Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

What is there to like about Kids on the Slope?

I’m sick and tired of reading comments on forums and blogs about how good this anime is.  All the time I’m seeing “must watch series” or “best anime this season.”  I don’t do this kind of focused rebuttal very often, (come to think of it this may be the first time I’ve written a review like this) but all things considered I think the current situation warrants a dissenting opinion being heard—with indignant vigor.

I can’t tell what this anime wants to be about.  It’s skipping erratically between themes of music, friendship, youth and romance, which doesn’t sound like it ought to be a problem on the surface.  However, the transitions between these concepts are as flow breaking as having to portage a canoe around a dam.  There’s no reason all the themes couldn’t be woven together into a harmonious composition, but instead the show opts to go with just one mode at a time.

I thought long and hard about exactly why the pacing in this series is so terrible and I came to the realization that transitions from sequence to sequence are so abrupt and jarring that it reminded me of watching a summary episode or a clip show.  When I made that connection it started to make sense because Shinichiro Watanabe is very good at doing episodic anime like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.  For those series, episodic pacing with large breaks makes sense because the journey the characters take lends itself very organically to a lot of down time when nothing interesting is happening.  Each episode gets encapsulated nicely so that it concludes before moving on to the next leg of the story.

But Kids on the Slope doesn’t want that kind organization.  It’s happening in real time with people who see each other every day and don’t have any clear goals in mind to drive themselves fervently forward and keep them focused.  There’s no big overarching conflict to wrap everything up and give a sense of purpose or adventure to connect the points.  They’re just lethargically dealing with their problems as they arise, which is drawn-out disorganization at best and frustratingly incomprehensible chaos at its worst.

It’s like we’ve been dragged along a boring, uneventful saunter through the lives of some very ordinary, uninteresting young people whose bonds are so weak they need the pathetic excuse of playing jazz music to keep the whole mess from falling apart.  We’re expected to fill in too many of the little details and read between the lines to fully grasp what’s going on.  This is not subtlety or a method of focusing only on the big, important events.  This is plainly and simply bad writing that shows a lack of planning to keep everything moving at a cohesive pace.

I’m also completely bummed by Yoko Kanno’s complete lack of presence.  I know she’s capable of much better soundtracks than these barely audible, piddling, intermittent BGMs that go completely unnoticed.  What happened to the epic themes that characterized the grand settings of Escaflowne and RahXephon?  Where are the perfect, mood-setting tones that gave Cowboy Bebop an atmosphere as thick as Jupiter’s?  How can we get immersed in the setting, time and culture without her purposeful influence giving us the proper cues like she did in Ghost in the Shell?  Why isn’t her music filling our ears, warming our hearts and giving us an uncontrollable desire to get up and dance like the powerful songs of Macross Frontier?  It’s a complete waste of her talent, so why is she involved in this project?

What is going on? This is not good writing.

Finally, I don’t want to hear any more complaining from people about unrequited, drawn-out, misunderstood or weak romances in anime like Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima or Boku wa Tomodachi when shows like Kids on the Slope are getting this kind of hype.  The romance in this series is terrible.  Just what the heck is going on?  I thought Yurika was under the impression that Kaoru asked her out but then she’s suddenly getting intimate with Sentarou?  It’s such an unfounded, head-spinning, hasty plot progression that it can be easy summarized in just one word—lazy.  And how can Kaoru think he’s in any position to follow the high ground when (a) he takes forever to clear up the pain and confusion he caused with Ritsuko then (b) goes for a love confession as weak as, “you don’t have to give me an answer right away,” with absolutely no follow up to show he actually cares?  It reeks of every aspect of the worst romance stories you could think of.

What are people seeing in this anime that I don’t?  Someone please enlighten me because Kids on the Slope is the most I’ve been disappointed in an anime since Blood C.  Anyone who finished reading this rant and who likes this show please explain yourself.  Clearly I just don’t get it.

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24 responses to “What is there to like about Kids on the Slope?

  1. Vincent May 4, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Are you kidding, This is a far more realistic approach to slice of life and romance. And to have the main focus of the story have the guts to actually tell the one he loves straight up no matter the outcome is refreshing. The emotions that are emitted from this series just feel more real and genuine when compared to most harem type of anime. On top of all that it is just visually great to look at. To each their own when it comes to anime, I am really liking this one so far.

    • Marlin-sama May 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

      No, I’m not kidding. It’s all fine that Kaoru was able to tell Ritsuko that he loves her. But my main point is not the quality of the romance, which I still think is badly thought out because of Sentarou’s unsupported intimacy that has absolutely no lead-in time. The problem I have is with overall composition that jumps from one plot point to the next without any connective story to act as a guide. There’s also no conflict or challenge to drive the overarching plot aside from what’s immediately at hand. It’s all too fast and disjointed.

      • Eddie Munster January 26, 2013 at 3:25 am

        While I can’t say that I was enthralled by this series, I do think that it did a number of things very right and oddly enough I am going to have to say the pacing is one of those. It doesn’t seem to me to be designed to follow your normal story pacing but rather the pacing of memory. When I look back on my life, I see slices of events that all played into one big experience and while they might be disjointed on their own, when taken as a whole it all fits. Important memories stand out clearly but what constitutes “important” is different for everyone. This is a show really IS a “slice of life” in a very real sense… more so than anything that I have ever seen that is actually in that genre of anime (in fact, many so called “slice of life” anime are so removed from anyone’s life that I had almost entirely dismissed the genre).

        All that being said I can’t say that Kids on the Slope was my favorite (it doesn’t even make my top 10) but I do think that it was fairly well executed for what it was trying to accomplish.

    • roxxstar217 January 17, 2013 at 3:42 am

      Yes you are absolutely right. I was thinking of some way to defend against Marlin-sama’s unwarrented attacks on the most realistic anime ive ever seen, but you said it so perfectly.

  2. Justin May 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    It’s a heavily character driven show. Do you feel anything for the characters? If not, then this will probably be a difficult show to watch, since this is nothing more than a slice of life series with music as its background.

    • Marlin-sama May 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      No, I don’t feel for the characters at all. I can’t relate to them because I don’t think they’ve been properly introduced. And that’s because this series has empty writing.

      Sorry for all the negativity but these kinds of series that everyone seems to like but me are the reason I started this blog. I seem to be the only person who things badly of Kids on the Slope and thus I present my dissenting opinion.

      @Justin, I like your attempt to help me understand (I can see what you’re getting at). Thanks.

      • Justin May 5, 2012 at 9:13 am

        It’s no problem really. You have a right your opinion :D I know someone who also didn’t really like Kids on The Slope. She essentially said it felt like, while the episodes are around 23-24 minutes, it felt it took hours to finish. She said she didn’t think she could relate to the characters, which is why she didn’t like it. I don’t know if it was just that as a factor, but in most slice of life’s (Usagi Drop: Great, Kimi To Boku=Meh), characters can make up for a lot of the supposed deficiencies, or mask it.

        For me, I happen to be one of the people who do like Kids on the Slope, though I don’t think it’s the best series this season (currently a toss up for me between shows like Lupin, Space Bros, and a few others), and really like the overall setup so far with the themes of friendship and jazz. I don’t feel frustrated watching it and I feel there’s still explanations that will arise as the show continues, which is why I’m continuing it each week. Obviously you feel there are narrative and pacing issues, but I haven’t found it much of a factor (though I felt something was off in Ep 1). I think it’s probably because I like these characters.

  3. TWWK May 6, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I thought you’d might like to read this post on the show, which I think really conveys some of the wonderful qualities of episode three (I’m assuming you haven’t seen up to episode four at the time of this posting). It also doesn’t pull any guns when it comes to a negative in the episode, which continues somewhat in number four – the lack of the connection between jazz and character development.

    http://blog.animeinstrumentality.net/2012/04/sakamichi-no-apollon-kids-on-the-slope-episode-3/

    Anyway, this is really the only blog I’m reading in regards to episodics for the show, since Anime Instrumentality is such a quality blog and the writer has great familiarity with jazz.

  4. Pingback: Sakamichi no Apollon: What Do You Think It Takes to Make an Interfaith Relationship Work? «

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  6. Troll July 4, 2012 at 5:54 am

    You’re a fucking retard who probably has to think out large vocabulary words to add in to elaborate on your sentences, unlike me where it just comes naturally. You probably like Naruto, Bleach, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, all of which are horribly shitty animes that have no emotion or heart at all, which is why those who like them are the kind of people who don’t appreciate emotion in
    series. I’m not one to beat around the bush and try to rationalize with someone who’s on the complete opposite side of the coin as me, so that’s why I’m just stating things blunt and “as-is.” How can you have goals to drive you to do something serious besides simple recreation (playing jazz) when you have a life at school and you’re love-struck? I’m not even gonna continue to dignify you’re writing by responding. Have fun with your gay ninja and samurai anime shit.

    • Marlin-sama July 4, 2012 at 7:20 am

      Awesome. My first troll comment ever! Thanks.

      Actually, I’m not a fan of Naruto or Bleach (stopped watching them a long time ago after they turned into cash cows) and I can’t stand FMA or any of its incarnations. So your assumption is already wrong. If pushed to choose just one, my favorite anime is probably ef – a tale of memories. I can’t think of a better series to disprove your theory that I don’t appreciate emotion. My problem with Kids on the Slope is that its emotion feels fake and misguided. You say you’re not going to dignify my writing by responding, but you already have responded. Also, before faulting me for using words that are too big, you should take a few lessons in grammar and spelling yourself.

      • Troll July 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        Honestly, I don’t even know why I blew up like that, for the record (lol), and I am sorry about that, but I still entirely disagree with you. You should seriously reconsider watching the series because they wrap-it-up perfectly, it starts out kind of slow (like most, though, so that’s not really much of anything to support my point), and…I really have nothing to back that up with or other things to say; it’s hard to persuade someone to watch things that I like mainly because my friends are heartless idiots anyway who can’t think on their own, yet they still won’t listen to me. It’s a strange predicament, lol, but anyway I am sorry about that, and by the way, I scanned back over my last comment, and I don’t see any grammatical, punctual, etc. errors at all, but I made sure to write this one extra-specially-super-duperly well. I don’t really care if you respond to this or not, because I commented so long ago, but I felt like I should apologize (I was in morning-mode when I wrote it, that’s not me, lol). Another suggestion, though, you said you don’t like anything pertaining to FMA, but the original 2003 anime series is actually jam-packed full of emotions; basically if you have a hard time watching Brotherhood (like me), you should watch the original, and vice versa. I’m relatively new to to the “Anime World” (been about a year exactly since I watched the first episode of Durarara on Adult Swim), so I’m just going to continue on with the goal I just set for myself today, which is to finish as many anime series as I possibly can by the end of Summer, so…yeah, goodbye! :D

      • Marlin-sama July 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

        Naw, don’t read too much into what I said. In some ways I was trolling you back for fun. I can beat hecklers at their own game. Thanks for coming back. Your apology is accepted and appreciated. ^_^

        I watched the original FMA back in 2003 and I didn’t like it because I thought it was preachy. Really almost 10 years later I don’t really even remember much about it aside from I didn’t like it.

        Thanks for the encouragement, but Kids on the Slope is not high on my list of anime to reconsider. Really, the beginning was so slow I honestly can’t see how anything good could be turned around later (what especially got to me was how weak Yoko Kanno was. I would have watched this series just for her if she’d brought her A game.) For me, I’ll always remember the most heartwarming anime of spring 2012 was Acchi Kocchi and even Tasogare Otome had better writing than what I saw of Kids on the Slope. If anything from last season caught my eye that I feel I didn’t give a fair chance it was Tsuritama, which I may have another go at because this summer season is so slow.

        Thanks again and sorry if my response sounds a little hard-nosed, but I’d already made my decision concerning this series many months ago and I feel I should keep pressing forward with newer anime.

  7. Mere-Mere October 17, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I don’t disagree with you about the storytelling being choppy. I was originally a fan of the manga, before the anime was produced, and that went smoother than the anime. But I still enjoyed this anime anyway, not just for the story that I loved from the manga but for the gorgeous art style and the jazz music. And here’s were I really disagree with you. Playing jazz together is NOT a shitty reason for the relationships to hold together. Music is an amazing and excellent way to connect, I only know several of my very good friends BECAUSE of music. I made long lasting friendships with people I sang in a chorus with three times a week. Music is our main common interest. Music is a very powerful thing, and from the way you talk about how you were missing the sweeping and epic soundtrack of several other animes, it sounds like you appreciate that fact. But music doesn’t have to be sweeping and epic to be powerful. Did you really, REALLY have a good listen to the jazz songs played? I’m not a huge fan of jazz, but I appreciate it, and I appreciate how AMAZING the jazz pieces were in this anime. I don’t know you, so I’m sorry if I’m presuming, but it seems to me that you don’t really understand how powerful music can be, it can keep together friendships and relationships, even while everything else is falling apart.

    • Marlin-sama October 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

      I did play music for a time, but I was a solo pianist. I never played in a band so maybe I’m just not the right kind of person to understand how music can tie people together any better than any other hobby.

      But I stand by my position that Yoko Kanno did not bring her A game to Kids on the Slope. Really, this is probably her worst work, yet. Name any other anime she’s composed music for and it’ll have a better soundtrack than this anime. The jazz pieces in Cowboy Bebop were SO much better that it doesn’t even sound like the same person wrote them. For me, that was easily the biggest disappointment of Kids on the Slope because I’m such a big fan of Yoko Kanno’s music.

      • Mere-Mere November 1, 2012 at 3:22 am

        Ah! But that’s where you went wrong! You assumed that Yoko Kanno wrote and composed all the music in Kids on The Slope. But besides the background music, the opening, and the ending. Every single piece of music that the characters performed from “Moanin'” to “My Favorite Things” were written and/or composed or interpreted as a jazz piece (“Someday my Prince Will Come” and “My Favorite Things”) by some of the American jazz greats. The jazz pieces were played in the compositions that were ORIGINAL to the artists who wrote/composed/interpreted them. And if you try to argue that there were times where they were not playing an actual song, I will point out that those are supposed to be practice and on the spot jam sessions (including that mash-up that Kaoru and Sen play in episode 7, they were “making it up as they go”), they’re not supposed to be perfect. Trust me.

      • Marlin-sama November 1, 2012 at 6:38 am

        Perhaps now we’re getting into personal taste, but this is only a proof to me that Yoko Kanno is a better composer than the American jazz greats. But then, I can still stand by my point that having Yoko Kanno on the staff was pointless because if she wasn’t writing very much original music, why not hire ANYONE else? They had a great resource in her talent and they blew it.

  8. Radical Edward November 14, 2012 at 8:38 am

    I think what makes this anime good is you get to reflect on with what was going on in the show. It’s an unpredictable world after all, we get to appreciate that not everything or everyone in life had it easy, and some people just take it for granted? It relates to a lot of people so I think that’s what makes it good. At the end of the day, it’s all about subjective attachment

  9. Steven July 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Sakamichi No Apollon (Kids On The Slope) is all the things you just described, “A boring, uneventful saunter through the lives of young people..” and “dealing with their problems as they arise, which is drawn out, and disorganized at best.” However, I digress from the negative connotation you attach to these things. What transpires is a deeply moving story which plays out like my life, and yours, and any person who has passed through the fiery throws of youth. This series portrays coming of age in it’s most unflattering, and yet most realistic light. The characters are proven to be deeply faceted, possessing neither all good or all bad characteristics that oversimplify what it means to be human in most other anime. Instead we witness seemingly good characters commit acts of betrayal, and unseemly characters who perform great acts of personal kindness. They are both bold, and reserved, brave, and frightened, knowing and lost. Perhaps, most profound of all we see ourselves reflected in the very human nature of loving someone deeply, and yet lacking the courage to say so, and thus suffering because of it. You have missed the great thematic material in Sakamichi No Apollon, as the popularity of this series is drawn neither from the story nor its pacing. The popularity comes from the emotions this jumbled mess brings, as it reflects an image of ourselves, not as how we WANT to be seen, but how we really are.

    • Marlin-sama July 17, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      I guess I just had a very different experience growing up than most people did, because I didn’t go through anything that happened in Kids on the Slope. What you call “deeply faceted,” I only saw as poor characterization with no context for anyone’s actions. I can much more easily relate to the jaded attitudes of the characters in anime like OreShura and this season’s Watamote.

  10. afisheeehornado September 24, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    my two cents: kids on the slope is for people who appreciate tasteful storytelling and real-life human drama. i almost wish there was more to the series, not because it’s lacking, but because it felt like it was over before i began. it’s in my top 5. i sometimes forgot i was watching an anime.

  11. fleet_commander December 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Hello!
    There is an excellent analysis of this series here which I highly recommend…
    http://madelineashby.com/?p=1253
    Specifically, it analyses the series relative to Watanabe’s other two shows, Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. I high recommend it!!! I don’t think it will change your perception of the show, as taste is hard to change, but it might give you a better appreciation. It’s written in a journalistic/academic fashion by an actual writer, so don’t worry, it’s not the uniformed stuff you find on most blogs.

    I will agree that this anime definitely does not have a traditional narrative in that there is no concrete struggle, neither is there an introductory origin which gives each character immediate context. The best way to describe this anime is as a slow burn. Absolutely nothing is spoon fed in this anime, and it’s resonance with the audience requires both an assumption that the audience has similar nostalgic attachments to their own childhood, and that they in fact had a somewhat similar childhood. The character-context is given to us little by little, clue by clue. For those of us that were lucky (or unlucky!) enough to actually fall in love when we were kids, almost everything that happens in this pseudo love triangle rings true. Actions are irrational, followed by deep self-questioning and loathe, and ultimately despair. This is portrayed in a strikingly realistic fashion in the show. In addition, there is a great deal of attention given to the social norms of this period in history, especially in Japan. The social norms! No one ever talks about the social norms portrayed in anime. Anyway, knowledge and awareness of this historical narrative that exists within the show greatly enriches the context in which the characters act. It is especially true for the female characters, as themes of patriarchy and subjugation are subtly but effectively explored.

    Like I said, this anime expects a lot from the audience, not the least of which is an awareness and appreciation for the kinds of social norms that pervaded Japan in the 60s. It also assumes a huge appreciation for improvised jazz, which thematically influences the unpredictable and seemingly chaotic nature of the plot. For those of us that know the absolute liberation felt when listening to improvised jazz sessions, this anime really touches the soul. In fact, it’s no surprise that those that give it the highest praises are also huge jazz freaks.

    Anyway, these are my thoughts :).

  12. Kingportable May 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Anime is all business and this is one of the few gems of late that has come out and given us a unique anime with originality That’s why people are so delighted see it.

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