I hold the works of Watanabe Shinichiro and Kanno Yoko in very high regard, and have done so for many years. Like many, as I imagine, I had very high expectations of Sakamichi no Apollon. It turned out to be nothing like I expected from these two in terms of concept, and I can’t really say the experience of this show lived up to my very high expectations.
However, this is not to say I left disappointed. I know full well that while I have a lot of fun listening to the Moanin’/My Favorite Things/Someday My Prince Will Come medley among the other tracks in the OST, none of them approach the intensity of feeling I get when I listen to the music from Aquarion EVOL, The Vision of Escaflowne, from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, from Cowboy Bebop, from Macross Plus, and Macross Frontier.
It’s the same thing when I remember the feelings I get from Macross Plus, Cowboy Bebop, and Samurai Champloo… but not quite. I think the intensity of feeling I had watching Sakamichi no Apollon week on week was stronger than any single equal length of episode stretches from those other shows… up until the final two episodes. Ah yes, the ending.
You see I love time skips. I really enjoy how time does its work on the narrative. Up until the 8 year skip I really enjoyed how the story of the main cast took the course of their high school lives the moment they met each other. I am a little averse to watching big stories play out over the course of two weeks. The times spent by the characters away from each other, upset with each other, nursing hurts and jealousies… these took weeks, months, seasons. I lived through high school just like this. I know these things linger and define one’s youth.
But suddenly, 8 years. That’s longer than Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann’s. And while emotionally, the jam session at the church felt triumphant, the narrative ends didn’t feel strong. Everything sort of worked out, without giving us the satisfaction of seeing Ritsuko and Kaoru happy together. Well, it’s been quite obvious how the primary relationship in this show is Kaoru and Sentaro’s but leaving Ritsuko as a mere possibility in the only open end is unsatisfying for me.
I thought Yurika and Junichi were very interesting and I’d have loved to see more of them. I suppose there just wasn’t any time.
In the end, the whole thing feels like a jazz number. The starting riff hooks you, then the musicians start improvising and the whole thing goes crazy – taking your feelings all over the place and in so many notes, then almost suddenly, it ends. I seldom truly like how jazz songs end. They’re sometimes loud and ringing, or quiet and perhaps poignant… but somehow I always feel that I got to that point because the song just had to end somehow. It seldom feels truly right, emotionally, but conceptually I get it. It’s improvisation and composition playing about with each other. Sometimes you just have cut it and call it a track.