Posted on 30 June 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

Reading this volume of the manga makes me appreciate the ending of the anime even more: they actually successfully stuffed one entire volume of 180 pages in just one 20-minute episode and cut things out brilliantly. More on that below though, because first I wanted to talk about the rest of Kaoru’s years.

What I loved was how Kaoru returned to his mother, and how the two developed a healthy relationship. Beyond that, we’ve seen Kaoru grow up very well through college, and him seeing his family back was also very memorable. The manga had a lot more room to fill in a lot more details, and show how Kaoru subtly changes. Instead of randomly running into Yurika by accident, these events were all set up by Kaoru first running into Jun (that was another part that I loved here, as they showed two different versions of musicians growing up into normal jobs; his change was one that I really missed in the anime version). But as for the question which version I prefer, I’d have to say that I consider the anime ending to be better.

The way in which the love triangle was solved didn’t really work for me . It was all just too concrete: instead of everyone going their own ways, there is this random twist pulled with Ritsuko’s boyfriend turning out to be just some random dude she invited, and at the end Kaoru goes back to where everyone was and the love triangle moves from “resolved” to the eternal “will they won’t they” again.

What I loved about the anime ending was how much it focused on leaving things to the imagination, and how much effort it put in saying as much as possible with as little as possible. The entire college years were cut, but that doesn’t matter when you see the grown up Kaoru: him choosing to be a doctor was also cut, but when you see him it all makes sense. He must have built up a new life in Tokyo with his own friends and when he finally hears of Sentarou again, he can’t resist the urge to see him again ad telling Ritsuko all about it (there only was one shot of a letter, but that was enough to show that they had been keeping up correspondence), cutting out that pointless twist with he boyfriend completely. What happens after they see each other again? Who knows? There were no romantic hints whatsoever unlike with the manga ending, so things really could go anywhere: they will probably remain in contact with each other while living their own lives.

Another thing that the anime changed was how we were introduced to Sentarou. In the manga, the chapter starts and we see him again. In the anime however, we’re slowly introduced to him through the story of the people that he has been living with for the past eight years. We never see him cause trouble, but with his character we can imagine what he has been up to. And yeah, with music the church scene works so much better. He hears the organs playing, and knows immediately what’s going on. That was a perfect example of how to condense an entire volume into just one final episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Sakamichi no Apollon



Last year Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena fame made a surprise comeback after many years of absence. This year, it’s the turn for Shinichiro Watanabe to direct his first full series again after Samurai Champloo. Sakamichi no Apollon is a full drama. He already experimented a bit with this with the surprisingly good Baby Blue of Genius Party (much like how Masaaki Yuasa’s entry there became the prototype for Kaiba), but here he could go all out with a 12-episode Noitamina series.

Now, this series is a teenaged romance, which unfortunately is a very, very over-saturated genre, so the creators really had to do something in order to stand out. They found several ways. The first way is bringing in music. Playing instruments is a huge theme for many characters in this series, and it deserves to be praised how well the musical performances in this series look. the creators made use of Rotoscoping in order to make the animation of every single musical performance play synchronous with the actual music. This is something i have never seen before in a Television-series, especially with so much detail. Because of this, the creators are able to say so many things throughout these performances alone, and they often are the stand-out moments for every episode.

Second of all, there is the way in which this series portrays its characters, which is a huge level above what you normally see. At first sight they look like the ordinary stereotypes, but they immediately set themselves apart through their acting and by how self-aware they are. The series very subtly shows many different sides of them. On top of that, the series is chock full of events that force them to change and adapt. These are by far the most well-rounded, dynamic and fleshed out characters out of any other series this season. Probably of the entire year.

This season of Noitamina was definitely what the time-slot needed after the disaster that was Guilty Crown. There is jut one downside to it, and that is the huge amounts of angst that the creators use to keep the story going. Kaoru in particular is a character who is hard to like due to his social anxieties, and there is this constant tension between the characters that depends a lot on this angst and social phobia. Unlike other series though, the characters are fully aware of this and it gets used brilliantly for their development, rather than stalling for time.

Storytelling: 8.5/10 – Keeps the twists coming, very well paced for a Noitamina-series. A bit too much angst though.
Characters: 9/10 – Really well rounded characters in the end. Their acting is definitely a step above the norm.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Amidst all of the series with great visuals, Apollon stood out with its amazing rotoscoped musical performances. Plus, Yoko Kanno is awesome.
Setting: 8.5/10 – The setting isn’t the main focus of this series, but really allows the creators to do stuff with the characters that would not have been possible if the time period was any different.

Suggestions:
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai
Nodame Cantabile
True Tears

Posted on with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

So, while Tsuritama may have edged Apollon in terms of the pre-finale episodes, in terms of the ending Apollon is far superior. In fact, this was by far the best ending of the season, and the type of ending that I’ve been waiting for a long time. The episodes leading up to this indeed were a bit soap-opera-ish, but this episode turns all of that around and completely makes up for them.

This was one of the best epilogues I’ve seen in a long while, and it made brilliant use f how Noitamina is aimed at an older audience. Because of this, it was able to give a great characterization to the characters in their versions of eight years later, in which they all went their own ways. In Tsuritama, the epilogue just showed random couples forming, or people chasing their dreams, but this was so much better, as it showed of nearly everyone how they ended up groing up and the people that they turned into.

I have been especially waiting for a romantic ending like this. I mean, romance endings are usually of two types: the characters finally confess to each other and live happily ever after, or nothing happens and they remain in a state of “will they won’t they”. Then this episode came along with Kaoru finally making his moves… only to screw up completely.

I love how that one played out: romance in anime is always made out to be this absolute factor. Here however, things just didn’t work out. Ritsuko had her moments where she really disliked what Kaoru did, but in the end she still likes him, just not enough to get into a relationship with him. Too bad. And after that everyone just goes on with their own lives. Thank you for this ending, Apollon. Your characterization was always a step above the rest, and this episode cemented that.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 22 June 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

For a minute I felt a bit cheated by this episode. Not because of the start though: I like how it turned the cliff-hanger of last week around by having Kaoru stop Sentarou at the last minute. After that though… Studio Mappa… a slide-show montage? Those are for lazy storyboarders who don’t know how to animate a certain part of the manga.

The real part that made me raise an eyebrow though was when Sentarou went off to return one of the music sheets that Kaoru forgot. You’re really going to end this lazily by killing him? It was all just too obvious. And don’t get me wrong: I really like a good major character death and they should be pulled more often, but this is just the complete wrong place for it.

What happened afterwards totally made up for it though: the revelation that it wasn’t Sentarou who was in critical condition in the hospital, but Sachiko. So yeah, Sentarou who was already facing huge difficulties in accepting his place in the family just drove one of his younger sisters into the hospital. It fits in much more with the themes of this series than just randomly killing him off, and the creators made excellent use of it. I really loved the climax, and it also created an absolutely wonderful set-up for the final episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 June 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

Apollon, I thought that you were too good to pull the “walking into naked”-card. Of course it was well explained and it was used well, but still this remains something that needs to die.

But yeah, this episode then proceeded to put in the same amount of development that most shows only manage in three times that amount. It got through the annoying, triumphant and calm before the storm stage by the end of it with Kaoru confessing again after a long period of dodging around the issue, even though that in the it only helped to return to the status quo.

The big twist for me in this episode though was Sentarou’s father returning, especially after how much effort he put into advancing to the third year thanks to Kaoru. I know that he hates his father and that he very likely sees that he loses his place in the family this way, but for him to disappear is quite radical. At first I thought that they were going with the predictable school festival ending, but this is a drama before this is a musical series, so this is indeed a great way to spice things up.

Speaking of which: no instruments were played i this episode.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 June 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

So Apollon decided to use the time before its finale in order to resolve the romance between the side-characters. This episode was all about Jun and Yurika, and actually a really good balance to the angst of the previous episodes, by finally actually resolving things, getting people to clear up misunderstandings and getting one couple together. After so many complicated feelings, this episode removed a lot of the different tensions and brought the cast back together, and it’s great that this is done before the finale.

Now we have three (yes, Apollon will be 12 episodes) episodes left for the three main characters. It’s here where all of the build-up needs to come together, and this series has to make use of its build-up. A great example of how to do this was with Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei. These three episodes will need to excel in this show’s own ways, most likely through impeccable acting and great character-development.

The rotoscoped scenes by the way look as good as ever. I mean, compare this to Tsuritama where it’s obvious that the biggest amount of budget was blown in the first episode, here the creators are still able to keep up a consistent animation quality up. The rotoscoped parts may not be as impressive compared to if they were had-animated, but still they look really impressive, and good unlike any other TV-anime out there.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 31 May 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

This really was an episode that focused on the different romances going on, to the point where the first couple has been formed. The end of the episode is pretty much the point where this series goes back to being a love triangle, but a very messy one at that, with character A thinking that character B likes character C while she is growing to like character A more unbeknownst to him, at a point when character C has realized that she had a crush on him.

These love triangles are very easy to screw up and devolve into a soap opera, but what I really like is how the creators made use of Rituko’s character development to further complicate things, rather than pulling some random twist for the sake of drama. The way she came to like Kaoru after spending a lot of time with him, knowing he has a crush on her, while trying to move away from Sentarou… it’s plausible for all of this to happen: over the course of the past episodes we were given enough reasons for her change.

The problem I have with series about teenagers is that there are too many of them: it gets harder and harder to stand out. However, when one comes along that is as well acted as Apollon, I’ll gladly shove these biases aside. That doesn’t change the fact that I want to see more variety in anime, especially considering that “seinen”-series that are supposed to focus on young adults feature teenaged lead characters more often than not. I can’t really fault the creators for picking an excellent manga about teenagers and animating it incredibly well.

But still, we’re currently in a very important half year for Noitamina: these are four series that really need to do well after the Guilty Crown disaster. Apollon and Tsuritama for being really well executed. Natsuyuki and Moyashimon meanwhile need to succeed in order to prove that there still is an audience for series about adults.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 May 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

And from out of nowhere…. the big concert scene of this series. And really: that was just amazing. On paper it could have been an incredibly cheesy episode, but those animators… they did an incredible job of bringing that performance of Kaoru and Sentarou to life. And Yoko Kanno, you are awesome. Everything just came together in this episode and it managed to surpass itself.

Awkwardness and being unable to talk to each other has been done before. Heck, it has caused a lot of annoyances in the past when characters just flat-out refused to talk to each other. This however; this was the best example of how being unable to talk should be done right. It should be incredibly uncomfortable. It should make the characters feel really uneasy. But at the same time it shouldn’t drag on for bloody ages as a way to pad out more romance. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kimi ni Todoke. The awkwardness in this series however changes constantly: it’s full of character-development and not just meant for the characters to overcome their fears at the end of the episode.

The characters: they all stepped out of their own roles. Sentarou got much more mature (he actually didn’t think about fighting at all; usually punks like him are shown as always easily ticked off. Kaoru meanwhile became more social, edged on by his classmates of all people, resulting in that wonderful performance at the end and Ritsuko felt more like an ordinary high school girl than any other episode so far. And there are still four episodes left.
Rating: ***+ (Amazing)

Posted on 17 May 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

Yeah, with this it’s yet again apparent that this show is a step above most other shows about teenagers. The bond between Sentarou and Kaoru is unique. This episode was quiet, but chock full of touches that bring tension to their relationship. It’s hard to describe, but most series with relationships like this have very clear borders between how characters behave: first they’re bickering for a while, then they are laughing for a while, and then comes a moment of being heart-warming. The changes in mood are all very simple. Here though, the tone that these guys use towards each other changes constantly. One moment they’re having fun, the other Kaoru’s jealousy plays up again. There are so many subtly different sides to how they act toward each other.

Including things I can’t recall having ever seen before. Like the point where Sentarou sternly lectures Kaoru talking down on that new kid with the mushroom haircut. That really hit me in a way that I don’t think anime has reached before. It’s also a scene that said so much about the two of them, which eventually culminated into the ending. I love how Kaoru was portrayed there and how he knew very well that he acted really childish, not knowing how to really get along with people due to the way he was brought up.

The rest of the cast also changed. Aside from perhaps the three new characters, but they were a great catalyst for change as well, even though they were a bit weird at first. The Jun subplot really got interesting at the end of the episode with that cliff-hanger, while Ritsuko is also visibly changing constantly after what happened to Kaoru with her.

Overall, at this point it really looks like Apollon is Noitamina’s big hitter of 2012. It has such a refinement that is unmatched and I doubt will even be matched by the shows that will follow this year, only if Matsuo Kou manages to surpass himself with Natsuyuki this can perhaps be changed.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 10 May 2012 with categories: Sakamichi no Apollon

Watching someone with a broken heart… isn’t the most interesting thing out there. That’s what most of this episode was though: Kaoru formally got rejected, and recovers at the end of the episode. Because of that I wouldn’t really say that this episode was among the highlights of this series. But the creators tried to make up for it in quite an interesting way.

This definitely was an interesting place to put Kaoru’s parents. First of all his father came back (something he longed for for quite a while now), and he also ended up meeting his mother for the first time since he was a little kid. This episode was necessary for Kaoru’s development so that he can finally move on as a character, and because of that mother the creators definitely didn’t waste a moment to do some quality character-building.

This episode also added to the rest of the cast. Ritsuko recovered visibly from the shock of last episode (she was particularly good at the point where she rejected Kaoru). It’s revealed that Jun has some serious issues and Mariko also visibly changed now that she’s in love with him. I do wonder where the creators plan to take things from now though: like I said before: Kaoru’s confession to Ritsuko happened bafflingly early. Did he really get over his crush in this episode and will the real meat of this series be something completely different, or will this show turn into some “will they won’t they” soap-opera?
Rating: *+ (Great)

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  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 05:18 AM)
    Oh, awesome, dark horse is releasing volume 10 of black lagoon in April, its been nearly five years since the last complete volume…
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:56 AM)
    @Aidan: I think theres something seriously wrong when theres the actually possibility of there being a good PA works anime but we all have our opinions =P
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:13 AM)
    @Raggers, I will go into detail when I review it. But I think something is seriously wrong when I get a far more satisfying ending out of shirobako than Death parade.
    Looking forward to writing a review of shirobako too.
  • Raggers
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:56 AM)
    @Aidan: it wasn’t bad though. I think it suffered from too high expectations and lack of focus (or overreaching).
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:29 AM)
    Well. Death parades ending was quite underwhelming.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:21 PM)
    Waiting between releases for this will be a good thing, its the sort of manga you pick up and put down, then go back to with breaks in between.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:13 PM)
    13 volumes into dorohedero, I’ve found it good enough to buy now that I’ve caught up with the official English releases. While the plot meaders and is kind of messy, isn’t up to much, I love how crazy the gory action is, the gritty artstyle/world and the black comedy more than well make up for it. It works best when focused on those masked gangster magician guys and also the main character, the others are only alright.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 02:19 AM)
    @Aidan: true, but I don’t think the level is anywhere close to a true shounen. And once the basic rules are established it’s strategising and straight out fighting.
    I’d be more inclined to call it seinen with shounen elements than actually shounen.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 09:59 PM)
    Good all action finale to cap off Garo there, went out with a bang, though thing is I have no idea where their going to go with this when the movie, second season comes along, this seems like a pretty good point to finish.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 05:35 PM)
    I think that just about all the manga serialized in ultra jump feel less seinen than those serialized in other seinen magazines.

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