Sakamichi no Apollon Lacks One Important Thing


Sakamichi no Apollon (aka Kids on the Slope) is one of the more hyped series this season, and for good reasons. This anime looks sleek, sounds great and is animated very well. But after five episodes it’s clear that the thing this series lacks the most is focus. I think I’m already hooked but…what exactly am I watching?

In the summer of 1966 a high school student named Nishimi Kaoru moves from Yokosuka to Kyushu to live with relatives. Kaoru is used to moving from place to place because of his father’s line of work. For the exact same reason he has never truly made friends with anybody. However, people have the tendency to make new acquaintances in strange and interesting ways. In Kaoru case he befriends the school’s delinquent Sentaro. Kaoru has been playing the piano from a young age and finds out Sentaro can play the drums. The two start playing and eventually even perform. Kaoru is also attracted to Sentaro’s childhood friend Ritsuko, and tries to help Sentaro hit it off with his own crush named Yurika.

This last paragraph sums up the first few episodes without giving away any major spoilers. What it doesn’t sum up is Sakamichi no Apollon’s grace. The series does a very respectable job at portraying Japan in the sixties, from clothes to music and trends. The trains and buses reflect that age as well, and if you look carefully you might scout advertisements for “Color Television” in the background. Sakamichi no Apollon offers some attractive visuals as well. It has a more realistic style than that of most series nowadays and the shading of the characters is exceptional.

But where does the slope leads to?

Like I said in the beginning of this post I’m already watching this series diligently every week so naturally I believe that it is a good series worthy of my time. What bothers me though is the lack of focus the plot suffers from. These kids look like they enjoy making music together, but that is hardly a subject on which you can base the entire series on. Kaoru loves Ritsuko but by the fifth episode their relationship is already established and doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. The history behind both Kaoru and Sentaro’s not-so-nice childhoods has been told (and isn’t that shocking considering they were raised in the poor state that Japan was during the fifties. They could have had it much worse). And yet I still have no clue as to in what direction this series plans to go. Is it about music and bonding? Is it a romantic story told from the perspective of high school kids living in the sixties? Is it an artistic experiment meant to simply introduce you the how people lived in the sixties? Frankly, I don’t know the answer and Sakamichi no Apollon makes this point more confusing than it should be. I hope the series finds a solid direction and focus on it soon because this is the only real issue that is keeping it from being one of the finest series this season.

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