Back in the day, there used to be a recurring argument. The conflict was pretty simple: who was the better composer, Yoko Kanno or Yuki Kajiura? But, despite the simplicity of the matter at hand, people simply could not agree.
I think that, with Sakamichi no Apollon, we can call the matter closed, completely. While Kajiura has largely languished, producing soundtrack after soundtrack that sounds exactly the same, Kanno has become an absolute master at her craft, and Sakamichi no Apollon thus far is her in top form. Sure, its only been an episode, and, yes, some of the music has pre-existed elsewhere (most notably, the jazz piece that both Kaoru and Sentarou play on the piano), but even so you can already hear the leagues of difference between Kajiura and Kanno. The Madoka Magica OST may’ve been the best Kajiura’s done since Petite Cossette, but her work on Fate/Zero has been business as usual (if you can hear the difference between, say, the Pandora Hearts OST and the Mai-HiME OST, I’ll eat my hat), and the music backing Sword Arts Online’s promos inspires no faith whatsoever.
But, lets move along to the rest of the episode.
Sakamichi no Apollon, which translates literally as Apollo on the Slope (and which I honestly prefer to the ‘official’ translation, Kids on the Slope), was easily the best premiere of the season. Although, considering what I’ve watched so far, I suppose that isn’t saying terribly much.
I already love the characters, even the crabby Kaoru, and enjoy watching their interaction. This, to me, is the primary draw, although the eye-popping liquidity of the animation while Sentarou was playing the drums was pretty entrancing. But while high-quality animation may be pretty to look at, I’m willing to chug along with something that has crap animation as well, so that isn’t enough to keep me engaged. So I’m glad the characters are so likeable. Yes! Even Kaoru, who is apparently the great-uncle of Itoshiki-sensei of Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei fame.
My only picky points is that the OP and ED aren’t jazz pieces, which is weird considering that jazz is the axis upon which the show is going to spin. My other is that the treatment of Kaoru by his relatives is just a touch over-the-top. It isn’t close to the sort of absurdity one can find in other shows with crappy relatives, but the moment involving the cousin and the piano just feels forced. Ah well. Minor complaints. The ED is a decent song and animation, I just would’ve preferred jazz.