There is something incredibly magical about music in general. However, Japanese music has the touch of a thousand years on its back that is skillfully brought out by its players. The shamisen is no different. Those Snow White Notes, or Mashiro no Oto in Japanese, is the story of Sawamura Setsu and his journey to find his distinct “sound”. He runs away from home after the death of his grandfather Matsugurou, a talented shamisen player who did not choose to spread his sound far and wide. The story follows Setsu as he moves to Tokyo and meets impactful people along the way, all who help him shape his sound perfectly.
The plot was incredibly realistic. There was no plot armor protecting this anime. Those Snow White Notes simply told its story through its characters embracing every fall and high. Watching Setsu fail not only the group competition with his friends but also the solo competition, we saw the impact of losing something on Setsu as he broke down in the last episode.
In a lot of ways, the anime felt like a Prologue. With only 12 episodes, it could only establish itself and the rules of its world, prompting the growth of Setsu and his friends. While it did an incredible job showing how the shamisen world works, it lacked closure. If this anime does not follow up with another season and was simply a marketing strategy to raise manga sales, this anime has wasted its potential big time.
The Depth of Characters Was Pretty Good
Of course, the anime really made Setsu’s growth stark and it was interesting to see Setsu embrace his friends for the group competition. However, the depth of the side characters was nothing to write home about except for two of the characters, Rai-senpai and Yui Yamazato. While Rai-senpai looked like a deep and complex character at first glance, he was immediately sidelined with absolutely no depth to him. The only noteworthy moment where we saw his potential was during the group competition itself where he showed his roots of handling the shamisen for a long time. On the other hand, we got to see Yui’s growth as she realizes she’s scared about going up on stage because she feels like she’s not talented enough. However, her friends encourage her and she relies on them.
But the relationships formed in Those Snow White Notes were pretty rushed and haphazard. Unlike Kono Oto Tomare! (Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life) which really took its time to establish the bonds between the characters as they practiced playing the koto, Those Snow White Notes did not hit the mark. By the time we reached the competition, there was still no noticeable emotional bond between the characters, it was all expressed through just words. There were way too many characters in the shamisen world who set themselves up as cunning who simply wanted to achieve greatness in their sound, many characters’ potential was not fully used making us confused on who the real antagonist was in this whole show.
The BEST Moment
In our humble opinion, the BEST moment of Those Snow White Notes is the group performance by Setsu and his friends. While the performance did not win any trophies, it certainly won our hearts. Watching Setsu grow as a character to not simply rely on himself for his sound but to adapt and change to match the sounds of the people with him, softly yet impactfully highlighting their sounds with his was incredible to watch and we could see the technique that’s needed to achieve that. When Setsu and Rai-senpai made an impromptu change to the whole piece, making the piece sing and dance to their tune, it was simply amazing and the animation highlighted that perfectly.
Those Snow White Notes certainly had a lot of potential to be as good as Kono Oto Tomare which really revolutionized the music genre through the power of koto, it did not hit the mark very well. If there is another season coming that would enhance and amplify what we’d seen this season, perhaps it could redeem itself. Otherwise, it’s simply wasted potential. The animation and the music were incredible but to the untrained ear, many pieces sounded similar which made us rely heavily on the commentary that this piece was supposedly fantastic.
We hope you enjoyed reading this review! What was your favorite piece from Those Snow White Notes? Favorite Moment? Did you enjoy the animation? Let us know your answers in the comments below!