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Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 21 August 2012 20:45
When a show boasts some of the names behind Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, it's fair to have heightened expectations of what you're about to see. Kids on the Slope may be a different beast from those two shows, but it's certainly got its own charm...

Kaoru is unhappy about moving from Yokosuka to Kyushu, since it means living with relatives, being separated from his father, and starting at a new high school filled with students whose accent he can barely understand - and when Kaoru has a run-in with feared classroom thug Sentaro, it seems his life is about to get worse. But instead, he reluctantly starts to find out that there's more to Sentaro, like his passion for jazz...

He also soon falls in love with class rep Ritsuko, whose father runs a music shop - and who is one of the few people on friendly terms with Sentaro, as they've been friends since they were kids. Sentaro's early years weren't exactly the easiest - he was an orphan, raised by the church, and dealt with a lot of bullying. His 'class thug' persona comes more from how he dealt with that bullying, and his general I-don't-care attitude to school, than from any genuine thuggishness. Kaoru's quick to realise that when they discover their shared passion for music and, when the music room below Ritsuko's home becomes the base for regular jazz jam sessions, friendship between the boys and Ri'ko soon begins to grow, and the series follows the resulting string of events as the kids go through their final year of school together - the fun times, the arguments, the awkwardness, and the problems faced when other people start to intrude on the core trio and upset the dynamic between them.

In contrast to confident, relaxed Sentaro, Kaoru is constantly on his toes, wary of how to deal with people and prone to panic attacks when he's in a crowd. At least, that's how he is at the start of the series - but as his friendship with the other two is cemented, some of Sentaro's confidence begins to wear off on him. Ritsuko, meanwhile, is a wee honey - cute and kind, Kaoru quickly falls for her, but he's never too sure of where her feelings lie, with him or with Sentaro, and makes a couple of major mis-steps in their relationship that make getting past the friendship stage difficult. There's also a constant undercurrent of "you know, perhaps he'd be better off pairing with Sentaro" - all implied, of course, but enough to keep BL fans interested, I'd wager.

The way the relationships are played throughout the series is rarely less than wonderful - if you're a fan of shows that are all about personal growth, development of friendships and relationships and the difficult choices that sometimes go with that, and a decent dose of slice-of-life, this will be for you, with the 1950s setting only adding to the appeal - a world from a much simpler time that the series does a great job of capturing. It looks like a child of that time, too, with character designs and visual styles that are miles away from the styles that you see in most current shows. Add in the music, and it's a winning combination - even if the music doesn't play as great a part in the series as I was expecting it to at the beginning. Although there are some nice little digs at more mainstream, Beatles-style music along the way that I couldn't help smiling at.

A regular dose of sunshine throughout its run, then, despite some events in the story being a little heavy from time to time, and with an ending that left me feeling that the series had been tied up just right. Refreshingly different from the current "in things" as far as anime goes, and well worth seeing as a result.

Rating - ****