A Breakdown of Sakamichi no Apollon’s Preview Trailer, and Introducing Our First Episodic Post Series

The last time Shinichirou Watanabe and Yoko Kanno worked on a show together, it resulted in a little-known show you might have heard of: Cowboy Bebop. I’ll get straight to the point; they’re back. Doing a show together.

About jazz.

Until now, this blog of ours has focused mainly on views on the music of anime. While this has worked fine for us so far, we just figured that a show like this was too good to pass up the opportunity to get our feet wet on some episodic blogging.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce Anime Instrumentality’s first ever episodic post series: Sakamichi no Apollon: Kids on the Slope.

Foremost, this series of posts aims to be a commentary on the music of this show. As a self-proclaimed jazz nut and a sax player with a some experience playing live gigs, I’ll try and provide meaningful insights on the inspirations and influences that are going on musically in the show. Whether it’s the soundtrack of the show itself or what the characters are playing or listening to, my goal is to connect the show to the real life jazz landscape. Everything from tidbits of jazz history to the theory that makes the music tick to the inner workings of a jazz band is up for grabs. While not my forte, I’ll try to opine on plot points and general animation aspects as well.

To give a taste for what these posts will be like, I’d like to go on to comment a bit on the 81-second preview released for the show.

The trailer begins with a sequence depicting a character (Sentaro, I believe) playing the drums. Let me begin by saying that the drummer is always the least liked member of a jazz band. Whenever you have a gig, the drummer will always be late and quite possibly drunk, high, or both. The music in the background, (implied to be what Sentaro is playing) is a rendition of a typical “free” jazz drum solo.

This picture alone is a signal of how accurate and true to life this show will be. Drummers: This is exactly the face everyone in the rest of the band makes when you start randomly playing really loud. I know it is a surprise to you, drummer, but nobody thinks you’re cool when you just cut loose without warning while people who play real instruments are warming up. Shocking, but true.

I’d like to take the opportunity to comment how awesome it is that Sentaro plays with a traditional grip. To those unfamiliar, traditional grip is where a drummer holds the right stick with an overhand grip while the left is held with an underhand grip, as depicted. This is the style of grip originally used by snare drummers in marching bands. This became the default technique for jazz drumming as early practitioners often came from a marching background. The style is often considered archaic today compared to the over-handed matched grip (exactly what it sounds like), but some of the greatest drummers to ever live (Buddy Rich one of them) were purveyors of traditional grip.

Sentarou, with his middle finger, displaying a typical drummer’s opinion toward the rest of the band.
I must remark that Kaoru has excellent taste.

Watch and listen to 0:20-0:35 of the video one more time. The music here hearkens to themes heard in a lot of gospel music. What it most strongly resembles, to my ear, is the opening of Miles Davis’ “So What.” Have a listen at the relevant section below. As corrected by random below in the comments, the song is in fact “Moanin’,” something I am ashamed I did not realize. Thanks, random.

So What


The non-jazz rest of the video is backed by a super lame non-jazz song that is very decidedly not jazz. I suspect that it’s peek at either the OP or ED, which is a shame because I really wanted to hear jazz for both of them. Hopefully one of them will be an awesome jazz number.

That’s sort of what you can expect from these posts in the future. If you want a sarcastic, bitter jazz fan’s take on this show, you know where to find it.

Also, every week I’d like to leave a YouTube video here of a jazz song that’s either relevant to the episode’s content or just a jazz tune that must be heard before you die. Today, it’s the latter. This song is called “Time Check,” as played by Buddy Rich and his big band. Of note is everything Buddy Rich is doing and possibly the greatest sax soli ever written. Pay especially close attention to the end of tenor saxophonist Pat LaBarbera tenor solo that leads into the soli, where he attempts a supremely manly page turn while soloing with just one hand.

“Time Check” is actually very much related to Japanese anime. How, you ask? Well, “Time Check” was written by the great jazz musician Don Menza. His son, Nick Menza, was the drummer for the heavy metal band Megadeth, a band that once featured a man named Marty Friedman on guitar. Marty Friedman now resides in Japan. Japan is where anime comes from. Conspiracy!


A huge jazz nerd and unabashed fan of alternative rock, I joined Anime Instrumentality in December 2010. I tend to get very passionate when it comes to music and try my best to understand how it works. An enormous fan of The Pillows, among my favorite anime composers include Ko Otani and Yoko Kanno. My tastes in anime vary wildly, but I try to be as thoughtful about my viewing as I am about my listening. I play the saxophone.

11 thoughts on “A Breakdown of Sakamichi no Apollon’s Preview Trailer, and Introducing Our First Episodic Post Series

  • April 8, 2012 at 12:31 am

    Oh man, I don’t think you understand how HYPE I am for this upcoming series of posts! I’m so glad you decided to take this on!

    • April 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Haha, thanks goes to you for inspiring this! Anticipation only breeds disappointment, so, please, don’t expect much.

  • April 8, 2012 at 1:12 am

    >Watch and listen to 0:20-0:35 of the video one more time.
    >What it most strongly resembles, to my ear, is the opening of Miles Davis’ “So What.”

    I don’t get it. Why are you mentioning “So What” when the song they played is clearly “Moanin'”?

    Anyways, full list of the classic jazz songs that will be played:

    01. Bobby Timmons – “Moanin'”

    02. Milt Jackson – “Bag’s Groove”

    03. Horace Silver – “Blowin’ The Blues Away”

    04. Duke Ellington, John H. Mercer & Billy Strayhorn – “Satin Doll”

    05. George Gershwin – “But Not For Me”
    *Sung by Masayoshi Furukawa

    06. Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II – “My Favorite Things”
    *Sung by Yuuka Nanri

    07. George Shearing & George David Weiss – “Lullaby for Birdland”
    *Sung by Aoi Teshima

    08. Miles Davis – “Four”

    09. Miles Davis – “Milestones”

    10. Medley: “My Favorite Things ~ Someday My Prince Will Come ~ Moanin'”

    11. Frank Churchill – “Someday My Prince Will Come”

    All arranged by Yoko Kanno, except for 1 and 11.

    • April 8, 2012 at 6:20 am

      I must apologize, I don’t know HOW I failed to realize that – total brain meltdown on my part. I’ve been listening to “Kind of Blue” again lately and must have gotten confused. My bad.

      And I didn’t know they released a full list of the standards like that. Please continue to fact check me as the post progress. Thanks, friend.

      • April 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm

        The tracklist for the soundtrack was released the other day, so that’s how we know.

  • April 8, 2012 at 6:36 am

    You forgot to mention another source of contention between drummers and the rest of the band: transporting, setting up, and tearing down the kit. Even in a Rock band, the Drum kit takes up more space than any other member’s gear (although the bass amp is the heaviest). Before the gig, the performers have to bring their gear into the club, which is one or two trips for most members, but the drummer takes a dozen trips to the van to get out all the drums and cymbals and the stands. Setting up and tearing down the kit takes time, and during that time, the other members are waiting.

    • April 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      That’s a sobering point, but, really, my comments about drummers were facetious and not to be taken seriously. If it makes any difference, I’d always try to help out the drummer carry the kit back and forth, if only it was because the sucker was stoned out of his mind.

  • April 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention, the connection you make at the end is even closer than you claim: Marty Friedman plays the solo on the OP for Mouretsu Pirates, an anime that is still running this season.

    • April 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Small world man, small world. I knew not just anyone could shred like that.

  • April 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Watched the first episode a little while ago – I’m really looking forward to your posts on the series!

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