Kaoru Nishimi, a loner, finds himself caught in the midst of an unusual social scene.

Sakamichi no Apollon (Apollo of the Slope, AKA Kids on the Hill) did a good job of weaving in musical performances at critical junctures. This was a show about people finding out about themselves and each other by coming together to play music (particularly Jazz music). Although musical performances were not included in every episode, they were used very effectively to punctuate the dramatic twists in the tale. Even the absence of musical performances felt significant when it happened — typically this was caused by a wrong turn that the characters took that kept them from coming together. Although the various characters had good chemistry, it was in the musical performances that this show hit its emotional highs, so events that prevented a live session were given greater dramatic impact. This was an interesting way of giving the audience a good sense of what the characters were feeling — even if it was frustration, with brief moments of jazz-feuled exhilaration.

The events takes place in the 1960s, and that was worked into the story in unexpected ways. Society is changing, and even if that isn’t the main focus of the story, it is still having an impact on the various characters, or the people around them.

Sakamichi no Apollon┬ádid a good job at demonstrating that happiness doesn’t come easily, even when you seem to have everything you could have asked for. Characters make mistakes, but they aren’t the stupid, “we need this to happen for the plot to work” kind of mistakes. They are just human mistakes. People don’t fit together with ease; they step on each other’s toes and need to find ways to work things out, or the fail to, and things fall apart.

I enjoyed watching this series. The music was great. The artwork was appealing. You can read more about the setup in my first impression post, but I don’t want to say more about what happens, as it is a short series, and I encourage you to experience it for yourself.

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Live music takes the back seat this week.

Episode 5 of Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) changes the established pattern. It had become a standard part of each episode to include a “session”, a live performance by some members of the Jazz Quartet, that coincided with a dramatic highpoint of the episode. In episode 5, the quartet doesn’t get to play together (despite Sentarou’s best efforts). Instead the not playing itself is much of the story. However music is still at the center of the story’s action. One song in particular is featured in the background music (BGM) three times, is mentioned by name by one of the characters, and is even used as the title for the episode: The Lullaby of Birdland.

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“Brother” Jun. Cool is as cool does.

Wow. Episode 4 of Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) was the best yet. Just as the quartet comes together musically, the romantic relationships between Kaoru and Ritsuko and Santarou and Yurika seem to be falling apart.

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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.

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"His drums just wouldn't stop thundering in my head."

The Spring 2012 season finally feels real now that we’ve got the premiere of the Noitamina shows. Of course the show to which I have most been looking forward is Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope). With Shinichiro Watanabe directing, Yoko Kanno providing the soundtrack, and MAPPA doing the animation, we have the A Team on production. The setting is unusual, in that it is set in the recent past (1966). It shouldn’t be a surprise that the first episode already delivers.

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Drum roll, please.

It is my custom to look ahead to the upcoming season, pick out a few interesting shows and predict one that will be really great. As usual, I warn you that this is not a comprehensive preview of the season. Most of those haven’t come out yet, but I have run across two:

  • Star Crossed Anime Blog – this is a comprehensive and methodical assessment of the upcoming season.
  • The Cart Driver – this is a highly subjective and very opinionated assessment of the upcoming season.

Between the two of these you can get a good sense of what anime has in store for us in the coming months. If you want to skip straight to the good stuff, read on!

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