Final Review: Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope)

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless other noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) is based off a 9 volume josei manga that ran from 2007 to 2012. It’s a show that falls under the category of romance, coming-of-age, and music, particularly jazz. Sakamichi no Apollon received much praise prior to it airing in the Spring 2012 anime season mostly due to its strong staff lineup featuring director Shinichiro Watanabe and music composer Yoko Kanno. The duo is famous for their work together on the 1998 series known as Cowboy Bebop, which many people, both anime fans and not have heard of worldwide. With that said, the bar for Sakamichi is set very high and the question now is can it live up to such expectation despite being a completely different genre?

Sakamichi no Apollon’s story is initially interesting mostly due to its setting. It’s set during the 1960s in Japan meaning just coming off the aftermath of World War II as well as a lack of significant technology, much of which has become second nature to us in today’s world. The story begins as a simple love “circle”, similar to that of last season’s Ano Natsu no Matteru. Matters get more and more complicated in this show and it actually becomes painful to watch in a bad way. Eventually, the show throws in too many elements it can handle in a 12 episode series. A lot of conflicts end up being resolved simply and coincidentally to the point where they’re rather unbelievable. One example is Jun’s and Yurika’s elopement. It’s hard to imagine that given Yurika’s family status, they wouldn’t put any effort in trying to get her back. Ending wise, the plot is ultimately unresolved. It’s implied in the manga that Kaoru and Ritsuko end up together while Sentarou continues to distant himself from society/his hometown but in the anime, it’s pretty boring where they just remain friends forever as if nothing had happened. The sudden 8 year time skip also left out a fair amount of content and felt like a cheap way of saying “oh hey nothing happened for x amount of time.” Also, I don’t think Apollon translates to Kids, so whoever translated it into English should get their head checked. It’s obvious where the name “Kids on the Slope” comes from…but I digress.

Art wise is fine as is animation by Tezuka Productions. I liked the setting feel and atmosphere to match the 1960s and 70s, which is very important for a show that emphasizes on the time period. Character designs looked a lot like CLAMP’s style of tall and thin characters with broad shoulders, but I didn’t really have much of a problem with that in the end. Animation is very smooth across the board, especially when playing the instruments. These guys constantly improve and only do works once in a blue moon, so it’s really enjoyable when available.

The OP/ED, as many people have complained, don’t really fit the series. I personally think it’s people overestimating the context of the series based on the first episode. It actually does fit the ACTUAL premise of the series quite well. Overall they’re decent and while not like the “jazz” element people were hoping for, keep in mind that jazz is actually a sub-theme in this show. It’s certainly the musical period for it but not the primary plot of the series. Background music and sound effects are solid for this show as expected of Yoko Kanno. Seiyuu is quite good. It’s also a big treat to hear Yuuka Nanri do some major seiyuu work recently. We also get a nice treat of Amina Satou from AKB48 despite playing a minor character here.

Enjoyment? The show starts off very strong but quickly gets caught in its own trap. As said before, it attempted too much in a small time frame. It becomes painful to watch and really does not become one of those “must watch” urges each week.

Overall, Sakamichi no Apollon definitely does not live up to the Watanabe and Kanno duo that was produced in 1998 with Cowboy Bebop. People came into this show with too high expectations, myself included. It’s got some good stuff but for a show so close to ground level, events are far too coincidental and unbelievable. Plus, the presentation is a mess. Nodame Cantabile or BECK is really a better replacement here. In fact, BECK is really what this show tried to be and BECK just does everything multiple times better.

Story and Character:

  • Premise (1/1): Good setup and setting
  • Character Personalities (0/1): Lame all around. It’s like no one has any enthusiasm. This is 15+ years after war already and given stuff like Shouwa Monogatari, there’s no way people are this emo.
  • Character Development (1/2): A little bit on Sentarou’s and Kaoru’s end as well as Jun’s. Yurika, Ritsuko and the rest all kind of just get shafted.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (2/2): Useful yes, presence yes.
  • Pacing: (0/1): It crams everything from the source yet leaves out the most important ending.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (1/2): Events are too coincidental ranging from sudden encounters to actual resolution.
  • Conclusion (0.5/1): It’s fine up to the 8 year time skip…then stuff just happens with an open ending for a finished source material.
  • Total: 5.5/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (2/2): Nice and detailed. Good atmosphere portrayed of 1960s Japan.
  • Character Designs (1/2): A bit unbelievable for 1960s Japanese people but otherwise okay. Also generic and bland outside of main trio.
  • Fluidity (2/2): I’d give more here if I could.
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (1.5/2): Dark scenes are often difficult to see.
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (2/2): Very strong work by Tezuka Productions. They keep on improving.
  • Total: 8.5/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (2/3): Good stuff that while people say “don’t fit the series,” it’s quite solid regardless.
  • Background Music (2/2): Strong as expected of Kanno.
  • Sound Effects (2/2): Strong as expected of Kanno.
  • Seiyuu (3/3): Interesting and less experienced cast members. It’s done quite well and really glad/surprised to see Yuuka Nanri and Amina Satou get some roles here. The Engrish in episode 11 was hilarious.
  • Total: 9/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (0/2): Spread out with no continuous driver.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (1/2): Starts off good, but then as the series drew closer and closer to a close with only 12 episodes and too many plot points thrown out in the open, we knew something was going to get left behind.
  • Presentation: (1/2): Strong initial delivery to hook people. As the series went on, it just faded rapidly. Not enough deep development. Everything is shallow and leaves the viewer with only more questions.
  • Re-watchable (0.5/1): Little if only for the interesting setting and not the story.
  • Recommendation (1/2): If you’re watching this because of the staff, don’t make that mistake. It’s not what you think it is and shows like Nodame Cantabile and BECK will do much better in its place. Ano Natsu de Matteru is also more amusing to watch in terms of the whole romance polygon too.
  • Value (0/1): Definitely overrated and definitely little to no value in this show after the bomb it dropped.
  • Total: 3/10

Preliminary Score: 8/10

Final Score: 6/10

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