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Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 27, 2013 by  



inuyashamovies

“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray! 

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Filmworks. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection

YEAR OF RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 12 episodes (300 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14 LD

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013

Original Creator: Yuki Kodama

Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe

Script by Ayako Katoh, Yuuko Kakihara

Music by Yoko Kanno

Character Design by Nobuteru Yuki

Art Director: Shinichi Uehara

Anime Production by Mappa, Tezuka Productions

Featuring the voices of:

Ryohei Kimura/Chris Patton as Kaoru Nishimi

Yoshimasa Hosoya/Andrew Love as Sentarō Kawabuchi

Aya Endo/Maggie Flecknoe as Yurika Fukahori

Junichi Suwabe/David Matranga as Junichi Katsuragi

Yuuka Nanri/Rebeka Stevens as Ritsuko Mukae

Nobuhiko Okamoto/Blake Shepard as Seiji Matsuoka

Nozomi Furuki/Chris Martinez as Taichi

It’s the summer of 1966 and high school freshman Kaoru Nishimi is struggling to adjust to the latest of many moves in his young life, this time to his uncle’s home in the seaside town of Kyushu. It’s never easy adjusting. It’s never easy fitting in. But this time will be different. This time he’ll meet friends who will change his life forever. And he’ll discover a new passion, one that grabs his heart and rocks him to his very soul. It’s music. A beat. A whole new way of looking at life. It’s called jazz, and together with bad boy Sentaro and music store girl Ritsuko, they’re going to follow their muse to wherever their music takes them! You think garage bands are something new? Think again and travel to a time when dreams and a couple of musical instruments really could change the world! Get ready to be blown away by a tale of life, love and all that jazz in THE KIDS ON THE SLOPE!

In 2007, mangaka Yuki Kodama would create a manga series titled “Sakamichi no Apollon” which was serialized in “Flowers” Magazine.

The manga series would attract the attention of director Shinichiro Watanabe (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Samurai Champloo”, “Baby Blue”).  Knowing that the series would feature a lot of music (especially with jazz), who best than go to a person that is well known for creating music for anime series, Yoko Kanno (“Cowboy Bebop”, “Aquarion”, “Macross Frontier”, “Macross Plus”, “Escaflowne”, “Darker than Black”, etc.).  And in 2012, the 12-episode anime series was featured on Fuji TV’s “noitaminA” anime block.

“Sakamichi no Apollon” would feature a storyline written by Ayako Katoh (“Chihayafuru”, “Stitch!: Itazura Alien no Daiboken”) and Yuuko Kakihara (“Heaven’s Lost Property”, “Stitch!”, “Chihayafuru”), character design by Nobuteru Yuki (“Battle Angel”, “Battle Royale High School”, “The five Star Stories”, “Heat Guy J”, “Space Battleship Yamato 2199”) and background art by Shinichi Uehara (“Aoi Bungaku”, “Ninja Scroll”, “Paprika”, “Summer Wars”, “Tokyo Godfathers”).

And now “Sakamichi no Apollon” will be released in the U.S. with the title “Kids on the Slope” in May 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks as a complete collection.

“Kids on the Slope” is a series that takes place in 1966.

Kaoru Nishimi is a teenager who has to move from Tokyo to Kyushu and live with his Aunt, while his father is working abroad.  Trained in classical piano, Kaoru loves to play but his wealthy aunt is not too fond of him playing piano until a certain time and for the most part, the family is very strict and Kaoru feels like he is living alone.

During his first day at school, he tries to keep to himself and is warned that a boy named Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind him and not to mess with him.

Meanwhile, the class representative named Ritsuko Mukae shows him around the school.  And for Kaoru, her vibrant smile for some reason, makes him very happy.

While looking for a way to get to the rooftop at the school (a place where Kaoru typically runs off to when he wants to be away from everyone), he sees a guy sleeping near the top area.  When Kaoru ask if he knows where he can get the key, a group of seniors come with the key but are not interested in giving it away.  Seeing how badly Kaoru needs it, the guy who was sleeping ends up getting a fight with them and while he is outmatched by the three guys, he manages to get the key to the top floor.

When Kaoru tries to get it, the guy tells him that he will give him the key for money, which Kaoru refuses and becomes upset.

While class is about to start, Sentaro Kawabuchi sits behind Kaoru and when Kaoru turns around, he finds out that Sentaro is the guy he met earlier and fought with the three guys.  As Kaoru tries to run away from Sentaro, Sentaro follows him wherever he goes.  Kaoru runs to the roof despite the heavy rain and Sentaro does the same.  But he throws Kaoru’s umbrella and tells him to embrace the rain and both are soaken wet.

As Kaoru tries to help both of them with clean clothes, Kaoru sees Sentaro playing drums with his pencils and finds out that Sentaro is a jazz drummer, while Sentaro finds out that Kaoru is a classical pianist.

After school, Kaoru asks Ritsuko if she knows a record shop in town and surprisingly, she tells him that her father owns Mukae Record Shop.  When Ritsuko finds out that Kaoru plays the piano, she tells him to go into the basement where he sees a piano.  But to his shock, he sees Sentaro there playing the drums.

And that day would be the first time Kaoru is introduced to jazz music.  Sentaro asks Kaoru to play the piano and the two get into a discussion of how Kaoru can’t play jazz music and let his emotions be free while playing. Wanting to prove Sentaro wrong, Kaoru begins to listen to jazz music and learns how to play it on the piano.

Next thing you know, these two different people end up becoming good friends and both become interested in practicing and performing jazz music with one another.  But will their differences lead them to stay as friends or will it push them apart?

As for Ritsuko, being friends to both guys, she knows that the two who have had bad childhoods and because of that, they need each other to be as friends but also for support.  But how strong is their friendship?  And will their pasts interfere with their present?

“Kids on the Slope” features the following characters:

Kaoru Nishima – Lived in Tokyo, but when his mother abandoned both him and his mother. Because times are tough, his father had to look for work, while he stayed with his wealthy aunt who is very strict.  Throughout life, Kaoru has been a shy, timid boy who never knew what friendship or love was all about.  So, while he has learned how to play the piano and does very well in school, he has been used to being a school loner and being bullied at school.  But despite not knowing what true friendship is, he develops a friendship with someone so different than him…Sentaro Kawaguchi.  He also is in love with Ritsuko.

Sentaro Kawaguchi – Sentaro is half Japanese and half American.  When his mother left him and his father, he and his young siblings lived with his grandmother but after she died, his father became an alcoholic and started beating on him and the children.  Forced to grow up at an early age, Sentaro’s life has always been a tough guy who got into a lot of fights.  He’s not interested in school, loves playing jazz music on drums and takes care of his young siblings, while his father works far away.  His only friend at the time was his neighbor Ritsuko, who he grew up with.  But now he finds a new friend in Kaoru and has feelings for a girl named Yurika.

Ritsuko Mukae  – The class representative and nice individual who grew up with Sentaro and always watched over him.  Because she sees how Kaoru is and how he is with Sentaro, not many people treat Sentaro normally, so she hopes the two can be very good friends.  While she grew up liking Sentaro, she is unaware that Kaoru has fallen for her.  How will she respond if he tells her that he loves her?  Ritsuko’s father is also the owner of the local recordshop and in the basement is where her father, Sentaro, Junichi and Kaoru practice their music.

Yurika Fukahori – A girl that was getting accosted by guys, Sentaro came to her rescue.  From the first moment he saw her, it was love at first sight.  And now Kaoru wants to help Sentaro get closer to Yurika, so he can get clsoer to Ritsuko.  But because Sentaro is shy, he tells Yurika that Kaoru is the guy interested in her.  But for Yurika, she is smitten with Junichi.

Junichi Katsuragi – The cool trumpet playing friend of Sentaro. He often joins Sentaro and Ritsuko’s father for a session in the record store basement.  From a wealthy family and attending college, Junichi walks to the own beat of his drum.  And his cool demeanor captivates Yurika.

Tsutomu Mukae – Ritsuko’s father and owner of the local record shop.  He is a bass player and jazz music aficionado.

Seiji Matsuoka – Dreams of becoming a rock star and wants Sentaro to play drums for his band.

Shigetora Maruo – Guitarist for Seiji’s band and a guy who sits next to Sentaro and Kaoru.

VIDEO:

“Kids on the Slope” features fantastic animation and background art courtesy of Mappa and Tezuka Productions!  Presented in 1080p High Definition, the series definitely captures Yuki Kodama’s artwork and brings life to the anime adaptation.  Characters are well-shaded and drawn, while background art is very detailed. I love the overall look of this anime series!  No sign of softness, banding or any major issues.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

The lossless soundtrack for “Kids on the Slope” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.    While dialogue is crystal clear, how I would have loved to have a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack because of the series’ wonderful music.  The music is so awesome for this series that I was hoping that it would utilize the surround channels but it’s primarily a lossless stereo soundtrack, which is common for an animated television series from Japan.

As for voice acting, both the Japanese and English soundtracks are well-performed.  There is one primary difference and that is for the character of Seiji Matsuoka.  In the Japanese version, Seiji sounds like a regular teenager but for the English dub version, they made him sound very feminine and with the lisp, changed the dialogue and have him flirting with Kaoru (which is not in the Japanese version), I thought that was an interesting direction by ADR director Steven Foster to take the character of Seiji in that direction.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” comes with the following special features:

  • Clean Opening and Ending
  • Japanese Previews – (3:04) Japanese prevews for “Sakamichi no Apollon”
  • Interview with Shinichiro Watanabe – (16:04) An interview with the director of “Kids on the Slope”.
  • Interview with Yoko Kanno – (21:46) Yoko Kanno talks about how she was brought on board as a composer, how she found the jazz musicians through YouTube and how she had YUKI and Motohiro Hata do the music for the series opening and ending themes.
  • Interview with Takashi Matsuanga and Shun Ishikawa – (13:33) Interview with the teenage pianist and drummer who provided the music for Kaoru and Sentaro for the anime series.

It’s very rare to come across an anime series that captures real life and focus on character interaction, emotions and most importantly, music.

While we have seen these type of storylines featured in Japanese dramas such as “Long Vacation” or “With You”, for anime there is “Nodame no Cantabile” but most of the time, there is always a supernatural, fantasy type of addition to that storyline.

Here we are with an anime adaptation of Yuki Kodama’s “Sakamichi no Apollon” and having watched all 12 episodes, I can’t help but feeling of how awesome, how delightful this anime series was, because it’s such a rarity to see, especially to see it released in the United States.

“Kids on the Slope” captivates the viewer for its storyline of friendship of two broken individuals, the love triangle but also how jazz music is incorporated into the film and I must say, this is one of the coolest, hippest soundtracks I have heard from an anime series.  So much that I wanted to purchase the soundtrack immediately because the music for this anime series was fantastic!

While those used to a certain style of anime may not like a series about a bromance, let alone about music, “Kids on the Slope” is probably one of the best anime series that I have seen in 2013 and I have to put this in my top three for anime series on Blu-ray for the year because it’s that good!

Why is this anime series so captivating?

It’s about the characters!  Kaoru is a guy who hasn’t had many friends or social activities.  He is not good at reading people, nor is he that good at showing emotions.  That so many times, he reads things and his only way of communicating is with anger.  We see Kaoru as this meek character with glasses, always studying and playing the piano.

While Sentaro also never had many friends growing up, but you realize that the reason why he’s gotten into so much trouble is because he was always bullied because he was not full Japanese.  He used his height and his strength to deter people from bullying him and he ended up getting into a lot of fights while growing up.  But like Kaoru, he also had a dysfunctional childhood.

Kaoru needs Sentaro, because he makes him feel wanted and important but most of all, he’s the first guy who never treated him any less, but accepted him as a friend right off the bat.

Sentaro respects Kaoru for his magnificent piano playing but because he cares so much about him.  He lived life feeling that no one cares about him, thus he became a bully but now he has found a friend who believes in him.

And for both individuals, having each other as friends is not easy because they are so different, but despite their problems, they know that they make a great team and are very good friends.  But both are a bit too hardheaded to admit it.

Ritsuko is your good-natured female character and good friends with both.  She grew up with Sentaro and she always took care of him as he was always getting into fights.  She is his neighbor and Sentaro has always practiced the drums at her father’s record shop.

But she sees how Sentaro has opened up to Kaoru and she knows he needs that. But as she gets to know Kaoru, she knows he needs Sentaro as well. But when she finds out that Sentaro likes another girl, let alone finding out that Kaoru has fallen for her, how is a girl supposed to react?

Throw in characters such as Yurika and Junichi and other dramatic situations that really bolster the storyline, the characters and also the emotional angle of the series.

I felt the series delivered in emotional impact when Kaoru felt that he was lonely and no one understood his feelings, but when he found out how his life was all this time and how he lived alone and had to endure abuse and bullying throughout his life, much worse than he has had, it was an emotional scene.  In fact, there are many of these emotional moments throughout the series and I was pleased of how the writing was. Both Ayako Katoh and Yuuko Kakihara did a wonderful job!

As for the Blu-ray release, the anime looks fantastic!  The character designs are different from what most people may be accustomed to but it actually has a taste of the old school anime that I grew up watching.  Characters are well-drawn, well-shaded and the art backgrounds are just beautiful too look at.

And as for special features, I was amazed to find interviews instead of the typical clean opening and ending animations.  So, you do get an interview with director Shinichiro Watanabe, composer Yoko Kanno but also with teenage musicians Takashi Matsunaga and Shun Ishikawa who were both found by Kanno on YouTube.  Two young professional musicians who know jazz music and really made the anime feel believable, entertaining and exciting.

Overall, “Kids on the Slope: Complete Collection” is an anime series that you rarely see these days.  The characters and the storyline just draws you in, the overall series is just delightful and so enjoyable!  From the creative team behind “Cowboy Bebop”, “Kids on the Slope” is not just highly recommended, it’s on my list as one of the top anime series for 2013 on Blu-ray!

Highly recommended!






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Comments

  • “In the Japanese version, Seiji sounds like a regular teenager”

    Wait, WUT. Are we talking about the same Seiji here, the same Beatles wannabe? He already acting plenty androgynous, and spoke at a higher register than any other male characters. And using the CrunchyRoll subs as a reference, he was giving this weird flirting vibe with Kaoru at a few points. At the very least, I remember him actually giving a girlish wink at Kaoru, causing the latter to flinch.

    I really don’t think that’s a normal teenage voice.

  • jentonline

    They also changed the dialogue… I don’t remember exactly of the words but where Seiji would say “How are you Kaoru”, they would change the dialogue in English to “Hi Cutie Poo!” or something like that. As for the normal teenage voice, I know a lot of Japanese guys like that, in fact, one of them is from a popular boy band V6, named Miyake Ken.

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