The beginning of summer, 1966.

Because of his father’s job situation, freshman high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves by himself from Yokosuka to Kyushu to live with relatives. Until then, Kaoru was an honor roll student who tended to keep to himself, but meeting notorious bad boy Sentaro Kawabuchi starts to change him. Through his devil-may-care classmate, Kaoru learns the attractions of jazz and finds the first person he can call a “friend”. He also discovers how much fun it is to play music with a pal.

Other characters include Sentaro’s kind childhood chum, Ritsuko, who is the daughter of a record shop owner; the mysterious upperclassman, Yurika; and Brother Jun, the much-admired leader among their peers. Set against the backdrop of a seaside town with a scent of American culture, this series is a drama about young people coming into their own, crossing each other’s paths, and finding friendship, love, and music!

Source: Kids on the Slope official site
Mini-review (until episode 4)

If you haven't guessed yet, I love this anime - from the ones I have chosen this season, it is without doubt my favourite (the other two are Space Brothers and Polar Bear Cafe).

The first thing I adored, and that immediately caught my attention was one of the main themes: Jazz! I love jazz, with its cheerful and agitated rhythm, adorned by a hint of style, and when I saw an anime with this thematic I had to follow it.

In addition, we have been given characters I consider charismatic and interesting. Just take a look at the protagonist: Kaoru, at the start, comes across as just yet another ned with self-confidence problems, but deep within he is a brave rebel soul that has been inhibited by his rigorous education and the lack of afection he has received - he even feels like a strange at home. Then we have Sentarou, who looks like an insurgent big boy, which he is, but, despite losing his head a few times, he manages to channel part of his energy in one unexpected activity - jazz music, which was generally associated to rebellion in the depicted decade (after all, it was "the enemy's music", as it was very popular in the USA, the potency that had been at war until recently, in the action's timeline, with Japan) and is, in truth, someone distrustful and with a hot head due to the circumstances of life, while keeping a gentle heart. And of course there are other main and supporting characters that accomplish their role and that I will not describe in detail for the time of keeping this short.

The story, as expected, is not a conspiracy of epic proportions or anything of the kind. However, one phrase that Kaoru said in episode 4 describes it well:
In other words, the story is simple, however it always carries surprises that keep us interested and, of course, are always related with the evolution of the characters and the reactions that come from the circumstances in which they are inserted.

In regards to the music, it's excellent - the background music is good and there have been great choices in terms of jazz music. To date there has been, at least, one excerpt per episode of a jazz song and even some references to the musicians themselves - it's enough to take a look at Ritsuko's father's shop! Another nice detail is that the episodes' titles are always associated to the music that stars in that episode.

The animation is another of the strong points. The atmosphere is well made, with a slightly vintage touch, fluid animations and with gestures from the characters that are pretty convincing (for example, the habit Kaoru has of removing his glasses when he is close to Ri'ko).

About the less positive points. A criticism that some may have is that the songs (and, by consequence, the musicians), are too mainstream, which is pertinent and may displease some people; personally, I think it is the best choice, as it is more pratical to present "la créme de la créme" to the viewers and, since jazz was underground in that timeframe, it is natural that having access to the most known works was easier.
We also have the issue of the love polygon
present that draws away some people, specially those who wanted an animé with a great focus on jazz and little more. If that is your case, then maybe you will not like this anime very much, as, despite jazz having an important role, it shares the spotlight with the famous slice of life genre, which concentrates in the plots of the characters, and, obviously, their relationships. I do not think the romance parts are bad, they fit and contribute to the growth of the group of characters that, after all, is in the age in which the hormonal levels are very high.
The only truly negative criticism I have at the moment is


Rest assured, my expectations are still high and my "Sakamichi no Apollon" moment is, without doubt, one of the best of the week. I recommend it, specially if you like jazz and/or a good slice of life.

--ghaskan




Feel free to discuss and comment the ongoing "Sakamichi no Apollon" here!