Last week’s episode of Those Snow White Notes concluded the group performances of the Matsugouro Cup. In Those Snow White Notes episode 10, it’s time for the individual division of the competition to begin. Not only do we get to see some stimulating shamisen performances, but Setsu’s father is also introduced. And his identity comes as quite a shock.
A man arrives at the competition venue, causing an excited response from master Oodawara. He identifies the man as Kamiki Ryuugen, the acclaimed musician who supposedly rules over the world of shamisen. Kamiki proclaims that he’s there to ascertain his son’s progress. But he’s not referring to Souichi…he’s talking about Setsu! Cue shocked and confused facial expressions from the Shamisen Appreciation Club.
I had to laugh at the fact that Yui’s first reaction to this revelation was to wonder whether her Mai x Sestu ship was still safe since the two are potentially siblings. However, we’re assured that both Souichi and Mai were adopted, meaning they’re not related to Setsu by blood. Still, given this new information, I think a romantic relationship between the two would be a bit…strange.
Setsu’s reaction to seeing his dad, presumably for the first time in a long time, is about as apathetic as we’d expect from our aloof king. However, this interaction made me really feel for Mai. Kamiki alluded to the talent of Souichi and Setsu but never once mentioned her. Furthermore, he showed up only to watch the individual performances, completely neglecting Mai’s group performance. Given Mai’s achievements and obvious talents, it’s hard to ignore the blatant sexism in Kamiki’s treatment of his children.
It also makes me view her rivalry with Setsu in a whole new light. In a flashback from episode 7, Mai mentioned that Setsu’s refusal to compete was the reason her father wouldn’t take her seriously as a musician. Parents brazenly favouring one child over another is ugly business, which can have catastrophic impacts on their development. But if Kamiki is also pitting his children’s skills against one another to see who comes out on top, then that’s even more insidious. I already dislike this guy. Given these factors, it’s no wonder Mai is so fiercely competitive. She’s clearly desperate for her father’s approval, as any neglected child would be.
A major theme in Those Snow White Notes has been the cultivation of one’s own particular “sound”. While this concept seems rather elusive and nebulous, the show has done a great job at demonstrating it through each character’s distinctive playing style. Indeed music, and art in general, is something that can’t be boiled down to an exact formula. Sometimes it can be hard to quantify exactly what it is about a particular performance that makes it so special. It may be the performer’s enthusiasm and passion, it may be their technical skill, or it may be the unique quality of their performance.
In last week’s episode, it was technical skill and synchronicity that ended up winning over the judges. But that was the group division. All the seasoned shamisen competitors are aware that in the individual division, it’s all about creativity. In other words, being able to show off their own sound. This is something that overconfident performer Ushio doesn’t have a problem with. Despite being advised by his teacher to use his signature “twang” sparingly, he decides to use the technique as much as possible. More than anything else, Ushio prioritizes fun during his performances. This proves to be infectious, despite the flaws in his performance, the audience is enthralled. Though it will be interesting to see how the judges score his rowdy playing style.
Next up in episode 10 of Those Snow White Notes, it’s Kaji’s turn to take the stage. His team won first place in the group division for their uniformity and technical proficiency, but after viewing Ushio’s performance Kaji is aware that he needs to give a more emotive performance. After all, a performance that meets technical standards but feels hollow in passion is not likely to win over the judges. His attempts to liven his sound seem to be going well, with members of the audience noticing the difference. Setsu, listening keenly from outside the stage, gives us a beautiful metaphor for Kaji’s sound, comparing it to a fierce “wind from the mountains”.
Setsu (who apparently has superhuman hearing) also notes that there’s slack in one of the strings…promptly before it breaks. Kaji stops playing and the rest of the audience looks on, shocked. My heart sank a little for Kaji at that moment. He’s been aptly compared by other characters to a puppy, for his friendliness and kawaii-ness. I can only imagine how much of a blow a mishap like that would be to someone so passionate about their craft.
We’ll have to wait until next episode to find out if Kaji is able to salvage his performance. Hopefully we’ll also get to see Souichi and Setsu’s performances. Those Snow White Notes episode 10 is available to watch on Crunchyroll and you can vote for it in our weekly episode polls.
All images via Crunchyroll