The final episode of Apollon takes place over the span of about 9 years from the aftermath of Sentarou’s departure all the way to the final reunion at the end. In that space in between Kaoru tries to burn his bridges with Ritsuko, then has an emotional departure as he heads to Tokyo. Then, 8 years in the future, characters make cameos which ultimately lead to Kaoru finding Sentarou on an island church where they play yet another set just as Ritsuko arrives.
There were a number of problems with how this series ended that go far beyond the fact that it appeared numerous details were skipped from the source material. The immediate one I can think of is that everything seems to go right for everyone by Sentarou choosing to leave. Kaoru is able to study and go to a university in Tokyo to become a doctor. The high school students get temporary happiness by being able to use the roof for the first time. Seiji and his band had a clear path to victory at the cultural festival which led to his becoming a celebrity in the future, and Maruo becoming popular before landing his dream job. Going back even further, Yurika and Jun ended up happy because of that performance he abandoned.
Notable in its absence, though, is the rest of Sentarou’s old family. While I’m pretty certain the manga may cover this and have his father become a good father to the rest of the family, it does seem like those he left behind did get tossed out for the new set of kids he gets to raise at the church. In the rush to have a conclusion, I think Sentarou could be seen as callous, even if it in no way resembles that in the source material.
As for Kaoru, he seemed to be an interesting story in this last episode. I think prior to Seiji’s appearance on screen he had reverted to a role where he was doing what he was supposed to do, rather than what he wanted. He had to break ties with Ritsuko because he wouldn’t have been able to become a promising doctor in Tokyo, but he wanted to do it in a way so she would hate him. That was very much similar to Jun’s attempts to break away from Yurika, but Ritsuko’s circumstances were very much different.
The only break from that in the beginning was his farewell to her from the street in front of the record store. I think he just wanted closure on their relationship, but it had the opposite effect of another emotional farewell on the train platform. I think that scene could have worked for an ending, but it continued.
Eight years later, doing the daily grind of an intern at a hospital, Kaoru didn’t seem like he had any purpose. His life was on autopilot, and most importantly he wasn’t having fun. Following a string of cameo appearances from Seiji, Yurika, Maruo and probably some more I left out, he found himself chasing after Sentarou again. His life once again had a purpose for him that wasn’t chosen by others for the first time in almost a decade.
As for other parts of the episode, I was glad that at least some of the characters seemed to display some change after the time skip. Yurika seemed to be an incredibly happy person living with the one she loved. I’ve already highlighted Kaoru’s change. Sentarou seemed a bit more mature, even if he still caused problems with authority. On the other hand, the shock that train otaku Maruo would end up working with trains was woefully predictable. Couldn’t he have become a rock god instead? That would have at least been more interesting.
Now as for the series as a whole since this was the last episode. I think there was probably enough time to fit the story into 12 episodes, but in the last 3 episodes if felt like large chunks of the story were chopped to try to get it in. Maybe 13 episodes would have worked better, but I don’t think that would have been necessary. As for the pantheon of works directed by Watanabe, I don’t think Apollon will live that long in the memory as a great series. That said, it’s far and away the best series of any duration that I’ve seen this year to date. At the very least, a proper conclusion to Kaoru and Ritsuko’s story would have sufficed.