Kono Oto Tomare! | Manga Spotlight

 Synopsis

Since the graduation of the senior members of the club, Takezou ends up being the sole member of the “Koto” (traditional Japanese string instrument) club. Now that the new school year has begun, Takezou will have to seek out new members into the club, or the club will become terminated. Out of nowhere, a new member barges into the near-abandoned club room, demanding to join the club. How will Takezou be able to keep his club alive and deal with this rascal of a new member?

Kono Oto Tomare! is a manga drawn and written by Sakura Amyuu and is running in the Jump SQ magazine. It was first published in August, 2012 and is still on-going. The genres are Drama, School, Romance, Shounen, School Life. It usually has around 50 pages, for each chapter.

I don’t remember the last time I had such an urge to write a blog about a manga I just read.

I also don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a manga this much. Don’t get me wrong, I have been reading a lot of manga recently and pretty much enjoyed all of them. Some of them were actually really great, but “Kono Oto Tomare!” still managed to give me a different experience. I literally couldn’t stop reading this manga, and I feel like this is a manga I have been looking for, for the last few months.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I honestly feel like this is one of the most enjoyable manga I have read in a while. That’s pretty weird considering what this manga has as it’s core topic. The manga is about “Koto”.

I’m not suprised if you have never heard about this, but I believe the most people have atleast seen it. Koto is a traditional Japanese string instrument and in fact the national instrument of Japan. It’s a quite huge instrument which looks pretty impressive and also sounds great, if played correctly. A manga about Koto might be hard to imagine at first, but as always you shouldn’t judge before you read it. It reminds me a bit of Chihayafuru, which also has a rather unusual sport (from our perspective) and still manages to be such an intense, interesting and well written manga. The same can be said about Kono Oto Tomare.

So what is Kono Oto Tomare about ? The manga is about Takezou the only member of the Koto club, after the senior members leave the club due to the graduation. In order to protect the club from being closed, he is looking for new members. It doesn’t take long until Takezou meets Chika, a boy who is considered being a delinquent. From this point the life of both members are changing as they are confronted to new challenges. Of course it’s not only these two, as soon enough more people decide to join the club.

Together they are trying to become better at playing Koto and to achieve their goal together. The story itself isn’t really new. As often you have the club which is about to be shut down and for some reason they manage to find some members in the last second. But what truly makes this manga so interesting are the characters in combination with the story. I think you can say that Kono Oto Tomare is a character driven manga. It really is rare to see a manga with such a huge cast, and so much development for each character.

Almost every member of the Koto club has gotten a lot of characterization, which makes it very easy for the reader to identify yourself with them. Even if you can’t do that, they have enough personality to be interesting or simply to be entertaining.

It doesn’t even matter if they are a part of the main cast, or just some side characters they are meeting on competitions, they all have their background story, they all have their reason to take part on the competition, and sometimes it’s actually pretty hard to decide who you want to win the most. Everyone has their own motivations and their own feelings and the mangaka does a very good job at letting us know, that it’s not only about the main characters.

But to dive further into the whole character development, specially the way the mangaka is showing each person struggling in their own way with their own problems is very refreshing to see. Usually for mangas like this, there is not enough time to show each person individually. But here we get to see what each person is thinking, how each person is feeling and how they react to each other. These are some really honest and realistic feelings and thoughts. Jealousy, Love, Sadness or just the fact of not being good enough to keep up with your group. Overall I find the whole focus on the emotions very interesting. It’s great to see how each character is dealing with their problem, and how each character is dealing with it differently. It actually allows you to truly notice the difference between the characters and understand their personality. It’s not limited to the different appearance.

But while this manga is doing a great job at dramatic moments, it’s also great at comedy. To mix drama and comedy into one story always was tricky, and in the most cases it doesn’t really work. In this manga I never felt that the comedy was out of place. The characters are goofy enough to accept everything they do. It’s not only about accepting it, but you actually want to see it. It’s genuinely funny without trying too hard. And not only because of the dialogues or the actions but also because the characters are all lovable. The whole cast is ridiculously likable and have such a great chemistry together, that you can never have enough of them.

We shouldn’t forget that this manga is still about music as well, and it’s always rather hard to express music with art. It is possible to do that, but you have to know how. And to do that you need to be good at drawing. Bless Sakura Amyuu, her art is gorgeous. At first her art might not even look that special, and in fact it will probably remind you a lot of different Shoujo/Josei’s but the way she is expressing emotions and the atmosphere through art is very impressive. With each panel you can tell how the music sounds like, or at least how it’s supposed to sound like.

Of course the dialogues of the characters help a lot, to make us understand how they hear it and how they feel about it, but even the panel itself has usually such a strong message and atmosphere that you can probably guess how it sounds like. To make this impression even stronger I can suggest you to actually listen to some people playing Koto (on YouTube as an example). But it’s not only the music which is powerful thanks to the art, but also the body language and the composition of the panels. It feels like the panels are very well planned and always have a meaning.

Not panel is wasted, and even panels without dialogues are easy to understand thanks to the facial expressions and the body language. Talking about facial expressions, the character designs are really beautiful. Honestly every character, male or female, looks pretty which obviously is always a great plus in a manga.

So is there anything left to say ? At the end all I can say is that you should give this manga a try. It’s really worth reading and was extremely enjoyable so far. I’m really looking forward to the next chapters and I’m glad I found this manga. People on the internet seems to compare this to Chihayafuru, and while both are very different from each other, I can see where this comparison is coming from. So if you liked Chihayafuru, chances are high that you will enjoy this too.

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One thought on “Kono Oto Tomare! | Manga Spotlight

  1. I’m amazed and mystified by the way Amyuu draws faces (many of which you’ve posted): all these tiny, subtle details that add up to an emotion that’s simultaneously plain-as-day and intensely deep. I don’t if I’ve ever seen another manga artist key into the nuances of facial expression like her.

    Plotwise, the latest arc was immensely cathartic, paying off both recent and long-running storylines in the series. I’m not sure I’ve felt so rewarded after completing a shonen manga arc since Water 7/Enies Lobby from One Piece, that’s how satisfying it felt to read.

    An anime would make my year, but it would need a top notch staff to both capture the physical effort of playing koto and the emotions of the musicians themselves.

    Like

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