These are a few of my favorite things…
So, I finally wrapped up Sakamichi no Apollon last night, and to give a rough idea of their quality, I spent the entire forty minutes or so somewhere on the edge of tears. To put it a slightly different way, I really enjoyed the ending, and I think that it elevated the show slightly in my estimation.
To be perfectly honest, SnA wasn’t exactly what I was anticipating. From the promos and the description, it sounded like there was going to be more of a focus on music and the revolutionary taste of 1960s Japan than there actually was in the show. And while I did enjoy the show, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed a few weeks ago that there hadn’t been more of that theme in the proceedings. However, with the final two episodes, I have to admit that my opinion has changed slightly; the show ended up being more about coming of age and finding one’s place, with jazz and revolution as the vector, not the goal. It wasn’t what I thought I would get, but I think it worked extremely well.
Of course, part of this stems from the fact that things did not turn out ideally for Kaoru, Ritsuko, and Sentarou. The series certainly ends on a positive note (no pun intended), but its safe to say that isn’t quite what Kaoru was hoping for, nor Ritsuko. But I liked that. It felt honest.
Breaking into a new paragraph because I do want to touch on spoilers a bit, I really liked that Ritsuko and Kaoru didn’t work out. It would’ve felt a bit cheap had they; they made their confession scene and everything, but nothing much happened after that, and if it had been forced as a romance after that stale period, it would’ve felt forced. I also think it gave Ritsuko the chance to spread her own wings more, something I don’t think she could’ve with either the childhood friend (Sentarou) or the high school sort of sweetheart (Kaoru). We only see a shot of her eight years later, but even from just that one glimpse, its obvious that she’s changed and matured quite a bit.
A last spoiler thing; I really enjoyed these final two episodes (Kaoru dropping his spoon at Seiji’s TV appearance was great), but there was a lot that was a bit off about them, too. Sentarou’s bike accident was so obvious before it happened, as were several of the other things that happened (something happening to prevent them from participating in the school festival, which was obvious before the bike accident was. Kaoru rushing off after he learns that Sachiko has massive head trauma and might not wake up felt weirdly callous of him, even though we know he was running to go find Sentarou. And, sure, Maruo seems like a sweet guy and all, but the scene with the girl asking for his button was pretty stupid.
While SnA got a bit bogged down in teenage romance antics in the middle, and I would’ve preferred less of that, the characters were likeable enough that I was willing to endure it, and even enjoyed a little bit of it. And I think, really, this is why SnA was an enjoyable and good show – the characters were really likeable, which made me actually care about them. They also, delightfully, behaved like real teenagers, which is even now fairly uncommon to find in an anime. I could quibble that I would’ve liked a little more development of Ritsuko, but I’m not going to be a sourpuss about it, she had a decent enough amount of depth.
With something like SnA, I would be remiss to not mention the music. The OP and ED didn’t really do much for me, but the OST was definitely top of the line, just demonstrating once again that Yoko Kanno’s really in a league of her own for composers who work on anime. And on the music front, I was quite surprised when Ritsuko opened her mouth and started singing in English… and it wasn’t totally awful and Engrishy. You could definitely tell she’s not an English speaker, but her pronounciation was really good, and I really, really enjoyed that rendition of ‘My Favorite Things’.
Finally, the animation. Absolutely amazing during the music performance scenes; I don’t think I’ve seen anything so fluid in a TV anime since the first Soul Eater OP. Pretty good at all other times.
SnA was good; not what I was expecting, but really good nonetheless. The finale somehow managed to be well-executed despite some rather obvious flaws, and bumped the show up from good to very good. Music lovers and those who enjoy shows set more immediately in post-WWII Japan in particularl will probably enjoy it.