Sakamichi no Apollon – 12 (Finale)

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.

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  1. #1 by Zammael on June 29, 2012 - 3:00 PM

    Excellent, excellent anime. Up there with the great slice of life like Chihayafuru, no question. I don’t have any complaints, except for a niggling feeling that the last few episodes felt rushed, almost compressed at a different pace than the first half of the season.

    We should check out the manga too, and nod slowly at those mysteriously disappointed by this excellent, properly sentimental show.

    • #2 by avvesione on June 29, 2012 - 3:30 PM

      Yeah, this turned out to be my top anime of the season, truly happy I was able to watch and blog it this season. It’s too bad more people didn’t like this, and I’m a little curious as to why, but this anime did a fantastic job and I have no real complaints with this series.

      To answer your question about it feeling rushed at the end, yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from. What I’d say is that the first part of the series was actually kinda slow at times and these final episodes were at about the pace I wanted the anime to be at all along. So while it did feel rushed compared to prior episodes, it was at the ideal pace for me.

      • #3 by flawfinder on June 29, 2012 - 5:17 PM

        Episodes 10 and 11 sort of hurt them irreparably. I mean you can’t deny that Episode 11 was pretty bad.

        • #4 by avvesione on June 29, 2012 - 10:32 PM

          It was, I can understand why the characters were eventually torn apart from those events. While I was unhappy with how the anime portrayed them and used them as devices to cause the split, for the characters, their response and reactions are perfectly within reason.

      • #5 by Zammael on July 1, 2012 - 8:47 AM

        I just realized that I subscribed to Sak on mangareader and they have translations up to #9. A ways to go, cuz the original run consists of nine volumes!

        • #6 by avvesione on July 3, 2012 - 12:36 AM

          Oh wow, that’s quite a ways. The nice thing is that now that the anime has concluded, there should be more interest in the manga and hopefully there will be more people working on translating it into English. Good luck with it.

  2. #7 by Tzaphqiel on June 30, 2012 - 6:54 AM

    Honestly, I loved this series, and for more than just the jazz (though that was what enticed me in the first place). The story was great, and the animation was high-quality for pretty much the entire series. This was definitely one of the best series of the season (maybe just a little behind Tsuritama, but that might just be me) and, although I am sad to see it end, I would have to agree that any more time would probably have hurt the series.

    I also would have liked to see more about what happened to Ritsuko over those 8 years (and how recent the change in hairstyle was; Incidentally, I liked her high school hairstyle, and her new hairstyle almost made me confuse her for Seiji.), but, in some way, ending like this seems to fit the series better.

    • #8 by avvesione on June 30, 2012 - 5:27 PM

      Yeah, I share your thoughts on all those points; the series was about the perfect length, I’m curious about Ritsuko’s life, and that the ending was ideal for how this series went. I wouldn’t have minded more on the anime, such as filling in some of the gaps in time with various episodes and side stories or enhancing the romances and whatnot, but what it was able to cover was fine by me. The only thing I don’t agree with is that I find the new haircut to be better but then I’ve always had a thing for short hair, so whatever.

      I’ve actually found more people happier with Tsuritama than Apollon leading me to believe that Tsuritama was the more popular series this season. Doesn’t really matter though since the general opinion on bother were extremely favorable and positive.

  3. #9 by Joojoobees on July 2, 2012 - 7:39 PM

    I agree about the importance of endings. When I got into anime it was because I saw them telling complex stories — I was never a fan of long-running shounen series that are really episode after episode of battles that go nowhere. Seeing shows like Apollon that have a conceptual whole gives me real satisfaction. This is what I thought anime could be.

    • #10 by avvesione on July 3, 2012 - 12:39 AM

      I agree, endings are important because they provide closure which makes us feel like we accomplished something. We don’t have that lingering feeling or uncertainty hanging over us. And while we may not want the journey to be over, we do want it to end well and not drag on forever with waning quality. I think this is about the best end Apollon could’ve had given its story, characters, and pacing.

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