Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon) is an anime that premiered during the spring 2012 anime season. I had watched the first few episodes of the show but had drifted off into outer space and stopped watching it. Since I came back to Earth, I decided not to let the anime go unfinished. The anime for me can be like a nice smooth straight line one minute and then the next minute, a slow bump in the road. Sort of reminds me of how life can be like at any given time. The show was directed by Shinichiro Watanabe who is best known for directing such classic anime as Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus and it also reunited him with Yoko Kanno who did the music for the aforementioned shows.
Kaoru is an honor roll student and is a loner. One day, he meets Sentaro and they hit it off with their shared interest in jazz. Ritsuko is a friend of theirs and has feelings for Sentaro but she begins to rethink her thoughts with Kaoru throughout the course of the show. Ritsuko’s father, Tsutomu Mukae, is the record shop owner where Kaoru and Sentaro hang out to play jazz and sometimes he joins in on the upright bass. Junichi, Sentaro’s brother, sometimes joins in as well on trumpet.
The best thing about the anime is the jam sessions between Kaoru and Sentaro. The jazz music is amazing and I can honestly say that it peaked my interest in jazz more than I ever thought possible. If you never even considered listening to jazz, Yoko Kanno’s music will definitely change that. The song that Kaoru and Sentaro jam to the most is “Moanin’” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. If I meet someone who never listened to jazz, I’d recommend that song. What a great way to introduce jazz to someone! The opening theme by YUKI is a beautiful piece. I listen to it and I say to myself, I can see Kaoru and Sentaro making a song like this. It makes my hair rise when I listen to the song! Maybe that was why they chose the song to be the opening theme.
About the characters, Kaoru was a hard character for me to root for all in. He can be a whiny brat and I felt like I was bruised after watching an episode because of his mood swings. While I’m sure there are other characters even more annoying than Kaoru, he was probably the weakest element of the show for the most part. The love story between Kaoru and Ritsuko is nothing new. They both love each other but are too nervous or scared to admit it to one another. You are asking yourself “Will they say it this episode?” We’ve seen this story played out a billion times before and will probably see it play out a billion times after. The show goes from a light hearted slice of life show to a dramatic and emotional story. Kaoru and Sentaro LOVE Jazz and that’s the thing that keeps them in sync. Sentaro is a better character. He has more depth because while on the surface he looks like a tough guy, he is actually one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet.
The animation is elegant and pretty. Each frame looks so wonderfully done. When the characters are playing their respective instruments, it looks about as real as you can get. When Sentaro plays the drums, it LOOKS like he is really playing the drums. Kaoru playing the piano, he is really pushing on those keys. You know the animators worked extra hours to get those areas perfected and to this viewer, the extra effort was more than worth it. I sort of wish the whole show was just the jam sessions. That would be an awesome show!
I must say that while there were more weak episodes than strong ones overall, when the strong ones hit, they hit you hard. The one episode that made me a fan of this show was episode 7. Sentaro is playing drums with a fellow student and his band and then all of a sudden the sound stops working. Everyone is worried about what is happening so Kaoru decides to keep the crowd occupied until they get the sound back on again. He starts to play the piano. One student starts to pay attention. Another student looks on. Sentaro smiles and starts to jam along with Kaoru. The rest of the students are entranced by what is happening. Everyone is cheering them on. It’s such an emotional moment that it made me get emotional. I’m willing to admit, I actually started cheering them on! It’s what this show is all about, cheering on your friends to have a good life!
With only 12 episodes, the show covers a lot of ground. There isn’t a subliminal message being dug under the sand here. There isn’t someone trying to tell you what you should think. It’s just a simple story with amazing visuals and amazing music. I’m glad I finished this show and I hope you make the decision to watch this show. The show will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray courtesy of Sentai Filmworks and will be producing an English dub for the Blu-Ray. It’s something to keep your eyes out for.