English name: Kids on the Slope
Length: 12 episodes
Genres: Drama, Josei, Music, Romance, School, Slice of Life
*Fun Fact*: Sakamichi no Apollon is the first anime series produced by MAPPA, the Japanese anime studio famously known for its productions of Attack on Titan, Jujustu Kaisen, Yuri on Ice, Kakegurui and many more)
“Unlike Love Affairs, Friendship Is for Life.”-Sakamichi no Apollon
Love me an underrated Slice of Life that revolves around strong friendships. Aaah my heart. Friendships for me have always been more important to me than my romantic relationships. It’s the philosophy I live by and this is one of those shows that portrays it so beautifully. Sakamichi no Apollon (aka Kids on the slope) has got the love, the bonds, the honesty, the fights, the understanding wrapped in rounded music to set the mood just right. A beautiful front row view of how one person can make such a difference in your life.
Set in the 1960’s, with a heart warming color palette, soft animation, and a beautiful OST, this show wraps you on in like a warm burrito. An introverted top student city boy, Kaoru Nishimi (VA Ryouhei Kimura) moves to Sasebo, Nagasaki, where he meets the Jazz loving delinquent Sentarou Kawabuchi (VA Yoshimasa Hosoya) and form an unlikely friendship along with his childhood friend Ritsuko Mukae (VA Yuuka Nanri). Yes, Sherlock, there’s a love triangle there. I’m getting there.
Sakamichi no Apollon dives realistically pretty deep into the characters’ friendships. As friends, we often avoid confrontation, fearing we might lose the friend ’cause we might misunderstand each other but end up making things worse. Hence, we silently try to push them away instead, because we might hurt them. We wanna be there for them but not step on their boundaries. We want to give them space, but don’t want them to suffer alone. We want to tell them it’s going to be ok, but don’t wanna lie. We want to listen to them but can’t say anything to help. Have you ever thought to what extent would you go to help your best friend?
It’s an intense line but we are more than happy to walk on it with all we got if it’s for the one that matters. I mean even the tiniest argument with your closest friend can lead to this gut wrenching feeling with a 100 thoughts going through your head of the worst possible outcomes. But then, with a friendship or love this strong, I guess blind faith and trust is all you got. Right?
Kids on the slope is passionate not only with it’s coming-of-age romance but even more so with the friendships and the struggles that come with it. Sentarou and Kaoru’s friendship leads them to explore new things and experiences.
For Kaoru, the bookish classical pianist it turned out to be jazz and all the whims that come with it along with is new experience of his love for Ritsuko and the need to protect her.
For Sentarou, the delinquent feared by everyone in his school, it was the friendship itself, depending on each other and to face his love for Yurika Fukahori. When Sentarou’s past catches up to him, he opens up to Kaoru which makes him see Sentarou in a new light making their bond even stronger.
Though we sometimes tend to do it ourselves, I do dislike it whenever the characters go away to “atone” or push people away because of their conflicted feelings. It makes me uneasy. Can’t deal with the Irish goodbyes and the late reunions. I am a gal that needs closure. But Sakamichi no Apollon’s musically dramatic reunion of the 2 best friends warmed my heart. I felt their bond and their love for music was so strong that even a decade apart didn’t seem to make a difference in their friendship. It was as if they were never apart. Now I don’t know if this is possible in real life, but it would be nice if it was, wouldn’t it?
This show has a pretty dope OST. Now, I’m not particularly a fan of jazz music, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give it a try. I’ve seen jazz music incorporated in quite a few movies and shows. Though initially I never understood it, I do appreciate the beauty of it. Since it consists of varying degrees of improvisation in its scores, it makes sense that it is based on feelings and emotions. And this show did a marvelous job with showing those emotions through their music. I do have a major soft spot for music themed shows. So, I loved how Sakamichi no Apollon uses music, especially Jazz to communicate some very complex feelings that expressed the characters feelings.
This show made me read up about it’s creators and the music and I found some pretty interesting facts like: Shinichiro Wanatabe, the director of the show and Yoko Kanno, the music composer found their jazz artists for the show by searching videos on YouTube. They wanted young artists who were “rough and therefore charming”, since Watanabe felt that it would be terrible if they asked veteran studio musicians to perform it in a young style. That lead to Pianist Takashi Matsunaga and drummer Shun Ishiwaka to be casted to record the music and motion capture for Kaoru and Sentarou, respectively.
THE LOVE and the TRIANGLE, RECTANGLE, CHAIN…idk
“It happened in an Instant. I didn’t realize what had just taken place. But when it comes to falling in love, you don’t need a reason or time.”-Kaoru Nishimi
SPOILER ALERT: So Kaoru loves Ritsuko, Ritsuko loves Sentaro, Sentaro loves Yurika, Yurika loves Junichi, and Junichi …well he’s got issues.
I for one, like simple romances. Such love polyhedrons give me anxiety and ain’t nobody got time for that. But to my surprise the flow of this story felt so organic that it made me realize once again that…huh.. you know… love doesn’t always go according to how you wish they do in romance animes or K-dramas. So I put on my big girl sweatpants, grabbed a tub of ice-cream and continued watching.
Usually in love triangles you root for one or the other, right? It’s team Naruto or Sasuke, Emilia or Rem, Kikyou or Kagome, Yuki or Kyou, (Edward or Jacob…Sorry it was right there). But for the first time I couldn’t choose with this one. Both have their own charms and both have their weak points but they are so lovable. But I did admire Ritsuko’s growth dealing with her emotions for both these men and realizing her feelings. You go Girl!
Although I could not fully enjoy how abruptly the anime wrapped its ending since I wanted more and I know it’s what Slice of Life is, but then I read the last volume of the manga as suggested by someone in the reviews and that satisfied my closure cravings! SO YAY!
Also MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: A Delinquent Teen turns into a Hot Drummer Priest with slick back hair?! Ara Ara. Let me confess please!!!… Forgive me for I have sinned!!! :p
So us folks, who are very into the cute and cuddly romance, or are into the hardcore shounen, may not approach this show as willingly. However, I would still recommend this show if you ever feel you want to switch to a chill mode on a rainy night with some whiskey. (Maybe warm cider for the minors?) It was a surprisingly pleasant anime for me to binge watch on a Friday night. Also, not gonna lie, inspite of all the issues Junichi is pretty hot :D.
As the homie Kaoru said:
“That’s right! Sometimes life is like jazz, and goes in an unexpected direction.”