Sakamichi no Apollon – 08

Kaoru and Sentaro deal uncomfortably with their newfound fame around school, while Ritsuko gets the idea to make a scarf for Kaoru. Jun is no longer in the Mukae shop basement, and has a small apartment where Yurika happens to spot him up and about. She insists on talking with him, and he tries to scare her off by making moves. She knows he’s in pain and wants to support him, even if doing so will be with disapproval from her father. Sentaro stops by Jun’s to talk, but flees when he sees Yurika is there. After a brief, tense session, Kaoru sees Ritsuko knitting the scarf and assumes it’s for Sentaro. While on a walk after church, Sentaro first starts to realize Kaoru is in love with him.

So far we’ve learned that Kaoru’s in love with Ritsuko, who’s in love with Sentaro, who’s in love with Yurika, who’s in love with Brother Jun. All face their own set of obstacles to being with those they love, particularly those the one they love loves (we haven’t lost you, have we?). Things aren’t as simple as that anymore. Ritsuko may be starting to develop feelings for Kaoru after all; Sentaro is finally noticing Ritsuko’s affections; and Yurika may have made progress making her intentions clear to Jun: he isn’t scared of him; not physically, not mentally. Whatever he’s done or been through, she wants to be there for him. And he’s not in any position to turn her down: he’s been disowned by his father and dropped out of school. He’s aimless, and if someone doesn’t take him by the scruff of the neck, he may destroy himself.

Jun has always been a mystery, aside from the fact we kinda gathered he wasn’t the perfet saint Sentaro (and by extension Kaoru) made him out to be. Jun studied (in Tokyo, gaining his dad’s ire) and played music, and thought that was enough; until he met an upperclassman named Arita and joined his movement protesting teachers’ pay, and probably other elements of society they believe to be unjust. Arita also happened to be a sax player, and when his hands were broken in a protest, Jun blamed himself, lost hope, started drinking, and didn’t stop. This fantastic episode was a bit of a splash of cold water, washing away the high of the festival jam session. After all, all that solved was Kaoru and Sentaro’s row. All the other problems they’ve been struggling with remain. We finally learned about Jun’s story, who’d come off as such a jerk of late, and the depth of Yurika’s devotion to him, which will be a rough path beset on all sides by hardship and potential for ruin.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Sakamichi no Apollon – 07

The day of the school cultural festival draws near, and Kaoru still won’t speak to Sentaro. Kaoru and Ritsuko are elected to the festival committee by their class, who have begun to noticce their mutual affection for one another. Sentaro makes a move on Yurika, but they’re interrupted by a bedraggled Jun, who Sentaro punches. Kaoru wastes an opportunity to clear the air with Sentaro, and the two drift far apart. When the festival arrives, the rock concert is cut short by electrical problems. On a whim, Kaoru decides to occupy the crowd by playing jazz on the piano. Sentaro joins him on the drums, and their jamming draws the whole school to the gym, spellbound. When they’re done their impromptu set, they run down the slope.

Whew…now that was a goddamn powerhouse of an episode. Just as jazz was the catalyst for Kaoru and Sentaro’s friendship, it’s also the salve that mends it when it’s asunder. The episode is a roller coaster of bleak emotional valleys balanced by dizzyingly estatic peaks. Beginning with a breif recap of Kaoru telling Sentaro off, potentially (though unlikely) for good, and ends with the most jaw-droppingly epic jam session in the most unlikely venue. The entire school witnesses their catharsis, and are so captivated they almost forget to applaud (Yurika gets it going). The scenes of students running into classrooms beckoning their peers to come to the gym adds to the energy. This week the school learned a lot more about Sentaro and Kaoru.

They jam for just over three and a half minutes, but times seems to drift away altogether during that period. We’re dared to not tap our feet or drum our hands on the coffee table to the music, and we can’t resist. The medley harks back to all the pieces they’ve played thus far – and one Kaoru played just for Ritsuko – but all of them have a new energy, which Ri’ko puts very nicely: “Like two princes arguing good-naturedly as they come back home.” It is an argument: between two momentarily estranged friends; between piano and drums; but once they’re both on the same wavelength and jamming away with such energy and purpose, not even a drunken racist Yankee sailor would deign to interrupt. Ri’ko’s dad mourns the loss of Coltrane at the episode’s start: it’s no time for silent halls or friends…and rock ‘n’ roll just ain’t gonna cut it.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Sakamichi no Apollon – 04

Jun comes by the music shop with good news: he’s gotten the quartet a live audience in the form of a gaijin jazz bar U.S. troops frequent. Christmas (also Sentaro’s birthday) arrive, and Kaoru bumps into Ritsuko at the music store, where they each buy a drumstick for Sentaro. When it starts to snow, Kaoru kisses Ritsuko, but she runs off in tears. When Kaoru sees Sentaro with his family, he yells at him in frustration, but later Sentaro shares his past with him, and they make up at a Hammond organ. When the night of their gig arrives, they start off well, but a drunk heckles them, and Sentaro leaves the stage. Jun and Kaoru continue with a rendition of Gershwin’s But Not For Me.

Jazz may be helping Kaoru to be more unexpected – after all, we would never have guessed he’d give Ritsuko a big ol’ smooch before hearing having an idea how she feels. But considering tears have been involved both times, we’re guessing she doesn’t like him that way, or otherwise her emotions are as confused as an out-of-sync jazz quartet. And while a piano, trumpet, bass and drums make a happy family in a jazz band, Kaoru has some major envy for Sentaro, believing he “has it all”, until of course Sentaro tells him he doesn’t. He had a rough life, being half-American and hated for it by other kids and his grandmother, who died in his arms, leading to his dad giving him the cold shoulder. It would seem he was partially raised by the church, and Ritsuko was always around as well.

Knowing the truth, the rich and privileged Kaoru feels bad that he pitied himself just because his aunt and cousin are unwelcoming bitches. And his own dad may never come home, so like Sentaro, he’s going to have to find another remedy for his lonliness. He thought that Ritsuko would help, but knowing she really loves Sentaro (and now understanding more about why), he feels his love is petty by comparison. This was another excellent episode that not only delved into Sentaro’s past, but also served up lots of unexpected little twists that parallel the unpredictablility of jazz. Be it the sudden snow, Kaoru’s stolen kiss, the racist drunk at the bar almost ruining their first set, or Yurika suddenly getting the hots for Jun (after a rough introduction where he thought she was there to patronize the troops!), life is indeed sometimes like jazz.

Rating: 8 (Great)