clearly trite and contrived, hit just the right emotional high note that this episode needed to cap it off.

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At the end of the day, I parts that work in this anime stand out a lot clearer than the parts that don’t, and it continues to be relatively fun to watch even if I feel like I’m not going to remember much about it at all after it finishes airing.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episode 8

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Odd Choices All Round

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Kono Oto Tomare Episode 8

So Chika wasn’t going to play his grandfather’s koto for reasons, Takezou apparently is going to have to face his dark and scary past, and Hozuki is still the target of weirdos who for whatever reason feel that insulting the club she’s with is a good way to endear her to them. Kono Oto Tomare continues to have no clue how to build narrative tension without creating contrived and fairly childish premises and while each one might work by itself or even all together if handled with more deft, the end result here is an anime that looks pretty great but in reality is pretty average.

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However, as with most episodes of this high school melodrama there are a few things it gets just right and this week I’ll hand it to the interactions between Chika and Hozuki. Whether it was early in the episode when he refused an invitation to eat lunch together before pushing her into the path of another student, a convenient way to get her to speak to someone else, or the end of the episode where they were bickering in the classroom, these two continue to have a great back-and-forth and their personalities are actually quite complementary.

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While I’m throwing some praise in I may as well mention Hozuki’s performance this week, or at least the visualisation of her performance. The atmosphere of that moment came through loud and clear and that is something this series consistently gets right.

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Where it goes a little side-ways is in the introduction of characters just to cause drama. The girl from the rival school who shows up is a caricature and not a character which makes it impossible to take any of her lines seriously. Even her motive is just really weird. Having heard Hozuki for years and now she decides to stride right in and stir things up. Honestly we already know Hozuki isn’t going anywhere.

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As to Takezou’s storyline, it didn’t get a lot of attention this episode but they seemed to be setting up some groundwork for him to finally get his emotional moment as Chika and Hozuki already have. Maybe it will pay off and maybe it won’t but I guess we’ll find out in future episodes.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare! Review Episode 6

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The Failed Attempt At Tension

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Episode 6

Kono Oto Tomare has a problem. It isn’t that school club anime are a dime a dozen or that we’ve heard very little music considering it is a music based club. I mean, both of those things could be a problem for some viewers but they are mostly fine.

No. The greater problem this series has is it insists on trying to insert a villain as an antagonist for the club to overcome rather than just focusing on the basic drama that could come from a group of people coming together and working to achieve a goal. Even then, having an antagonist in this type of story is doable, but the writers here clearly have no idea how to write a villain and the end result is, to put it mildly, awful.

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For all the touching moments this episode brings where we see the members of the club coming together or interacting, there’s at least one moment where we have a character on screen who exists just to be painful. There’s a beautiful emotional moment in the episode where the granny running the Koto repair shop gives Chika the Koto his grandfather made for him and it is a spectacular emotional point and great for a mid-season episode, and yet it is utterly squandered because of everything else this episode is doing.

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If you’ve read my previous reviews you already know my thoughts on the Vice-Principal who wants to shut down the club. In fairness, the resolution here where the club thanked their adversary rather than being bitter about the ordeal was actually relatively well handled, even if that doesn’t off-set how irritating and artificial that drama was in the first place. However, episode 6 gives us two new characters each equally awful in how they are presented.

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Like seriously, let us bask in this warm glow for a little longer.

Keep in mind, I’m not annoyed that they are antagonists. Or just awful people. Characters that are awful people can be quite fun. But a character who exists only to stir a plot and seems to have no drive or reason for it other than the most superficial is not a fun character.

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So when both the club advisor and new member show up simply to create ‘drama’ in this episode it mostly just hurts. The club advisor being another fine example of teachers who are just god-awful at their job and I’m wondering just why we are getting so many of these this season in anime. This guy and the teacher from Hitoribocchi should get together and both leave the profession.

The new club member is slightly more interesting in that she seems to be trying to kill her own boredom by messing with people, but if that’s all there is to her she’s going to end up being pretty flat and if they are just setting up another healing/redemption story I think we could safely say this anime doesn’t need another one of those and could we just get on with the story already.

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Basically this episode is a turning point and not necessarily for the better. Unless Kono Oto Tomare manages to handles some of its cast a little better I’m pretty sure my overall enjoyment of this series is about to do a steep decline.


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episode 5

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A Triumphant Performance

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Episode 5

Time for the performance episode. While the Vice Principal’s challenge continues to sit as the explanation for the extra tension on this first performance, other than two minor scenes where he is on screen, the episode prefers to frame the emotional growth of the group and particularly focuses on Kudo. Having Houzuki realise her mistaken impression of him and the two reconciling early in the episode and then having his back story interspersed throughout the performance as he realises the connections he’s made and who he wants to reach with his music makes this a pretty perfect episode.

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There is of course the early final push for the club as Kono Oto Tomare drives toward the one month deadline with relenting force. They meet before school, practice at lunches, and continue to go to the music shop in the evening. It all looks nice and dedicated, though one has to wonder what is happening to the rest of their lives in the process given the sudden surge in hours given to the Koto. Such questions kind of kill the romance of the narrative so let’s just go with it.

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Likewise the old woman’s advice that they need to put their feelings into the music now. It is the kind of advice that comes out in almost every music or artistically themed anime and while there’s an element of truth in it, it is hardly the main bit of advice someone who has been playing a month needs when they are about to perform a piece in public. As enchanting as it might be to think that feelings are carried by music, at that stage of learning technical proficiency is kind of needed far more. That isn’t a slight against this story, but I find this same old trope fairly dull at this point and while the performance is lovingly connected to Kudo’s emotional state making it actually relevant to the plot, the old woman’s speech was probably the low point of the episode for me outside of the vice principal’s relentless and incredibly pointless attack on the club.

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But such minor nitpicks and personal preferences mean nothing when an episode comes together as well as this one did and reaches a climactic moment for the club. Their first performance, while not flawless by any means, is truly a work to be reckoned with given the inexperience of many of the members. Their effort pays off as they perform, feel they are losing their way midway along, and then find a way to bring it back together. There’s no cause for complaint and even if the final flourish has their music symbolised as metaphoric dragons reaching out to the audience in what might be the most literal symbolism given what they decided the song was about, it feels like a perfect cap to the performance even if it is ultimately quite a cheesy idea.

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I also came to the conclusion that the OP to this anime is one of my favourites of the season. Not sure yet if it is my favourite as I’ve been really pushing myself to try to catch up with the anime I missed while travelling so I haven’t paid a huge amount of attention to the OP’s and ED’s yet but as I’ve now settled into my viewing pattern for the season I’m starting to take more note and Kono Oto Tomare has a very nice opening


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Karandi James


Kono Oto Tomare Review Episodes 3 + 4

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A pathetic villainous character but fantastic focus on club interactions.

Kono  Oto Tomare Episode 3 - Houzuki
Not the pathetic villainous character, but a great image nonetheless.

Episode 3

The delinquent and the Princess face off multiple times in this third episode, though he’s not actually as much of a delinquent as people think and she’s no princess. However, despite enjoying the play between the two members of the club as they recruit additional members, episode 3 of Kono Oto Tomare plunges us headlong into a trope I despise: the evil vice-principal plotting to shut down a club.

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 3 - Houzuki and Kudo

At no point in any school anime is any adult character given a rational explanation for ultimately being vindictive for the sake of it and to be perfectly frank it makes no sense and the tension for the characters feels completely artificial and over inflated. While I’m enjoying the other aspects of this anime so far, I probably could have done without this particular plot line and the fact that it isn’t resolved by the end of the episode just means we’ll have yet more preposterous motivations and actions to deal with.

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 3 - Kudo

Despite that, I enjoyed large parts of this episode where it focused on Kudo’s backstory and the group of boys who joined the club, as well as the interactions between them and Houzuki. The personality clashes and Houzuki’s awkwardness as well as her Spartan teaching method all actually felt authentic and well thought out. If only the external threat to the club made more sense than vice-principals are evil and hate kids.

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 3

The only other point of contention here is that Takezou as the club president has rapidly faded into the background as stronger and more interesting personalities have stolen the show. While Kudo is interesting and I’m liking his story, it would be nice if Takezou’s story of wanting to take the club to nationals continued to play a role here.

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Episode 4

Ask for more of the club president and we shall receive. Kono Oto Tomare continues to have the club members dedicated in their practice and learning to come together as a club. During this time Takezou starts to really step up as club president realising Houzuki’s weaknesses as a teacher and the need to support the morale within the club as they work tirelessly against the clock to prepare for their performance.

Kono Oto Tomare Episode 4 - Takezou

While the vice principal’s challenge is still the motivating factor here, he fortunately makes no appearance and no artificial hindrance appears in this episode, though Takezou’s summons to the staff room doesn’t bode well. So instead of dwelling on the contrived reason for the race against time, the anime instead opts to look at each of the members as they strive to improve within their role within the club and in the song.

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As with all good school club anime, the solution to a lot of the minor fractions within the group is to go and eat together. While this might be a fairly well-worn approach, I can’t deny the scene where the club had dinner was touching. The late night practices, the various members starting to look out for one another, it all just kind of works and the interactions within the club remain the strength of the series.

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Also, they are getting more and more moments where they are working on the music. I’m really appreciating that aspect and I’m hoping we get more time watching this group practice and play together. Four episodes down and I’m very much enjoying this series.


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Karandi James