Sakamichi no Apollon: Kids on the Slope Episode 2

Wow, it’s only the second episode of Sakamichi no Apollon, and I’m already 4 days late? Not a good sign, but I’m only now beginning to realize the brutal pace of weekly episodic posts. On to the episode.

The episode loses some of that very genuine, uncontrived feel of the first one, if just a little. In the last episode, the screenplay unfolded more naturally, and events seemed to occur logically without seeming over-explained or too convenient, so to speak.

The conflict with Yamaoka was adequately foreshadowed when he craned his neck to see Kaoru flirting with Ritsuko the previous episode, but did Sentarou really have to come barreling to his rescue at the last minute after being tipped off by Ritsuko? Though not necessarily out of character for the show, this sequence came off as too coincidental and forced. Kaoru, getting taken away by the bullies, just happened to be seen by Ritsuko, who just happened to run and find Sentaro in time, who just happened to know exactly where the place was. It’s little conveniences in writing like this that force me to stretch my belief that begin to take me out of a show.

Still, if Sakamichi is willing to trade the tiniest bit of believability to facilitate substantial character development, that’s something I’m willing to accept.

What was harder for me to acknowledge was that the story’s answer to the potentially brewing love triangle was to avoid it entirely. Though Ritsuko and Sentaro’s purely childhood-friend relationship was made pretty clear from the outset, a love triangle felt almost inevitable, and I felt it could have made for some interesting character progression. The scene at the conclusion of their beach trip made Sentaro’s infatuation totally obvious and felt like a cop-out that dodged the seemingly-obvious relationship question at hand.

Avoiding it, in the end, feels better in keeping with the spirit of the show, but I mourn the death of the now-absent sole source of potential lasting external conflict in the story.

Also, we learn that Sentaro and Ritsuko are Christians that attend church on Sundays. I’m sure this has some deep, profound literary significance to the story, but you’re reading Anime Instrumentality, so I’ll go ahead and talk a bit about the music.

I think I finally get this show’s approach to its score. What the soundtrack is trying to do is very different from what we’ve grown used to from jazz-oriented OST’s in the past. Jazz scores like Cowboy Bebop and even this season’s Lupin basically hit the viewer over the head with jazz from the getgo. It’s used more like a traditional soundtrack in those cases; jazz was more the result of the story material, enabling and strengthening the plot.

In Kids on the Slope, though, jazz is the plot. It’s the subject matter itself rather than that which facilitates it. The show is less about jazz than it is about some kids growing up by playing and learning and living it, and that’s where the difference lies. Like many have mentioned, the jazz in this show isn’t some static constant we take for granted that drapes the show at every instance. Rather, it’s a living, breathing part of the narrative.

Whenever jazz has been sounded so far in Sakamichi no Apollon, it was to mark an event that represented significant development within the plot or for the characters, something that challenged the status quo and evidenced some kind of change.

With that in mind, I think that’s why I enjoy the OP and ED so much now. They’re good songs, and my previous expectations weren’t where they needed to be. Sakamichi’s OP and ED don’t have jazz in them for the same reason “Tank!” and “The Real Folk Blues” didn’t have gunshots and karate kicks in them, but I admit that’s spreading my point a bit thin.

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