So into my first attempt at blogging a Noitamina show. While it’s mainly associated with quality over the years, for someone like me it’s become another matter entirely. The disappointing ending of Honey & Clover, Guilty Crown, the money-spinning exercise that was Black Rock Shooter and of course Fractale. Even my thought that C was one of their better shows was considered a little strange, but I digress.
In Sakamichi no Apollon, we have the combination of Watanabe Shinichiro and Kanno Yoko to direct and provide music respectively. While also being written by someone who did a few episodes of Akane-iro Somaru Saka. A mixed bag of course, but I figured this probably presented the first real opportunity for me to blog a currently airing show that didn’t turn out to be a disappointment either in quality or in sales.
The first episode presents us with a lead character, Nishimi Kaoru, who has a grim view of the world. That changes as he meets Ritsuko and Sentarou who all become friends even if they don’t consciously realize it yet. There were quite a few things I found interesting about this episode obviously.
First, the setting of 1966 does make it seem like the world has become an entirely different place. One of Kaoru’s internal thoughts is that he struggles to make out the Kyushu accent. What may be considered a day trip in the modern world was like traveling to an entirely different country 45 years ago. And those journeys have taken a toll on Kaoru since he doesn’t fit the bill of a traditional child of the time.
He’s a child of a single parent, which has forced him to move from place to place. All the while he developed social anxiety in not wanting to stick out to much. Being the new guy all the time speaking in an entirely different accent makes that rather hard to avoid.
First, enter Sentarou, who is also seen as an outcast because he doesn’t act like anyone else. He’s not anti-social, and he doesn’t dread going on the hill to school like everyone else. He also struck me as rather bored of life, living to a jazz beat while everything else went at the same rhythm. Kaoru changed that simply by having a quirk that required him to go to the roof of the building when under stress. He just wanted to see what happened to him even if it was during a downpour.
Ritsuko, as Sentarou’s childhood friend, took an interest in Kaoru because at first he was the new person and she was the class chair, but then because he seemed to be the first person Sentarou had been friendly with in a long time. She further pushes the story along by dragging him to a record store and forcing Kaoru to meet Sentarou in a much less formal place.
Now onto the music. It plays a role throughout the episode. Kaoru’s one consistency in life has been the piano. Good classical music that can only ever be played in one way correctly. Which is where Sentarou’s role in the episode proved so important. When Kaoru was trying to play some jazz piano, the lesson wasn’t about how technically correct the music was played, but rather how it felt to someone listening to it. Even his cousin early in the episode was bored with his technically proficient classical piano.
The record store that Ritsuko’s father owned was also very interesting just for who was in there. It was stocked filled with the latest jazz records from the States. The people browsing the store were in naval uniforms. This was still 1966, in the middle of the Vietnam War and that part of they were in a part of Japan that was used to house parts of the US Navy. This sets up a rather interesting set up going forward. Will this new group of jazz playing musicians end up playing to a bunch of American sailors while scorned by their peers? It poses an interesting question going forward.
Also, there were two fantastic moments involving Kaoru which involved no speech at all. After standing out in the rain without an unbrella and then returning, he no longer felt the tension he felt before as though the rain had washed it all away. The second was in the basement when he held his ear while Sentarou played the drums. He couldn’t make sense of the sound he was hearing until that magical moment when he found the beat and he stopped covering his ear. Just like that, his mind had been opened to a new world.