I’ve been thinking of the best way to write this post for a while now. Kids on the Slope is one of the best animes I’ve seen so far, and so far, perhaps my favorite romance anime to date. In retrospect, I wish I’d blogged about it episodically, but I was late to the ball.
One of the aspects that I’ve enjoyed most about KOTS is how fast the romance has moved. Unlike most other romances, the romance in KOTS has moved really quickly. Kaoru acting upon his feelings for Ritsuko, Ritsuko rejecting him, Sentarou expressing his feelings for Yurika, and Yurika trying to make a move on Junichi. Sure, the love pentagon isn’t particularly novel, but I’ve really enjoyed the fact that we haven’t encountered the typical forced misunderstandings because one party is afraid to reveal their feelings. The only character who’s fallen to that trap has been Ritsuko, but the Kaoru x Ritsuko developments have been so fast-paced that I don’t think she’s held anyone back.
For a high-school romance I’ve also been really impressed at the maturity levels of all the characters. They know what they want. And while they don’t always react in the best way (Kaoru’s childish rejection of Sentarou after finding out that he’s going to be playing with fang-tan stands out as particularly ill-fitting), I’m amazed at how level-headed everyone is. You don’t see this level of clarity in shows that feature older characters like Nodame Cantabile and Honey & Clover.
Oh and the music, oh my God, the music. Call me superficial, call me what you want. But I’ll readily admit that anime has opened musical doors to me that I never really walked through before. If Nodame Cantabile made classical music more accessible for me, Kids on the Slope has done the same for jazz. It should be no surprise that Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack, she of Cowboy Bebop fame, has really shined throughout the show. But it’s not only the music, but the feeling behind the music itself that’s come through – the free-flowing looseness and spontaneity of jazz, it’s a reflection of how each of the characters has developed throughout the show and culminates (so far) in the amazing culture fair performance. It’s something we’ve seen a hundred times before, and even though there was something a bit staged about how the whole school piled into the auditorium to listen to the two play, I didn’t mind, because the performance itself, it was brilliant. And particularly poignant considering the two weren’t even on speaking terms at the time and used music to bridge the awkward silence between each other.
I also have to give a lot of credit to the animation – the performance scenes look amazing. The drumming in particularly is incredibly fluid. If K-ON’s failing was there was no music, and Nodame Cantabile’s failing was the animation was often shoddy, KOTS hits upon everything perfectly, the music, the feeling and the animation.
Finally, I think I have a particular heart for KOTS because I think there’s a continuous thread of redemption that’s pervasive throughout the show, and finding bonds that are strong enough to endure the mistakes you make. The Kaoru and Sentarou split hits particularly close to home, because sometimes you close doors without intending to and realize far too late the damage you’ve done. A bond like Sentarou and Kaoru’s is such that I think they would’ve been able to pick up where they left off whether they stopped talking for a day, a week or a lifetime, because of the ties that bind the two.
Like both Sentarou and Kaoru, I think I’ve found that sometimes you intend the whole time to admit your mistake; you realize the stupidity of your actions, but for whatever reason, the words never come out: “I made a mistake, forgive me, can we get it all back?” But I personally want to believe that there are certain doors that never close, even if it seems like there is no light that shines through and there’s no hope. And that at any point in the future, two people could pick up where they left off. It’s a rather foolishly romantic thought and admittedly one more suited for anime than real life, but I suppose that’s the foolishly romantic side of me. Still, I’ll hold onto that hope in the event that I have a chance to “get the band back together” one day, someday, so to speak. On a related note, I am really going to miss AnimeNext this year, it was an incredible experience the last time I went. Has it been a year yet? Time really flies.