“Jazz is not dead … it just smells funny.” – Frank Zappa.
MVM clearly have high hopes with this series. For starters it was only released this year so it has been a quick turnaround for its release in the UK. Also they are bringing out of Blu-Ray release as well as DVD. MVM has been rather slow on the Blu-Ray releases, but judging by this series, it could well be a good move.
Kids on the Slope is set in the 1960s and follows transfer student Kaoru Nishimi, a kid who has constantly moved around schools and has always found it difficult making friends. His one great talent is playing classical music on the piano. During his first day he comes across Sentaro Kawabuchi, a troublesome kid at the school, whom he manages to somehow strike up a relationship with. This is because Sentaro is also a keen music lover, playing the drums, but instead having a passion for jazz.
While their music tastes clash, Kaoru begins to embrace jazz, slowly pick up tunes and express himself through improvisation. The two of them start to play together, alongside Tsutomu Mukae, an upright bass player and record shop owner, whose daughter Ritsuko is Nishimi’s classmate; and trumpeter Jun, whom Sentaro considers to be a brother because they are so close.
The story follows the relationship between Kaoru, Sentaro and Ritsuko as they make their way through their school years, facing trouble at school with rival pupils who are into different forms of music like The Beatles, while Kaoru tries to express his romantic feelings for Ritsuko, but she is in love with Sentaro instead. Also the fact they are both Catholics results in their relationship having a spiritual connection as well as a romantic one.
There are many things worth pointing out. For starters, Kids on the Slope is a josei anime. Now while we get an awful lot of shonen, shojo and seinen anime in Britain, josei is something that gets very few releases here. There are some things in the series which are rather adult, namely the language. The series is set in the port of Sasebo, and in one scene in which the quartet play in a jazz bar frequented by visiting American sailors, one drunken American makes racist remarks calling jazz “coon music”. On the jazz theme, I did find the music played to be rather entertaining, even speaking as someone who is not that into jazz. It makes you want to go out there and listen to some of the tracks they play like “Moanin'” by Art Blakey, which is also the first episode title (all the titles are jazz songs). However, the jazz aspect of the series is not that surprising, when you consider that the director and the composer of the series both worked together on the equally swinging Cowboy Bebop.
Like many a josei series, there is a hint of sadness in it, but there are plenty of merry moments alongside the cheerful tunes. The “Coming-of-Age” theme and the experiences in the series make for a realistic, heartfelt creation.
This collection comes with plenty of extras, including trailers, clean opening and closing titles, previews, and interviews with director Shinichiro Watanabe, as well as musicians Shun Ishiwaka and Yoko Kanno.
Kids on the Slope is a charming series which is worth getting. It might well boost your record collection as well as your anime one.