It’s finally the Shamisen Appreciation Club’s turn to perform in episode 9 of Those Snow White Notes. Last week’s episode introduced the tenacious Mai’s revolutionary playing style when her group performed. This week, it’s Setsu’s group’s chance to shine, and they do just that.
The episode wastes no time getting into the performance, with Setsu and Co. immediately taking to the stage. Right before they begin playing, Setsu instructs Kaito to strike his first string as hard as he can. As a result, Kaito’s shamisen produces a sound that really ‘sings’, causing him to stand out more than the others. However, those in the audience with a keen ear manage to notice the softer sound of Setsu’s playing, acting as a platform for Kaito’s sound. This infuriates Mai, who was hoping Setsu would match her passionate performance. However, it seems like Setsu is staying true to his promise to match his peers’ performance, using his playing to elevate their own.
The audience seems to be enjoying the Club’s performance, commenting on its conventionality, while recognizing the talent of Setsu and his group. Next up, it’s time for Rai to pull out some of those unorthodox techniques he and Setsu discussed last episode. It turns out the technique is a Nagauta (a type of shamisen technique), popularized by a famous musician. This delights both the audience and the judges, causing them to applause before the performance is even over.
One of my favorite things about Those Snow White Notes is its use of visual metaphors during the shamisen performances. Setsu and his fellow seasoned shamisen players seem to have a skill for conjuring images based on the different sounds produced by the shamisen. We get to see some really nice imagery during Rai’s performance, which evokes scenes of falling cherry blossom petals, and Geishas. To a layperson like me, the shamisen simply sounds pretty, but it’s always interesting to hear the characters’ more nuanced interpretations.
Meanwhile, Mai is not the only person mad at Setsu for toning down his skills. His brother, watching from the audience, is also frustrated with him for not displaying his full talent. And his mom, ever the manipulator, is angry with him for misrepresenting the family sound. However, Setsu is like a proud teacher as he listens to the progress of his fellow club members.
Finally, in episode 9 of Those Snow White Notes, it’s Setsu’s time to impress everyone with his skillful shamisen playing. As he begins to put more passion into his performance, the audience can’t help but gasp. Then, we’re treated to some serious sakuga, and another beautiful visual metaphor, as sparkling snow flurries begin to fall to the stage. Spectators comment on the addition of the new sound, marveling at its quiet quality. This is a big achievement for Setsu, who has been concerned about how audiences would respond to his gentle, unflashy sound. With that, the Shamisen Appreciation Club’s first competitive performance comes to a close.
Following the performance, Setsu has a run-in with Mai. He tells her he found her performance *ahem* “stimulating”. But that’s not good enough for Mai, who chastises Setsu for running away from their hometown. She compares Setsu’s lack of hunger for competition to his late grandfather, and compares herself to her father, saying she “wants it all”. This kind of attitude is foreign to Setsu, who is clearly unmotivated by the need to prove himself to others (with the exception of his grandfather of course).
The judges announce the names of the top six winning groups of the Matsugorou Cup group division. Winning groups number 6-4 are announced, with Setsu and Mai’s team still yet to be called. Third place is announced…and is awarded to the Shamisen Appreciation Club. The group is taken aback, having expected to place in the top two alongside Mai’s team. What’s more shocking though, is the fact that Mai’s team places second. So which group is the dark horse who won first place? It’s the group from Osaka prefecture, featuring Kaji, the potential rival from episode 7. How will Setsu compare to him in the solo competition?
Mai’s cockiness shows through here, as she wonders to herself how she lost in a competition full of people she deems amateurs. She begins to flip out, condemning the judges’ verdict and refusing to accept second place. Her brother Souichi appears behind her, offering some sage advice. He tells her that she was overconfident in her performance and needs to accept the judge’s decision with dignity. All this speaks to the way in which hubris can negatively affect the outcome of a performance. The Shamisen Appreciation Club is suitably disappointed after their loss but is pleasantly surprised to find out they won the Judges’ Special Award for their impressive performance.
Setsu is now preparing for the solo division of the Matsugorou Cup. Hopefully, we’ll get to see him perform against the renowned Souichi soon! Those Snow White Notes episode 9 is available to watch on Crunchyroll and you can vote for it in our weekly episode polls.
All images via Crunchyroll