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)