Sakamichi no Apollon – 05 Review
Sakamichi 05 – The Power of Music
Okay, okay, okay. I have a confession to make.
Sakamichi is starting to lose some of its luster for me.
That being said, I’m definitely still enjoying Sakamichi. It’s just… Well, maybe it’s just that it’s not really what I expected? I suppose I went into it expecting to see a coming-of-age story about a boy (Kaoru) who finally bursts out of his shell after a lot of trials and tribulations and heart-wrenching moments.
And this is sort of that, but not completely.
My main complaint is that I’m not really sure what the story is about. I thought it was about Kaoru’s personal growth and transition into “adulthood” (or at least into being a happy person with a full life). During the first episode, Kaoru’s anxiety problems and lack of social skills seemed like a major part of his character. Through playing jazz and getting to know Sentaro, he loosened up and started being kind of a cool guy. But all that happened way too fast!
For these last few episodes, Kaoru hasn’t been any more awkward, weird, or uptight than even a moderately shy person. He’s got no problem being best buddies and being super tight with Sentaro, he was pretty slick when organizing their group date in Ep 03, he was superbly confident playing jazz on stage in front of a bunch of strangers in Ep 04, and suspiciously smooth in his confession/kissing and dealing with the aftermath of those things with Ritsuko.
Now in this episode, he’s even going to visit his long-lost mother and he doesn’t seem particularly uncomfortable or nervous (with the possible exception of a short moment or two) considering what a huge deal something like that would be for anyone, but especially a guy with terrible social skills.
So what’s up? What’s this story about?
Like I said, I’m still enjoying it for what it is. Even though what it is seems to be just a somewhat arbitrary depiction of events in Kaoru’s life over the course of a year or more (it’s already been about a year inside the story, and this is only the halfway point). I’m actually late on writing this review because I’ve been racking my brain to try and figure out exactly what it is that I feel like Sakamichi is missing. Since it’s still a great show, imperfections or not, I’m reluctant to say anything negative. But I just can’t get over this feeling that something just isn’t quite there, so here’s my best guess at what it might be…
The problem is with conflict resolution in Kaoru’s life.
There’s plenty of conflict in each episode, and it’s done quite well. Unrequited love with Ritsuko, fighting with Sentaro, being heckled during their live show, visiting his mother, etc – they’re all great conflicts and they’re built up perfectly, they flow seamlessly, they’re believable, yadda yadda.
One problem is that each conflict seems like a totally isolated thing – they each *really* only involve one person. Sure, on the surface it may look like a group conflict – for example, when Kaoru and Sentaro were mad at each other, Ritsuko stepped in with a generic, “Boys, be nice to each other,” comment. But Ritsuko wasn’t really involved. She never found out what was going on between them, there was nothing at stake, she didn’t take sides, she wasn’t part of it at all – it was solely between the two boys. The drama between Ritsuko and Kaoru was the same way. Sentaro made a passing remark, “Oh come back to the shop, Ritsuko misses you,” but he never knew about the situation, and he never even asked Kaoru what was going on, at least with any conviction or honest concern.
The biggest problem though, is the resolution of these conflicts. Every single time something bad or stressful happens in Kaoru’s life, it’s resolved by the end of the episode… Simply by playing jazz with Sentaro. What’s the message here? That no matter how many crappy things happen in life, as long as you have a friend like Sentaro and ya’ll go play some jazz music, everything will be okay.
Sure, I’m aware of the “healing power of music” and all that jazz, but this is a bit much. Playing a song or two with your buddy to fix anything and everything is beyond music’s magical powers, or at least it is in my experience. Even when Kaoru suddenly turned away from his friends and music in this episode, all it took to fix everything was to play a song or two with Sentaro. Maybe Sentaro’s got magical powers and he’s just using jazz as a cover up?
The way the conflicts come up and are resolved in each episode leaves me wanting. It’s almost as if all of Kaoru’s personal growth and development is happening off screen somewhere. What’s he do when he isn’t busy fixing the world by playing jazz, anyways? Other than in the first episode, I don’t feel like we’ve really gotten to see how any of these conflicts are affecting or changing Kaoru. Meeting his mom for example – we never really got to find out how Kaoru felt about his past or his mother. It was almost a great moment of character development, and then… Everything was totally okay and no one felt anything but happy and good… Thanks to the “power” of music.
I’d like to hear what you guys think about all this. Do you feel the same way? Does everyone still love Sakamichi or is the excitement starting to wear off for you too?
Now that’s off my chest, there were a few things I’d like to mention about this episode. First of all, does Kaoru’s mom work at a hostess club??? It sure looks like a hostess club to me!
I’m still enjoying the friendship between Kaoru and Sentaro, and I liked how the dudes they got drunk with (Jun’s neighbors) pointed out that best friends are a treasure and worth holding on to for your entire life. That’s some good advice. Kaoru and Sentaro’s friendship, although it sometimes feels contrived, is an awesome portrayal of the best that best friends can be – no matter what happens, even if you fight or disagree, you always come back to the friendship. My best friend and I are like that – our longest fight lasted two years, but we’ve been best friends since we were nine years old and we’ll probably always be close.
The best part of the episode was definitely Jun and the sketchiness surrounding him. What’s up with him? Is he a thug? A drug dealer? A player? I’m more interested in Jun and Yurika than in the other characters at this point. They both seem to have a lot more going on than Kaoru/Sentaro/Ritsuko. Jun’s obviously hiding something (or at least there’s more to be revealed about him) – he said that strange thing at the beginning about the “coincidences” and how “Even the name is similar.” And Yurika is interesting enough. Compared to Ritsuko, she has a far greater range of expression and even though no background on her has been given, it seems like she’s got a few tricks of her own up her sleeve.
Those are my thoughts on Episode 05 and Sakamichi so far. It’s still holding my attention, and it’s still a great watch, but it seems to be losing some of the original punch. It could be as simple as trying to cover too many issues at once – dealing with coming-of-age, jazz, friendship, love triangles, family life, racism, classism, developing at least four or five main characters, all while trying to emphasize the “period piece” aspect of things, is a *lot* to handle. But even with its faults, Sakamichi is entertaining, and I’ll continue watching and blogging it. After all, I want to know more about mysterious Brother Jun, and I want to know who Ritsuko really likes.
Episode Rating: 7.5/10
Hey everyone! Please comment below with your thoughts regarding Sakamichi. Are you still loving it? Or are you also thinking that it feels like something is missing? I’m curious to hear what you all have to say about it!
For your listening pleasure, I’m putting in two versions of the song-of-the-week, “Lullaby of Birdland”. The first is sung by Sarah Vaughan in 1954, and the second is from the Sakamichi no Apollon OST, which is out now (and it’s great). They’re two totally different takes of the song, but both wonderful. See you next week!