Back in 2012 a new hit was aired during the Spring season and while I didn’t watch the show as it aired, I went back to it and fell in love with it very quickly. The series in question is Kids on the Slope, a simple story directed by Shinichiro Watanabe and based on a hit manga series. I’ve just rewatched the show for the first time with a close friend of mine and after seeing it again I figured I’d give this hit a review!
Kids on the Slope tells the story of Kaoru Nishimi, who transfers into a new high school during the summer of his first year. While there he encounters the school’s wildest student, Sentaro Kawabuchi. Due to a twist of fate the two quickly become friends and bond through playing music together, but with Kaoru having moved around a lot due to his dad’s job just how close is he prepared to let Sentaro?
The series is a powerful story which tries to explore many different types of relationships in the 12 episodes it has to play with. While it’s mainly focused on the friendship between Kaoru and Sentaro, it’s also trying to show us the relationships the two have with their families, as well as showing us more romantic relationships thanks to Sentaro’s childhood friend Ritsuko and a few other characters that the anime introduces us to along the way. It’s not the type of show that is happy just to focus on Kaoru and Sentaro, it wants to show us far more and be more meaningful then just telling another youthful tale of friendship.
This is one of the strong selling points of the series. It knows how long it has to tell its story and it knows how to wisely use this time to explore all three of our main characters and the many different relationships they all have. It takes a very mature tone to everything the characters go through as well. Every thought and feeling we see them have is something you can relate to and appreciate. Kids on the Slope never plays things up. Instead everything is very raw and makes the story all the better for it.
Sentaro and Kaoru both hold somewhat strained relationships with their fathers and family. Neither of them feel like they have a place that they can call home and over time the two become even closer due to sharing these feelings. Of course the main factor of them being so close is Ritsuko, who having grown up with Sentaro isn’t afraid to tell him when he’s in the wrong, and she holds strong feelings for Kaoru which lead to some interesting developments. Of course one of the more major aspects that bring the two together is their love for music. Sentaro plays the drums and Kaoru plays piano and together the two play jazz. If they fight then they convey their feelings through their music and eventually patch things up.
The whole series plays out across the space of roughly two to three years which works rather neatly. We get the jest of how day to day life is for these characters and after that we’re just seeing the key events in their lives, but despite that it doesn’t feel like so much time has passed. If it wasn’t for the fact we see the school festival happen twice, and the fact Kaoru finishes high school by the final episode, you wouldn’t really know how much time had passed. Every episode just carries over from the last perfectly even though on the whole Kids on the Slope is trying to adapt from nine volumes of manga.
The musical aspect of the series is something that works extremely well. All the episodes are titled after popular jazz tracks, and the show itself has a couple of tracks which are used at key points. For example, in episode seven Kaoru and Sentaro preform a mash up of My Favourite Things and a couple of other tracks. My Favourite Things is played a number of times throughout Kids on the Slope and becomes a meaningful tune to the series. Music for Kids on the Slope is an important factor, it introduces the viewer to a lot of different jazz tracks and is nice on the ear. Of course, with Yoko Kanno handling the composing you can’t really expect anything else. Every track just clicks and works really, really well with whatever is happening to our group of friends.
The animation, while not needing to be anything stunning for the show, fits rather nicely for every scene as well. Kids on the Slope is set in a more old fashioned time in Japan and thus the animation fits this perfectly. Character designs aren’t bland but they aren’t handsome either. They’re fashioned on how people of their time would have dressed and looked and they feel at home in the series really nicely. Kids on the Slope relies more on its soundtrack and story than it does the animation to wow you, but nevertheless there are some pretty nice scenes to be seen in the show.
Kids on the Slope may be a laid back slice of life series, but it’s telling a strong tale of friendship, of coming of age, of growing up and making friends. It deserves all the praise it has ever been given and much, much more. Kids on the Slope is something special, and every anime fan needs to have seen it at one point or another.
- Overall 9.5
- Animation 7
- Story 9
- Soundtrack 9
- Characters 9.5
Kids on the Slope can be streamed in the UK thanks to Crunchyroll right here. The series has also been released by MVM Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray.