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「ナウズ・ザ・タイム」 (Nauzu za taimu)
“Now’s The Time”

Well, that’s certainly going to give the fujoshi something to talk about…

NoitaminA steamrolls along in spectacular fashion for yet another week, and Sakamichi joins Tsuritama in delivering peerless episodes that build on everything that’s come before. It was interesting that Crunchyroll finally subbed the OP and ED this week. I love both, with Motohiro Hata’s ED being possibly my favorite anime theme of the season – but now that I know the lyrics of it in detail, I see just how spoilerific it is (and I haven’t read the manga, just made a lot of educated guesses). If you don’t speak Japanese I’d avoid those lyrics if I were you, because they don’t leave things very open to debate.

The inclusion of “My Favorite Things” as one of the musical centerpieces of the show makes sense now, as it’s been tied into the death of John Coltrane – which places the events of this episodes somewhere in late July of 1967. All of the relationships important to the story are at play in this ep, but they all revolve around the one between Kaoru and Sentarou like planets orbiting a star. I saw a lot of complaining about Kaoru having overreacted last week by storming off and declaring his friendship with Sen at an end, but having had quite a few friends whose Dads were in the military, it rang pretty true with me. The fear of abandonment is a pretty powerful thing, and the aftershocks of the quake were still being felt this week.

The thing is, of course, life goes on. Sen is still practicing for the school festival with Seiji and “The Olympus” (don’t forget the Tokyo Olympics were held just three years earlier) and Bon is still just as much in love with Ritsuko as ever. And he’s also pleased with himself when he suddenly becomes quite popular with her friends after breaking his silence to “defend” her from speculation that they’re dating – all of a sudden they turn to him for advice on getting good grades, and even more, the two of them become the subject of their matchmaking – drafted to be on the festival registration committee together.

Things, meanwhile, come to a head between Sen and Yurika – perhaps irredeemably so it seems to me – after he catches her looking at “Chet Baker Sings” in the Mukae’s shop. There’s a lot of subtlety in this scene but the implication is not lost on Sen, and things get even worse when he’s moving in for a kiss only to be interrupted by the stumblebum mutterings of Brother Jun, who’s been crashing in the basement studio. No word yet on what sent Jun down this path – given that this is 1967 and he’s a Tokyo college student, any number of possibilities suggest themselves – but when Yurika leaves crying and Jun runs off his mouth a little, Sen cracks him a good one (I thought for a moment he’d seriously injured his hand) and yet another relationship is torn asunder.

The thing is, Bon knows the fight between Sen and he is pretty stupid – it’s never more apparent than when he stammers through a conversation while making Sen fill out the application form (I loved the before-after eyecatches where Bon corrects Sen’s katakana) for the festival – but he’s a kid, and he can’t quite bring himself to make it right. There really aren’t any villains here – Seiji is just trying to improve things for his family, Sen is sympathetic and trying to help out, and Rock ‘n Roll isn’t evil and never was. Deep down Kaoru knows this but he’s so wounded that he can’t bring himself to risk believing that, and continues the big chill right up until festival day. The Olympus take the stage – Nobuhiro Okamoto Seiji on vocals, Maruo playing a vintage (well, not at the time) Fender Telecaster, Yamaoka on Hofner bass (just like Paul McCartney) and Sentarou on drums – and in the brief interval before the power goes out, Sen proves himself as adept at rock drumming as he with jazz. He also proves himself a loyal ally even to casual friends, stepping up to defend Seiji from groundless “rich boy” accusations from bullying seniors. Even Maruo (young Murase Ayumu is doing a nice job with this smallish role) is convinced at the point that Sen’s a nice guy after all.

There’s a lot of subtlety throughout the episode, and lots of feelings communicated without words. But the climax of the episode is undeniably theatrical – a convenient power outage prompts Kaoru to take to the piano, and Sentarou to join him on drums. But I’ll forgive the drama, because drama isn’t a four-letter word to me (I counted – it’s five) and it’s well-earned. I especially liked the quick cut to Kaoru as a little boy finding a letter in his mailbox as he heard Sen tell Maruo that he was loyal to him, and through with Rock ‘n Roll after the festival – a callback to the moment where Kaoru’s friend had told him he’d send him letters after he moved away, and the mailbox was always empty. The music itself was tremendous – a bebop sledgehammering of “My Favorite Things” and – just in case Ritsuko wasn’t sure who he was playing for – a refrain from “Someday My Prince Will Come” before finishing with “Moanin’”. The only sad part was that Olympus apparently never got to finish their set, as Sen grabbed Bon and the two of them ran off like Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross at the end of “The Graduate”. Given that Mike Nichols’ film was released in 1967, this is a remarkably clever reference – though whether by Watanabe-san or the mangaka I don’t know.

To everyone about to begin the “Yaoiyaoiyaoi!” complaints, I’ll just say this – spare me. Frankly I wouldn’t really care if there were romantic feelings between Kaoru and Sentarou, but I also think it’s silly to be so insecure as to see them every time two males express any sort of genuine feeling for each other. Fact is, while this is an impressively layered story – history, social commentary, love of music, romance – at heart I think it’s a story of adolescent loneliness and the importance of friendship. I just think Kaoru is an affection-starved kid who’s covered himself in a thick skin of indifference, and Sen is the first real friend he’s had in many years – probably since the mailbox boy. It’s not a question of romance – it’s a matter of this being the relationship that changed him the most, and the most important of his teenaged years. As such, while the closing scenes were dramatic, I didn’t think they were over the top – because if you don’t accept the importance this friendship holds for Kaoru, I don’t think you accept the basic premise of the entire series.

May 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm
56 comments »
  • May 24, 2012 at 6:20 pmIntricateRadiance

    I absolutely adored Kaoru and Sen’s performance in this episode. I sat there in wonder and with a big smile on my face the entire time. Tremendous, indeed.

    And Enzo, I was randomly going through Lost in America, and noticed you were a Rurouni Kenshin fan. I’m just extremely curious; will you be watching the live action movie?

    • May 24, 2012 at 11:07 pmGuardian Enzo

      As to RK, when someone subs it I’ll watch it. I don’t normally care for live-action adaptations of manga and anime, but this one at least appears to be trying.

  • May 24, 2012 at 6:26 pmanifan

    Bravo. Well written thoughts. Especially the last paragraph. This is truly a gem of a series.

  • May 24, 2012 at 6:33 pmShalaKairos

    :happy tears:

  • May 24, 2012 at 6:38 pmAnonymous

    You know, about halfway through this episode, I was all ready to complain about the recent lack of jazz-playin’ in my jazz-playin’ anime. So much for that!

  • May 24, 2012 at 6:57 pmmai

    Perfect episode, I loved it! Was it just me or the quality in this episode was better than the last two? I had this big stupid smile on my face during the final performance. If it was possible to hug an anime I would have done that to this episode.

    10/10 will watch again. :)

  • May 24, 2012 at 7:07 pmKTNO

    F**k you Sakamichi Appollon, I already have too many animes in mind for the best one of 2012.
    F YOU.

    (oh god why can’t there be other shows like this, you know, just simple and awesome..?)

  • May 24, 2012 at 7:50 pmschwegburt

    I wouldn’t call it yaoi vibes as much as totally honest vibes. It fits with the whole notion of jazz and liberating yourself with music/art looking to find a way to relate to others. The ending with Sentaro and Kaoru running off expresses how they simply cut loose and acted free.

    • May 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm…..

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  • May 24, 2012 at 7:56 pmCarolV

    This could be the best and most touching anime I’ve ever seen. And I’d seen quite a lot.
    Was I the only one getting teary-eyed at the end?

  • May 24, 2012 at 8:33 pmMagum

    The scene where Kaoru and Sentaro were running off while holding hands didn’t give me any yaoi vibes at all.
    It was just two heterosexual guys running and holding hands.

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:03 pmsome guy

      yes and I am trying real hard to remember when was the last time I saw “two heterosexual guys running and holding hands” while smiling ears to ears!!! Anybody?? I’ve never seen such natural occurrence in human habitats unfortunately (or fortunately depends on how you look at things) :P

      • May 24, 2012 at 9:20 pmmai

        Even if they were gay, honestly, SO WHAT?!

      • May 24, 2012 at 9:28 pmsome guy

        exactly. You sound as if I had issues with people being gay, mai??

        I was merely pointing out Magum’s absurd post. Look, it’s one thing to be homophobic and it’s quite another being silly. The latter deserves some mocking and that’s what I did. Honestly why even bring words like “yaoi vibes” in the first place??

      • May 24, 2012 at 11:50 pmmai

        Okay then, fair enough. I’m just both fascinated and frustrated that, even in real life, many discussions keep devolving around “this is gay”, or “that one is gay”. This time, discussing it just distracts from the source material, I’d rather everyone just avoid it.

      • May 25, 2012 at 7:31 pmanother guy

        When was the last time you saw… hold on. Are you basing your argument for a culturally defined phenomenon from a Japanese production on what you see in your little dot on the world? Affection between same sexes differs greatly even between the states and provinces of the United States and Canada, let alone entire continents with completely different cultures. For instance, it is both perfectly acceptable and absolutely common for heterosexual males in South Korea to not only hold hands, but cuddle with one another in public. Japan isn’t quite to that extent, but shares more in common with South Korea’s culture than any western one. The hand holding does not necessarily imply any sort of romantic feelings. Do not cheapen the show based on your own cultural biases. What an appallingly small-minded comment.

      • May 28, 2012 at 4:06 pmr.r

        If this occurred between two female characters for some reason I don’t think it would necessarily be seen a yuri. Its annoying that whenever two male characters are shown interacting the audience cries “more than just good friends”. Magum is entitled to their opinion that this scene can occur between two straight men. I don’t believe that even using the words “yaoi vibes” is some kind of attack on homosexuality either, its just how they choose to describe some of the conflicting feelings brought up by viewers in concern to the last scene. It is also very much a culture and maybe even a time period thing as well. People today are so afraid of being pinned as “gay” that they restrict themselves to only basic interactions. The last thing I’ll say is the director of this anime is amazing at describing human emotion, if there comes a point where the director shows Sen and Kaoru as a legit couple, I’ll know, you’ll know and everyone else will know and agree. Their relationship would become an indisputable truth among all viewers of this anime. until then its open to viewer interpretation.

  • May 24, 2012 at 8:50 pmYessu

    Oh god, best episode of this entire anime season. Their duet at the end totally made my week ♥

  • May 24, 2012 at 8:56 pmBankai000

    After this episode, I TOTALLY FELL IN LOVE WITH JAZZ MUSIC@

  • May 24, 2012 at 9:02 pmsomesilog

    This makes me cry man-tears. :’)

    Just keeps getting better and BETTER.

  • May 24, 2012 at 9:12 pmBio D

    This turned a bad day right around. I cheered when they started with “My Favorite Things”, then I cheered some more when I realized it was melody. Then I just cheered.

    • May 25, 2012 at 2:00 pmBio D

      *A medley! Gah!

  • May 24, 2012 at 9:56 pmNikku

    I must say, this episode was one word: magical.

  • May 24, 2012 at 10:58 pmLilian

    I feel that many people are bringing in western perspectives into Kaoru’s and Sen’s friendship, and are interpreting it as homosexual based on the western “definition” of homosexuality (two guys holding hands = gay), and not knowing that physical interaction between friends of the same sex is quite common in Asia. That kind of interaction to westerners is the gay flag all around.

    • May 24, 2012 at 11:05 pmGuardian Enzo

      There may be an element of that, but I think that’s letting them off the hook too easily. I just think male friendship has become so rare in anime that any time we see it seriously explored the yaoi goggles come out (no pun intended).

      • May 25, 2012 at 2:02 amAiron

        I think that hit it on the head GE. Anime male relationships these days basically fall into the categories of a. rival or b. enemy. If a male character is going to have a best friend, it will decidedly be female and a childhood friend with some potential love interest thrown in. The idea that a male character can have another male friend and be close to him without the typical “you are also my rival, i must also defeat you” aspects is very rare. It’s a shame because I think that’s really a detriment to social relationships in anime, and as we move deeper into the era of mostly-female casts and friendship, we will see less and less of these kinds of true male bonds to relate to.

      • May 25, 2012 at 3:30 pmEl Huesudo II

        It’s kinda sad to see everyone out there in a… maybe I could say FEAR of friendly physical contact because sex is, for some reason, a topic that crept in everywhere and tinted every aspect of life. Now everything is about sex, everything slowly devolves into sex, everything is the means to the end that is sex. So, from that perspective, I can’t give a hug to a friend, I can’t sit close to a friend, I can’t grab my friend’s hand, or anything like that, because it’s immediately SEXUAL.

        What.

  • May 25, 2012 at 12:59 amappropriant

    Pff, the more obvious yaoi anime have the kisses and forced rape by the second episode (read: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi). Besides, if Sakamichi’s intended purpose was to generate buckets of drool with its bromance I’d be watching Nazo no Kanojo X instead, which is actually a moot point since I’m watching both.

    That concert scene is probably going to go down as one of the greatest defining moments of the Spring Anime Season, mark my words. That was so goddamn beautiful and rich for interpretation.

  • May 25, 2012 at 1:43 amAmnesia87

    I loved the episode.

    My only real complaint is how obscenely talented they are making Richie. Playing Jazz isn’t easy, especially for a classically trained musician. (Though I must also admit I understand why. A show about an average music would be boring as hell).

    I have to say though, this may my favorite version of My Favorite Things ever. If not it’s a close second to John Coltrane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cTe7pP2dX8

    Where can I get the soundtrack for this show O_o.

  • May 25, 2012 at 2:07 amMorgan

    So was Yurika sleeping with Jun?

    • May 25, 2012 at 4:02 amScruffy

      That what Sen obviously thought but if you really want to know Show Spoiler ▼

  • May 25, 2012 at 3:27 ammike_s_6

    I’m certain now that the OST was released prematurely. It didn’t break the top 30 during its release, and I’m pretty sure it would have with help from the animation.

    The episode left me giddy. As I’m sure many of us were : )

  • May 25, 2012 at 4:04 amDa5id

    Why the hell is this show only 12 episodes long?! The saddest part of this whole episode was knowing that we’re already over the halfway point! THIS should’ve been noitamina’s next attempt at a 2-cour series, instead of…the other thing!

  • May 25, 2012 at 5:37 amSoundEngineer

    Just for accuracy, that’s not a Telecaster, but a Fender Jaguar:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Jaguar

    The amp seems a Blonde Bassman, but I’m not sure:
    http://ampwares.com/amplifiers/fender-blonde-6g6-a-bassman

    Anyway, great review, Enzo (and great show).

    • May 25, 2012 at 9:15 amGuardian Enzo

      Given your screen name I’ll defer to you on this one – reluctantly. :P

  • May 25, 2012 at 6:27 amGiostz

    i usually don’t repeat a episode i just watched, but that ending was too good, repeated so many time i lost count. Great show.

    Great Review G.E

  • May 25, 2012 at 8:12 amnicce

    that episode was awesome i’m very happy that they subbed the op and ed and to those who said what if they were gay well i don’t think yaoi stuff have a decent plot or so i heard i would never watch it but bromance is priceless

  • May 25, 2012 at 2:02 pmgrey

    Everything that built up to the duet and the running scene just left me in tears. I feel so devastated…even though it was a happy ending. HOW CAN SOMETHING BE THAT BEAUTIFUL ;-;

    For some reason any ‘yaoi flags’ just don’t pop up to me. It’s just genuine friendship and man that is..just….so great that it can be portrayed like that now.

  • May 25, 2012 at 2:11 pmHououin Kyouma

    After the excitement of this flaming interpretation I can’t even concentrate on my work anymore!!! This time I was reminded of Santana’s quote after contrasting The Olympus’ gig and the mind-blowing meddley those two put up: Rock is a pool, but Jazz is an ocean.

  • May 25, 2012 at 2:16 pmlorenzo

    This series keeps showing off some of the sweetest-no, of the GREATEST animation I’ve seen in an anime. The freaking movements of the jam session; and the freaking people calling their classmates! Never had I seen such a kind of smooth motion in animation. And, in the scene where Sen puts the piece of paper on the reception table- if you watch closely the book on the foreground, there’s freaking DEPTH OF FIELD, out of focus blur. Amazing.

    • May 25, 2012 at 2:23 pmlorenzo

      And, speaking of the eyecatches, when are you supposed to use “Ji” instead of “Za” for the pronunciation of “The”?

    • May 26, 2012 at 4:44 pmEarthBenderCharlie

      It’s interesting you say that.

      As an Animator, whenever I see the rotoscoping techniques used in this anime, I cringe ever so slightly. In case you didn’t know, they are not animating those scenes by hand, like in all the other regular scenes. They are instead, drawing over footage of real people playing music.

      Which is completely understandable as its very very difficult to animate the raw physical expression of a human playing an instrument like drums and pianos. If I was in charge of production of this anime, I probably would have made the same decision to use rotoscoping. (despite not being a fan of it at all) But the bits that had the students calling their classmates to come watch the performance were really bad. I don’t know why they chose to rotoscope those scenes. It completely took me out of the moment because up until that point, the animation was fairly consistent in its style then all of a sudden, the characters are running around moving like real people. It just felt a bit too seperated, as if those scenes were from a completely different anime to the previous 20 minutes of the entire episode.

      Not to rain on your parade of enjoyment or anything. I just found it interesting that where one person found the animation amazing, I found it to be quite horrible. ^_^”

      • May 27, 2012 at 3:14 amlorenzo

        Yes, I know about rotoscoping, but the fact that they keep up with smooth, real-life motion – it makes all the more interesting, for me at least.
        I agree with you though, as soon as I saw it, I didn’t like the rotoscopy in the students calling out scene, because, as you say, it felt detached from the rest of the episode. What got me so excited was how striking and peculiar the motion of people looked – even if perhaps it wasn’t that pleasing to the eye in an anime-art context.

  • May 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm7godeohs

    The last 5 minutes of that episode were pure joy. It felt like it lasted forever.

    Two questions: 1) How many episodes is this? 2) Why aren’t there more episodes than that?

    • May 25, 2012 at 11:42 pmGuardian Enzo

      1. 12
      2. Because there aren’t enough anime fans with enough taste to make shows like this profitable.

      • May 30, 2012 at 8:57 amtsundere

        This needs to change, fans need to open up to, and appreciate productions of higher caliber than those purely moe anime that the industry is chugging out nowadays. I’m sure we’ve all realised this by now though of course.

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:09 pmpetitorenji

    I’m more worried about Jun-ni. What in the world happened to him?

  • May 25, 2012 at 10:17 pmHenDarou

    This isn’t yaoi… This is “guy love between two guys~!” Scrubs fans will catch the reference.

    But really at first I thought it was a story about music and romance. Then I found out that it’s actually a story about music and bromance at it’s core, which is to say about a very close, important friendship between two guys. And it makes for a fantastic premise which is extremely well-executed. Love this show. :)

  • May 26, 2012 at 1:55 amJD

    I just watched this anime from Episode 1 today and, boy, what an emotional roller coaster ride. This ep, I was tearing up during the whole medley performance XD

    I find it RIDICULOUS for a guy like Kaoru to play that good at – what – 16/17?! When I was 16, I was…experimenting on tomatoes! (LOL) Well, kids these days…16-year-olds with insane chops appearing on TV (though Sakamichi is set in a different time). Watching this show now makes me want to try learning the piano again.

  • May 26, 2012 at 5:10 amdustshadow

    I always watch these episodes once before I read your review and once after that. With 60′s jazz music not being my strong point, I usually miss most of those references.

  • May 26, 2012 at 7:37 amKou

    Its definitely the music that makes this show so special. Of course the endearing characters and moving story also helps too. The duet at the end building up to the climax and having the both of them run out together, I couldn’t help but to shed a few tears of joy. It is a little sad to see it already halfway through the season. I personally don’t mind shorter series so long as it concludes it in a palatable way.

  • May 26, 2012 at 9:58 pmzen Pudding

    that’s it. I’m going out and buying me a jazz piano score tomorrow.

  • May 27, 2012 at 11:20 pmCyrano

    With the way things were brooding throughout most of the episode, the last few scenes were certainly a joy for me to watch. It’s fairly obvious, at least in my eyes, that both Sentaro and Bon’s true “language” is through Jazz. Normally, one is a fairly quiet yet seemingly unapproachable kid while the other is perceived as a sort of thug. Both just seem to have difficulty in communicating with their peers. And yet, when those two jam together, they really release their true personalities and I think a lot of people in the audience really got the first glimpse into that and they were mesmerized by it. Only after Yurika broke the silence did the others come out of their Jazz-induced daze. I’m sure that in the remaining episodes, the rest of their classmates will certainly look at them in a much different light.

  • May 30, 2012 at 8:46 amtsundere

    The transition into Moanin’, I can be quite sure I wasn’t the only one screaming into a pillow and thanking the Gods through my ceiling.

  • May 30, 2012 at 10:59 pmhaizaraa

    Thank you Enzo. It’s an absolute delight to read your reviews as always. *salutes*
    Man, Sakamichi, Sakamichi, you can’t do this to my heart! How the show manages to draw so much emotions without making the characters say much at all is simply stunning; I teared up during the flashback scene where Kaoru found a letter in his mail box as Sen told Maruo “I’m keeping my important partner waiting.” That was brilliant! TvT

  • June 4, 2012 at 7:01 amAshen-phoenix

    Once again, thank you Enzo for so eloquently seeing us through this episode’s meanings and subtleties.

    As much as I love a good, heartfelt BL series, I have to agree with you. This series is about the immense, world-shifting power of friendship, and all the difficulties and wonderful experiences we have in our youth.

    Hope this gets a DVD release. I surely and truly want to own it and share it with as many people as I can; whether it gets a dub or not I really don’t care. <3 It's amazing as is.