The time has arrived and ready or not, Setsu and his companions are finally at Umeko's tournament. But even Those Snow White Notes can't speed through an entire tournament arc in just one episode, so instead we spend most of “Wind” showcasing the opening acts of the group competition and building tension over both the club's performance and Setsu's upcoming individual appearance. Thus this episode feels decidedly less cohesive than the half-dozen that came before it, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes in a story you need a transition period to get your pieces into place; like a good concert, sound checks and warm-ups are a key part of delivering a great show.
That isn't to say there isn't some fun to be had here. We finally get some more time with Mai, the girl who first pestered Setsu about shamisen competitions all the way back in elementary school. She's miffed that her (unwilling) rival entered the individual competition last minute, meaning she won't get to prove herself head-to-head. She also finally meets Yui in person and they make for pretty delightful frenemies online and off. The same can't be said for her mother, who immediately gets into a passive-aggressive venom-spitting match with Umeko, in the way only Pageant Moms really can. We already know Umeko has a big mess of hangups driving her to forcibly commandeer her son's life, but it seems Mai and Souichi's parents are also plenty prideful about their kids being The Best no matter what. It'll be interesting to see how all that works out once this competition comes to a head, especially with Wakana there to maximize the family drama.
Setsu, as he is wont to do, is trying his damnedest to avoid all of this and just focus on performing. But as we well know, our hero is temperamental and terrible at communicating, so his constant absence during the opening hours of the contest just makes them even more anxious. Setsu certainly doesn't mean any harm, but nonetheless he finds himself getting yanked up by the collar for the second time in as many episodes by Yaguchi. This is where I have my first real issue with this story. Maybe it's just a consequence of how condensed the story is in anime form, but it really feels like our shamisen sentai team (Shamisentai?) should be past this particular kind of drama. After weeks of working with Setsu, they really should understand that him being distant doesn't mean he's angry or hates them – he's just not good at sharing his feelings and is more comfortable isolating than trying to confide in others. Chalk it up to pre-show jitters if you want, but this feels like the show spinning its wheels to fill time.
Thankfully the rest of the episode is the better, sillier type of time-killing. There's a number of fun moments or interesting details that come up across the episode that make it worthwhile. Kai going full girl-talk mode with the handycrafts club is perfect and I will protect this boy with all the powers at my disposal. The opening shamisen performances are also pretty neat, featuring some unique takes on the instrument that we probably wouldn't get anywhere else. From a modern rock-inspired take on the old standards to a team of dolled-up Idols, there are some interesting – if gimmicky – spins on our central musical focus. This week's performance is sadly not all that memorable, as it focuses on a heretofore unseen character named Kaji and his group's synchronized performance. It's certainly a neat novelty, but without the emotional punch of previous episodes it doesn't leave much impression.
That's the vibe of this whole episode. We're setting up things to pay off later on, but that means there's not much immediately engaging here. It's not unexpected – any show needs to take its foot off the gas and pace itself – but here's hoping next week can get us back to firing on all cylinders.
Rating: Those Snow White Notes is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.