Sakamichi no Apollon 2 ~ monkey in the middle

April 19, 2012

Nothing beats a live Jazz performance. From left to right: Ri'ko's dad (bass), Sentarou (drums), "Brother" Jun (trumpet).

Episode 2 of Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) is finally here, bringing us more of that crazy action, but, as Kaoru learns, you don’t always get the kind of action you were expecting. This episode opened up several avenues that will be interesting to see explored.

Kaoru Nishimi, the Jazz Ninja.

After the way his aunt acted in the last episode, I’m not surprised that Kaoru wants to try to practice while she is out of the house. I would avoid her as well.

Kaoru's cousin has some Ninja skills as well.

I enjoyed the scene with Kaoru trying to learn Art Blakey’s “Moanin'” for several reasons. First there was an evident love of the stuff of music in the ’60s. There was animation of a record playing; someone from my generation handled a lot of records, but I haven’t seen one in many years. The piano in Kaoru’s aunt’s house is also gorgeous. There was even a shot of sheet music as Kaoru attempted to record using visual notation what he heard on vinyl. Then there was the comic aspect of what Kaoru was doing – running upstairs to listen to the record, and then running downstairs to play a quick snatch of music on the piano while it was still in his head. No wonder his cousin was watching him with such curiosity! But sometimes Music (and Love) can drive a man to do strange things.

Kaoru is getting bullied again.

Unfortunately for Kaoru, life doesn’t always go like we planned. Instead of getting to practice his piano after school, he gets jumped by a bunch of boys from class. Fortunately for Kaoru, he has friends looking out for him.

Sentarou Kawabuchi. Second time in two weeks that he has gotten into a fight where he is outnumbered.

Again, this was a REAL fight scene, in which bodies followed the laws of physics.

Both Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo had excellent fight scenes, so I don’t suppose it should be a surprise that Shinichiro Watanabe would be able to put something like this together. I just didn’t realize the material would give him an opportunity to do so. This is a pleasant surprise.

Given the opportunity to run away, Kaoru chooses to stay and fight alongside Kentarou. Even though Kaoru isn't a good fighter, his courage seems to have made a positive impression on Ken.

Jun, a cool new character who lives next door and plays the trumpet.

An impromptu performance.

Again things don’t go as Kaoru had planned. He had imagined perfecting his performance of “Moanin'” and playing it for Ken and Ri’ko, but instead he is asked to sit in on an improvisational jam. Fortunately, he discovers quickly that playing Jazz with other musicians can be quite fun. Somehow I doubt he ever had an experience quite like this before.

Kaoru asks Ri-chan out on a study date.

Again, things don't go as he had planned. (From left to right: Ritsuko "Ri'ko" Mukae, Kaoru Nishimi, and Sentarou Kawabuchi).

Although Kaoru doesn’t get to go on his dream date with Ri-chan, he does get to hang out and have fun with his new friends at the beach. He also learns two interesting things. The first is that Ritsuko and Sentarou are Christians. Again, this isn’t something I had anticipated, but it isn’t unusual in retrospect, given Watanabe’s other work. Watanabe likes to put minority communities into his works, and Samurai Champloo included a Christian community that was located in the Kyushu prefecture. Nevertheless I had not anticipated this development, and I am interested in seeing where it will lead us.

Japan must be full of thugs.

Of course Sen will help her, but something more important happens.

Is this the mysterious girl from the OP?

In just an instant she makes a powerful impression on Sentarou.

The other major discovery is that Sen is not really competing for Ri-chan’s affections.

This was an excellent episode that delivered advancements all across the board. There was advancement in the “main” plot line of Kaoru and Sen playing Jazz. There was advancement in characterizations, especially of Sentarou and Ri’ko. There was even some growth in Kaoru from the first episode. Along the way there was some fighting action, and I barely had time to cover the events at the beach. We even were introduced to at least two new characters! Yes this episode was packed, but it flowed effortlessly.

8 Responses to “Sakamichi no Apollon 2 ~ monkey in the middle”

  1. GoodbyeNavi Says:

    I was pleasantly surprised that Sen wasn’t competing with Kaoru. I really was concerned about a love triangle as I don’t too much care for those. I loved the moment of hilarity when Kaoru tried to help Sen and ended up face planting himself. I would love to see some growth with the main female character besides a blushing female serving drinks. Definitely was impressed with the musical scores; they definitely know music.

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Kaoru’s moment of attempted heroism was most unexpected. When he started to run at the guy I thought he might at least knock someone over, but landing in the fountain… :face palm: Well, at least he showed some spirit.

  2. Hana Says:

    this episode was packed, but it flowed effortlessly

    Gosh, so much awesome, I don’t know where to begin… On paper, there are quite a few cliché elements, but the overall feeing from these episodes so far is of freshness and passion. They clearly know their music, you say, and (as someone who knows next to nothing about music theory), I loved how it draws in the audience during those music performances, and also how those tried and tested elements (such as the bullying of the awkward new kid and the potential love triangle) are treated in such a refreshing manner. And not to mention just how gorgeous everything looks and moves!

    Great stuff so far! 🙂

    • Joojoobees Says:

      I really like the way this show looks. It has a real world quality to it, even though the characters are very stylized. It certainly doesn’t look like most shows.

  3. M. Lamoe Says:

    Yes, it was a very good episode. I don’t expect it wouldn’t be a love triangle like Macross archetype. Yeah, hitomebore (love at first sight), that’s really so Japanese culture! I was laughing hard! The most surprising thing was Ricchan and Sentarou were at a chapel praying. That was like, “oh my God!” Because jazz and gospel are very opposite from what I see. Delinquents, but pure at heart. Sentarou might be a reverse tsundere?

    • Joojoobees Says:

      “hitomebore” — I hadn’t heard that word before. I like Sen, even though the misunderstood delinquent is not a particularly unusual character type. I like the fact that he has something he works really hard at, even if most people won’t understand, and I like the fact that he seems to fight out of a sense of justice. I certainly didn’t expect to see him praying in church, so I’m intrigued to see where they want to take that.

  4. David A. Young Says:

    I traditionally haven’t much cared for the “Slice of Life” genre, but the last couple of years have brought shows like “Hanasaku Iroha” and “Chihayafuru” — and now this one — that are giving me an appreciation of how different and unique some slices of life can be. Wonderful.

    And the fact that they’ve already seemed to diffuse the whole love triangle thing really pleases me as well. I hope they stick with that. That particular trope is so used and abused…when there are so many other aspects of romance that can be examined. (And I do love me some romance, when it’s done well! My two favorite romances? “The African Queen” and “Wall-E.” Yeah, I’m weird.)

    • Joojoobees Says:

      Glad to see you are starting to see the value in these shows. Frankly I think the “Slice of Life” label has gotten over-applied. That makes it tough to find good SoL series, because now every show that includes “life” is considered to be an example.

      Hard to believe this is only the second episode. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they follow up on all of these promising developments.

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