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.
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.
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.
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.
Sakamichi no Apollon is a school drama from 2012. The original manga was written by Kodama Yuki. The anime version was brought to us by MAPPA & Tezuka, neither of which I've seen a lot from. I don't know what to expect from this one at all. So, let's just get right into it.
Our focus is on Nishimi Kaoru, a bright young student who plays the piano and moves a lot. He's also a complete drama queen, but we'll talk about that later. Nishimi suffers from social anxiety issues and feels the need to get some air on the roof after things take a
slightly unanticipated turn. Fortunately for him, he's able to overcome that within about five minutes of meeting Kawabuchi Sentarou. Aren't we all glad that plot point was there? I mean, it contributed so much to the narrative. He and Sentarou wind up becoming friends and playing jazz together while filling the time between sessions with melodrama.
Therein lies the massive underlying problem with the series. Everything has to be overly melodramatic. Dude falls in love after knowing a girl for all of two minutes? Better act like this is super serious and dramatic. Someone gets rejected? Total drama. Sentarou might play... rock music with a band made up of their class mates? This is clearly the most important disaster in history. Don't even pretend that worse things have happened. Although, in all fairness, the series actually acknowledges that that one is childish. To exacerbate things, however, the vast majority of these “hyper, ultra dramatic situations” get resolved, at least to a satisfactory degree, in the next episode. Probably would've worked better with fewer sources of drama that were ongoing.
Here's the thing, teenagers can be overly dramatic about stupid things but watching teenagers be overly dramatic about stupid things is really annoying. Especially when the narrative treats it like it's super serious. This shite isn't serious, it's dumb teenagers being drama queens. So, when two things that are actually serious happen in the last couple episodes they just don't have much weight. Especially when one, an injury, gets resolved in less than five minutes. The romance is honestly where it's at its worst. We start with a ridiculous situation where one dude likes a girl, she likes another guy, he likes a different girl and she likes this other guy. From there, we get a lot of overblown angst and aggravation because we can't pummel these wankers.
The only good parts of the series are the jazz jam sessions where the characters are just enjoying themselves for once. Unfortunately, these scenes are vastly outweighed by the scenes where drama is happening over something that really doesn't matter.
The characters in this are reminiscent of the worst people you knew in secondary school. You know the ones. They treat everything that's remotely upsetting to them as an unmitigated disaster. Then they get mad at you because you openly don't care and won't even remotely validate them. Kaoru is the worst about it, putting distance between himself and his friends on multiple occasions but always for petty reasons. Kodama, you do know that introverts don't have those kinds of rifts just because we're socially awkward and need to limit our time around people, right? Usually we just excuse ourselves from an event or don't go out for a while when we need time alone. And, trust me on this one, your friends will understand if you just tell them “Hey, I need some time alone. Can you try calling back tomorrow?” Yes, even in High school.
The artwork is one positive the series has going for it. The backgrounds are well detailed and look quite nice. The characters are drawn well. The animation is nice and smooth. So, I'll give them full credit on that one. They may not have produced something with a compelling narrative or tolerable characters but they made what they had look pretty.
The acting in this is passable enough. Our main cast is made up of Hosoya Yoshimasa (Reiner Braun), Kimura Ryouhei (Sorey) & Nanri Yuuka (Takakura Erika). Their performances here are perfectly fine. The music is pretty good, mostly. I won't pretend that I cared for the theme tune and its whiny sounding singing but the jazz is good. Kanno Yoko's soundtrack in general works nicely.
There's a little bit. Kaouru goes off on a tangent about how handsome Sentarou is at one point. And Sentarou calls him an angel at another. Bad dialogue writing or unexplored sexual tension, you make the call.
When it comes to the basics, the artwork, music and acting, Sakamichi no Apollon does just fine for itself. Unfortunately, it doesn't do so well in terms of the main content. The characters are overly melodramatic to the point of being quite obnoxious a lot of the time. The narrative is a lot of annoying, all too easily resolved melodrama with the occasional good jazz session thrown in. All factors considered, it's kind of a bad series. Although you might enjoy it if you like that High school melodrama. For myself, I lost all patience for that while I was still in High school and watching this was, more often than not, an irritation. So, for myself, I give it a 3/10. Next week I'll look at Wizardry.
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!