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Kids On The Slope The Complete Collection DVD Review

by Luke Ryan Baldock

Kids On The SlopeDirector: Shinichiro Watanabe,

Starring: Rayohei Kimura, Chris Patton, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Andrew Love, Yuuka Nanri, Rebekah Stevens, Aya Endo, Maggie Fleknoe, Junichi Suwabe, David Matranga,

Running Time: 300 minutes

Certificate: 12

After the unmitigated success of COWBOY BEBOP and SAMURAI CHAMPLOO, the world of anime waited for Shinichiro Watanabe’s next hit. Surprisingly, it came in the form of this coming-of-age tale focused on jazz music and friendship. Certainly a calmer and subtler story to tell, but is it any lesser for its simplicity? That would be a resounding and unequivocal “NO”! KIDS ON THE SLOPE is a dramatic show with a lot of heart but an even greater amount of honesty.

Kaoru (Kimura/Patton) and Sentaro (Hosoya/Love) are at opposite ends of the student spectrum, Kaoru being the honour student and Sentaro being the fists before thoughts rebel. Unsurprisingly, the two become friends through a series of events which eventually reveals their love of music to one another, and more specifically their adoration towards jazz. As the two begin some jam sessions together, they have to decide whether this passion is to be their future goal, or if they will allow young love, family issues, and grades to get in the way.

No doubt the plot is quite generic, but as with any film or show that deals with situations we’re all familiar with, KIDS ON THE SLOPE makes sure to interact with its audience in a vast amount of ways. First of all we have a cast of characters that are shown as realistic humans and not just plot serving devices. No one is perfect and there are moments when emotions boil over and scold all those around. Add to this the sometimes erratic, but truthful view of teenage love. People believe they are destined to be with someone, but minds soon change and unexpected situations remind them that they are still young. All of this amounts to a show where our own life experiences can add to the familiarity of the characters, making them easier to relate to.

As you would expect from a show that centres on jazz, the music here is astonishing. Even those who are not fond of the genre will enjoy its use in the series because even though you may not care for it, you most certainly will care for the characters. Thus, enjoying the music by default as their passions become ours.  Jazz is used as an extension of the characters themselves and it is also seamlessly embedded amongst other scenes. Even high school brawls are scored with eclectic jazz fusions, bringing the music to life in a whole new way.

The themes of friendship and romance play out as heartbreaking and as life-affirming as you could possibly imagine. Some stories seem to have no satisfying conclusion, which is exactly how such whirlwind romances may play out in real life. The show prides itself on avoiding any sense of patronizing the audience, and is allowed to move at a steady pace, building us up one moment and then knocking us down the next. It’s far from a depressing show however, as it always has an optimistic tone which looks at the future to come. This is probably best communicated through the amazing opening song. It builds up to a huge chorus, and is also expertly inserted into the final episode.

Brilliant vocal performances from both Japanese and English voice casts bring alive the characters as well as the animation. Studio Mappa are responsible for the gorgeous animation, which adds depth and a sense of realism to the show, but still allows the music and characters to do the talking. As the show spans a long period of time the seasons are brought to life with art that may not be a game changer, but certainly suits the story it is telling. However, when Kaoru and Sentaro do jam together, the animation comes to life as though the music has defibrillated the brushes of the artists.  Engaging and heartfelt, KIDS ON THE SLOPE is a wonderful experience with high rewatchability.

5 STARSKIDS ON THE SLOPE is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 24th June through MVM.

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