Introverted classical pianist and top student Kaoru Nishimi has just arrived in Kyushu for his first year of high school. Having constantly moved from place to place since his childhood, he abandons all hope of fitting in, preparing himself for another lonely, meaningless year. That is, until he encounters the notorious delinquent Sentarou Kawabuchi.
Sentarou's immeasurable love for jazz music inspires Kaoru to learn more about the genre, and as a result, he slowly starts to break out of his shell, making his very first friend. Kaoru begins playing the piano at after-school jazz sessions, located in the basement of fellow student Ritsuko Mukae's family-owned record shop. As he discovers the immense joy of using his musical talents to bring enjoyment to himself and others, Kaoru's summer might just crescendo into one that he will remember forever.
Sakamichi no Apollon is a heartwarming story of friendship, music, and love that follows three unique individuals brought together by their mutual appreciation for jazz.
I love jazz. Some of my favorite memories of my time living in Florida have to be going downtown to listen to the local jazz festival. Sitting in front of that gazebo and getting into the spirit of the musicians is something you can only experience if you listen to jazz. It’s so different from any other musical genre and I was excited as hell to get to watch an anime centered around this amazing style of music.
The problem is Sakamichi no Apollon isn’t as much about jazz as it is about lame characters. There’s jazz in the series, and it definitely plays a part,
but it doesn’t play as large a part as I wish it would. This seems to be the theme of music-based anime, not paying attention to the music as much as the boring lives of the characters. Jazz is frantic, it changes with the mood. There are a lot of things about jazz that could have been played out in Sakamichi no Apollon that aren’t. That heart and soul of jazz are only seen during the portions where the characters play music. Other than that, the series falls flat.
Kaoru is a guy. He goes to high school. He’s a bookworm.
Sentarou is a guy. He goes to high school. He fights a lot.
Ritsuko is a girl. She goes to high school. I can’t discern her character besides “love interest”.
Together they are the three main characters of our little drama. Kaoru goes to high school as the new kid. He meets Sentarou who is a pretty violent guy who skips classes (the delinquent). Sentarou is a drummer who plays jazz with Ritsuko’s father and a guy named Jun. Kaoru, who can play the piano, joins in on the fun and learns how to evolve from his classical roots into the realm of jazz.
There are, of course, some bumps on the road. A couple of love triangles (those are the main plague that infest this anime), Sentarou’s problems with his father, and Jun’s becoming a good-for-nothing. The plot is really not that exciting. You’re watching this for the music more than likely, not the duo of love triangles that seem to give way to more of a bromance at the end than anything else.
This is where the plot becomes especially painful. The series plot is loose, and by that I mean nothing is consequential or matters. It’s there to hold the series together and give it a reason for being, but it’s mediocre at best. By the end, nothing really matters and the series goes back to square one.
“BUT RATCHET! WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?”
What music? There’s a little bit of music going around, but for a music based anime there’s not enough. As I said in the beginning of the review, there’s not a lot of music going on. There are a few songs here and there, but not enough to warrant being considered as “musically focused”. It’s more just a school life anime than anything else and suffers because of the fact it tries to be something it is not.
“BUT AT LEAST IS HAS GOOD CHARACTERS!”
All the characters were generic at best. While Sentarou was a decent character, I grew to hate Kaoru more and more as the series progressed. It reached the pinnacle when he nearly raped Ritsuko. Ritsuko wasn’t a bad character, but she didn’t actually have a lot of character there. She was just there as a love interest and a plot point more so than anything. Jun was okay, but he also had some issues that made him dislikable. His girlfriend, Yurika, was okay.
I wasn’t really impressed by anything that concerned the plot. I was impressed with some of the music (the little that there was) and the animation was especially good during jam sessions and concerts, unbelievably so.
I’m unable to say too much about Sakamichi no Apollon because it’s so average. It’s the definition of average. Good music and good animation, mediocre characters and plot, and an overall disappointment. If the series had been longer I feel that perhaps the plot and characters would have been more entertaining. But as it is, Sakamichi no Apollon is merely adequate. The last episode feels especially rushed and I assumed I was meant to feel emotions of some sort, but was left not really caring. And when, by the end, I could care less what happens, then I know that I’m not watching anything special.
Sakamichi no Apollon is a hesitant pass for me. It’s overhyped, and that hype is probably why you decided to jump on the bandwagon and check this anime out. There are some qualities that are enjoyable, but taken as a whole, it’s merely adequate in satiating the thirst for jazz, as well as the search for a good music anime.
Let's do a trivia here! Are you someone who wants to know what it is like back in the 1960's? Ever wanted to build an escapism from the harsh reality of today's world? Want to just sit back and enjoy some old school music after a stressful day? Well, perhaps you've found a series worthy to invest your time into because Kids on the Slope is there and sure to give you something to think about.
Kids on the Slope (also known as Sakamichi no Apollon) is a story taking place in the beginning of summer, 1966. It stars the protagonist Kaoru Nishimi, an honor student
who tends to keep to himself. He has a rather reserved personality and hard to open up. That is until he meets the bad boy and future best friend Sentaro Kawabuchi. While mistakenly getting to a bad start, these two soon develop an unforgettable friendship based on respect, forgiveness, and of course, music. Later comes into picture is Ritsuko Mukae, a friendly girl who plays intriguing roles in the story ranging from music, friendship, and later love. The series follows three friends as they create unforgettable memories of the 1960s in the age of jazz music, friendship, and melody.
Now, you're probably asking yourself “why should I watch this series?”
Well, first of all this series contains the unification of icons Watanabe Shinichi (Series Director of Cowboy Bebop) and music composer Yoko Kanno. That alone can be seen as a good reason to start watching. While labeled as a coming-of-age drama, this series also contains a bit of the romance theme and of course, drama. So for those interested into the intertwined story arcs mixed in with misunderstandings, jazz critique, and love trials, then this could be a little added bonus.
[ - Story - ]
Kids on the Slope details friendship and is one of the most important element of the series and should not be just seen as an aspect of the anime but in real life as well. Kaoru, Sentaro, Ritsuko forge friendship through one common passion: the love of music and the bond that they share.
This series does not have a strong impression at first. From the first episode, there's not much to say besides the typical high school drama and music setting. Furthermore, for those carving for action and psychological twists or for some who call it “mindfucks”, then this is the wrong series to look into. Thankfully, there's an old saying that goes “never judge a book by its cover”. Damn right, you shouldn't because this coming-of-age drama is sure to give you a surprising twist.
In the beginning, there is the common theme. Kaoru falls for the friendly girl, Sentaro falls for the graceful girl, and Ritsuko is already in love with the childhood bad boy. Then comes even more characters that makes the already complicated geometric love shape even more complicated later on.
Kids on the Slope moves at a relative pace that can be considered neither slow or fast. Ironically, it starts off slow even though it's kids on the SLOPE. Anything that flows down a slope relatively moves fast but in this case retains a relatively average pace. So I'll say this again, this series is not for the fans who carves the fast paced action and psychological twists. If you want that, try Jormungand or something.
[ - Characters ]
While the characters are animated plainly and simple, their inner character and style is what drives this series as why it's ranked into the #100 of MAL. Beyond the romance polygon are characters that balances out the series.
First we have Kaoru, the middleman who has the reserved personality. He is smart, he is reserved, and he has the talents to become a real star. Thankfully with some fate, he finds someone who also share a similar love for the age of music. That brings us to Sentaro. Like the opposite of ying and yang, Sentaro is seen as the tough guy with the soft spot, the one that picks fights but also the guy who protects and values his friendship with the other characters from the bottom of his heart. His outer image covers up the fact that he is a deep down guy and cares for the people and things he truly loves; his friends, his family, and the children that respects him so much and of course, music. Finally, there's Ritsuko. She is the cheerful girl, the one that builds bridges of friendship with friends and generally well-liked. Yet behind her outer image lies a somewhat insecure girl and sometimes jealous of others' ability to be so outright themselves.
Later on of course, there are other characters that enter the scene that have stark personalities and also not who they appear to be. I'd love to go on and on about these characters but this isn't an summary is, it? This is a review so I'll leave you to find out. But trust me, you'll love to get to know them once you see the realism behind their outer characters.
And speaking of realism, it is noticeable that the characters' personal lives are conveyed in a way that can be seen and defined as quite real. Whether tragic, sad, or cheerful, we see the histories of the main characters that can be related to most of us. They all have background histories that brings the overall realism into the 1960's and even towards today.
[ - Animation/Art -]
If there's one thing to forget, it might be the art. I'll say this in the most honest way as possible:
It is too plain and simple.
The animation is not rich and series airing this Spring Season like Fate/Zero puts it to shame in the art department. The animation however brings out a powerful feeling of nature and refines the 1960s style in its finest form. While plain and simple (Karou's glasses, Sentaro's shirt, etc), we can see that the culture it tries to convey of the 1960s is successful. Culture has indeed changed from the past to present day as we can clearly see the lesser technology and more general and sophisticated themes. It is simple and not detailed just like how high school should be. It doesn't need to be something special that makes us go “wow!” After all, the precise of an entire series is not always judged by art solely. At one point of watching over 100 series, it's just down right common sense.
[ - Sound/Music - ]
Ah yes, this is the main event, if for any reason to watch this series at all, it is this.
Music and life plays a key role in this series and thus, one could expect the melancholy and drama the music lyrics conveys and delivers. With the ultra talented Yoko Kanno in charge, one can expect a blockbuster hit and smash of the season. And she does not disappoint, neither her skills or the characters' that plays both artistically and beautifully in the series.
In fact, the music in the series plays well, even in rhythm with the main characters. If you take careful notice, the way and style they play their instruments systemically match their art and moments. The way the characters play the music is natural and in the ways they are of themselves, not for a popularity contest. To play music and bring pleasure to the ears is something to respect and take notice of. These kids really do have talent.
[ - Enjoyment - ]
This story is of the old school coming-of-age style so the pleasure of enjoying this series can vary. At first glance, one might decide to drop or put on-hold at its relative pace as well as its lack of the typical “shounen action”. But with so many of those airing these days (including this season), why not give something new a try?
It's more than just a high school story of kids falling in painful geometric shapes of love or the “friendship conquers all”. And of course, despite being hard to make it into the mainstream, it's one of those series that takes an unique and cultural approach of the coming-of-age genre mixing in with jazz music, friendship, and love all in a wonderful little package. The characters are unique and real with their backgrounds, contrasting personalities, and style. The story is easy to follow despite its intertwined arcs. The art (despite plain and simple) brings out the naturalism and culture of the 1960s. It's something not as complicated as the real world we face today because it's so damn right simple. Honestly, I miss it. And who can forget the relaxing music? Without it, this series would be dead. But with it, the series comes to life through realism and gives viewers something to talk about.
Again for those who are so into the shounen style battles, the fan-service of ecchi shows, or psychological mindfucks, this series can be something new to look forward to.
After all, there's an old saying that goes, “life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." And once you open that box, you'll be surprised what you'll find. In this case, it's Kids on the Slope.
First of all, I must say it's been a while since I've enjoyed a series as much as I enjoyed Sakamichi no Apollon.
The story itself has an amazing pace, and in my opinion, has the perfect combination of romance, drama and music. The developments feel very natural and there are no fillers. The only "complain" I can have from the story is that the ending might feel a little unsatisfying. Luckily, if you end up feeling unsatisfied like me, you can read the extra volume from the manga and I can assure you that you'll feel a lot better after reading it.
The art is okay,
I guess. It has a very realistic vibe, and fits the story really well. I didn't see any error in the animation either, which is always appreciated. Also, the animation during the musical scenes was particularly good. The soundtrack fits every scene perfectly, so kudos to the studio. It is always nice to have consistently good animation as well as a good soundtrack throughout a whole series.
There are two main characters in the series, and they are best friends even though they make an odd couple. I feel that the two main characters are really well developed. You can see how the two of them grow up as characters as the story moves on. On the other hand, except for one specific character, most secondary characters don't get a proper development. I mention this because there are a couple of secondary characters that I'm sure most viewers would've loved for them to have more screen time.
The series in general is very enjoyable. If you're into jazz music (or good music in general), you're definitely gonna love watching this series. Also, this is one of the few anime where the English singing is actually pretty good. I had a really good time listening to every single music piece played, as well as with the tons of drama generated from the different love situations that develop.
I gave the series an 8/10. I loved it, but I felt there were some things that could've been told better, especially the ending. I recommend this series a 100%. Actually, I'd say this is a must watch series. Also, don't forget to read the extra volume from the manga once you finish the series.
As someone who hasn't good much background on both Jazz music and Japan during the 1960s, I was wary of watching it at first.
And yet it succeeds in its combination of josei, drama and high school slice of life. The show features Kaoru, the socially-anxious new kid in a quiet, rather remote town, who has been blessed with piano-playing skills. Through jazz, he finds the greatest of comrades, a family and even romance.
The story, as most josei goes, isn't anything too intense. It just shows the life of a jazz-playing boy as he goes through high school with his friends. I love, though, its
take on that part of life. It's so realistic, I managed to relate to it despite the fact that I wasn't even part of band back in high school. The series starts as strongly and ends, if possible, even more.
Romance and melodrama is thrown here and there, and while it wasn't its strongest point, it just felt very REAL. I've been there, through all the confusion and inability to communicate feelings. At times I found myself wondering if it's odd for me to be able to relate so much to Japanese highschoolers in the 1960s when it's 2013 and I live in the Philippines.
The pace of the story is rather relaxed, as there really isn't much going on. But that's fine as you obviously wouldn't be looking for action here (it's an anime about high school jazz-players for chrissake). The leisurely pace it has is very refreshing.
The characters were all well-rounded. It makes use of archetypes but never just relies on it. Everyone feels amazingly real. It also helps that there is a very limited cast of characters and they were all given time to develop. They all have layers to them and are much much more than what can be considered their outer personality. Everyone is likable and unlikable in their own ways, just like everyone is. Another thing that I like is that there are quirks as easter eggs placed everywhere that they didn't feel the need to put out in the open, such as the fact that Sen is left-handed (I took note of this when they are studying for his make-up test!).
The art is rather... vintage. At times I wasn't particularly fond of it-- it sometimes came off as someone who just recently discovered the gradient and smudge tool on Photoshop-- but it did manage to set the tone for the show. It can come off as plain but it worked. It gave off a nostalgic vibe from which the show benefited greatly. The backgrounds at times, like when it showed the church or Kaoru's house, were exceptional. I wonder if it was rotoscoped because it looked so amazing. How I wish they could have kept it constant all through out though. Wonderful lighting direction was present all throughout the show.
You would expect music to be the strongest part but I wouldn't say so. It was fine, but not exceptional. The opening and ending themes were rather disappointing for a music anime but it wasn't horrible. Just not what I had in mind, I guess. The choice of music was good for the most part, making use of various jazz artists and the Beatles to make it feel more like the 60s. The jam sessions scenes were amazing, obviously.
Overall, if you want a simple show with solid character and story development, with good music and pretty art, then this show is for you. It is extremely well-made, a perfect example of a josei anime done properly. The ending didn't leave me disappointed which was what I expected at the first sign of the love polygon. It's worth a shot, at any rate, if you want a break from all the heavy action and overly cheesy harem animes.
Growing up is often rife with events that end up shaping who you become. Sure, most people's formative years aren't as exciting as how they're portrayed in these Coming-of-Age anime, but check these ones out and you might (momentarily) forget about how much you missed out on! Hooray for anime!