Thursday, June 04, 2015

'Kids on the Slope' Is a Beautiful Piece on Jazz, Life, and Friendship

Set in the 1960’s, Kids on the Slope is a coming-of-age drama about high school friends that found joy and refuge in jazz while dealing with the struggles of youth.  The story primarily focuses on the bromance of Kaoru “Richie” Nashimi – a rich, academically achieving introvert – and Sentarō “Sen” Kawabuchi – who is basically the antithesis of Kaoru.  Despite being polar opposites, the two get to have a strong bond because of sharing a common love – jazz.

Kaoru is an adept classical pianist, but is initially not into jazz.    But, one day, he becomes intrigued with jazz music after listening to Sentarō’s drumming.  Kaoru buys a jazz record, starts to practice, and, from then on, he begins to love jazz and to regularly jam with Sentarō after class – he on the piano, and Sentarō on drums.  And as the story progresses, Kaoru and Sentarō develop fantastic rapport with each other.  Personally, I never thought before that a piano and a drum set are already enough to create such beautiful, full sound.   Listening to those two do just that blew me away.

Creating a “triangle” with Kaoru and Sentarō is Ritsuko Mukae.  Kaoru has feelings for Ritsuko, but Ritsuko has feelings for Sentarō.  However, despite this state of affairs, the three remain good friends (though, conflicts arise sometimes).

Ritsuko’s father, Tsutomu Mukae, owns a music shop, and its basement is where Kaoru and Sentarō would jam.  Occasionally, Tsutomu jams with them, as well as Junichi “Brother Jun” Katsuragi, a college friend whom Sentarō greatly looks up to; Tsutomu plays bass, and Brother Jun – a very talented musician – plays trumpet.

Eargasmic jazz music is a constant in Kids on the Slope.  The musicians that record the music behind the scenes really deserve to be praised.  And kudos as well to the people that drew and animated the scenes where the characters play their respective instruments with the appearance of thoroughness and authenticity.  As a result, I was really immersed into the music because there is no clumsy animation to distract me – the detail of the animation flawlessly matches the music being produced.

However, Kids on the Slope is not all about having fantastic taste in music.  It also has a heartfelt and thoughtful story to tell, with deep themes on friendship, making life decisions, young love, the sweetness and bitterness of life, and pursuing your dreams; and it features a profound metaphorical moral or two.  There is some complicated soap opera romance in it, which I find a little bit cheesy and heavy, but it’s appropriate to the narrative and intended message.

This anime series is created by the same people behind Cowboy Bebop so it’s no wonder that it’s something masterfully made.  Even if one doesn’t appreciate jazz music and/or teen drama, I believe he or she will still find this anime engaging.  It’s really worth checking out, and with only 12 episodes, it’s pretty easy to marathon.

No comments: