Sakamichi no Apollon

Sakamichi no Apollon, or otherwise known as Kids of the Slope, is a new anime currently airing in Japan. It started on April 12th, and only 4 episodes have aired so far. After college, I really haven't watched much Anime, but what initially caught my eye was the return of Shinichiro Watanabe and Yokko Kano teaming up again.

The two of them have been responsible for such Anime as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Not my favorites, but are very solid, enjoyable and landmark series in their own right. Both those series make a high importance of music which completely sets the tone for the series as a whole. And Apollon certainly follows suit.

Sakamichi no Apollon centers on Jazz. And it's use of music is much more tangible and important to the story. For Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo is was simply background and tone, but for Sakamichi no Apollon it's what brings all the characters together. Performing the music is what bring these characters out of their shells and into life.

Also, Sakamichi no Apollon is completely different genre of Anime than the other two. It's a serialized slice-of-life drama, not a comedic episodic action adventure. It's down to earth, and focuses on the actual characters, rather than action or whatever.

And I like it quite a bit. :D It's been quite a while since I've actually been into a new Anime. So long so that I don't even remember the last one I really liked.

Anywho, there are 2 things that I find interesting about the show beyond just the characters and that's the setting and the time period.

The Time Period

I didn't really notice this at all until the most recent episode, the 4th episode. Apollon does not take place in modern day. There have been plenty of subtle hints throughout the show. No one uses a cellphone, and all the cars are vintage.

But I didn't start fully questioning it until the group of characters play their first gig, and a drunken American member of the audience makes such racist statements about the music they're playing. Not racist against the Japanese, but racist against black people. Not to say that racism doesn't exist today, but the tone and particular outburst did not feel of this time.

So, I looked it up, and yes indeed, Sakamichi no Apollon takes place in the year 1966.

This might explain why so many casual people are into Jazz. I figured it was just some stupid Anime plot device that everyone knew about Jazz, and they were interested in it. But, I'm starting to think that Jazz definitely had its market around that time.

Also, this explains why the main character was looking to buy classical and jazz records in the first episode, rather than a CD or just buying it online. Though, I chalked that one up to best Jazz songs and albums are probably only available on their original format, vinyl.

The Location

One thing that really caught my attention in the first episode was that this story takes place in Kyushu. Kyushu is the south western island of Japan, and is where I studied abroad, many of my friends studied abroad, and many of my friends live. I'd like to know wherein Kyushu Sakamichi no Apollon takes place, but it doesn't seem to make mention of it. I have a guess of where it could take place, but that could be my limited knowledge of the island as a whole.

Two of the characters are Catholic. In the second episode Ritsuko and Sentaro attend church on Sunday, and then discuss their religion a little bit with the main character, Kaoru. The introduction and expansion of Catholicism (and Christianity) in Japan started in Kagoshima and Nagasaki as trade with the dutch expanded. Five and I watched the first 4 episodes over the weekend, and he made mention that he wondered if the popularity of western religion made it further than Kyushu before the Japanese government attempted to eradicate it. In other words, to be a Japanese Catholic (or Christian) is a very Kyushu thing.

The second thing that my guess of setting is based on brings us back to the racist American in episode 4. That entire scene happens in a Jazz bar near an American naval base. The audience members are nearly all American sailors. I think Okinawa is the most widely known about American Military base in Japan, and while technically it's part of Kyushu, I don't think the Japanese would call it Kyushu.

I think Sakamichi no Apollon takes place in Sasebo. Sasebo has one of the largest American naval bases in Japan, and is not too far north of Nagasaki, so it's in the heart of Catholic and Christian expansion in Japan. Looking up a few things on Google reveals that the Sasebo Tourist Center and the Sasebo High School have credits in Sakamichi no Apollon for Location Cooperation (credits).

So, I'm right! :D

One of my good friends lives in Sasebo, too, so it's brings this show a bit closer to home for me, as well.

Something else that came about watching the show with Five was the use of Kyushu dialect by the characters. I mean, aside from the main character, everyone lives and grew up in Kyushu so it makes sense that would have the accents. Five was easily able to catch this as he lived in Nagasaki for 4 or 5 years, and worked in Omura (halfway between Nagasaki and Sasebo) for 2 or 3 years. He mentioned that the dialect was present here and there, but it wasn't as strong as it should be.

It makes sense why they would do that for TV. Almost all TV in Japan comes from Tokyo, so the Tokyo area dialect has become a standard for any television presence. I'm guessing that they're shoving some Kyushu dialect in here and there to make it sound like it's from Kyushu, but still keeping it in line with the standard Tokyo TV dialect.

Good Stuff

Anywho, I like this show quite a bit, and can't wait to watch more of it.




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