First Impressions – Sakamichi no Apollon

Transfer students, new friendships and all that jazz

It’s here! Apollon and Tsuritama are my most anticipated shows of the season. The shows before now have already exceeded my expectations for the most part, so can the noitaminA block still rise above the other spring shows?
Hello everybody and indeed, here we are with that Watanabe/Kanno joint called Kids on the Slope! I’ll be here each week along with a different Meta girl. So anyways, Nishimi Kaoru is transferred to another school…

People hate climbing slopes to school. Kyon is one example, another is our main man in this series, Nishimi Kaoru. He’s transferred from Yokosuka to Kyushu High. He has moments where his anxiety picks up, but he feels better once Ritsuko introduces herself. Pretty girls have a way with making men feel good. Voodoo magic, I say!

Over the years, Kaoru finds that going up to a school’s roof is the best way to deal with his anxiety. He spots a row of chairs and finds this guy Sentarou sleeping under the covers. With some bullies passing by, Sentarou decides to put his dukes up and fight the guys since Kaoru really wants the keys to the roof. He’s victorious, and charges Kaoru 100,000 yen to give him the key.

“…Crap, now I gotta go knock out some dudes to prove my manliness.”

It’s raining cats and dogs out there. As it turns out, the two boys are in the same class. Sentarou puts the target on him, so this must mean Kaoru’s done for, right? Kaoru asks for the key and as Sentarou flips them around, Kaoru steals them and they both run up to the roof. The time spent together ends with the two getting soaked big time since they discarded their umbrellas. Time for the human hair-dryer to do his work, and after getting his clothes changed, Kaoru starts to feel more comfortable in class.

It was a good idea…before it became anything more than an idea.

Kaoru likes to play piano. His cousin and aunt? They’re a couple of B’s, if you will. Fortunately, not all of the women Kaoru knows are this way. Ritsuko is quick to be on a first-name basis with him and plants illusions in his head of being invited to her home to make a little more than music, wink wink nudge nudge they’re gonna have sexual relations.

They visit Welcome Records to look at some records and go into the basement. There, Sentarou is chilling and he shows off a dazzling display of drum playing for his audience of 2. Kaoru is initially bothered by the sound, but he lets his hand off his ear by the end. The two also play a piece from “Moanin'” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on the piano and Sentarou criticizes the lack of swing in the music. Kaoru quickly buys the record of the song they just played to master it and is seen walking with a little swing in his step to school the next day.

Pic Spam:

“This is so..humiliating…I can’t do it! I just…can’t! These short-shorts are too short!!!”

If he was smart, he would have traded the hat for the key.

Sentaro’s MUST COCKBLOCK senses are tingling!

“You know what they say about guys with big feet, huh? Take a good, long look four-eyes. Aw yeah.”

End Thoughts:

Simply fantastic. I loved every second of Sakamichi no Apollon, and all that really happened were character introductions. Watanabe and Yoko Kanno are really an unbeatable combo. I can already tell that the OST is going to be one people will foam at the mouth over once it’s released. Something just feels so right seeing guys duke it out to jazz music, and Sentaro’s drum solo was so impressive that I felt like applauding when it was over. The music creates the perfect atmosphere to tell a story that is all about people coming together to play jazz music.

Apollon is not only great in presentation, but in its characters. Kaoru shows all the tell-tale signs of someone with panic disorder, to the point where I could tell just from the first few minutes of watching without any textbook-checking. It was so bad he actually collapsed in his past school, so yes, I’d go as far as to say he has a condition as opposed to just being slightly more nervous than other kids. All the more fun for me to analyze! It was probably brought on or worsened by his unfortunate family problems, which we’ve only seen a small glimpse of. It makes me mad to see him pushed around and controlled like that, but at the same time, I want to know more about it. I want to see if Sentaro can get him over his issues with some jazz therapy. Speaking of Sentaro, he’s awesome. While Kaoru is moody and interesting in how stoic and broken he is, Sentaro is interesting because of how optimistic and bright he is. He may be a bit of a rough-and-tumble hooligan, but he’s full of life. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some dark past as well, but I see him more as the one who helps Kaoru instead of the other way around. The two combined? PURE BROMANCE! I mean…um…friendship. I’m sorry, the hand-holding scenes had my fujoshi senses going wild. Yet another bonus for female fans of the show!

As little as I know about music, I’m pretty psyched to see Sentaro and Kaoru start jamming together. Where will they go from here? What challenges will they face? Will the nice, “cut-to-the-chase” girl help things or only make things more complicated? Apollon has a very slice of life, slow-moving story, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for episode 2, to see how Kaoru handles jazz (and what happens when his parents find out he’s slacking off with a punk instead of studying). This is one of those shows where the characters at the start and at the end will be like two completely different people and I can’t wait to see that transformation occur. Do yourself a favour and watch this show, even if it’s completely outside of the genre you usually watch.

I know a lot of people are calling this a return to form for noitaminA with this series and also Tsuritama. I’d have to agree. There’s been some misses and some alright stuff, but this show in particular is what I’m more accustomed to from the block considering its past series like Honey and Clover. It’s also worth mentioning how Apollon and Tsuritama share some similarities, like the main character for one example. Both have really unique ways of showing how they handle anxiety. I’m quite a fan of Tsuritama’s “drowning” effect, but Apollon deals with it apropos to the time and setting and also has a great, somewhat eerie tone as he walks to his desk as he mentions how he can’t follow the Kyushu dialect.

The production is nothing short of sensational. It’s such a beautiful, almost photo-realistic design that looks like it has an “anime” filter over it. The animations of music being played are fantastic, be it a couple of twigs or piano keys or actual sticks; as I write this, I’m going frame-by-frame on Sentarou’s drumming scene and it’s given such a high level of detail and attention to how he looks as he’s drumming. The bromance scene has this great sheen to it and, again with details, Sentarou gripping Kaoru’s hand is a great looking scene.

I love these 3 main characters and the budding relationships between Kaoru and the others. Kaoru is great (as is Ryouhei Kimura’s performance as him), and seeing him go from shutting people off to walking with a little swing in his step by episode’s end was a joy to watch. Ri-chan is not only a sweetheart that seems to be as much of an antidote to Kaoru as a roof is to him, but there’s also romance trouble brewing with that guy who cracked his neck. Now to perhaps the highlight of the episode, Sentarou. He’s a great delinquent-type character and he had several great moments, my favorite being when he and Kaoru got soaking wet from the rain.

With jazz music being a central theme of the show, we didn’t hear too much in the first episode. We got just a sliver to start, but it’s kind of an interesting direction to take since the Apollon group hasn’t formed yet into a band, as though when they start to come together and make music, we’ll be hearing more of it in the series. I can see Apollon turning me on to some more jazz tunes. Though not comparable to how Rock Band and Guitar Hero became this really amazing avenue to expose kids to the music of yesteryear, Apollon might be making me scour YouTube or iTunes for some of the more popular tracks that might be played.

I didn’t know YUKI would perform the OP, which is interesting considering I just played the H&C 2 theme on episode 15 of the podcast. Her voice is less piercing in this song, and I’m such a sucker for when the trumpet part comes in at the end.


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11 Responses to “First Impressions – Sakamichi no Apollon”

  1. skylion says:

    The Jazz Bromance….

  2. Joojoobees says:

    They did a great job of setting up a kind of adversarial friendship between Kaoru and Sen. The animation looks FANTASTIC. I can’t wait to see more.

  3. Kyokai says:

    I was already on fangirl mode before its release. Imagine my expression while seeing this. I took a break in office and enjoyed it in our recreation room because first, I couldn’t wait and second, I’m just glad no one else was around because my expression would have looked funny to any passersby.

    The seiyuu have worn the character skins so brilliantly and DAT accent on Yoshimasa Hosoya. We have already heard it in Chihayafuru but just because he gets to play an overbearing dude this time, it reflects even more. Also, THIS IS NOT YAOI and pure awesome bromance of friendship. I can’t wait to see both of them have a session and Kaoru.

    PS: Jrow, there will be boys too. Mwahahahaaa~

  4. Rakuen says:

    I’m kind of worried about Kaoru. It looks like he’s attracting some unwanted attention by hanging around Ritsuko. Falling in with the guy who recently ticked off the seniors probably won’t help either. A beating may come his way. I don’t know if he can handle it even with the bit of confidence he gained.

    But those drums… totally worth getting curbstomped over!

    • Yippy says:

      I agree, there was that guy giving Kaoru the evil eye. But I wouldn’t worry too much, Sentaro’s proven that he’s got Kaoru’s back. Even though he wanted 10,000 for the key, he still got it back for Kaoru in the first place.

      I’m watching because of the awesome drum sequence in the PV actually. (^_^)

  5. Snowley says:

    I LOVE DRUMS. 8D I love this anime just for that – perfect drums solo. Those asian guys can really play 8D. I liked the story too, it’s mature and down-to-earth. It’s nice to see show like this once in a while.

  6. Amutofan123 says:

    My bromance senses are tingling~ This and Tsuritama are currently my top contenders for best anime of the season. This was such a fantastic episode. And oh god… dat drum solo…

  7. Foshizzel says:

    Saw this first episode and actually liked it! BEST DRUM SOLO EVER! I loved the animation for that scene soooo smooooth, but all the animation is fantastic! I guess I have to add this series to my watching forever list along with Space bros <3

  8. Bob from Accounting says:

    *Twitches on the ground in an overexcited heap*


  9. Yippy says:

    I never noticed that Kaoru could just blackmail Sentaro for the key. Nice observation there. XD

    Appolon definitely looks promising so far, what with the unique music and the rarely-touched time period. (C’mon, who doesn’t like the ’60s?). Furthermore, the subtle humour is a nice cherry on top of this cake. I loved the quick and small jokes in the dialogue, they add to the charm of this series.

    Hope they keep this up. =)

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