The Slope of Imperfection: Sakamichi no Apollon

[HorribleSubs] Sakamichi no Apollon - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.30_[2012.06.29_19.29.30]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Sakamichi no Apollon - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.53_[2012.06.29_19.26.28]

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.

[HorribleSubs] Sakamichi no Apollon - 12 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.52_[2012.06.29_19.28.43]

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.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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19 Responses to The Slope of Imperfection: Sakamichi no Apollon

  1. Xard says:

    ’twas gooooooooooood ;____;

    The moment the episode started I knew it was storyboarded by Watanabe (and he even acted as episode director for it).

    This was just beautiful, perfect ending. 10+ material, had the whole show been this good it would’ve been the best drama series in ages. Very emotional and unlike many of its predecessors managed to compress large amount of events into one episode without feeling at all rushed or jerky.

    The directing was just beautiful and straight from delicately handled quality drama film. Perfect pacing, perfect understated style. This was how I expected the whole show to be like when it started.

    I’m impressed with the maturity and realism they ended this youth love story full of misunderstandings and bouts of stupidity. It would’ve been great end on its own but the timeskip material was a perfect coda for the series.

    I want and don’t want a sequel for this. Damn.

  2. megaroad1 says:

    I really enjoyed this show overall but I couldn’t help but feeling that they crammed a lot of story together towards the end (last 3 episodes.) It felt just a tad rushed in my opinion. Nevertheless, very good show, with believable and endearing characters. it’s good to have Watanabe and Kanno working together again. I hope they continue to do so in the future.

    • Xard says:

      It’s not really just the last three episodes, the whole show had soon after start the constant “digest” feel and cramming too much stuff in.

      One of the reasons why I so liked this final episode was because it was so slowly paced and “empty” in many ways. The scenes rolled on in silence like in mah japanese art films. Loved it

  3. 2DT says:

    Really liked this one. Cheers, GL.

  4. Universal Bunny says:

    I wonder if I’m reading to much into small details, but the ending was quite definitive. It’s in Ritsuko and Richie’s hair cuts, the way they walked up the hill leading to the church, the speed of them getting to the island (Richie dropped everything the moment he got the news, Ritsuko got a letter and probably took a few days before coming). She got over Richie and over Sen as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Watanabe meant for her to be married by this point. It was only Richie who could never give up on Sen even after he got over Ristuko. There is little to indicate Richie went to meet her in 8 years.

    As for the other couple, Yukarika and Junichi’s story was complete with his last words to her. He invited her to his flat thus completely accepting her as a woman he loves as opposed to a girl he cares for. It was one of the best moments in the season (very subjective thing) with Tasogare Otome’s cultural festival episode being main competitor.

  5. sadakups says:

    Would have worked better with more episodes or at the most with 24. I honestly felt that the last few episodes really had bad pacing.

    All in all, this is a show for bros, but not bromance. The dynamic between Kaoru and Sen was entertaining to watch, considering that both were felt alone given their own circumstances, and found a nice friendship with jazz as the foundation. The show did start so damn good and I was hooked until the end. I liked the characters, and the jazz elements worked so well and I really like how they animate people playing instruments.

    And that part when Kaoru and Sen did an impromptu session at the school festival – that was godlike. Probably one of the anime moments of the year 2012 for me.

    I also hope to see another Watanabe-Kanno project in the future.

    • The animation technique used in the musical performances is called rotoscoping. The technique can produce a jarring effect because of the true-to-life movement sharply contrasting with the regular animated frames. An example of a fully rotoscoped animated film is Waking Life by Richard Linklater. The old Ralph Bakshi Tolkien film also comes to mind.

  6. Turambar says:

    I just give this show a lot of respect for never losing sight of the real focus of the show, the relationship between Kaoru and Sen. Despite all the romance triangle (or pentagon) that happens at points of the show, amazingly unlike every other anime, that does not get in the way of their friendship, and it is in fact their loyalty and understanding for each other that helps resolve and most past those hurdles.

    • It also helps how Sen was never into Ritsuko, and that he joined the clergy LOL. Kaoru’s inferiority complex did much to keep his feelings for Ritsuko from fucking up his relationship with Sen.

  7. zabilegacy says:

    This show was at times really melodramatic and bordered on pure angst. It was also one of the most interesting and one of the warmest shows I’ve seen in quite some time. I think it’s safe to say that it remembers love 🙂

    • Yes, but for the remembering love part it does so but not in the way I use the term (referencing and allusion). I’m no enemy of melodrama and I really liked how this show piled it on. It really worked because of the time in between highlights. Unlike many shows wherein the high-drama events play out every other day, these events have months of nothing in between… just life spent stewing in whatever feelings that define these kids.

  8. I really didn’t enjoy this show. I too expected bigger things from Watanabe and Kanno than a high school drama show. Maybe its more like the two were brought into the project after its primary framework was set in stone. Either way, egh… not my type of show. I guess it had nice animation and other production values but that isn’t enough – the show just lacked any driving force or raison d’etre in my opinion.

    • Small is good too. My favorite Ghibli films aren’t the messianic environmental Miyazaki works, but stuff like I Can Hear the Sea and Whisper of the Heart.

      High school, the coming of age story set in the mundane is also important and compelling… as geneses of character, or at least adulthood. I too prefer such stories set against the backdrop of great robot battles, but I certainly am not averse to it, nor would I dismiss its driving force nor reason for being.

  9. I have to agree.It’s a shame, really, because in many ways, this show could have been damn perfect, but it just screwed up one too many things.

  10. Pingback: Everything That Doesn’t Involve Kio’s Insufferable H4XX0RZ is Still Awesome: Mobile Suit Gundam AGE 41 | We Remember Love

  11. Sky says:

    I thought the ending was really weak… Just the ending really. The rest of the show did have a tendency to rely a lot on melodrama, but they are teenagers… Of course their emotional struggles will be tinted by melodrama, that’s just how people are at that age. What bothered me about the ending is that while the ending implies that Sentarou achieve some sort of emotional closure it doesn’t actually show it. It makes the whole emotional power of the ending just seems artificial. I think like, one more episode that might have shown a progression from emotionally troubled to more-or-less fine would have benefited the series greatly.

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