Kids on the Slope
Original Title: 坂道のアポロン
From time to time, I check out Japanese animated series that wouldn’t normally get much attention, generally those outside Mecha , fantasy series, weird Japan, kawaii Japan or Chibi [1, Bottle Fairy  is quite educational though]. Along came Kids on the Slope, an adaptation of the manga by Yuki Kodama, a Jazz-filled coming of age story following the life of Kaoru Nishimi (Ryohei Kimura), a young and pretty brainy kid from a well-off family who has just moved into a new school in Kyushu in the mid-60s.
Unable to play the piano at his uptight aunt’s place, and unable to properly interact with his peers due to his social awkwardness and issues, Nishimi randomly meets bad boy Sentaro Kawabuchi (Yoshimasa Hosoya) and also takes a fancy to the proper head of the class Ritsuko Mukae (Yuuka Nanri). The three, through their bond of love for jazz, will go through tumultuous love ups and downs all in the middle of changes in Japan.
Though some of the storyline on Kids on the Slope may seem boring and mundane in theory, at a point when we reach a love pentagon — really, everyone’s in love with the wrong person at that point in the story — everything is handled quite well and nothing feels completely out of the blue and too rushed despite its 12-episode (at 20-something minutes each) of running time. However, the strength of this anime series is the friendship that this seemingly varied group of people form surrounding their love for jazz. Especially the bond that blossoms between Nishimi and Sentaro, since bromances are almost always taken as jokes. This one is almost a little too melodramatic, but never to stop being heartfelt.
Because this is a (short) show focusing on the lives of these two boys, the female characters tend to be a little too serviceable and not that well developed as people, though Ritsuko isn’t bland, her insecurities and problems aren’t as interesting as the girl that will snatch Sentaro’s heart, Yurika (Aya Endo), whose limited time on screen serves well.
Overall, Kids on the Slope proves to be a great watch, especially if you enjoy jazz. However, it also evokes feelings of years past and friendships gone to great effect. There’s a lot of broken hearts on this one.
Extra quarter star for Yoko Kanno’s music and all the jazz numbers included.
You can get Kids on the Slope on Amazon as a DVD set or Bluray.
You can also get the soundtrack done by Yoko Kanno [Amazon JP] [HMV JP], as well as the jazz compilation [Amazon JP] [HMV JP] used on the show, and the rare clips [Amazon JP] [HMV JP].
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