Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: Sakamichi no Apollon

Second Anniversary

Marlin-samaTwo years ago, I announced that I was starting an anime blog. Based on my previous attempts to share my thoughts with the world up until that point, I wasn’t optimistic that this would be anything more than a temporary diversion that I would abandon after a few weeks. But here I am not only still going strong, but expanding the scope of my projects to greater and greater objectives.

I set out to make my voice heard in order to counter the mainstream opinions and give anime fans a chance to think about not what they like, but why they like it (and often why I don’t).  To all my readers, I won’t say that I couldn’t have done it without you—because I most certainly could have.  But the journey wouldn’t have been nearly as fun and interesting without you.  And for that I say thank you.

I’d like to take some time now and reminisce about some of the high points over the past two years and do a “greatest hits” list of posts I enjoyed writing and/or others enjoyed reading.  So I invite you to make yourself comfortable as I take you on a journey that started back in summer 2011…gosh it feels so much longer. Has it really only been two years?  Read more of this post


Anime of the Week (4/29 – 5/5)

Anime of the Week – Accel World
This week showed some really good shounen action with a proper balance of natural character growth and decisive vision to set up events to come.

(Obviously Black Lotus is a reference to the famously poweful Magic card of the same name but kudos to you if you know what real card Silver Crow is referencing without looking it up.)                               

April 29 Fate/Zero Ep. 17 My suspicions continue to be confirmed. This series continues to be as unsurprising as ever. I can predict everything.
Accel World Ep. 4 It seems unfair that just because you’re in a coma you can be attacked by another burst linker and completely defenseless.
April 30 Eureka AO Ep. 2 This series continues to emulate its parent while being true to itself—an ironic coincidence considering the main character.
May 1 Zombie 2 Ep. 2 A weird blend of deviant social discourse and slice of life. I don’t see what the merger of these two themes will accomplish.
May 2 Eureka AO Ep. 3 Is it when you’re young and simply don’t know better that you’re willing to take risks? Ao may be lost, but he has guts.
Hyouka Ep. 1 Initial impression – cleverly imaginative and well composed
Jormungand Ep. 4 Koko’s compassion towards her enemies is surprisingly gracious even for her, but I’m glad to see she’s not naive.
May 3 Kids on the Slope Ep. 3 I like Shinichiro Watanabe when he tells a more organized story and I prefer Yoko Kanno to play more powerful music.
What is there to like about Kids on the Slope?
Hyouka Ep. 2 When I watch this show time seems to mysteriously slow to a leisurely pace making the enjoyment feel longer than 25 minutes.
May 5 Accel World Ep. 5 Haruyuki is on a roll. Between revealing a new, unique power and reconciling with his friends his potential is growing.
Shining Hearts: Shiawase no Pan Ep. 1 Initial impression – aimless and silly (3/10)

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

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.

Anime of the Week (4/22 – 4/28)

Anime of the Week – Jormungand
Coupled with superbly cast voice acting and a premise that gets you cheering for the upstart underdog, I’ve been swept up by this anime’s whirlwind pace.                                
April 22 Fate/Zero Ep. 16 It’s like these last few episodes have been rushing to bring up the death toll to compensate for the first season’s lack.
Kids on the Slope Ep. 2 Everything about this show is so disappointingly ordinary and unbefitting of the great names behind its creation.
April 24 Medaka Box Ep. 2 As messed up as this anime is at times, I’m starting to discover it has a charming side that’s urging me to stick with it.
April 25 Accel World Ep. 2 Haruyuki’s cleverness and background knowledge made him a winner. It’s a kind of smart that any gamer could appreciate.
Accel World Ep. 3 I thought this episode had great character development, but I wonder how many people got lost on all the computer terms.
April 27 Sankarea Ep. 4 This series defies all my expectations. I was worried it would turn into a quirky romance but it’s still deeply intellectual.
March 28 Jormungand Ep. 1 Initial impression – risky, clever and auspicious
Sengoku Collection Ep. 1 Initial impression – unoriginal, but not entirely mind-numbing (4/10)
Jormungand Ep. 2 I like how this series juxtaposes Koko’s unsavory occupation with her likeable personality and brilliant intellect.
Jormungand Ep. 3 Bringing in some determined rivals for Koko and her team helps show she’s not as wildly unprincipled as she appears.
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 4 This episode was less moe compared to the last few, but it makes up for it nicely with some smart sociological discourse.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (4/15 – 4/21)

Anime of the Week – Sankarea
The emotional energy of this anime is powerful. Rea’s despair and despiration, her father’s madness and Chihiro’s shock and awe are unbelievably tangible.
April 16 Fate/Zero Ep. 15 The battle was epic as always, but I’m more interested to know what’s going on behind the scenes. What is Kirei up to?
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 1 Initial impression – fuel for the moe inferno
April 17 Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A Ep. 1 Initial impression – pleasing, but lacking impact (5/10)
Mirai Nikki Ep. 26 With an epilogue like that after a nebulous ending it feels very much like this series can’t possibly be over just yet.
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 2 It’s like there’s a delicate perfection protecting this series and I fear that the slightest jostle will break it.
April 18 Kids on the Slope Ep. 1 Initial impression – significantly underwhelming
April 19 Eureka Seven AO Ep. 1 Initial impression – more refreshing than expected
April 20 Sankarea Ep. 3 The reactions Chihiro exhibits are priceless. The crescendo of emotions go from shock to despair and finally disbelief.
Tsuritama Ep. 1 Initial impression – I want to like it but…eh… (5/10)
April 21 Tasogare Otome Ep. 2 This show has some very good wordplay. I also like how the ecchi moments are underwritten with Yuuko’s playful teasing.
Acchi Kocchi Ep. 3 I think what’s making this series so awesome is the excellent balance of personalities throughout the diverse cast.
Haiyore! Nyaruko-san Ep. 1 Initial impression – just…what? (2/10)

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Kids on the Slope Ep. 1

Initial impression – significantly underwhelming

Spring 2012 (12 episodes) (Japanese title – Sakamichi no Apollon) (more info)

I know this is a weird, random thing to complain about, but I don’t think the people in Kids on the Slope are very good looking…  When I think about the works of Shinichiro Watanabe I have an image of bursting out of the starting gates with something big, flashy and tone setting.  So being left hanging on the easygoing pace set by the first episode is a bit of a letdown to say the least.  But what really shocked me about the beginning of this series is the absence of any tone-defining music courtesy of Yoko Kanno.  Aside from one teensy fight scene, there was absolutely no atmospheric mood that is typically indicative of her work (think Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, RahXephon, and Macross Frontier).  If the series lacks her strong music style I’m losing optimism fast and I can’t help but say aloud that the duo that made Cowboy Bebop one of the best anime of all time is not living up to their potential.  Additionally this sort of “serious music” story that’s superficially reminiscent of snooze-inducing shows like Nodame Cantabile doesn’t thrill me whatsoever.  Given the talent that lies with this anime’s staff I intend to continue watching for a while longer to see how it progresses, but I’ve not been wowed by the relaxed pace Kids on the Slope exhibits in its first episode.