Oh where do I start about Sakamichi no Apollon!
First of, if you do not know who Watanabe Shinichiro then you can GTFO! One of the best directors, see Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop! He does an amazing job with this series. Also this series is much more realistic when compared to the sci-fi or pseudo-historical nature in his other works and I would argue also less experimental. Yet being more a traditional narrative certainly does not detract from the skill in which Watanabe drives the story.
The story seem all about growing up and personal growth, learning to play music (or new forms of music), dealing with relationships, friendship, rivalry, career choices, it has it all. Being critical, it does get a little dramatic at times and I think this ultimately detracts from the love story being told in the series, thought not to Nana level drama thankfully. However, it was still a most enjoyable show, I thought it was great how it revealed the less then ideal reality of youth and High School life, this period is far from perfect and Watanabe casts a side the traditional assumption that it is. The series amazes me again with how poignant it is, the impressiveness being by avoiding personal growth narrative pitfalls and cliches commonly seen in those 'nerdy guy becomes cool and less social awkward'. I think Will articulated this point by saying "a pretty unoriginal story hugely charming and enjoyable". It certainly seems like an unoriginal story but, there is so much more to it then it first seems.
What else can I say...As I mentioned earlier, the romance aspect was not the strongest, had a good build up, development between the characters, tension and so on, however the conclusion to it was weak, i found it a little frustrating! However, I can stress enough how well told this narrative is, the more overwrought dramatic moments are paled and then forgotten by the end of the series. That end! How it was fitting, I thought it was very well done, it is basically a perfect summation of the themes in the series revealing how meaningful the story is!
Characters or music next.. Music (or both...) it is! JAZZ BITCHES!! Musical references everywhere, typical of the director (see Cowboy Bebop). Exceptional soundtrack made more exceptional with the main characters joy from playing awesome music they always be happy to jam, you get caught up from the ecstatic vibe they feel. I thought the performance scenes were great, so intense and the animation for them looked pretty good! Music ties in with the story, it is about musicians for the most part! You can see how as the characters become more apt with their instruments (drums and piano) they grow as people, as young adults as well. All very metaphorical with this analogy shit going on; like classical piano transition into Jazz is fucking hard just like it is incredibly hard to change your ingrained personality traits. Word! ( I do not know why I added that). I would argue that music in the series is the glue sticking everything together.
Now those characters! This story is really character driven if you haven't already figured. The show does a great job making you like them, take Kaoru; although he be some tight arse, judgemental, primmy rich boy who is all weak, and passive he somehow becomes and amazing protagonist!! Watanabe is a fucking genius; that internal dialogue kind of thing did a great job outlining the contrasts in Kaoru's personality and his desires to be a different person (transform his personality). Was all, "Woah, hold up. There is so much more to this character!" just like there was so much more to the series itself". The other characters, Sentarou and Ristuko and their interactions with Kaoru, musically or otherwise does a great job to show the ups and downs of youth and friendship, and the way in which they all compliment each others personalities is a strong driving force behind the series. I won't talk about them all because you got to watch the show for your self!
I should mention that is is slow paced!
So to conclude, I really liked this series and recommend you all watch it!