Wed 6 Jun 2012
Sakamichi no Apollon is definitely one of the most popular shows of the season. For the past sevreal weeks, it has been at the top of the Anime Power Rankings. Even before the anime season began, I felt the hype surrounding this show. The premise alone was enough to catch my interest — two teenagers coming together though the magic of jazz. Watanabe Shinichiro as director and Kanno Yoko as music composer appeared a dream team poised to create yet another spectacular character drama.
The title implies a coming of age story, so I was prepared for some teen angst. The first couple episodes introduced the two main protagonists in Kaoru and Sentaro. We learn of their different personalities and witness the eventual blossoming of their friendship. In addition to two potential love interests, we see a web of romantic relationships. While the drama was prevalent, it wasn’t overwhelming; it was still clearly about growing pains and music. Each episode, we learn more about each character and their personalities, gradually learning more about their personalities, background, and goals.
My problem with the show isn’t entirely the drama itself, but the lack of resolution. Each episode adds new troubles Kaoru and Sentaro without clearing up previous problems. The main duo eventually learn about each others circumstances, but the show does not explore the issue any further and instead focuses on love triangles. It may have added some depth to the character relationships, but not the characters themselves.
This becomes especially frustrating in later episodes when the conflicting love interests become the central focus. The episodes are filled with characters dealing with their emotional swings. Their problems continue to pile up when coupled with family troubles and changing times. However, the characters themselves do not change as a response. They do not really try to overcome their issues, and they don’t seem to learn from the experience. For a character drama, this lack of development hinders the plot progression of the show.
However, a bulk of my disappointment may simply be unmet expectations. Much of the initial hype was based on the jazz concept. Honestly, I was hoping it would be like a jazz-version of Nodame Cantabile. That show was a romance drama at its core, but the classical music element was always prevalent. It was clear that music was an integral part of the plot. The music of Sakamichi no Apollon doesn’t feel connected to the story. Its importance has faded as the show more focused on the romantic drama. It is not necessarily a bad direction, but not one that I expected.
Sakamichi no Apollon is not a bad show, just underwhelming. It has all components to make a fantastic anime: a decent story, likable characters, and great animation. The music by Kanno Yoko is fantastic, but it’s just not pieced together well. Jazz is the crux of the anime, but it doesn’t play any factor in the flurry of character relationships. There is still some potential for the show to change my opinion. Episode 7 had a wonderful musical piece to show the rekindled friendship of Kaoru and Sentaro. That easily could have worked as a fantastic series finale. Drama resolution and well-directed jazz segments for the last three episodes can easily turn this show around.