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Apollo on the Slope


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#1
Will

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Apollo on the Slope

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Synopsis
The beginning of summer, 1966.

Because of his father's job situation, freshman high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves by himself from Yokosuka to 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 the attractions of jazz and finds the first person he can call a "friend". He also discovers how much fun it is to play music with a pal.

Other characters include Sentaro's kind childhood chum, Ritsuko, who is the daughter of a record shop owner; the mysterious upperclassman, Yurika; and Brother Jun, the much-admired leader among their peers. Set against the backdrop of a seaside town with a scent of American culture, this series is a drama about young people coming into their own, crossing each other's paths, and finding friendship, love, and music!

My Take
Just got round to watching this one, and I have to say, fantastic show. Shinichiro Watanabe does an unsurprisingly fantastic job as director, making what seems at first like a pretty unoriginal story hugely charming and enjoyable, weaving in the ongoing themes of freedom and guilt seamlessly. I'd have to say this is my tied top series of 2012 along with Natsuyuki Rendezvous. If you haven't checked this out yet, especially if you've enjoyed Watanabe's previous works (Cowboy Bebop & Samurai Champloo) then I highly recommend checking this out.
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#2
Zachimillius

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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!

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#3
Will

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Thanks for giving your take, Zach. I won't venture into spoilers territory, but I will say that I didn't like the ending. It felt a bit sudden and forced, and it pissed me off how emotionally repressed everybody (particularly Kaoru) were acting. The final scene was cathartic though. It retrospect it fits with the themes, but there are a lot of niggling details that add up to a significant gripe with the finale. All in all a fantastic show though, for sure.

Best fucking moment:

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#4
Zachimillius

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Oh that is the best moment! Now I want to watch the series again!

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#5
Zachimillius

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I mentioned Watanabe Shinichiro as amazing director but I totally left out Kanno Yoko, who did the music. She has amazing talent as well. She composed for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell SAC, Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black and I am sure other stuff as well but, that is all I have on my computer from her!

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#6
deadmanwalking1

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oh baby! I loved this show. Can't put it as eloquently as Zach or Will, but to me it felt like the story was also jazzy, smooth, unexpected and the ending, eventhough everyone wanted something more, it just left you hanging, unsatisfactory and yet satisfactory, can it be? yes it can :D .
And yea, i just wanted to say "Moanin' " AweSOME!

#7
solidfox

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A great bonus of this show is that Sasebo, where it is set, actually exists in Kyushu (close to Nagasaki). As does the school (although they seemed reluctant to allow fans to freely roam the premises) and the actual slope. Even the place where they go swimming (Kashimae) exists, although I was unable to find the particular diving cliff. It's a great town with a lot of the same air as in the anime.


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