Friday, June 29, 2012

Sakamichi no Apollon – 12 (End)

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Whatever else you might think of the final episode – or of the eleven that preceded it – I think it’s hard to argue that Watanabe-sensei isn’t a directorial genius of the first order.

It wouldn't be unfair to say I went into this final episode with a good deal of trepidation. I’ve had the growing sense that Watanabe-sensei has been fighting an increasingly frantic battle to keep Sakamichi no Apollon a coherent and powerful show. There’s just so much story here, and there’s so little time to tell it. And there have been cracks in the façade in the last few weeks – awkward transitions, time-skips that stretch patience, and a tendency for the characters to act in support of the plot, rather than vice-versa.

I can’t imagine that this ending is going to please everyone but, like so much else about this adaptation, it strikes me as the very best the director could possibly have produced given what he had to work with. I don’t know how faithful the ending was to the manga materially or spiritually – I can only assume it was seriously condensed at the very least – but it felt faithful to the anime, and that’s really all that matters. There’s a certain poetry in the fact that this is a series that depicts a time in our lives that seems to pass in a heartbeat, because that’s exactly what it felt like watching it.

That’s the paradox of youth, I suppose. We don’t have the experience to contextualize what we experience and what we feel, and in the grand scheme of life high school is but a blink. Yet what happens to us during that time is outsized in importance to the person we become – this small stretch of time casts a huge shadow, and that’s ultimately what I think this show is about. Thus when it comes to the “Romance vs. Friendship” debate I think the answer is, that’s the wrong question. In Sakamichi the romance and friendship are inseparable, and the central theme of the series is neither – and both.

Certainly, it was sad to see the romance aspect of the series fade out without much in the way of existential gratification. What we saw was that with Sentarou gone, Kaoru and Ritsuko grew apart – and I think it’s fair to say that Kaoru was to blame. In the end the one thing that Kaoru and Ri’ko had in common was Sentarou, and the feelings of the group were too confused for him to overcome them after Sen left. He might have been able to, but we never really saw the depth and complexity of Bon’s feelings for Ri’ko that we did with his feelings for Sen. As close as Sen and Ritsuko were, I think it was actually harder for Kaoru to move past Sen’s departure because of his inherent paranoia about abandonment. Whatever future there was with Ritsuko, Kaoru was simply unable to conquer his demons soon enough to find out.

Kaoru, predictably, goes to college in Tokyo – and the farewell on the platform is not as satisfying as the one between Jun and Yurika (and note that Kaoru is taking the “Sakura Sleeper” to Tokyo in these pre-Shinkansen days). This time the timeskip is a whopper – eight years – and when we rejoin his life Kaoru is a Doctor in Tokyo. Is he happy? It’s hard to say – he seems motivated at least, though perhaps driven would be more accurate. Seiji has struck it big as an actor/singer, Yurika and Jun have (surprisingly) survived as a couple and are expecting a child, and Maruo (I think) is a train conductor. But of primary interest is the photo Yurika shows Kaoru during their chance meeting, which shows a young priest in a marriage photo from back home in Kyushu.

I’m happy with the way Watanabe handled that final scene, though I suspect not everyone will be. It seemed fitting to me that Sen and Bon have their reunion musically, and then running down a slope away from the church were Sen is now the Priest-in-Training. It’s a guy thing, I guess, but both of them were always better at speaking through their music than with words. Bittersweet, for certain, but in the end we got something that seems at least open to any possibility. Once our childhood is over we can’t go back – but we can’t ignore the fact that it made us who we are as adults. And in the larger scheme of things, eight years isn’t all that long a time.

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ED Sequence:
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11 comments:

  1. "the very best the director could possibly have produced given what he had to work with"

    Yep. And It didn't have to be this way... Well it's over now. What's the use of dwelling on what's already the past. Now that it's over, I tell y'all who liked this show, including you, GE, to read the source manga. It's very different, yet similar (I can't say it's the same. It's not .). All right! I'm going crazy with fancy font thingy here~~~!!

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  2. wow did they just gut Kaoru's entire college life and Sachiko's wedding?

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    1. thats what i was saying. i was like wtf!!!!

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  3. OH what could have been with just one more episode, just one more and it would have been perfect enough. But even this ending was amazing enough on its own. It did give me a bit of whiplash with the time skip this time, i went ahead and read the manga end last week knowing it wouldn't be the same and boy I'm glad I did because knowing ahead of time what had happened during college really put the anime in perspective. But the anime is still its own piece of art, and honestly it matches the manga with its own strengths. The manga end was more fulfilling and conclusive, but the anime end felt more like a piece of art. The music was just right, my god was it excellent this time; every scene had a meticulously chosen piece to go with it and draw out my emotions. The animations too were so fluid and smooth, always focusing on the characters' faces, especially Kaoru's. I teared up right along with him on the train (a scene that was improved in the anime version in my opinion). The only way this could have been better was to have had one more episode, but thats the way these things go.

    "Certainly, it was sad to see the romance aspect of the series fade out without much in the way of existential gratification. What we saw was that with Sentarou gone, Kaoru and Ritsuko grew apart – and I think it’s fair to say that Kaoru was to blame."

    As a heads up right now minor SPOILERSSSSS ahead from the manga during Kaoru's college years:

    Although in the anime it seems like Kaoru was to blame for the breakdown of their relationship, the manga actually shows us that it was an unfortunate twist/misunderstanding that ruined their romance (but i won't say what exactly, go read it up, it's well worth it). They had actually stayed in contact by writing letters throughout college, and Kaoru even joined the Jazz club and got a job at a bar playing piano where he briefly met up with Junichi and had one more session together (That I REALLLLY wish had been animated here, that's a huge shame). The entire time he carried around a picture of Sentarou which he used to always be looking for him and asking around (during the manga train station scene, Pop's had told him that he had a gut feeling Sen had gone to Tokyo too). While here it seems like coincidence that Yurika ran into him, in the manga she had heard from Junichi that Sen was still missing and Kaoru was looking for him and she actually had gone to the hospital to tell him about the familiar looking priest.
    One minor note, as mentioned above, Sachiko does get married, and actually thats when Ritsuko and Kaoru reunite, since they were both invited and Sen was the priest conducting the ceremony. Here's they re-aquaint themselves and we essentially get Sen's approval for a potential marriage between Kaoru and Ritsuko. Whether it happens is up to our imagination.

    I think it was best, given the constraints, that the college arc was skipped but it did help put things into a logical order of cause and effect, so things didn't leap ahead and suddenly Kaoru reunites with Sen and Ri-chan. But that's what makes this episode, this series and Director Watanabe so impressive and amazing. they were working at a disadvantage from the start, a losing battle against time, and yet the end result a magnificent and respectable piece of drama. People will have different opinions but I'm with you G. Enzo, this anime is as special as it comes just the way it is.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Deleted my previous comment because I felt it was too spoilerish for the manga, but I was also looking forward to seeing that session in Tokyo animated.

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    3. Wait, you can delete your own post that's been already published?? How? How did you do that, Kim?

      GE, can that be done?? I thought only you can modify and delete posts here?

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    4. You should be able to see a delete button next to your post. If you can't maybe it's because I am posting through my google accounts (not sure).

      Also you can only delete not modify.

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  4. "Kaoru, predictably, goes to college in Tokyo – and the farewell on the platform is not as satisfying"

    Another difference from the manga was in this scene and it was unfortunatelty much better in the manga. The goodbye scene between Kaoru, Ri-chan and her father on the platform actually made me cry a bit and it was much more heartfelt and less cliche (than her running after the train).

    I don't know how you feel about manga spoilers so I will say while Ri-chan and Kaoru grow apart while he is in Tokyo, it happens more gradually then Kaoru just not speaking with her when he is in Tokyo.


    And again in the manga Kaoru's reuniting with Sen is a product of his own actions & character development. This was probably my biggest disappointment with the anime. I don't think it gives a clear picture of this and it feels like Kaoru found Sen only by chance.

    So yeah Watanabe did a solid job considering the time frame (and many of the musical scenes were excellent) but my final thoughts were it could have been so much better.

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  5. I still don't quite understand why Sen ran away last ep. It seemed he already reconciled with his father? Did he run off because he felt guilty his sister was hospitalized?

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    1. Because he cried, you know?

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