Kids on the Slope Blu Ray Review

Way back in July 2012, I attended the Sydney Manga and Anime Show (SMASH) and reported on Hanabee's very first acquisition panel. At that time they announced titles Toradora, Dream Eater Merry and Red vs Blue before taking some questions from the audience. It was at this time that I asked Hanabee President, Eric Cherry, whether they would be pursuing Kids on the Slope. After umming and ahhing he finally said something to the effect of "I'd love to, it's a really great series and one that we'd be interested in releasing". In no way am I insinuating that I had anything to do with this decision but instead am of the belief that Hanabee were well and truly on the case even back in July.

Thank goodness for that.

Before even reading this review you can more or less rest assured that Kids on the Slope is a highly polished nugget of anime gold in terms of story, art and music. Reuniting the team behind Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus, director Shinichiro Watanabe and composer Yoko Kanno, we are this time far removed from the flight and fantasy of space and are instead transported back in time to southern Japan circa 1966. What we are immediately faced with is a classic "odd couple" situation in which straight laced, straight A student Kaoru Nishimi begrudgingly unites with high school bad boy Sentaro Kawabuchi. The two find themselves united through a love of music, but not just any music, jazz music.

As far as a basic synopsis of the series goes, that's as far as I can get into it without spoiling certain elements. This is purely due to the fact that there's actually not too much to the story. At its core, this series is about the friendship between two boys. Unlike many other series, there is nothing untoward or even homoerotic about this particular element in the story and is without a doubt part of what gives this series its charm. The simple notion of exploring the friendship between to young males and their love of music is one that resonates personally with me, and I'm sure many others. Add to this a young and pure love interest and you've got a series that will undoubtedly resonate with anyone who still remembers their teenage years.

In no way would I suggest that Kids on the Slope is Shinichiro Watanabe's best work, there's not many series that could topple Cowboy Bebop. However, I will make the claim that this series in particular proves how fantastic a director he truly is. Cowboy Bebop is a fantastic series that benefits from a setting that is filled with whimsy and all things fantastical. Kids on the Slope, on the other hand, has to work harder to build on what is an everyday setting which is filled with rather unremarkable characters. Aside from issues with pacing, Watanabe makes it work. The issues with pacing seem to arise due to the fact that events still progress at a pace that you'd expect from an action, sci-fi adventure and not a slice of life series which would benefit from more time to explore the characters and especially more time to give us a more fulfilling payoff at series end. That said, it's an utterly delightful ride.

The visuals in this series are gorgeous and respectfully subdued. In this beautiful coming-of-age series, animation studios MAPPA and Tezuka Productions combine to deliver an overarching feeling of reminiscence through a the use of a gorgeously animated backdrops which benefit greatly from a HD, Blu Ray release. One of Kids on the Slope's crowning glories is the inclusion of composer Yoko Kanno. Her work on Cowboy Bebop was inspired and this series is equally as satisfying. What's different with this soundtrack, however, is the use of some very well known pieces from some absolute jazz legends. Hearing tracks made famous by Art Blakey, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis gives the entire series a feeling of reality and positively oozes cool. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the soundtrack is available on iTunes in Australia but if you have a Japanese account or are willing to order it from Amazon.jp, you won't regret it!

Kids on the Slope is a simple delight that delivers on every level. Sure, there are issues with pacing and the ending but overall, there's so much to love.

Kids on the Slope is available now from Hanabee on Blu Ray and DVD.

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