The 60s was a major growth period for the entire world. While free love was spreading in North America, the world was still being rebuilt for Japan. Just years after the end of WWII the country the county was starting to see their hard work pay off as the economy started to grow.
The government continued to rebuilding, American soldiers were still stationed in the country and a youth movement formed to fight for a better future.
This is the backdrop to Kids on the Slope.
Kids on the Slope is a coming of age anime about three high school students in a small Japanese village. The three; Kaoru a brainy new kid, Sentaro a wild brawler and Ritsuko a sweet-hearted girl form a friendship around their love for the American art form, Jazz.
Over the course of the series, Kaoru and Sentaro practice playing popular jazz tunes in the basement of Ritsuko’s family record store. The two form a connection as they both feel estranged from their families in some way and end up confiding in each other.
The anchor that keeps the two together when things get heated is Ritsuko. Both guys seem to have feelings for her in some way but don’t really realize what that could mean. A love-triangle of sorts starts as both think the other is meant for her.
Other characters appear over the course of the 12 episodes such as Sentaro’s mentor and friend Brother Jun, attractive young classmate Yurika and pop star in training Seiji. However, the main focus of the show is on the relationship between the three main characters.
Watching Kids on the Slope you quickly see just how great the animation is. The fluid motion of Sentaro hammering on the drums or the individual fingers of Kaoru dancing on the piano puts this shows production above other music based shows.
After the animation the next thing you’ll notice is the shows great soundtrack.
Seeing how this is a Shinichiro Watanabe/Yoko Kanno production it’s clear that these two hit out of the park again, much like they did in the past with their other titles Macross Plus and Cowboy Bebop.
The music is the driving force in the show. When the two main characters aren’t jamming in the basement, the dramatic moments are backed by some great tunes that back up the story quite well.
The show plays a number of standards including one of my favourites, But Not For Me, made famous by Chet Baker.
However, as a side not, the opening and closing themes are not as good as they could be and seem out of place due there being more J-Pop than Jazz.
While most the music is great, it would be for nothing if the plot of the show was bad. Fortunately for anime fans, the story delivers.
The love triangle makes for some interesting moments as Kaoru puts his foot in his mouth around Ritsuko. Over the course of the show you really start to feel for him.
As the series continues their friendships are tested as all three start to think about going their different ways after school. These are things that we all go through in our lives and it’s done effectively in the show.
The biggest knock against this show is that is a bit too big at times for 12 episodes. The series was based upon a 9-volume manga written by Yuki Kodama, and the show seems to jump around a bit with the story.
We move quickly from the winter break to the summer break over the course of a couple episodes. While this may have been done in the manga as well it makes the storytelling kind of jittery.
Another aspect of the show that could have been better was the use of the setting. While 60s Japan is an interesting time period, the show doesn’t spend much time focusing on it.
The youth movements are barely shown and little reference is made to changes that took place after the WWII.
Despite this, Kids on the Slope is one the best anime series I’ve watched.
The series mixes jazz music, with a interesting setting and likeable characters. While they could of spent more time examining some of these historical elements more, the show is pretty damn good and I highly recommend it.
Kids on the Slope was based upon a Manga written by Yuki Kodama and Published by Shogakukan‘s Flowers Magazine. The series was produced by MAPPA and Tezuka Productions. The show is Licensed by Hanabee in Austriala, MVM Films in the UK and Sentai Filmworks in North America.
Sentai will be releasing a English Dub in May. But the Subtitled version is available to watch for free on Crunchyroll.