Sakamichi no Apollon 2018 replicates the look, but sadly not the feel of the beloved Anime/Manga.
Sakamichi no Apollon 2018 (坂道のアポロン) Synopsis
In 1966, ace student and pianist Nishimi Kaoru transfers to a local high school in Sasebo because of his father’s overseas deployment. Not only is he unable to adjust to the new environment, Kaoru’s predicament is made worse when he catches the attention of Kawabuchi Sentarou, a half-Japanese who’s the scorned, delinquent thug of the school. Fortunately for Kaoru, though, class representative Mukae Ritsuko reaches out to him and through her, Kaoru discovers that Sentarou is actually a big-hearted chap and an accomplished jazz drummer. After initial hesitation, Kaoru begins jamming with Sentarou in impromptu jazz sessions. Their energetic sessions soon lead to Kaoru establishing an unbreakable emotional bond with both Sentarou and Ritsuko.
Sakamichi no Apollon, also known as Kids on the Slope, was the first Anime I watched in 2015 after staying away for near 10 years.
I watched it via Singapore’s Singtel Mio TV. Initially a little unsure about the story, which felt so cliché to me, I was soon enthralled. If I remember correctly, I finished all 12 episodes over two nights.
As for what captivated me, it was not just jazz music, which I’ve loved since young, it was the peculiar and convoluted relationships between the leads. Particularly the spiritual, almost romantic love between Kaoru and Sentarou.
This becomes rather june se quoi at parts but I think it could best be described as a connection that is perfectly complementary in every way. Needless to say, the bond is also unbreakable, no matter the tribulations it faces. It’s the sort of bond you wish for throughout your life. Not just when young.
Coming back to this live-action adaptation, said connection is repeatedly exemplified, though sadly it never ventures beyond skin deep. The lead actors certainly look the part, and whether there is any camera trick involved, or not, both Chinen Yuri and Nakagawa Taishi strongly transmit that frenetic exuberance and partnership during their jazz jamming sessions.
What felt missing to me, on the other hand, is the lead-up to this rapport. The so-called intimate comprehension between the two friends. In jazz terms, it’s like a straight jump into the ad-lib without any structure beforehand, and without a return as the coda. With several key events removed or skimmed over, it’s also hard to fully appreciate the intensity of that unique relationship. Or should I say, what it’s built on.
To put it in another way, you are swept up by the jazzy high but once the euphoria goes away, you can’t help but wonder. Hey, what was that all about? Exactly why are these two so perfect for each other?
To be fair, such story condensation is likely due to time constraints. (Which is probably also why Jun-nii and Yurika’s sub-story is left out) Overall, the shortened story is not technically unforgivable. But it does leave you longing for more.
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