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LAB Notes #2 – Kids on the Slope

Target: Kids on the Slope – Sakamichi no Apollon (lit. Apollo of the Slope)
Studio: MAPPA with Tezuka Production
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama
Notable Themes: High School, Musicians, Youth Politics
Episodes: 12
Fanservice Level: Low

Reasons to Watch:
Brilliant soundtrack and musical direction
A touching romance with strong historical ties

Reasons to Not:
Somewhat clichéd storytelling
Uneven and inexplicit time skips make viewing confusing

Similar to: BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad, Nodame Cantabile

If I were writing these reviews in the 90s or the early ‘Aughts, I would have started this one by lamenting the condition of real Slice of Life dramas in the U.S. anime market.  The problem was that Slice of Life shows aren’t easily monetized and didn’t have a huge appeal to the original baseline Otaku.  The genre is still rarely brought overseas, but most anime fans can identify it when they see it now, and have one or two examples of the genre to call up if asked.  Another, separate issue is that Slice of Life concepts are frequently combined with other genres, such as comedy, supernatural horror or harem scenarios.

Kids on the Slope is none of these.  It is a drama in the purest sense, and one that is firmly rooted in the reality of 1960s Japan.  It is a skillful examination of the social politics of the era, while still being, at its core, a touching story of friendship and young love.  The show is bound together by the jazz music that helped define the youth culture of the era.  It is the heart and soul of the series and, ultimately, is what really makes the show worth watching.

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