‘Mashiro no Oto’ is a manga written and illustrated by Marimo Ragawa. Known in English as ‘Those Snow White Notes,’ the story is published in Kodansha’s ‘Monthly Shōnen Magazine’ and follows a shamisen player who has lost his creative spark until a chance encounter changes his fate.
Ragawa recently sat down with Crunchyroll to discuss his “manga without sounds” that relies heavily on music.
“At first, I tried to express the imagery through the scenery, but along the way, I started making heavy use of onomatopoeia,” he said. “I realized that, even before trying to imagine Tsugaru shamisen, in particular, the reader might not have any idea what the instrument sounds like in the first place, so I felt it was necessary to put words to the art. Now that the series has been running for so long, I feel like even if they don’t know the sound, they can understand the feeling, so I’ll draw abstract imagery and leave the sound to the reader’s imagination.”
He continued, “To prepare for this series, I did start going to Tsugaru shamisen lessons. Back then, it was one of those “culture classes” with many other students, but scheduling was difficult, so now I take private lessons. I never learned any kind of music, so I’ve always admired the piano. I like all genres of music, and I really love songs from the ’80s and ’90s ― Madonna, Michael Jackson, Queen, Cyndi Lauper, etc … That’s my youth!”
On the inspiration behind the protagonist Setsu, Ragawa discusses how family plays an important role in the character’s development.
“Since Setsu was a baby, he’s been raised listening to his grandfather’s sound,” he explained. “It had become his identity, so he didn’t know how to express himself outside of it, and he never had any reason to question that about himself. That’s why when he rushes out of his hometown, Aomori, he’s bewildered about the process of self-expression.”
He added, “In the beginning, he admired his grandfather’s sound and wanted to be able to play like him, but now, he perceives it as a sound he must surpass.”
The popularity of the manga led to an anime adaption from Shin-Ei Animation that was released in the West by Crunchyroll.
According to Kodansha, the plot begins when, “Setsu’s grandfather died, so did Setsu’s “sound”—his unique creative spark. Grieving, he goes to Tokyo to find himself…but manages to become totally, literally lost on his first day. Only a chance meeting with Yuna—aka Yuka, the hostess—saves him from being robbed. At first glance their lives seem totally different, but they’re both striving for their dreams—hers, of being an actress, and his, of developing his talent with the shamisen—and it could just be that life in the raucous, unfeeling urban sprawl of Tokyo could just be what binds their fates together…”
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