I love jazz. Some of my favorite memories of my time living in Florida have to be going downtown to listen to the local jazz festival. Sitting in front of that gazebo and getting into the spirit of the musicians is something you can only experience if you listen to jazz. It’s so different from any other musical genre and I was excited as hell to get to watch an anime centered around this amazing style of music.
The problem is Sakamichi no Apollon isn’t as much about jazz as it is about lame characters. There’s jazz in the series, and it definitely plays a part, but it doesn’t play as large a part as I wish it would. This seems to be the theme of music-based anime, not paying attention to the music as much as the boring lives of the characters. Jazz is frantic, it changes with the mood. There are a lot of things about jazz that could have been played out in Sakamichi no Apollon that aren’t. That heart and soul of jazz are only seen during the portions where the characters play music. Other than that, the series falls flat.
Kaoru is a guy. He goes to high school. He’s a bookworm.
Sentarou is a guy. He goes to high school. He fights a lot.
Ritsuko is a girl. She goes to high school. I can’t discern her character besides “love interest”.
Together they are the three main characters of our little drama. Kaoru goes to high school as the new kid. He meets Sentarou who is a pretty violent guy who skips classes (the delinquent). Sentarou is a drummer who plays jazz with Ritsuko’s father and a guy named Jun. Kaoru, who can play the piano, joins in on the fun and learns how to evolve from his classical roots into the realm of jazz.
There are, of course, some bumps on the road. A couple of love triangles (those are the main plague that infest this anime), Sentarou’s problems with his father, and Jun’s becoming a good-for-nothing. The plot is really not that exciting. You’re watching this for the music more than likely, not the duo of love triangles that seem to give way to more of a bromance at the end than anything else.
This is where the plot becomes especially painful. The series plot is loose, and by that I mean nothing is consequential or matters. It’s there to hold the series together and give it a reason for being, but it’s mediocre at best. By the end, nothing really matters and the series goes back to square one.
“BUT RATCHET! WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?”
What music? There’s a little bit of music going around, but for a music based anime there’s not enough. As I said in the beginning of the review, there’s not a lot of music going on. There are a few songs here and there, but not enough to warrant being considered as "musically focused". It’s more just a school life anime than anything else and suffers because of the fact it tries to be something it is not.
“BUT AT LEAST IS HAS GOOD CHARACTERS!”
All the characters were generic at best. While Sentarou was a decent character, I grew to hate Kaoru more and more as the series progressed. It reached the pinnacle when he nearly raped Ritsuko. Ritsuko wasn’t a bad character, but she didn’t actually have a lot of character there. She was just there as a love interest and a plot point more so than anything. Jun was okay, but he also had some issues that made him dislikable. His girlfriend, Yurika, was okay.
I wasn’t really impressed by anything that concerned the plot. I was impressed with some of the music (the little that there was) and the animation was especially good during jam sessions and concerts, unbelievably so.
I’m unable to say too much about Sakamichi no Apollon because it’s so average. It’s the definition of average. Good music and good animation, mediocre characters and plot, and an overall disappointment. If the series had been longer I feel that perhaps the plot and characters would have been more entertaining. But as it is, Sakamichi no Apollon is merely adequate. The last episode feels especially rushed and I assumed I was meant to feel emotions of some sort, but was left not really caring. And when, by the end, I could care less what happens, then I know that I’m not watching anything special.
Sakamichi no Apollon is a hesitant pass for me. It's overhyped, and that hype is probably why you decided to jump on the bandwagon and check this anime out. There are some qualities that are enjoyable, but taken as a whole, it’s merely adequate in satiating the thirst for jazz, as well as the search for a good music anime.