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Manga / Those Snow White Notes

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The Umezono Academy Shamisen Appreciation Club. Clockwise from center: 

Those Snow White Notes (Mashiro no Oto) is a manga by Marimo Ragawa, which was serialized in Monthly Shonen Magazine from 2009 to 2022.

The story follows Setsu Sawamura, a gifted shamisen player, a trait inherited from his grandfather. On his deathbed, Setsu's grandfather asks that he stops playing until he can figure out how to play without just imitating him. Following his death, Setsu packs his things, drops out of high school, and aimlessly moves to Tokyo, where he is found by his estranged mother Umeko, a successful and rich singer, who forces him back into high school to shape him up.

The manga received an animated adaptation in the Spring of 2021.


  • Abusive Parents: Of a subtle sort. Ryugen Kamiki is a Disappeared Dad that straight up tells Setsu that he can't beat Soichi, and without a teacher - he can't possibly hope to improve. Umeko increasingly pressures Setsu to replicate Matsugoro's sound, only to be disappointed in him when he tried to do so; going as far as to drop his trophy in front of him and the crowd then telling him he embarrassed her. Both of these responses, along with Seiryu pointing out that he doesn't have a purpose, put Setsu in a massive Heroic BSoD.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Tanuma Soichi is a platonic version of this to Sawamura. After they meet, he considers himself to be Sawamura's good friend and refers to him as such. Sawamura, however, considers him an annoyance.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Setsu calls his older brother Wakana-chan as a way to express his affection.
  • Animation Bump: The shamisen scenes are animated at an incredibly fluid rate compared to the rest of the anime.
  • Art Shift: The series regularly shifts from the normal character designs to their Super-Deformed counterparts with Blank White Eyes when it really ramps up the comedy.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Soichi Tanuma tends to describe performances in terms of food, but he's very well-known as one of the most skilled shamisen players amongst his peers.
  • Character Development: Throughout the series, Setsu eventually starts to open up and express more emotion outside of indifference, becoming an impactful musician in his own right without the influence of Matsugoro hanging over his head.
  • Commonality Connection: Shuri started the shamisen appreciation club in order to try to find a song her aging grandmother could never forget from the age where she was evacuated from the countryside. That song turns out to be an older version of the song Setsu's grandfather spent years developing.
  • Cool Big Bro: Wakana is Setsu's caring big brother that has been there for him since they were children, and currently acts as more of a parental figure than his mother ever did.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: During the summer training camp, Rai reveals that Kaito injured his knee a while back during a soccer game, crushing his dreams of ever going pro. His parents, especially his father, expect him to be a lawyer to carry on in the family business, something that he doesn't want.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Yuna is the first girl Setsu meets in Tokyo. She offers him a home and is also an artist who can't seem to get her acting career started, and the story seems to set her up to become his love interest and a major character, but she boards a train and leaves the story soon after.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Setsu is quite aimless after his grandfather's death, with no interest in anything aside from playing shamisen. The first episode downright describes him as looking dead at all times except when playing.
  • Disappeared Dad: Wakana and Setsu's father hasn't been around since their childhood, leaving them to Matsugoro. It turns out that Setsu's father is the current Ryugen Kamiki, the famed teacher of the Kamiki school and the Tanuma siblings' adoptive father.
  • Heroic BSoD: After placing third in the Matsugoro Cup, and the incidents mentioned in Abusive Parents, Setsu enters a massive version of this, barely even moving for the most part. It's only when he thinks about Matsugoro's words is when he finally allows himself to pick up his shamisen.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Not only are most of the Sawamura family involved in music, but they're implied to all be born talented musicians. Matsugoro is considered to be one of the most talented shamisen performers to have ever lived despite not being well-known amongst the country, while his grandsons Setsu and Wakana (especially the former) aren't too far behind. Umeko, Matsugoro's daughter and the Sawamura brothers' mother, is a skilled traditional singer that demands only the best from her instrumentalists.
    • The Tanuma family are known for being impressive shamisen players, with Soichi winning many competitions and Mai being an impressively creative musician in her own right.
  • Meaningful Name: Setsu's name is written with the kanji for "snow"(雪), and snow is a recurring motif in the series.
  • Moe: In-universe, almost all characters comment that Kaji is extremely adorable and puppy-like.
  • Not So Stoic: Part of Setsu's Character Development is him learning how to get emotionally involved in things that aren't necessarily connected to his grandfather's sound. Episode 7 has him finally admit that he really does want to win for himself in an outburst spurned by Kaito.
  • Otaku: Yui Yamazato is a hardcore game and anime otaku, often viewing everything as a "game" as a way to motivate her.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Umezomo Academy shamisen appreciation club is comprised of a stoic, aimless shamisen prodigy, a shy student whose lack of talent is made up by her enthusiasm, an anime and game otaku who thinks of everything as a competition, the shy student and otaku's childhood friend who only joined the club because of his crush, and an experienced hosozao shamisen player who's quite the flamboyant character. Their sponsor is a fangirl of Seiryu Kamiki who tends to get distracted at times but is still a supportive character nonetheless.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Rai is part of the Handicrafts Club and quite overly feminine in personality - using the personal pronoun atashi and noting that Seiryu Kamiki is quite the handsome man.
  • The Reveal: Episode 10 of the anime reveals that Setsu's father is the famed Kamiki Ryugen of the Kamiki school, having been previously involved with Umeko back in the day. Later on, Kouta reveals that Mai and Souichi are his adopted children. This understandably leaves everyone outside of Wakana and Kouta baffled.
  • The Rival:
    • Mai Tanuma sees herself as this to Setsu, wanting to win over him after all these years because he refused to join a competition back in their youth. Setsu, not really caring about said competition, barely even remembers the whole incident and doesn't really regard her.
    • Seiryu Kamiki eventually starts to see himself as this, wanting to draw out Setsu's best after being given a shoddy performance.
  • Sentai: Yui dresses the club up Sentai-esque uniforms (with her as red, Setsu in blue, Rai in yellow, Kaito in green, and Shuri in pink) to make them stand out in episode 7. The club doesn't look at the outfits too fondly.
  • Sequel Hook: The anime adaptation ends with Setsu looking dejected for a moment, before flashing back to Matsugoro's words. He picks up his shamisen once more...and then it cuts to the ending theme.
  • Shout-Out: Rai complains about his outfit to the Handicrafts Club in episode 7, stating that yellow isn't his color because he doesn't look like a curry lover. Daita Oiwa/Kirenger note  from Himitsu Sentai Gorenger is a noted curry lover.
  • The Stoic: Setsu doesn't show much emotion outside of a few key moments, most of which are fairly lighthearted. In contrast to his outward personality, he's a very mercurial person, and it greatly shows in his performances.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Seiryu Kamiki (Kousuke) is the Technician to Setsu's Performer. Kamiki is a perfectionist by design, playing to the best of his ability mostly of the time with nearly zero faults in his performances. Setsu is a mercurial character who lets his emotional state influence his playing, and while he doesn't play to his fullest most of the time, when he does; his performances stun audiences and draw out their full emotions.
  • Tragic Dropout: Setsu drops out of school after his grandfather's death and starts drifting in Tokyo with no idea of what to do with his life. He is quickly forced back into high school by his mother once she finds him, though, and hides that fact by lying that he was in a grave state in a hospital instead of having dropped out.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Shuri and Yui are the only female performers of the shamisen appreciation club.
  • Underdogs Never Lose:
    • Subverted. As much as the Umezono club impressed the audience with their performance, they only manage third place due to being a group of rookies (sans Setsu and Rai) compared to Mai and Kaji's teams. This was rectified with the judges' special prize however, so it's not all bad.
    • Also subverted with Setsu's performance. Despite his performance impressing the crowd, the sudden switch-up from Matsugoro's sound to his sound caused him to place in third.
  • Younger Than They Look: Setsu mentions to Sakura that Wakana and Kouta are underneath the drinking age when she brings them alcohol, despite admittedly looking much older than that.