The world of Anime is a pretty varied world. Congratulations. You just read the understatement of your lifetime.
Anime encompasses so many genres, sub-genres and sub-sub genres that most of the time, we have a hard time categorizing. Unfortunately, we can’t say ‘Labelling is unfair’ and give it up. Anime must be categorized.
Now despite the huge variety of all the Anime, I have usually watched pretty much the same type generally. The action series that runs for so long that by the end, everyone’s forgotten the start. Or the action series that’s short and has a good ending and ends nicely. Or the action series- you see where I’m going with this right.
So about two weeks back, I decided to watch a completely different anime. One that is devoid of any action whatsoever.
So I searched for recommendations and surprisingly, there were huge lists of short, less popular yet no less amazing anime series that are completely different from the mass produced chain series we see everywhere such as Naruto, Bleach and yes, even One Piece.
On one particular blog, www.wrongeverytime.com, I found loads of suggestions and thus, I selected an anime completely different from anything I’d watched previously.
The anime, directed by Shinichiro Watanable of Cowboy Bepop fame, is based on the manga of the same name which is written by Yuki Kodama.
The story is a very brief tale (just 12 episodes) about a genius student moving from the town to the country and fitting in. During his fitting in, he meets joins a basement jazz quartet and falls into various schoolboys mishaps such as bullies as well as love affairs.
It’s a pretty normal sounding story and if you think it’s boring and sentimental and for girls, that was just my description. Believe me, this anime is anything BUT boring.
For a start, the anime is beautiful. The setting is 1968-70 Kyushu and the art direction is wonderful. The scenery is beautiful it looks like a moving watercolor painting. Furthermore, the animation is also fluid and pretty solid. Despite the lack of any action or fighting sequences, there is constant movement and at no point whatsoever does the drama get boring.
The world is incredibly faithful to the setting. Occasionally, with historical dramas, produces make small mistakes and such but with this, none.
Even the school uniforms are different. The currently abundant sailor-collared dresses are absent and the it’s simpler.
Watching this anime, after so much action retch is relaxing and refreshing.
Now that the visuals are sufficiently praised, onto the sounds. The main focus of this anime is music. But not just any music. JAZZ.
That chaotic yet amazingly well thought genre of music that everyone just disregards these days as ‘old hat’. Well it’s not and this anime actually got me INTO Jazz.
Each piece in the anime is amazing. The music is eye-opening because unlike other animes which keep repeating the same OST pieces over and over and over, the music in this radically different. In the scenes where the band is playing, it’s loud and in your face just as it should it be. But when something else is happening, the music is softer and in keeping with the main character (narrator) who plays the piano, most of the background music pieces are piano pieces.
Also worthy of special mention is how well the animation syncs with the sound. Jazz is an incredibly hard genre to reproduce on cartoons due to it’s fast beat and rather unpredictable beat. So when the characters fingers moved in time to the music, when the main character Nishimi hit the middle C when the music was playing middle C, it was amazing.
Likewise the drumming. Each hit on the cymbals and the bass drum was perfectly matched with the animation and it was magical.
Next: the story.
As I said before, this story contains no fairies, magic or explosions. All it does contain is high school drama and if that’s not your cup of tea, then you’d be hard pressed to find the story hugely interesting. Even so, the drama isn’t too heavy with endless love triangles and scandals. There are some true, but during it’s 12 episode run, it never once loses its focus on the most important thing. The music. Yes. The story is about music and even when the main character is caught up in a heartbreaking scenario of unrequited love, the anime never lets the characters or the watchers mope too long. The music steals the show as it rightly should.
But this is also a coming of age tale and despite the anime only running for 12 episodes, character progression is amazing. The timescale may confuse you though because a semester could begin and end within one episode but it’s not a huge flaw. And it doesn’t matter really. The story progresses not through time but by how the characters grow. When the series start, their seventeen and by it’s end, their 26. And the character’s personalities change to reflect the passage of time.
And this anime has one of the best ever openings I’ve seen. Go watch it.