Sakamichi no Apollon is a school drama from 2012. The original manga was written by Kodama Yuki. The anime version was brought to us by MAPPA & Tezuka, neither of which I’ve seen a lot from. I don’t know what to expect from this one at all. So, let’s just get right into it.
Our focus is on Nishimi Kaoru, a bright young student who plays the piano and moves a lot. He’s also a complete drama queen, but we’ll talk about that later. Nishimi suffers from social anxiety issues and feels the need to get some air on the roof after things take a slightly unanticipated turn. Fortunately for him, he’s able to overcome that within about five minutes of meeting Kawabuchi Sentarou. Aren’t we all glad that plot point was there? I mean, it contributed so much to the narrative. He and Sentarou wind up becoming friends and playing jazz together while filling the time between sessions with melodrama.
Therein lies the massive underlying problem with the series. Everything has to be overly melodramatic. Dude falls in love after knowing a girl for all of two minutes? Better act like this is super serious and dramatic. Someone gets rejected? Total drama. Sentarou might play… rock music with a band made up of their class mates? This is clearly the most important disaster in history. Don’t even pretend that worse things have happened. Although, in all fairness, the series actually acknowledges that that one is childish. To exacerbate things, however, the vast majority of these “hyper, ultra dramatic situations” get resolved, at least to a satisfactory degree, in the next episode. Probably would’ve worked better with fewer sources of drama that were ongoing.
Here’s the thing, teenagers can be overly dramatic about stupid things but watching teenagers be overly dramatic about stupid things is really annoying. Especially when the narrative treats it like it’s super serious. This shite isn’t serious, it’s dumb teenagers being drama queens. So, when two things that are actually serious happen in the last couple episodes they just don’t have much weight. Especially when one, an injury, gets resolved in less than five minutes. The romance is honestly where it’s at its worst. We start with a ridiculous situation where one dude likes a girl, she likes another guy, he likes a different girl and she likes this other guy. From there, we get a lot of overblown angst and aggravation because we can’t pummel these wankers.
The only good parts of the series are the jazz jam sessions where the characters are just enjoying themselves for once. Unfortunately, these scenes are vastly outweighed by the scenes where drama is happening over something that really doesn’t matter.
The characters in this are reminiscent of the worst people you knew in secondary school. You know the ones. They treat everything that’s remotely upsetting to them as an unmitigated disaster. Then they get mad at you because you openly don’t care and won’t even remotely validate them. Kaoru is the worst about it, putting distance between himself and his friends on multiple occasions but always for petty reasons. Kodama, you do know that introverts don’t have those kinds of rifts just because we’re socially awkward and need to limit our time around people, right? Usually we just excuse ourselves from an event or don’t go out for a while when we need time alone. And, trust me on this one, your friends will understand if you just tell them “Hey, I need some time alone. Can you try calling back tomorrow?” Yes, even in High school.
The artwork is one positive the series has going for it. The backgrounds are well detailed and look quite nice. The characters are drawn well. The animation is nice and smooth. So, I’ll give them full credit on that one. They may not have produced something with a compelling narrative or tolerable characters but they made what they had look pretty.
The acting in this is passable enough. Our main cast is made up of Hosoya Yoshimasa (Reiner Braun), Kimura Ryouhei (Sorey) & Nanri Yuuka (Takakura Erika). Their performances here are perfectly fine. The music is pretty good, mostly. I won’t pretend that I cared for the theme tune and its whiny sounding singing but the jazz is good. Kanno Yoko’s soundtrack in general works nicely.
There’s a little bit. Kaouru goes off on a tangent about how handsome Sentarou is at one point. And Sentarou calls him an angel at another. Bad dialogue writing or unexplored sexual tension, you make the call.
When it comes to the basics, the artwork, music and acting, Sakamichi no Apollon does just fine for itself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do so well in terms of the main content. The characters are overly melodramatic to the point of being quite obnoxious a lot of the time. The narrative is a lot of annoying, all too easily resolved melodrama with the occasional good jazz session thrown in. All factors considered, it’s kind of a bad series. Although you might enjoy it if you like that High school melodrama. For myself, I lost all patience for that while I was still in High school and watching this was, more often than not, an irritation. So, for myself, I give it a 3/10. Next week I’ll look at Wizardry.