Tetsuki Takaoka

I just finished watching season two of Kono Oto Tomare. The music the koto club plays, the way their sound conveys their happiness and soul to their audience, was exactly how I felt as the audience watching the anime. The depth of their relationships, the growth of each character, and their authenticity left a lasting impression upon me. And it wasn’t just the students of Tokise; their club advisor, koto teacher, Hozuki’s mother, and others truly learned from each other and overcame challenges so they could better relate to one another. Their self-esteem, relationships, and quality of life improved tremendously. I think a lot of us go about our day to day affairs, feeling like we’re on auto-pilot, without truly realizing the affect we have on each other. Even seemingly minor interactions can carry depth and meaning. Hopefully those interactions are sincere and add value.

Overcoming his reputation was a hurdle, but the main character Chika Kudo, learned from his mistakes and became a person of integrity and character. He defends what is precious, supports his friends, and is diligent and dedicated to playing the koto. Kudo wants to honor his grandfather’s memory, he visits him often to pay his respects, joined the koto club he created many years ago, and commits himself to daily improvement. Kudo’s grandfather must be proud of him. He’s realized what his grandfather meant about playing with friends. The club members mean so much to him, and he is an anchor providing support to everyone. But it never looks like a burden to him. Kudo now realizes the importance of being reliable, and he is happy to provide that support and warmth to others.

As hard as Chika Kudo has worked, it must be said that Tetsuki Takaoka, his best friend from childhood, was a major contributor to his growth. During the height of Kudo’s challenges, when he was getting into fights regularly, not taking care of himself, and causing turmoil for others, Tetsuki never left him or abandoned him. In fact, when Kudo didn’t return home and sat in an alley as the rain poured, it was Tetsuki who came with an umbrella to find him. He has been a grounding factor and a solid support for Kudo for most of life. Tetsuki intervenes when needed, like when he addressed those three bullies early in season one, but he tends to just support and provide advice when Kudo asks, hoping Kudo comes to his own realizations. There are nuances to human interaction that he doesn’t understand and Tetsuki delicately helps him figure those things out for himself. Tetsuki is an excellent role model, not just for Kudo, but their entire friend group. Role models don’t have to be adults, historical figures, athletes, or celebrities. They can be our peers, family members, friends, or the person we sit next to in class or at work. Tetsuki takes his education seriously (teaching his friends when they need help), cooks nutritious home-made meals for friends, is supportive to others, is able to pick up on the intricacies of human interactions, and he is a person that is loyal and respectful. Tetsuki values his friendships. Elements of Tetsuki’s personality, habits, morals, and character have influenced Kudo. If it wasn’t for Tetsuki, Kudo may’ve continued on his wayward path. With Tetsuki’s support, positive influence, and friendship, Kudo has found happiness in the “sounds of life.”

Kudo overhears the koto club’s president, Kurata, as he replies to Tetsuki “that’s my line.” Kurata realizes the importance and value of Tetsuki’s friendship. Tetsuki himself was a refuge for Kudo, providing a place for him to overcome his hardships, long before he joined the club.

If you’re looking for a show that’s warm and uplifting, I recommend Kono Oto Tomare: Sounds of Life. Both seasons are on Hulu.

Kono Oto Tomare

I finished watching Prince of Stride on Hulu tonight. After the last episode, Hulu started auto-playing Kono Oto Tomare. Before I knew it, I had already watched eight episodes!!! It’s such a great show. I like the camaraderie of the students in the koto club. It was a delight to see multifaceted characters having growth and development, as they learn more about each other and themselves. All while improving their koto playing skills!

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The relationships between the club members provide a wonderful opportunity for them to question the false beliefs they’ve held, to be honest about the challenges they’re overcoming, and to grow together as a group. I also like that Satowa Houzuki and Chika Kudou are authentic. Houzuki had a short lived front, but that facade quickly crumbled once she realized she could be herself. Houzuki and Kudou butted heads in the beginning, but they are becoming closer friends.

What really touched me, were the scenes of Kudou’s interactions with his grandfather. It’s apparent how much his grandfather loved him, and wanted him to be happy, to smile, laugh, and enjoy life. While Kudou was stubborn at the time, in hindsight he realizes the lessons his grandfather tried to teach him. In doing so, he was able to convey his emotions during his performance with the koto club. Surely his grandfather, while no longer physically present, was able to receive his message.

After bawling at that scene, I thought I’d get a relief from the water works. But no, watching the episode immediately after, I had another opportunity to cry. The owner of Nishina Instruments, who Chika Kudou affectionately calls “Granny” wants to meet with him. While not related by blood, she was a friend of his grandfather and she cares about Kudou. After seeing Kudou’s hard work, perseverance, and efforts she has a gift for him.

The Koto is said to be made in the image of a dragon, if you watch Kono Oto Tomare they explain more about this. Having wings, the feelings being played can reach the audience, through the instrument. Granny says that Kudou’s performance reached Gen, his grandfather. I’m sure he is very proud of him.

Nutrition

I’m watching Prince of Stride on Hulu. It’s a sports anime about parkour. In the show it’s a team sport, and they transition between runners like a relay. The members are preparing for their upcoming competition, End of Summer. Everyone has been training and working diligently. While on their way to a meet, the athletes are enjoying their lunches on the bus. Riku Yagami wants to try some of everyone’s food. Well almost everyone’s food. Takeru Fujiwara’s lunch is apparently too healthy for Yagami’s liking. Since Yagami rejected Fujiwara’s offer to share his lunch, he and the rest of the team get a lecture on nutrition. But he may be onto something since Fujiwara is one of the fastest on the team.

The Next Captain

I had to take a break from watching Taishou Yakyuu Musume / Taisho Baseball Girls. Shockingly being a woman in the 1920’s was not as liberating as one might think, and parts were depressing. No one wanted these girls to play baseball because they felt it was unbecoming and unladylike. Their families were focused on their daughter’s marriage prospects. And they couldn’t even have male friends without receiving a lecture. Parts of the show were heavy. I would not have done well during that time. If I was born under those circumstances perhaps I would’ve felt differently? All I know is, I am very grateful to be born when I was. On top of the other oppressive circumstances that came with being a woman during that time period, they were even chastised for running! They were told that it was too vulgar!

So, why not watch a team of boys being fully supported in their athletic endeavors??? Ha, yes I know that is ironic. I actually didn’t seek that out, it was a recommended anime on the VRV page, so I started watching. But I really am enjoying the sports anime, Days! Tsukushi Tsukamoto, the main character, is new to soccer and is improving upon his skills every day. Tsukamoto likes the camaraderie of being on a team and the shared goals and support. While not their most talented player, his determination, drive, and passion makes him the heart of the team. He reminds me a lot of Deku, from My Hero Academia. A lot of people counted him out, but his best friend who introduced him to the sport, Jin Kazama, saw his potential. So did the captain of their soccer team, Hisahito Mizuki.

During training camp with other schools, Seiseki’s soccer team makes quite an entrance. The reputation of their soccer team, and their captain Mizuki, leaves everyone in awe.

However, Tsukamoto’s smaller frame, makes him the subject of ridicule. The other teams make false assumptions about his ability. While new to the sport, he has made strides due to his commitment to training. He is better than he was at the beginning of the anime. Instead of being recognized for the player he is for Seiseki High School, everyone thinks he is the team’s manager.

Now that all the teams have arrived, it’s time to run up a horrible hill! What fun training for their first day of camp!

Around this time, the athletes are wondering, who is running ahead? What school? Who is the person is at the forefront? As you’ve certainly guessed, they’re about to learn why rushing to judge someone, isn’t wise.

“Read the mood of the crowd already!” LOL

He really is a super fan! Look at that heart. I wonder if he got that autograph he requested from “the manager.”

I’m only a few episodes in, but I’m enjoying it so far! I’m watching on VRV / Crunchyroll.

Where’d You Learn to Throw?

I’m watching the DVD of Taishou Yakyuu Musume / Taisho Baseball Girls. The anime takes place in 1925. Seeing the obstacles the girls are going through, definitely makes me appreciate being born when I was. I’m only a few episodes in, but I like the enthusiasm the girls have for the sport, and that they’re excited to learn the fundamentals and practice. Although it looks like the pitcher might not make it to the first game…

Gingitsune

I’m watching the DVD of Gingitsune. It’s a supernatural anime about a fox spirit, Gintarou, that protects the shrine where Saeki Makoto and her father live. Makoto is the successor and is able to see and speak with Gintarou. Makoto and Gintarou have a special friendship, and he watches over her as a guardian and mentor. As a spirit and messenger of the Gods, Gintarou lives for a very long time. In comparison, human lives are very short. I’d imagine it would get lonely and sad having to say goodbye to so many friends over the years. But maybe, with that, the spirit guardians know what truly matters. That while fleeting, the moments and time we have with each other, are what makes life worth living.

Shrine successors, that are able to see and speak with the shrine spirits, develop special bonds. Satoru Kamio is the successor at his family shrine and is close with Haru, their shrine spirit who is also a fox. Unfortunately due to factors outside of Satoru’s control, he has to leave the shrine. He goes to live at the Saeki Shrine. Haru refuses to leave Satoru’s side and follows him. Thinking it would be best for Haru to return to his family shrine, Satoru speaks harshly to Haru. Regretting his actions, Satoru searches endlessly for Haru. Once he asks for Gintarou’s help, they’re able to locate Haru. Satoru, who has been closed and withdrawn, learns to open his heart and repairs his relationship with Haru.

Seeing their happiness, Makoto thinks about her earlier interaction with Gintarou, and how human lives are fleeting.

I am halfway through the series, and my favorite part of this show is the relationships between the spirit guardians and the successors. You can see how much they truly care for each other. If you’re looking for a supernatural anime, with a slice of life, check out Gingitsune!

Good Husband Material

Is that how you ask someone to be your husband?!

***SPOILER ALERT***

I just watched Isshuukan Friends / One Week Friends on DVD. Although I enjoyed it, and blew through it very quickly (I started it last night and just finished), the ending didn’t bring the romantic closure I was hoping for. It is evident Kaori Fujimiya and Yuki Hase have feelings for each other. Hase makes a concerted effort to reconnect with Fujimiya every single week. Fujimiya writes in her journal daily, knowing it will help her continue her relationship with Hase. Researching online, it sounds like the manga did not bring romantic closure either. I enjoyed the characters, especially Saki Yamagishi and Shogou Kiryu. If you decide to watch it, it’s an interesting exploration on friendship, what draws us towards people, and the level of effort we put into those relationships. But if you’re looking for romance, temper your expectations before watching.

Peaceful

“Reset” by Taichi Mukai, the beautiful sunset, and Haiji Kiyose’s dog, all contribute to this being one of the most peaceful end credits I’ve seen. A commenter on the video link below pointed out the snow scene was a metaphor for Kiyose’s injury and bouncing back. This anime has a lot of beautiful artwork. Check out Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the Wind on VRV / Crunchyroll or on DVD (Sentai).

Ahmaud Arbery

Upon reflection of how peaceful this scene is, and how Haiji Kiyose is enjoying his run, I thought of Ahmaud Arbery. Ahmaud did not get to enjoy his run, or the fullness of his life, due to the ignorance, racism, and bigotry of others. He, and many other people, do not get the privilege of enjoying a peaceful run. Or a peaceful life. Simply thinking, “Well, I’m not racist” is not enough. For people with integrity and character, turning a blind eye is not okay. Have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations with your family, friends, classmates, colleagues, and communities. Challenge old ways of doing things if they’re born of ignorance and hate. If you feel your words don’t carry weight, or your words are unable to reach them, inspire others with your actions. How you treat other people. How you respect others who may be different than you. Contribute to a cause or volunteer with an organization that will uplift and unify communities. Shine your light. Share love with the world. Your inner circle, I hope, is full of loving people who truly embody and radiate positive energy and support. I pray people will open their hearts. And I’m not perfect. No one is perfect. But we can do better. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

On other platforms I’ve spoken about #blacklivesmatter, but inspired by Scott’s post on https://mechanicalanimereviews.com/ I feel it’s pertinent to share that here as well. When black lives matter, then the statement all lives matter will hopefully, finally, be true. Everyone should be free to live their lives, and enjoy all of the freedom we are supposed to have as Americans, without concern that they’ll be targeted due to the racism and bigotry of others. And running without fear should be one of those freedoms.

#irunwithmaud #runwithmaud #blacklivesmatter

Is Running Great?

Is running great? Several years ago my very supportive friends Ken and Jose encouraged me to run. With their help and support, plus those of my other friends like Linda and Matt, I trained for and completed my first 5k. Later I did the Army Ten Miler and two half-marathons. After getting sidelined with a fracture (learn from me, don’t let a small dog with a big bark distract you, lose your footing, and then tumble down a hill and have a very disgraceful landing), running didn’t feel the same, like my mechanics felt off. I should point out, that the doctor first told me it was a sprain, and later I saw a specialist who told me it was actually a fracture. More recently I started walking/jogging in bootcamp classes and I continued during quarantine trying to get outside for fresh air. I’m starting all over, in terms of getting my body acclimated, but it does remind me of the parts of running I enjoyed. I liked feeling accomplished after I hit a distance I wanted to cover, or when I could run straight for longer periods of time. I enjoyed feeling light on my feet. And shockingly, thankfully, my legs and muscles responded really well to running, and I lost weight. Watching Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run With the Wind, reminded me of those pleasant memories. The memories of running when it was great.

I’m watching Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the Wind on VRV / Crunchyroll. The DVD is also available from Sentai.

Akihiro Hirata tells Yukihiko Iwakura, that running has helped him prioritize his health. Hirata noticed he was short of breath while running so he quit smoking, and to keep his hands busy he has been creating wire figures.

What makes someone a runner? Is it enough to just enjoy it? Do you have to always be training for the next event or goal? Maybe running is different things to different people. Haiji Kiyose leaves an impression upon Kakeru Kurahara, that running is something that all people can participate in, and enjoy. It isn’t reserved solely for the elite.

Now that the group is adjusting to their two-a-day training, they look forward to learning even more, and taking their training to the next level. Some are more excited than others. I didn’t expect him to run with a notebook, but I guess Takashi Sugiyama came prepared.

If you like sports anime, or are curious how running is portrayed in anime, you might want to check out Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the Wind. I’m only a few episodes in, but so far I’m enjoying it!

Our True Selves

I’m watching the DVD of Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou / His and Her Circumstances. The season was available at a great price at the used bookstore 2nd and Charles. Check it out if you haven’t watched it yet!

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

The first episode had me laughing out loud. Yukino Miyazawa reminded me of Umaru Doma from Himouto! Umaru-chan because she has a secret side at home. Miyazawa lives and thrives off the praise of others. She studies hard to earn top grades, she practices the piano, trains for sports in secret, is obsessed with her appearance, and hides her true self and her true opinions. She thinks presenting a version of herself that is admirable to others, will earn their respect and praise. However, Soichiro Arima has beaten her top score, and he easily earns the accolades of others, without even trying. Her competitive nature has her pushing herself harder than ever to try and beat him. She is jealous of him. She dislikes him immensely. He is her competition. His feelings towards her are quite different.

At earlier stages in my life I could see how I had elements of Miyazawa. People pleasing. Not wanting to rock the boat. Feeling that you have to look a certain way to be accepted. Being obsessed with exercising (and for aesthetics not for the health aspect). Always wanting to be the best. Working as hard as you can. I still have a workaholic streak. I want to prove I’m reliable, hard-working, capable, driven, and smart. That I add value. In addition to wanting that self-esteem boost that comes from the praise of others, I think it’s also wanting people to be at peace, and happy in your presence. Not that being vain is helpful to anyone, but the part that wants to please others. Wanting to feel accepted and worthy. Eventually I got to a place, where I don’t let the opinions of others sway me. At the end of the day I have to be at peace, especially if I want to sleep at night. You don’t need to be a bulldozer just speak your truth and hopefully your intended message is received. Getting on the other side, is totally worth it. It’s relaxing and liberating. Peaceful. Wanting to be healthy for yourself, pursuing hobbies that you enjoy, and owning your personality, just being your authentic self regardless of who is around you. I love to laugh and had a passion to do comedy, I’ve done a few roasts at work and improv classes, they’re a lot of fun. Earlier in my life I felt that bringing attention to myself would bring ridicule (and not the kind of laughs I wanted), so I’d keep quiet. Sometimes it is appropriate to be more reserved, but hiding your true personality is draining.

I think it is so funny that Miyazawa’s family rags on her for being such a phony!

Oh yes if I didn’t say it earlier, I should come clean and say I am very much like Umaru and Miyazawa. As soon as I get home, and after I shower, I’m in yoga pants or jammies and watching anime or reading a book. I am relaxing. It could be perceived as laziness. But when I’m not at home, I’m going full throttle! I need time to recharge.

Okay yes I’m pretty stubborn. BUT stubbornness and pride have saved me from many potentially awkward and embarrassing circumstances so, at least that!

I understand completely! In life you need energy and zest to do your best and to be competitive. You need time to recover.

She has a valid point.

Ah you too Mom? LOL

Dad. Ahhhh.

That looks like a lot of effort to have a fake persona.

Surely once Miyazawa beats Arima for the top scores she’ll be happy right?

People pleasing is a never ending carousel ride, and not the fun kind. Get off! Reclaim your life and your sanity. Live authentically. Establish boundaries. Don’t rely on others for your self-worth.

So after all of her hours of studying, hard work, and effort to beat Arima’s top score, she thought it would bring her happiness, but it didn’t. Feeling deflated, she’s shocked to get a love confession from him.

Miyazawa wanting to keep her true self a secret, refuses Arima. And goes on an ego trip. Later she realizes the error of her ways, thanks to her younger sisters.

Ugh yes I’ve made that mistake myself. I’m sorry. Sigh.

Yes I agree! Why go out to a large party or crowded event when you can relax at home? That’s probably why adjusting to quarantine was not as challenging for me, as it was for others. You know the people with a social life.

So you already know what’s coming right? Yes of course, the jig is up and her secret is out. (PSA: always look out the window before answering the door).

If the rest of the season is like the first episode, I am excited to see more!