Constantly transferring schools since childhood, Kaoru Nishimi has always been seen as a social outcast when he transfers due to his intellectual nature and wealthy background. But after moving to Kyushu for his first year of high school, things begin to change when Kaoru befriends the class president Ritsuko Mukae and, unexpectedly, the notorious school delinquent Sentarou Kawabuchi. While Kaoru is an honors student, Sentarou is constantly getting into fights and skipping class. However, these two opposites find a common ground in one thing—music.
One day, Kaoru is invited by Ritsuko to visit her family's record store, where he finds Sentarou in the basement showcasing his skill in jazz drumming. Kaoru, being a classical pianist, knows nothing about jazz. But inspired by the performance, he begins to open his mind to the genre alongside Sentarou. The duo begin to practice in after-school jazz sessions in the record store's basement. As he spends more time improving his skills in jazz, Kaoru finds a person whom he can truly call his friend, and comes to learn the joys of playing music. Sakamichi no Apollon follows their story of friendship and love brought together by jazz.
While I write this review, the intro of Moanin' by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers is playing inside my head. Not just that, for two weeks, all I could hear was pure and awesome jazz songs. Of course it's Sakamichi no Apollon's fault.
Music. Do you know how powerful can it be? C'mon, I bet music changed your life or your day, at least once. Now, jazz songs. Jazz is contagious, you hear it and starts tapping your fingers, moving your shoulders or doing weird footsteps under the table. It's magical! In the end, you're smiling and you don't even know how that
happened. You're just smiling, even if you got some problems here and there... And this is what this manga is talking about.
In the late 60s, we got a freshman high school student Kaoru, who not so coincidentally looks like a American jazz pianist, Bill Evans, in the early days. He's our honor student kind of character and just moved to Kyushu to live with relatives. In school, he's not the most social guy, but destiny brings two new friends, Sentarou and Ritsuko. Sen introduces him to jazz music and after being told he can't play other music style, 'cause he's a "piano-classic-songs boy", Kaoru accepts the challenge and try to learn how to play jazz, without knowing he'll not only change his music style, but change inside, change himself.
The story goes by. New characters appear, revelations, some little plot twists that make you feel a tightness in the heart. It's a slice of life, don't expect action or explosions, don't expect the answer to the Universe. This is simple and pure slice of life. Their lives, their thoughts, their feelings (oh, their feelings!) and their problems. That kind of manga you read and say: "oh man, I'm this character" (hey, Kaoru, I'm with you!). The characters aren't ORIGINAL, you have seen a lot of characters like them, "big brother mentor", "childhood friends", "delinquent", "cute girl" and "megane". Yes, they aren't original, but they're UNIQUE. Little details makes you love them... I like how things happen, isn't your "oh, let's put 60 chapters and solve things, I don't know, in the 59th chapter". It's your "Oh my, is this really happening? But it's only chapter 14... Oh, oh, go for it! But wait, oh my" (I'm sorry, that's my inner self talking).
So, you ask me: "Why should I read this manga?" Because it's good. It has quality! Doesn't matter if it isn't the most original one, it's unique. Introduces you to a Japan in the 60s with culture and costumes being corrupted. We got japanese christian, which it's the first time I see it in a manga. We got a imaginary triangule and "love hurts" from a new perspective, not your shoujo-type "He hates me, sniff sniff, I want to die". This is Josei, people are dealing with their problems, they're facing past issues, changing little by little. The art is a little retro too and I like the artist style. The music recommendations are the best too! So, please, give it a try. If you don't like it, I'm sorry, but I'm in love with this story.
Put some jazz, read it and travel with the characters to the beginning of japanese summer in 1966.
** This isn't yaoi or shounen-ai. Bromance? Well, maybe a little, if your idea of "friendship" is "boy huging boy? gay!", but for me is just friendship, two friends laughing, facing life and being comrades. I watched the anime first and I got to say: the anime exaggerates a little bit if you compare it with the manga. But, well, that always happens!
Sakamichi No Apollon (also known as Kids On The Slope) is a josei manga which can get some catchy jazz song in your head, and manage to keep it there all day. At first, you'd catch yourself tapping your fingers or toes to some melody, and after some time, you just can't stop. The musical style of jazz is off-beat, nonrhythmic, and often improvises the melodies. It's very different, but often in a good way.
That definition also best describes Sakamichi No Apollon.
As the winner of the 57th Shogakukan Manga Award for General Manga, I don't think you could really expect anything sub-par. Kaoru, a stotic,
young, freshman in highschool during the 60's, began living at his aunt's house as a result of his father's excessive moving. He has no means of making friends or memories, since he has always been transferred out of the class before any true friendship could blossom. And yet, the two people he meets on the first day of school, Ritsuko and Sentarou, eventually manage to change his way of thinking, and his way of life.
The characters and the development in this series is excellent. The world of jazz manages to pull the unexpected three together into a friendship for life. And get this –it isn't sappy. The feelings, the conflicts, the misunderstandings, and the (very) young love is realistic and sensible. Their relationships were the best part about it; a whirlwind of fast-paced feelings that are similar to the nature of jazz. Many of the characters are based off of high school tropes (ie: the quiet boy with glasses), but there are little flaws and characteristics built into each one in order to make them unique. This story is mainly character-driven, and as you could probably tell from my total rating, they are done extremely well.
Though Sakamichi No Apollon is a slice-of-life that focuses it's plot on the different, social situations, it never falls into generic high-school tropes. And despite the fact that the slice-of-life genre can be the longest, and cover the most in a character's life, this manga downplays it quite a bit. Sakamichi No Apollon is focused on the experience and little changes in Kaoru's life. And it only takes 9 volumes to do so. He's a piano player who changes his style from strictly classical to jazzy 'swing'. He falls in love; something he probably thought he could never do. He changes from an outcast to a pretty social guy. Sakamichi No Apollon chronicles the little things in life. One may say that there isn't a true plot to this manga, but I beg to differ. This manga covers Kaoru's life during the early years in high school. I mean, it's high school in the 60's, for crying out loud; it's the time of his life!
I don't really have much to say about the pacing or the narration, other than the fact it's superb. The ending was a bit rushed, but the concept of it was still meaningful. The atmosphere and the setting too: I don't think I could give a accurate description of it, except that when everything is over and done, you'll be left with a soft, fuzzy image of two boys running down a hill, living for every moment in their youthful lives.
Sakamichi No Apollon (aka. Kids On The Slope) was magnificent. The effort, the creativity, and the teens who are ever-so naive – all of it is packed within a story which parallels the world of jazz. It's a fairly simple story, but then there are the characters, who, being teenagers, are always so complex. And it's something surprising for a josei; it doesn't primarily focus on romance. So because it allows the reader to slip into the lives of the characters during the 60's with realistic ease, it deserves a 9.0 / 10.0.
(To add a side note, I'm sure we've all read a manga before with music involved. They usually tell you the lyrics and the title, and that's as far as the musical impact goes, right? Sakamichi No Apollon really, really lets the reader get involved with jazz. Even now, the melodies of My Favourite Things, Someday My Prince Will Come, and, of course, Moanin', are memorized. So definitely read this, and you'll get to experience 60's jazz.)
I came across this manga while I was looking for josei manga and decided to read it because it won an award. I thought it could be boring but that wasn't the case!
The story takes place in a small town with a warm, cozy atmosphere (around 1960s I think) and you really feel you're there! The characters are very realistic. There's one girl and two guys but the story is not cliché. The girl is a timid, sweet small town girl who's still friends with her childhood friend, the "delinquent" Sen. Then the city boy/ good student comes into the picture and music pulls them
all together. The main guy is not this amazing, cool type but he has his goods and bads, he's human. And Sen is an amazing character, you would have to read.
From the way the characters meet to the way the mangaka turns romance between characters upside down throughout the manga, I think the right word for this manga for me is "believable". There's no crazy romance with lots of drama but your regular romance you would stumble upon everyday, equally mixed with music and a strong friendship between the two main guys which is rare to find in common literature. I just loved this, made me feel warm stuff :)
Again, I am not writing a review just because and I rarely write reviews for things I've completed. I randomly found this tile (Kids on the Slope) while browsing Tumblr, so I checked its wikipage out. I was interested, so I started reading it at the early hours of today. Maybe 1 am. Anyway, I was instantly drawn in by the main character and I was wanting more from him, as well as his new life with his new friends. What made the story better for me was the fact that he gained such good and new friends easily and he slowly began to come
out of his shell once he became friends with Ricchan and Sen.
Additionally, a bonus would be that almost any character he came into contact with, they had a story of their own, which is brought to light and resolved in a way. I knew it was a feel good story when I started reading it, and now that I'm finished, I can say it really is. It really is a story about friendship and how friendship is forever (or for life, as stated in the manga). The simple art style gave life to the characters and the characters came to life on their own.
Literally, it gets a 10/10. The end legitimately made me cry and I understood why they were the Kids on the Slope. I love feel good stories and this is a good read.
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!