“There’s no way I can stop this rhythm in my heart.”
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So Apollon is now over with. I’ll add this to the list of quality noitaminA series. I’ll start with talking about episode 12 itself.
That car commercial where it beeps the guy going in for a kiss… yeah, too bad they didn’t have that technology in ’68
The way the relationship between Kaoru and Ritsuko goes downhill is one I liked a lot in this episode. When relationships don’t work out in anime, not often do we get to see what went into that split; it’s kind of just told to us or we’re left to assume on our own. Here we have a scene of a moment that could (and did) end their relationship.
However bad Ritsuko must feel about Sentarou being gone, you can multiply that tenfold for Kaoru. His frustration over Sentarou leaving affected how he was around other people and his relationship with Ri’ko seemed difficult; she was afraid to even approach him for a couple scenes. His grades were getting better, but the young man just wasn’t having fun. Back in episode 6, he feared that his buddy was leaving him for some stupid rock band, but this time it was real and it seemed to constantly stay in Kaoru’s mind. When he told Ri’ko to stop talking about the photo, I got the sense in that moment that Kaoru wanted to erase Sentarou from his memories, that he’d completely given up on him.
Kaoru was leaving for Tokyo anyways to go to college, so there friend/relation-ship was going to have to close off at some point. It’s Kaoru’s M.O. to muck things up whenever life isn’t going exactly as planned, so with his attitude there was no chance for an amicable split, but I did like his goodbye message and seeing Ri’ko run to the station to wave goodbye to him.
Our SlopeBros and SlopeGals in ’76
I’m gonna be a director for just a moment. Watanabe would sneeze at these comments, but anyways…
The timeskip portion of the episode is tricky for me. I’m undecided as to whether I didn’t like it completely or if I would’ve preferred it to be shortened. I’ve read that the manga does plenty of extra stuff in the end, but my concerns came before knowing that much; I’m talking purely in terms of what the anime chose to do.
If it were to be shortened, I’d take out everything after Yurika showed him that picture. Instead of seeing “Moanin'” being performed one more time inside a church and a joyous reunion of friends for the 3rd-4th time, I would’ve been satisfied just knowing Sentarou was doing well and that Kaoru knew as much. Just last episode before the accident these kids were doing great and jamming together, so it’s not like there were several weeks of buildup leading to the church performance. The scenes are charming certainly, but I’m wondering if the anime could’ve done without them.
It Needed More Episodes: A tired argument…
This is one of those moments where I wonder if the “it needed more episodes” argument holds water when you consider the scene-cutting that Watanabe and MAPPA had to pull at many points during the anime’s 12 episode run. MAPPA seemed to be strategically making cuts to fit 45 manga chapters worth of material into a noitaminA-slotted show and I thought they were rolling along fairly well early on. I was in full support of their method mainly because I was greedy; I wanted to see as much (or all) of Apollon’s story as they could animate.
For the first 9 episodes of Apollon, I only felt some fast pacing and little to no rushing. Story points here and there had to be omitted in the interest of time, but I felt mostly satisfied with as much as the anime was able to and wanted to show me. It’s just in the last 3 episodes where I feel concerned.
Episode 10 is where I started to feel that the pacing went to the nth gear and became too quick for me to process any emotions toward the scenes that were happening. The scene of Kaoru confessing and being accepted by Ritsuko was nice, but I don’t think I really felt joy or elation for them; more like “OK, cool, they’re together. Wait, holy crap! They did that much in just one episode?” Episode 11 had the big crash which bothered some people, but it was the point that shifted the story the most dramatically; if you blinked, Sentarou was literally gone. Episode 12 went through moments of Kaoru’s last days at Kyushu and how he and Ritsuko parted ways and fast-forwarded to 8 years later.
Doing so much with just 12 episodes is tough, but it leads into my next point.
45 chapters in 12 episodes: MAPPA’s challenge of adapting
Kaoru & Ritsuko hold hands, one of many scenes not shown in the anime.
If I were Shinichiro Watanabe, I’d be secretly going, “The hell? That trainwreck Guilty Crown got 22 episodes and I only get 12? That show sucks balls. I’m freaking Shinichiro Watanabe. I did Cowboy Bebop, damnit.”
Watanabe and his staff were very ambitious in trying to get the story of Kids on the Slope animated to the end. Adapting is a challenge on many levels. There’s the faithful manga readers that wonder why the story of Kaoru’s mom was cut out among many other scenes. It also must’ve been very difficult to keep a level of coherency to the story when scenes F, J & R get left on the cutting-room floor. I applaud the effort of MAPPA to do what they did and not leave any big openings in the story during the 12-episode run. Good adaptation will make an anime/movie/show great in spite of not telling the full story. For manga readers, seeing the jazz performances animated was an absolute win.
I feel the one problem of adapting the way MAPPA did it is something I addressed during my thoughts on the time skip. Sometimes things happen so quickly that the anime goes through its ups-and-downs too quickly and the finer moments cannot be relished as much. Shoujou series seem to take pride in dragging its feet for lengthy stretches so that the hookup is beautiful and bubbly and happy, but Apollon had business to take care of and wasn’t gonna be pulling those tricks on us.
Closing Thoughts on Apollon
In looking at the overall series, I really enjoyed Apollon bunches. I think that even after mentioning all of the pacing and cutting, concerns here and there, it is in many ways a sound series that was finely produced.
Watching an anime series take place during the ’60s was enjoyable and a breath of fresh air. It was fun to see a story take place in an earlier era than “sometime in the near/distant future”. It’s a high school anime where I can understand and accept the character’s emotions unlike [insert club or harem anime here]. This relatively new studio MAPPA could become a respected studio that’s known for their HQ animation and good taste in series to adapt/create. Ryohei Kimura was excellent as Kaoru. Shinichiro Watanabe, please do more directing. He and Penguindrum’s Ikuhara should be around a bit more often making good anime.
And of course, there’s the jazz. I’ve given the OST a complete listen, and it’s an amazing OST that I can listen to simply just for the tunes. I’ll remember the scenes where “Moanin” or “Rosario” played, but so many OSTs are only good when you hear it on the show. The music in Kids on the Slope was no doubt the reason people flocked to this series, and the music was fantastic and it was brought as close to life as it could with some really solid rotoscopic animation. The music was so much fun and got me tapping my feet. Another great soundtrack from the legendary Yoko Kanno.
So now, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and go read the Apollon manga like I kept saying I would. Thanks so much for reading, and I will be back to blogging ecchi junk for summer. Woo!