Series Name: Kids on the Slope (坂道のアポロン, Sakamichi no Apollon)
Year of Serialization: 2012, April - June (Manga 2007 - 12)
Author(s): Yuki Kodama
Artist(s): Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, Music by Yoko Kanno
Genre(s): Coming-of-age, Music, Romance
Current Status: Finished
Moment of Reviewing: Episode 12 (Finished)
Other Formats: Manga
The beginning of summer, 1966.
Because of his father's job situation, freshman high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves by himself from Yokosuka to Sasebo in Kyushu to live with relatives. Until then, Kaoru was an honor roll student who tended to keep to himself, but meeting notorious "bad boy" Sentaro Kawabuchi starts to change him. Through his devil-may-care classmate, Kaoru learns how much fun it is to play jazz and finds the first person he can call a real friend.
Other characters include Sentaro's kind childhood friend, Ritsuko, who is the daughter of a record shop owner; the upperclassman girl, Yurika; and Sentaro's "Brother", Jun.
I've never really done a proper review of anything so go easy on me. :p
"Sometimes life is like jazz and goes in an unexpected direction." - Kaoru Nishimi
Kids on the Slope is not for everybody, but there's one thing I think honestly stands out the most in this apart from all it's excellent features; it's cliche as hell. The story revolves around a love triangle of the three protagonists: Kaoru Nishimi, Sentaro Kawabuchi and Ritsuko Mukae. Despite this, given it's other themes of being set in the 60's, jazz music and a country-like town it works very well, and I think everyone should learn that a cliche plot isn't necessarily a bad thing if it's done well.
Something that some jazz buffs might find cool is that most of the episodes are named after common songs in that genre of music. Titles like Moanin', But Not For Me and Someday My Prince Will Come feature.
One of the biggest genres of this is the theme of Romance, and thus tries to implement the hardships a kid would have suffered through trials of love in the time and place set. It's a fairly simplistic approach to a love cliche type series, but it's done well to what the setting is.
While story-wise you might feel a "been there, done that" approach with how it's done, everything else regarding the setting and the jazz compliments it really well. One of the downfalls I've found is that it feels so fast paced, something which might seem like it would take an episode to do only takes half of it, not really a bad thing but it could have been stretched out a couple more episodes. With that being said I'll rate it a 7/10.
Like I said, the plot is very cliche and so are the characters, but somehow it fits the mood incredibly well. While the cast is rather small and simplistic, it fits the environment of a 60's country town in Kyushu. The first character introduced is Kaoru Nishimi, the boy who transferred to the new school from the big city on account of his father changing jobs. He's quiet, timid to an extent and keeps his grades high. It's noted he has a particular love for classical music and can play the piano. The next character we see is Ritsuki Mukae, often referred to as "Ricchan" by her friends. She's the female love interest in the triangle, considered the cute freckled girl who's rather friendly with everyone. The last is Sentaro Kawabuchi, often called "Sen", the ruffian bad-boy type person who's hard to deal with. He can be rather intimidating and likes to fight on occasion. Sen plays the drums and is quite affectionate for jazz music.
The supporting cast is also done well, and rather compliment the other cast members. Ranging from Serika, the cute popular upperclassman and Junichi, the cooler older brother.
The characters are unique in their own way, and you can't really hate them for anything they do. They're well developed in their own way and are quite interesting in the way they develop with each other. I'd rate the characters a 8/10.
Art and Animation:
This is really one of the things which will hook anyone on board, even if you're not a fan of the genre it's presented in. Kids on the Slope uses a rather unique style of soft cell shading rather than what you'd usually see in an anime, and it works really well. Such an unorthodox style to the anime is almost unseen, and is also extremely hard to pull off, and somehow it manages to work. The designs of the characters aren't too vivid and are more set to have a realistic approach to them. The art in general isn't too bright and seems quite toned down and it all looks like it fits the 60's era really well.
The animation is exceptional to say the least. It's smooth and it feels so real. The way the weather looks as it cascades down on our protagonists, the way it all feels so smooth like jazz should, and most importantly the way it looks when they're playing the instruments. The only other comparison I could draw from it on terms of pure instruments is K-On, which I'd consider sub-par compared to this animation. It felt so accurate to watch them play their piano and drums. I don't know what I'm supposed to be more impressed by with this, it's that good.
That being said, there's probably no surprise I'd rate the art and animation 10/10.
Given this is something with a genre of music, it really needs it's own section, and one of the only things which makes the anime better than it's manga counterpart. Most, if not all the music was done by Yoko Kanno, who also worked with Shinichiro Watanabe on such anime like Macross Plus and Cowboy Bebop and can be considered one of the more inspirational music artists when it comes to anime. Most of the music pieces are in Jazz, and some are remakes of popular pieces from known artists in the field. There's performances of songs like Moanin' by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Lullaby of Birdland by Sarah Vaughn and so on.
People might argue that the music should have played a stronger role in the anime and I digress. I'm no expert on music, but I've found jazz to be soothing like background music, and it plays it's part really well. Jazz can take unexpected turns adding swing and whatnot, which compliments the pacing of this anime really well. One day they'll have a slow day in school, the next a fierce fight going on to protect honor (and being pantsed).
The music was amazing to listen to and really gave me a reason to want to listen to jazz. Given how it plays a huge part in it, I'd rate the music a 10/10
I dunno if you'd like this, but give it a shot anyway, thats all I'm asking and I hope you won't be disappointed by the result. I merely watched this anime on a complete whim after hearing it was one of the best anime in the season it came out which if I remember correctly was Spring 2012. I watched the first episode and I got hooked on it really fast, it was nothing like I'd seen before and looked absolutely beautiful. I can honestly put this in my top five anime and not be ashamed of it. Despite the cliche plot it delivered really well, the only downfall I really had with it was the ending, and the manga fixes that up completely so you can always read that instead.
If it's worth noting even though this is an anime review, Kids on the Slope has gotten a few bonus chapters in it's manga which shouldn't be too hard to find.
Overall I rate this anime a 9/10
. Given it has a few flaws like anything does, the enjoyable atmosphere it presents is easy to watch and acts as a decent escape from life if you just want something nice to watch after you get home from school or work or wherever.
"ALT, **** YOU, 12 EPISODES, GOD DAMN YOU, I'M HALF WAY DONE WITH IT ALREADY, **** EVERYTHING, IT'S SO GOOD, I DON'T WANT TO FINISH IT, ****" - The Doctor