Mashiro no Oto (Those Snow White Notes) is the story of Sawamura Setsu who runs away from home after the death of his grandfather, stricken with grief. He goes to Tokyo to find his own sound through the shamisen, a traditional Japanese instrument. The shamisen was taught to Setsu by his grandfather who refused to let Setsu play his masterpiece, let alone teach it to him, before his death. In Tokyo, his mom takes charge of his life and re-enrolls him in school. Little does Setsu know that his life and his sound will be changed forever there!
Those Snow White Notes, at first glance, makes a lot of people think that it’s a wannabe Kono Oto Tomare (Kono Oto Tomare: Sounds of Life) with the anime being centered around a Japanese instrument, set in school with its very own rebellious kid who just deeply misses his grandfather. However, when you look closer, you’ll see that there are certain subtleties that set Those Snow White Notes apart from other music anime. The tone of the story is rather dark with the animation itself being dark in the first few episodes. The animation style is reminiscent of Japanese watercolor paintings coming to life and that just adds to the flair that marks this anime with its Japanese-ness. Moreover, the characters themselves have a different accent to stay true to the storyline and Aomori, the place that Setsu comes from. While this is a little strange at first, it’s easy to get used to and accept it as a part of the culture because of all the other things that happen in the story.
The characters themselves have slowly been fleshed out. The importance of knowing his grandfather’s masterpiece is shown through Setsu's past and the overall theme of the story is established early on. When Setsu comes to Tokyo all alone, he is quickly taken in by a gravure (pinup, centerfold) model, Tachiki Yuna who tells him that he has more potential than he thinks. Yuna’s character was well-rounded and even though we saw her only for a little bit, she left a deep impression in everyone’s hearts when she left. Setsu’s brother and mother are also people who believe in his talent and know that he has what it takes to find his own sound without relying on his grandfather’s. However, Setsu himself still doesn’t know.
In 4 episodes, roughly speaking, we’ve only seen so much yet it is all captured so well that it captivates anyone who watches it. Watching Those Snow White Notes itself becomes an appreciation of art. You don’t watch it so that the plot progresses steadily and quickly to get where it needs to be. Though the plot is still progressing pretty steadily, Those Snow White Notes takes its time to establish its world and characters. It’s one of those anime that you need to really take the time to watch and appreciate. It’s the kind of anime that tells you to breathe and simply watch the events unfold without thinking too much, teaching you to be patient yet observant.
Those Snow White Notes certainly has a lot of potential to be a hidden gem of the season. The music has so far been fantastically Japanese and true to traditional Japanese music. While it is safe to say that not everyone has the time to dedicate and appreciate such anime in a busy world, we at Honey’s Anime urge you to definitely give this a try and enjoy it for what it is! What were your first impressions of Mashiro no Oto or Those Snow White Notes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!