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Sakamichi no Apollon – 04 »« Sakamichi no Apollon – 02

Sakamichi no Apollon – 03

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「いつか王子様が」
“Someday My Prince Will Come”

Why does everyone make this anime thing out to be so hard? Just do it like that.

I almost feel as if I shouldn’t defile this episode by even trying to talk about it, but I guess that’s my job – and the hard part at the moment is to do it without gushing like a smitten fanboy, because that’s what I feel like. I can’t recall many instances where I’ve been so thoroughly gobsmacked as I was after that confession scene – I didn’t know whether to be speechless or shout out my approval to the universe. In the end I grabbed my head with both hands and as soon as I snapped out of it, immediately jumped backwards to play it again.

One thing that strikes me is that really great anime directors have mastered the art of intra-episodic pacing. In other words, the critical thing is that an episode has to finish better than it starts – the section after the eyecatch is the most important. In boxing they say that the last minute of the round is more important in impressing the judges than the first two, and so it is with anime – the lasting impression comes from the final act. You can see examples of this in the work of Nagai Tatsuyuki, who demonstrated it to perfection with Ano Natsu de Matteru earlier this year. I was pleased with the first half of the episode, but nothing was especially thrilling me – it was just really good. But the second half was the best 10 minutes of an already great show so far, culminating with the confession scene.

Now I’ll be the first to admit I have a bias here – I absolutely love Bill Evans. He’s probably my favorite jazz pianist ever – his restrained, delicate melodic lines unlike anything that had come before and a huge influence on this who would follow right to this day. After playing on Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” (along with Coltrane and Cannonball Adderly, among others) – arguably the greatest jazz album ever – Evans founded arguably the greatest piano trio ever with Scott LeFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums. It was this trio’s 1959 debut LP “Portrait in Jazz” that Kaoru was looking at in this episode, and for which the song he played for Ritsuko, “Someday my Prince Will Come” (written for Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”) was recorded. It would be no exaggeration to say this was my favorite confession scene in anime, and that’s saying something as there have been some great ones.

This scene works on a great many levels, most obviously with the gorgeous cover of Evans’ classic recording. But I was also blown away by the imagery, the cuts between Kaoru’s ecstatic state at the piano, Ri-chan’s rapt attention, and especially the intercuts of Kaoru as he diligently transcribes Evans’ version, right down to the sketch of Ri-chan’s face on the sheet music. Wow – that was art. And it was all the more powerful because of the build-up earlier in the episode, with the makings of what felt like a conventional misunderstanding-driven anime love quadrangle. The payoff was Ritsuko’s heartbreaking “I’m the dress rehearsal” – a line of dialogue staggering under the weight of hidden meanings and depth – and Kaoru’s simple declaration that no, this song was for her. This wasn’t the rehearsal, but the performance.

Sakamichi no Apollon is a love story in so many ways. Ultimately I think it’s a love letter from Watanabe to the music he adores and to the idealism he felt in his youth, when the power of our emotions has a purity they’ll never have again in life. With a 9-volume manga being adapted into a 12-episode anime it’s inevitable that the pacing is going to be quick, and there were times that events and feelings felt as if they were rushing along too fast – but in a funny way I think this may work in the series’ favor, because it appears as if the romantic side of the love story will be largely free of equivocation and very much to the point. The cards are already on the table – Sentarou loves Yurika, Ri-chan loves Sentarou. and Kaoru loves Ri-chan. It’s a mess, but Kaoru’s beautiful and heartfelt confession changes everything – the regrets we carry with us are almost never what we did and wish we hadn’t, but what we didn’t do and wish we had. As Kaoru says himself, Ritsuko’s eyes are only on Sentarou – but that’s all right for now, because he’ll never have to wonder what would have happened if he’d only told Ri-chan how he felt.

Is it a surprise that Sentarou would turn out to be so shy? Not to me, as he seems to intentionally disconnect himself from his deeper emotions with his flippant behavior. It was interesting to see his family life – a house full of younger siblings, a pet pigeon named Sarah Vaughn. That emotional disconnect makes it easy to believe that he’s genuinely unaware of Ritsuko’s feelings for him – he’s been looking at her for so long that he only sees the little neighbor girl he grew up with, while Kaoru seems the young woman who silently pines for the neighbor boy. Her “No!” reaction when Yurika suggested climbing to the top of the stone arch with Sentarou was transparent to Kaoru – and to us – as was her quick explanation that it was all for safety’s sake. Now that she’s been presented with a new reality – there’s a guy right in front of her who does notice her, who doesn’t consider her a dress rehearsal or tell her she’s pretty just to make her feel better – it will be fascinating to see how she reacts. I’ll also be interested in whether Kaoru confronts Sentarou about what he walked in on – which I suspect was not exactly what it appeared to be.

As a final note, I’m mention that the Sakamichi no Apollon OST is officially released. And it’s every bit as good as you’d expect – a mix of classic tracks and original Kannou Youko compositions for the series. Buying OSTs is another way to show support to NoitaminA for using their platform to showcase brilliant and individualistic expressions of anime as art, like this one – and if you’re really feeling fashionable, you can also pre-order Kaoru’s glasses from the NoitaminA shop…

April 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm
40 comments »
  • April 26, 2012 at 4:15 pmsaturos13

    I feel bad for Richie Specially since he’s the Main Character….. I mean let’s Face it if Richie was just a support character (Best-friend Type Character) We could care less right? and We would just enjoy Sentaro’s Love Triangle relationship….

    • April 26, 2012 at 8:49 pmsome guy

      you know I’d feel bad for Richie, but not as much as it could’ve, since first he wants Sentarou to hook up with the beauty and get out of his way, then feels bad for making his loved interest cry. So far, okay, but then he then proceeds by going all jerk and taking it out on poor handkerchief?? What did that beauty’s handkerchief ever do to deserve that treatment (oh and the unsuspecting Sentarou)?? huh? huh?

      ha ha ha of course I’m just kidding :) I give some slack for Richie since it’s just a high school kid we’re dealing with. And they made up anyway. Anyhow the solution is simple. Have Ritsuko give up and settle for the 2nd choice, Richie, and all problems are solved~~~. Two happy couple. Done and done…..

      You know, of course, this being drama and all, maybe they will throw a curve ball and have the beauty falling for Richie. Then all bets are off. And why not, the beauty thinks that it was Richie who invited her anyway. Plus Richie is rich. It can so happen!

    • April 26, 2012 at 11:03 pmsome guy

      ah ha ha. I went ahead and read the scanned manga. well, well, well. A curveball indeed, it seems~~. But NOT the curveball I had in my mind. I wasn’t even close!! I spoiled the fun for myself, dang it. Don’t worry, I am not the kind person who write spoilers to ruin others’ fun. he he he.

  • April 26, 2012 at 4:35 pmIntricateRadiance

    I’m in love. With this show.

  • April 26, 2012 at 4:38 pmBankai000

    Damn it, didn’t see that coming at all, I thought Ri-chan was already in love with Richie since she have already given him the permission to call her by her first name, and that’s in japan means to respect or love the other party.

    • April 26, 2012 at 5:59 pmAni_BEE

      I saw it from the first episode she had a thing for Sentarou but as a female view I can’t pin point it exactly it’s just way she behaved with him that had me thinking it. This episode she had to step up her efforts to hide her emotions which was blatantly obvious to everyone but Sentarou when you watch her what she is feeling.

  • April 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm@lk3mizt

    oh man.. what an episode!!

    that confession scene!! It was handled brilliantly! I’m totally loving this series.

  • April 26, 2012 at 5:03 pmMoomba

    I have to say, despite appearing so shy and socially inept when he was first introduced, Kaoru sure has balls! It takes a lot of courage to make that kind of confession, especially when Ri-chan gave him such a convenient out.

  • April 26, 2012 at 5:33 pmUnajuuphile

    HURRAAAH! was my reaction when Kaoru confessed. I am so glad he confessed and saved all of us from those silly cliche frustrating misunderstandings. I really didn’t want this show to be one of those that waste time with the characters’ inability to be honest with themselves (like the recent Ano Natsu)

    • April 26, 2012 at 7:41 pmShalaKairos

      Agreed. I was getting horrible Kimi ni Todoke flashbacks and then they all went away with that wondrous confession.

      • April 27, 2012 at 4:11 pmCC

        yeah I agree! Kimi ni todoke draaaaaaaged it out!

  • April 26, 2012 at 5:44 pmRC reader56

    enlighten me, please, those of you who have watched more of this romance stuff. I’m not knocking down anything, but just asking a sincere question, OK? So no neg~~~.

    I’ve watched 3-4 at the most of romance genre, but it seems like confession always goes like “I like you, but I know you like someone else… but it’s okay, I will wait” and similar to that effect. I don’t get this sentiment. Maybe it’s cultural thing. Is this norm? Why don’t they just get it out there, get yes or no answer and move on already, instead of dragging things and putting pressure on the loved interest? Guaranteed, the 3-4 romance stuff (I.e. Honey & Clover, or last season’s Ano Natsu de Matteru) I’ve watched so far were love triangle theme, so it’s bound to be one-side love stuff.

    • April 26, 2012 at 8:21 pmvivi21

      Well for one it is not a cultural norm… it just the style of the romance genre. The reason the person does not want the answer.. is because either one they are too afraid of the answer itself i mean who want to hear rejection after you have loved someone for so long? or two that they have to fully give up on the one they love sometimes you just want to still care for that person it can be hard to let go. that is why usually the one sided love gives that answer.

    • April 26, 2012 at 9:46 pmBookkid900

      The whole thing of “I can wait for your answer” is one of two parts. One, it is an easy cliffhanger and two, it also allows the love interest time to think over whether or not to begin a relationship. This way, in this case she, does not answer on a spur of the moment major decision. For, if she says yes, then she’d have to let her feelings for Sentarou go.

  • April 26, 2012 at 6:01 pmgrey

    i think this show was made for me. the things i wanted to happen..happened.

    ..and i really couldn’t ask for more. i have repeatedly gone back to rewatch my favourite parts of the episode over and over..even right after they occur. ;-;
    i hope they do a season two, 9 volumes into 1 season is a bit much. and the last volume is just coming out this week.

  • April 26, 2012 at 6:05 pmAni_BEE

    I think Sentarou as a side job as a model. lol To my eye it look like a perfectly normal set up in a art class/club. But then again I took part in one to two art related classes a year in high school. Give Sentarou credit for stripping for a bunch of giggling high school girls.

    • April 26, 2012 at 6:06 pmAni_BEE

      Also take note that he didn’t take off his cross either.

  • April 26, 2012 at 6:05 pmWilson

    • April 26, 2012 at 6:12 pmLitho

      Because it’s the same reviewer (Guardian Enzo)

  • April 26, 2012 at 6:14 pmLitho

    Watanabe might just outdo himself with this one.
    No idea how true to the original manga this is, but it was an excellent episode!!

  • April 26, 2012 at 6:42 pmrxsiu

    I think this just stole the crown for my favourite of the season from Fate Zero just now. The character interactions are just so precious. And relateable. The astounding pacing. Soundtrack. Everything. Can’t wait for next week.

  • April 26, 2012 at 7:15 pmFuuka

    I need to watch the episode, but “Someday My Prince Will Come” is a Tchaikovsky song. Disney’s Sleeping Beauty used the music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet, and put lyrics to it. Pretty genius idea.

    • April 26, 2012 at 7:26 pmGuardian Enzo

      I believe that’s actually the waltz from Sleeping Beauty. As far as I remember SMPWC is an original composition.

  • April 26, 2012 at 7:27 pmNikku

    You nailed it in this post.
    I agree, the first half was great, but seemed a little tame. After the eyecatch, I couldn’t look away because it was literally a piece of art. When the confession scene hit, my jaw dropped and I didn’t blink. I was reminded of AnoNatsu as well in the fact of dropping the “bomb” before the credits. That is fantastic seeing as AnoNatsu is my favorite romance anime.
    Great post and I CANNOT wait to see where this is headed.

  • April 26, 2012 at 8:25 pmsomesilog

    too. in-love. with. this. anime.

    …I liked the tune that Kaoru and Sentarou played this episode.
    It has me jamming to it on bass haha

  • April 27, 2012 at 12:57 amKumakaori

    Ok. I feel stupid I heard Richie start playing, I knew I -knew- the song, but couldn’t freaking place it orz.

    P.S. What did I just watch??? buh. Bluh. bghhhhhuh. Wow. It’s certainly a little breakneck pacing at some points, but it’s still freaking brilliant! So much awesome this season @_@! and Kids on the slope the crowning achievement, as far as I’m concerned XD;.

  • April 27, 2012 at 4:34 amBio D

    This was one of those episodes where I was shouting at the screen the entire time. If there’s one word for this anime, it’s “genuine”. The fights, the laughs, the music, nothing feels forced but heartfelt. That’s the way it should be with jazz.
    Kudos to Richie for sacking up when it finally mattered and to Sentarou for his totally sweet moves despite his VERY recognizable bumbling.

    • April 27, 2012 at 4:35 amBio D

      And thank you for telling me the OST is out. That was every bit as squee worthy as the confession.

  • April 27, 2012 at 8:27 ammai

    I liked this episode so much. I liked the onigiri part of the date… It was such a subtle way for Yurika to show that she cooked specifically for Sentarou… Who “happens” to be holding the same food earlier in the episode. :)

  • April 27, 2012 at 11:04 amjaxavier

    I would have left the confession on a cliffhanger, saves you about a minute or two to create some buffer around some other scenes in the episode because it was jam packed. They’re cramming to fit the entire manga into this season and i’m glad they are, but these wonderful scenes need room to breathe. basically i want the show to be an hour long cause its so good.

    • April 27, 2012 at 12:38 pmGuardian Enzo

      Respectfully disagree here. I think Watanabe ended the episode on an absolutely perfect note.

  • April 27, 2012 at 4:21 pmrufe

    NOITAMINA IS BACK!!

  • April 27, 2012 at 4:26 pmrufe

    On an unrelated note, those glasses are actually quite inexpensive considering they can be fit with real prescription lenses. Even if they’re acrylic, frames are usually about that price.

  • April 27, 2012 at 4:28 pmCC

    the bit where Kaouru and Sentaro play – is that a specific piece?

  • April 27, 2012 at 7:39 pmShinji

    GE, you reflected how I felt about this episode. This show is, up to now, a real gem. I didn’t think I would enjoy it this much but it feels so refreshing and simple. The confession scene was wonderful. Somehow it felt like perfect timing? “Richie” is a cool cat in his own way, telling/sharing his feelings with the girl he loves AND knowing she does love someone else…It’s not easy. Really not that easy at all. I mean how would it affect Sentarou, Yurika and Ri-chan? The dynamics within the relation they all share will be different, right?

  • April 28, 2012 at 12:05 amCyrano

    Wow, when I thought this series couldn’t get better, it just manages to one-up that. For me, this show is simply a notch above anything else I’ve watched this season. In fact, if it manages to keep this up, it’ll easily be one of my personal all-time favorites. I am a little worried whether or not they’ll be able to squeeze everything into 12 episodes, but so far, it seems to be going extremely well.

  • April 28, 2012 at 10:07 amNitro

    if there’s one thing i absolutely cannot get enough of out of this episode, it’s the fact that, well, Kaoru is pretty much a bigger man than Sentaro is. love it.

  • April 29, 2012 at 1:18 pmJames

    It seems I’m one of the few anime watchers that actually think this series is quite overrated and basic.
    The characters are quite decent, even great; but really when you get down to it it’s a very BASIC slice of life with the most common love triangle in anime. I don’t see anythign THAT special on the direction and the delivery (unlike Mawaru Penguidrum or Madoka) or even hish class (Cowboy Bebep)….
    i’ll keep watching but this, but this is a disturbingly normal plot.

    • April 30, 2012 at 3:21 amFreddeh

      It doesn’t and is not trying to do anything new, but it does it very WELL. That’s the main distinction between this and other shows. That and the jazz, which is not so common either.

      Even having said that, the ‘basic love triangle’ is something that is already not so basic, as shown by how quickly its been broken into and the guy ‘on the outside’ (Richie) has professed his love on episode THREE. In a ‘normal’ anime we wouldn’t get progression like this until the end of the show, if even then.

  • May 1, 2012 at 1:52 pmThat Bored Shounen

    Sentarou was most likely asked to pose as a model for a painting. Yurika does look like an artistic-type character.