Sakamichi no Apollon – 11

At the center of Sakamichi no Apollon is the essence of drama.  From here, the story has been able to structure itself on this basic foundation and incorporate the various elements of romance, jazz, and growth that have allowed this anime to flourish as it had.  However, when there are faults and cracks within the drama that is the establishment for this series, then the story, characters, and anime overall begin to suffer as a result.  And that’s exactly what happened with the poorly manufactured drama that occurred in the scenes following the traffic accident in the eleventh episode of Sakamichi no Apollon.

Many examples off poor drama can be quickly dismissed or simply ignored due to common mistakes or differences in individual preferences but the problematic drama in this episode cannot be so easily forgiven.  Unlike most examples where the accountability lies within a solitary example or moment and is rather defined, the artificial drama in this episode seemed to be planned, written, and executed poorly across its entire portion of the episode.  And because Sakamichi no Apollon is a series that survives on its drama and has been spectacular about it as of late, it would be wrong to suddenly change our expectations and evaluations of the series to allow these faults to slip by without any disagreement or criticism since it has been fantastic otherwise.

What began the upsetting sequences of events was the fact that Sentarou narrated his thoughts about catching up to Kaoru to return his music sheets.  Despite the fact that he knew right away that these actions were unnecessary and proved no worth or meaning to himself or Kaoru, he went ahead with his idea and prepared his motor bike for an unforgettable adventure.  What happened here was simple foreshadowing and, while that’s normally a good and constructive detail for storytelling, it could not have been more blatant or direct.  Anytime a character rationalizes his actions immediately, sees that there is no benefit to their actions, and immediately ignores it to do said actions, you know something terrible is about to befall someone.  It’s one of those old, clichéd lines that set off those alarms in your mind that alert you to something bad happening.  But this one, given its placement and timing, continued to press that alarm button until it was jammed in the ‘on’ position.  Couldn’t you be a little more subtle about this Apollon, why did it need to be this obvious?  And given the track record of the drama in the series before this, where most of the drama was hinted at and initiated through beneficial and positive means, this style pretty much did the equvilent of presenting a giant block of text on the screen saying “SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO SENTAROU NOW” for the better half of a minute.  And exactly like clockwork, something bad did happen to Sentarou…

…though not directly.  As it would turn out, there was a bit of intelligence behind such an event and Sentarou survived the traffic accident with little more than a few bumps and bruises but carried with him a burden that he could hardly endure.  Knowing that he played a part in the accident which sent Sachiko to the hospital and into a coma is mistake that will pain him for as long as he retains his memories.  And that’s where the next fault in the drama appears: Sentarou’s character is broken for some unknown reason.  It is perfectly understandable and applicable in this situation that his character would be tested with such a devastating incident, him feeling responsible for what happened as it is partially his blame for her coma, but it’s placement in the series and purpose come immediately to question.  Why did this happen to Sentarou now and what is the ultimate goal this drama is trying to accomplish.  What obstacles will Sentarou need to overcome in order to grow as a character?  Well, as we saw from here until the end of the episode, there are no answers.  Rather than respond to the adversity like he always does and find a way to cope and grow through it, Sentarou reduced himself to a crying child and ran away from everything before it became intolerable.  The fault here is that it’s taking the indirect blame on Sentarou’s character too extremely, especially given the fact that Sachiko has awakened from her coma and appears to be headed for a speedy recovery, and for no purpose other than to have a reunion or something equally corny for the finale.  Effectively removing Sentarou from the series now really does a disservice to his character and all the progress that he’s made since the beginning of the series.  Had the series desired to remove him for whatever pristine reason they desired, why not have him leave the house like he did in the morning.  What puts this miles ahead of this poor drama is that there was a reason for Sentarou to leave, there was character emotion that could be used, and an angle for growth in Sentarou’s character when he comes to terms with his childish behavior, realizes what it means to grow up, and return home to his father a better man than before.  But alas, the series selected the less desirable option and forced this second-rate drama down our throats.

Additionally, the errors in this drama do not end with Sentarou’s disappearance but it continues through into how the characters react to this realization.  Rather than being disgusted at the failed-attempt at drama that they’re being put through and wondering what happened to the masterful work the series performed previously, the characters become overly emotional at the thought of Sentarou ditching his home without as much as a note or even good-bye.  I could understand the characters becoming emotional over Sachiko and her near-death experience, but for everyone to get so wound-up in Sentarou’s disappearance seems a bit much given what was seen thus far.  Yeah, we get it, Sentarou is this great guy and he ran away because he feels responsible for Sachiko’s injury, but do they have to act as though the world is ending and that Sentarou will never return to their lives.  And, that, he like stole all their money and punched them or something.  Seriously, what emotional level are they on here in which they’re expecting Sentarou to never return.  Are they saying that so that we’re absorbed into this “drama” as well and that they want us to believe Sentarou will never return only for us to find out he does in the next episode so that we’re surprised and relieved and elated?  Well, given how telegraphed this drama has been thus far, you know that’s exactly the cheap tricks this anime has resorted to in its final in terms of its manufactured drama.

Since the scenes where Sentarou wondered aloud of why returning the music sheets was a good idea to the end of the episode, the drama in Sakamichi no Apollon has taken a nosedive in quality as it prepares the audience for its finale in the last remaining episode.  Rather than following the patterns of previous drama and continuing in its outstanding storytelling, Apollon has opted for a rather miserable excuse of drama given its poor execution, reasoning, and effects on its characters.  We can only hope this issue is resolved as quickly as possible and for the anime to focus on more crucial and significant aspects than worrying about Sentarou’s silly disappearance and how the whole proceedings occurred.  Should the series take the better of the two routes, then the series is heading toward an ideal ending that provides closure and satisfaction to the audience.  If not and the series continues to play around with this storyline on the trio of remaining characters, then I hope I’m not the only one prepared to raise my voice in dissatisfaction on the ending of Sakamichi no Apollon.  Guess we’ll be finding out shortly which is the finale for us.

It has been on my mind for a while now but I wondered if or when Ritsuko would join in with Kaoru and Sentarou in their jazz sessions or in some way help assist them in their musical endeavors.  Not only was it Ritsuko who helped introduce Kaoru to Sentarou and the musical genre jazz but she always seemed to be present in the basement as a bystander while the boys as they jammed away on their instruments.  Her emotional level never really matched Kaoru and Sentarou in these scenes and her placement felt almost awkward at times.  Now, after being elected to be the voice that sings along with the piano and drums, Ritsuko is finally able to participate with Kaoru and Sentarou in their jazz concert and express her emotion and love for music in her own personal way.  Long overdue but still greatly appreciated, we’re finally able to see what talents Ritsuko has and how she expresses her emotions through music like we’ve seen Sentarou and Kaoru do so for long.  I was originally enthusiastic and excited to see how the final concert was going to be presented and directed for us in the series but unfortunately, that disastrous drama that preceded this paragraph occurred and, for the time being, my dream of Ritsuko singing along with Kaoru’s piano and Sentarou’s drums is just that, a dream.  But now, given the break and added time, I suppose now we’ll see Jun appear with his trusty trumpet in hand for a finale that brings everyone together for one final jazz concert.  And while that’d be the expected and stereotypical ending for an anime like this, it’s exactly what how I want this anime to conclude.

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