Having not read the original manga, or knowing anything related to this show whatsoever prior to my first viewing, I didn't really know what to expect from Kids on the Slope. Aside from its allegedly "astounding" musical elements, I came into this show blind, thinking it was going to be just another typical Coming-of-Age sort of anime that wasn't going to be anything special. Technically, I wasn't wrong (about the genre), but let me tell ya: I've never been so damn happy finding out about some random show ever in my entire life.
Warning: may have (very) minor spoilers! Summary at the bottom.
Kids on the Slope is a story about...love. Depending on your initial thought, your personal definition of the word "love" when it's first heard, it doesn't quite matter since it covers all of which you could think of -- 8 types (in theory) to be specific, though there's likely more than that. It's less of a story about reaching adulthood and more of finding oneself during the journey towards it, and that could mean a lot of things. In terms of what this show features, there's discovering your place in the world -- your purpose, what you live for, and what you value. It's a matter of finding out all of these things for yourself, and whether or not you allow others to decide for you.
Back on the topic of love, this show mainly deals with the basic three: family, friendship, and romance, though it refers to others much more subtly. Moreover, you'd find that there's a love that's forbidden, a love that's unknown, and a love that's waiting ever so desperately. Of course, what this show is most well-known for is the commonly-shared, prominent love for music. Not just any music: jazz -- a genre known for being impossible to define despite its unmistakable quirks. Kids on the Slope manages to find itself within that range of "indefinability" (I think that's a word), where it's just plain difficult to fully summarize what this show is really about. You've sort of got to feel it for yourself, or to put a complex subject a tad bit simply:
That's the magic -- the natural appeal of the indescribable. If I had to define it: Kids on the Slope is a harmonic, nostalgic joyride through the journey of life, "love", and all that comes with it. It gives off a powerful expression that some emotions cannot be spoken with words, though an outlet through music can speak much clearer. Every musical piece and performance serves its own purpose -- whether it's intent is an attempt to break, to harmonize, or to declare ones bonds, and no bond in this show is ever created without reason. I mean...do I really have to repeat what the reason is?
It's an excessively common yet incredibly effective theme that a boatload of anime manage to miss its point. Actually, it transcends beyond anime and well into film, music, and other forms of entertainment found all around the world -- "love", whatever kind, is not so easy to portray accurately. The bonds created between Kids on the Slope's many characters don't just relate to love for one another, or love for anyone in general. It's a kind of "love" that becomes a mutual "respect" given for whatever reason they may have. And while all these characters develop these kind of feelings for each other one way or another, they hide it, preferring to keep to themselves. That's one thing I especially love about cast of Kids on the Slope: their authenticity.
Obviously, people don't exactly enjoy feeling vulnerable. We don't like uneasiness with ourselves, and we hesitate to show these emotions to others, despite it being a possible relief to our burdens. Kids on the Slope absolutely nails the mark with the how their entire cast was written, and I unknowingly found myself engaged in the stories of what would usually be "mere" side characters in a typical anime. There's a subtle yet deep inner turmoil that develops and lingers within each of these characters. They all have their own sets of issues to worry about, and while from an outer perspective, some may seem much more serious than others: when it's your problem, it's huge, isn't it?
Well, that's enough of the show's story, characters, and themes for now. I think I've gotten the point across the Kids on the Slope is much, much more than a "typical Coming-of-Age sort of anime", as I said in the intro. Now, I'll delve into the shows technical aspects.
I'll let these GIFs speak for themselves...
It's rare for an anime these days to pay such close attention to detail where many shows have an abundance of scenes composed of mere a camera slide to give the illusion of "movement". Kids in the Slope, however, does not buy into that nonsense. Not at all. In fact, what's rare in this show is to find a shot where everything is completely still. And even if you do manage find a shot like that, it's always to give effect to the underlying mood and establish atmosphere. This is what good -- no, great direction and animation looks like. There are plenty of moments within this show where I was completely absorbed, not only by means of its narrative and character complexity, but also through its absolutely stunning cinematography. Shinichirō Watanabe is famous for a reason.
While he's a big name in the medium, there's also someone else heavily admired for their skill and excellence within their field: Yoko Kanno, who has composed for various shows such as Cowboy Bebop, Terror in Resonance, GiTS: Stand Alone Complex, and of course, Kids on the Slope. The musical score she produced for this show is one of the best I've ever heard, and I've watched Cowboy Bebop for goodness' sake. Of course, she is not the only one to be credited for such an amazing soundtrack: there's the musicians as well with the drums, piano, trumpet, bass, sax, and everything else. From their brilliant renditions of 50's and 60's classics such as Moanin' by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers and Lullaby of Birdland performed by numerous iconic artists including Ella Fitzgerald, to their melodious background instrumentals and seemingly effortless improvisations, they made the OST a masterpiece in its own right. Through the power of music alone acclaimed by jazz-lovers and non-jazz lovers alike, Kids on the Slope reveals how absent words can create abundant expression -- all by acting as a bridge rather than a barrier.
Summary / Final Verdict
Kids on the Slope is the absolute pinnacle of the Drama/Music genre packed with exemplary storytelling, character-work, and direction within a unique, deftly handled narrative of life, love, and everything in between. Driven by a superb cast, their stories are engagingly told as the threads of their bonds tangle yet reverse into tune throughout their journeys. On top of intricate animation and impressive cinematography, the series is perfected with its electrifying 50-60's jazz performances that ooze style, and with each piece serving its own distinct purpose with lingering, ever-changing emotions spoken through the sounds of music, together they forge an inimitable masterpiece and a timeless, stone-cold classic.
Since it managed to raise the bar for virtually everything that I will ever watch in the future, Kids on the Slope undoubtedly deserves a full 10/10 (✯ Legendary) rating.
This is the definition of class.
✯ 10/10 -- LEGENDARY ✯
=== PRIME RECOMMENDATION ===