「ラブ・ミー・オア・リーブ・ミー」 (Rabu mī oa rību mī)
“Love Me Or Leave Me”

Dammit Watanabe, why do you insist on making it look so easy?

This was an amazingly simple episode of Sakamichi no Apollon, really. Basically four main scenes, plus a few supporting ones, spread out over the winter holidays as Kyushu is covered by a light blanket of snow. I can only describe the way Watanabe constructed it as “elegant”. If Tsuritama is Oscar Peterson – bright and brash and slightly out of control, bursting with creative flair, Sakamichi is Bill Evans. Not a note is wasted, and not an unnecessary one added. Watanabe, like Evans, plays only what needs to be played to communicate the feeling behind the music. If I had to take one of those two pianists with me to a desert island, I’d be glad I wasn’t on a desert island and grateful that the jazz world has given me both.

Think about all that Watanabe accomplished here. He tied up Jun’s arc as neatly as you could want, tied a bow on his relationship with Yurika, allowed Ri’ko to come to terms with her feelings for Sentarou, and settled the question of which guy she had decided on (though not without a hint of suspense). And oh, by the way, it saved perhaps its more powerful emotional punch for the farewell between Sen and Brother Jun, and in the process delivered another jackhammer of a jam session with all four players attacking Miles Davis’ “Four” (from Four and More, 1964). That’s why he’s one of very few directors who could have taken on the task of distilling this long manga down to 12 episodes without losing the essence of what it was.

I’ll start with that scene, because it was probably by favorite of the episode. It was such a quintessentially “guy” way to say goodbye – neither one of them could find anything to say to each other after their awkward, violent parting. So they duked it out through their music – full of emotion and affection, not expressed tenderly but ferociously and angrily. It was the first in what I expect to be a string of goodbyes over the final four episodes, and given that friendship and jazz are at the heart of Sakamichi, it’s fitting that it was an absolute home-run of a moment. Jun was a supplemental part of the story, but a critical one, and I’m glad his departure was treated with the respect it deserved.

With him of course went Yurika, although I was in suspense right up to the last minute about that. There was a lot of feeling to the contrary, but it was my opinion all along that the two of them had never done more than kissed – and that her mother’s “gynecologist” comment last week was effectively her assuming that her daughter had been seduced and preparing for the worst. Yurika has exceeded expectations several times in this series and she leaves the story in grand style, true to herself with her pride intact – and she was willing to stay behind as Jun went back to Tokyo to join Arita’s new publishing venture, once she was satisfied that Jun was doing what he felt was right. It was only when Jun realized just how hopeless a situation he’d be leaving Yurika in that he became her knight in shining armor. Logically, it makes much more sense for her to stay behind – she’s too young for Jun, and his future is uncertain. But an uncertain future is better than one almost certain to be loveless, and in the end he followed his heart instead of his brain.

Perhaps a week later than I expected, that appears to truly clear the field for the main trio. There was an amusing diversion at Yamaoka’s Christmas party early on, which Kaoru had attended as a way of distancing himself from Sen and Ritsuko. As he was thinking “I wonder what those two are doing right now?” I could help but wonder which one he was jealous of – and then realize, the answer is really both of them, in different ways. I’m also beginning to suspect that Watanabe is intentionally teasing us about The Olympus playing The Beatles, because everyone keeps suggesting it and they keep playing Spiders’ songs. And Seiji proves himself quite the character, prancing about in a bedsheet toga as he sings lead.

That’s more or less just preamble to the Trio’s situation entering its next phase. This was really a Ritsuko ep mostly, as she was the one doing the introspection – puzzling over her anger at Kaoru for pushing her towards Sen, after she’d been the one to reject him. Her chat with Yurika and “Chet” the cat (does he play trumpet and sing, and did Yurika smuggle him off to Tokyo with her?) was refreshingly direct and authentic (and let me add, this ep gave us both Yurika’s reference to Ritsuko’s “Prince” – and “whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens”. That’s almost embarrassingly good stuff). And it all serves to push her towards admitting her feelings and, more than that, acting on them – as she states herself, to be the driver of action rather than simply reacting to others. Rit-chan is fundamentally a sweet and kind girl who puts others first and has a somewhat negative view of her own worth – but what she came to realize in this episode is that there are times where you have to be selfish, and pursue your own happiness.

Even after Yurika had retrieved the ball of wool from the trash, there was just a hint of doubt in my mind about what Rit-chan had decided. But when she told Sen, “Yes – you got it wrong” that answered the question for me. Credit where it’s due, it took real courage for Sentarou to finally confront her that way. With the air cleared between the two of them, she’s free to do what her heart tells her – which is shown in lovely fashion when she hides Kaoru’s new gloves in the piano in the studio. I can’t imagine Sentarou will accept this without some pain, though in effect, he and Ri’ko are siblings – it’s going to hurt to think of she and Kaoru having each other, while he has no one. Perhaps the message will be that what the two of them feel for Sen – and he for them – is just as real and from the heart as what they feel for each other. Romance and sex aren’t absent from Sakamichi no Apollon by any means, but more than those things, the series is about love.

39 Comments

  1. The whole scene with Jun and Yurika on the train station just left me with the widest and dumbest smile i’ve had in quite some time. I just love it when shows become better and better after each episode, especially when it’s shows like this, that after each episode you think “can it become even better than THIS?”.

    Well, to be fair. This show was pretty damn amazing even in the first episode.

    Wuz
    1. yes, the train scene felt just a tiny bit rushed, but that’s only because I’m well used to the manga’s pace. Overall, Jun+Yurika scenes were done quite well in this episode.

      .....
  2. Well, when you have 3 male characters+ 2 female, one dude is bound to be a lonely one. In this case, it’s turned out to be Sen.

    I imagine that he’d be one of those wild ones that would refuse to settle down and go off somewhere (outside of the storyline place) one day or something. Since he’s into Jazz, maybe he’ll even come to here, I mean U.S. in the storyline, thus letting the other two free to hook up nicely.

    some guy
  3. If what you mean when you say Oscar Peterson is brash and out of control is he plays the same eighth note lines over and over and the same blues scale over and over then I agree with you. I was going to watch Tsuritama but now I don’t want to, maybe if it was like Keith Jarrett…

    Jah'Rakhal
  4. “in the end he followed his heart instead of his brain.”
    i was still a little unsure of how i truly felt about jun/yurika..but damn enzo you have completely changed my perspective towards the entire affair just from that line. and just ;_;

    grey
  5. Eh, cliffhanger!

    I don’t think Sen will be truly hurt. He sees Ritsuko as her family, not as a lover. I saw his confrontation with Ritsuko as an apology, tough as it was, but nothing more.

    mike_s_6
  6. I didn’t think Seiji could get anymore terrifying… O_O I don’t know what he’s channeling but it must be some good stuff.lol That said I also don’t think we will get to see more of his Seiji-ness as this story is in it’s final lap.

    Ani_BEE
    1. There is actually a scanlation group who are releasing new volume of the manga every Friday. As of current, they are 2 volumes ahead of the anime. (Each episode of the anime finishes at least 3/4 of each volume) Check them out here.

      Blubbly
  7. I think this is my favorite episode so far.
    It was heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
    The showdown between Jun and Sen, the conversation between Yurika and Ri-chan, Sen’s apology to Ri’ko and THAT train station scene was the cherry on top. Everything was perfect. The dialogue, Apollon Blue playing on the background, etc. It could have been super cheesy but it never felt that way.
    On another note, I haven’t read the manga but I know it’s 9 volumes long so I assume they had to cut some scenes out but 12 episodes isn’t so bad. It’s more than 1 ep per volume. Of course I’d like more Sakamichi but it doesn’t feel like we’d been robbed.

    CarolV
  8. Train station scenes are one of the most (maybe painfully) beautiful scenes in anime. Most notable for me are the ones in 5cm per second and now this (Yurika x Jun).

    Oh, my heart.

    JD
    1. Yes, that is a nice comparison.
      Having recently watched 5 cm per second and feeling heartbroken after watching the consequences of not following your heart, I couldn’t help but noticing the similarities. Just when I thought things here would end the same way they did as in “5 cm”, I was literally screaming at the screen “Go get her man” – and I am so glad he did. I don’t think I could stand two unhappy endings like that in such a short time interval. I’m really glad we god a happy ending in this case.

      Darklord
    1. I know, right – he’s the best, nicest guy in the series and he’s god no luck.
      Though I’m pretty sure he’ll be OK – there are plenty of women who can appreciate a dependable guy like him and he still has great friends and family.

      Darklord
  9. …all the tears just exploded out of my face while reading your wonderful review Enzo and it’s great how much you know about Jazz. Urghh, the beautiful tears :’) If they throw in a bit of footage of Jun and Yurika interacting in the future when this series ends i could die happy, I’m really going to miss those characters.

    SlushiZ
    1. Thanks kindly. I wish I knew a lot more about jazz, really – I’m a novice, but I do love it and this series is zeroing in on one of my favorite periods and a lot of my favorite artists.

      I think Yurika and Jun have a rough road ahead of them – in fact, I’d say the odds are against them. But given the alternative, it was the right gamble – at least this way she has a chance at happiness.

      1. HEH their train scene reminded me of Taichi’s train scene in Chihayafuru and then I found out that a second season of Chihayafuru got announced and IM SOO EXCITEDDD NOW 😀

        SlushiZ
  10. I felt really teary-eyed towards the end. Beautiful episode, awesome atmosphere and a great end for Jun and Yurika. I also think Jun made the right choice of taking Yurika with him. She is his light in the darkness, so to speak. Sen and Jun’s duel was simply awesome. Something like this is meant to be heard and it came off really well. I couldn’t have imagine what the scene would sound like if I read the manga but this is just wonderful as are all the musical jam sessions animated in this series.

    Ayumikat
  11. Come ooooooooooon! This show is just so incredible! This whole episode was superb and I cried my heart out during the JunXYurika scene, it was so touching!!!!! Jeez, I have no words to describe how I feel about this show, but it is definitely one of the best of the last years!! Is it official that it would last 12 episodes?

  12. Fantastic episode. The next one will be terrific if the manga is any indication – really nice scene coming up. I’ve read ahead in the manga and I’m wondering at what point this will end. Going by the current pace it would end right in the middle of some serious business. Regardless I’ll be sad to see such a great show end.

    Enzo: Just a side note in case you hadn’t heard, but they just announced the 2nd season of Chihayafuru. Thought you might like to know. 😉

    7godeohs
  13. Nishimi Kaoru: giving hope to the all the friendzoned guys out there since 2012.

    Yurika has been a surprisingly strong character and I’m glad that as you mentioned, she went out of the series with her pride intact. This role is probably a good one for Endou Aya too, considering how her last prominent role went.

    This show is seriously good stuff.

  14. Wow awesome thanks for pointing out the “My Favorite Things,” reference when I read and realized that I just got excited again after seeing the end of this episode =D
    The thing about Jun and Yurika…..when we saw Sentaro meet Yurika, it was love at first sight for him. When their eyes met during the pretty sunset and her long hair was flowing from the wind, it was such a beautiful scene so right then and there I truly believed they would be together. This is quite similar to Honey and Clover but more slow paced and subtle enough that I could actually accept the unrequited love. So when it comes to love triangles and polygons, Sakamichi no Apollon was probably the most brutal for me.

    Soo
    1. It was also really interesting to note how traditional Sentarou can be, despite his half-foreign Christian status, perhaps even to make up for it. The Letter of Challenge and the almost feudal apology to Ri’ko could have come from a samurai flick.

      Bio D
  15. I’ve got to say, that train scene was one of the most emotional ones I’ve watched in anime in a long time. The way it was directed was masterfully done. While it feels like their “arc” is done (just a guess), I’m certain that they will have quite a bit of turmoil and struggles in their future. Even so, I’m almost 100% sure that they’ll face them head on and survive them together.

    Cyrano
  16. I think you put it so beautifully (as per usual) in the last line for this episode.

    Kids on the Slope, above all else, is about love in all its forms. I cannot wait to own this series on DVD. It’s such an amazing anime. Makes me want to hunt down the manga and try my hardest to read it.

Leave a Reply to Wibnice Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *