In an era where ambiguous and open-ended finales are the norm, an unspoken prayer for the chance of a fiscally-successful sequel in the unforeseen future, an anime receiving proper and satisfying closure has become an rare indulgence. Conclusions such as these leave the audience with a sense of gratification and completeness, as we like to believe we just watched the tale of a beautiful story rather than 12 half-hour segments of some manga/light novel advertisement that cuts off at whatever rushed or broken point seemed to be the best in the pre-planning stages. No, what Sakamichi no Apollon was able to do with its story, its characters, and its themes is truly refreshing and rewarding. It’s a shame not every anime can end the way Apollon did.
What made the finale to Sakamichi no Apollon so enjoyable and fulfilling is that it was accomplished the task of finishing its main story with a genuine and heartwarming ending. The first half provided the conclusion to the immediate story with the three characters parting ways after being unable to handle their emotions around each other anymore and the slow disintegration of their friendship. But as the epilogue would show, those feelings were heavy but fleeting and our familiar cast all longed for a reunion where they’d be able to rekindle their neglected friendship and start anew. With the story finishing on this heartfelt reunion, complete with another spontaneous jazz session on drums and organ, we were able see the story go from their initial meeting, their budding friendship, the tensions and difficulties of teenage life, and their eventual parting before this an uplifting reunion. Any moment before or after these points would have left the series incomplete or unfinished, meaning that this moment is the most ideal point for which Apollon to end.
Moreover, the finale was able to match the emotions the audience was feeling at this time as well as address its desires and satisfy our curiosities. Reaching a point where Sentarou had deserted his home, we knew the relationship between Kaoru and Ritsuko was numbered, especially considering their plans for the future were contradictory. It’s almost as if the series knew we were prepared to see the trio of friends be broken apart with each character going their separate ways and leading their own lives. But our curiosities would question what happens next in their lives and if they would reunite, a question that is not always satisfied whenever an anime ends. The epilogue began in the second half, thankfully, and we were able to see the lives of our familiar cast as we followed Kaoru’s investigation for Sentarou. What was able to do beyond answer our queries was it ended the anime on a high note and gave us one final and quite delightful jazz session for which Kaoru and Sentarou could properly reunite with each other. And with Ritsuko meeting those two now fully-grown men, all that remains is whatever our imagination dictates.
The finale for Sakamichi no Apollon was downright outstanding considering what it was able to do in wrapping up the story, placing its characters in the perfect positioning, closing its themes, and answering all of our questions. Without anything more to add to the story, the romances, or the jazz, or even to the characters themselves, we’re able to enjoy an episode where everything comes together. Though far from perfect, there are still some questions left unanswered, Sakamichi no Apollon has achieved that level of what we desire in an anime finale, something of a model which we hope other anime emulate. If only more anime were able to end the way Apollon did, then perhaps the end of each season would be more memorable, rewarding, and satisfying rather than a mix between that and varying levels of frustration, surprise, and disappointment.
In the epilogue, we were able to see the current lives and occupations of virtually everyone. Kaoru had recently graduated medical school and was a resident at an urban hospital. Sentarou had become a priest at a Catholic church and tended to the orphans who found their way to that secluded isle. We saw that Yukari is already a few months pregnant, carrying the child that she and Jun will raise together. We even saw Seiji and Shigetora realize their dreams when one became a famous television personality and the other earned a job working with their passion of trains. But what about Ritsuko? Besides seeing her walk up the road and smiling at the newly reunited Kaoru and Sentarou, we never really saw what happened to her following her years in college and what she’s done with her life. Did she eventually become a teacher or did something else tickle her fancy? Where does she live now? And does she keep in touch with anyone else besides Yukari? I almost wish the show didn’t end at that point or at least showed us a little more of Ritsuko’s life, such as her finding that photo and traveling to Sentarou’s new home. I almost felt we saw more of everyone else but her in this ending. The only one who never got any screentime here was Jun but, from what we understand, he’s already found a new job and has a baby on the way. And for such a central character, you figure the epilogue would show a bit more on Ritsuko than a better haircut and that refreshing smile. But then, I suppose, that’s what our imagination is for. Either that or maybe the manga has a more detailed conclusion. You know… that might be worth checking out.