Sakamichi no Apollon Ep. 2: Don’t sweat the details

Just play. At the start of the episode, we see Kaoru as he tries to break “Moanin'” down into its individual, discrete parts. He tries to nail down the tempo, the chords, the syncopation, etc., but nothing’s coming out right. Why? ‘Cause he’s sweating the details. We learned from Sentaro last week that jazz is all about feel. You can try to approximate jazz onto a piece of sheet music, but sometimes, the best course of action is just to let yourself go.

Midway through the episode, Kaoru gets a taste of what feeling jazz truly means. Caught in an impromptu jam session with the record store owner, Brother Jun, and Sentaro, all that Kaoru can do is feel. He has nothing in front of him–no sheet music, no prior training, nada; all he has is the flow of the music around him. Kaoru begins to let go a bit. He begins to just play. And, as a result, we get to see the biggest smile on his face yet:

Just play. I wrote last week how a jazz track often plays when expectations are being broken. There’s also jazz when it’s just time to play and have fun. Again, Sentaro finds himself in a fight against hoodlums (in order to save Kaoru’s hide). He doesn’t think of it as a street brawl, though. He makes a game of it: “We gonna play a game, like “monkey in the middle?” From this perspective, then, we could tweak our interpretation of Kaoru’s actions following his rescue. Instead of Kaoru summoning up courage to help Sentaro fight off the school bullies, he’s summoning up his courage to just play. In the end, boys will be boys and no one got seriously hurt. But most of all, Kaoru stops sweating the details. Instead of worrying about who looks pathetic and who saved who, just play.

When Kaoru successfully schedules what he thinks is a study date with Ritsuko for the upcoming summer vacation, a non-jazz track plays and he begins to recall how lonely his previous summer vacations had been. He begins to fret: “What should I do? I have so many things to look forward to that I can’t wrap my head around it….” I think this brief moment reinforces two things: (1) the softer, non-jazz piano tracks continue to represent memories (more on this later), and (2) once again, Kaoru begins to sweat the details.

Predictably enough, the study date is really a study session as Ritsuko invites Sentaro to come along (a brief jazz riff plays when he pops out from under the bushes and surprises Kaoru). I think Kaoru’s disappointment is really due to the fact that he tends to sweat the details, and as a result, he has the need to define and label everything, i.e. “What is this thing I’m doing with Ritsuko during summer vacation? It must be a date.”

The episode leaves room for some speculation. If we continue to buy into the idea that music plays a significant role in the anime, what does the music in the church represent (besides the very obvious Christian relation)? Will the somber, non-jazz piano tracks continue to represent memories? Sentaro–if Kaoru is to be believed–falls in love with a girl he had just barely met. During this scene, a piano track plays.

I want to predict that Sentaro falls in love because the girl stirs up an old, pleasant memory in him, but hey, maybe I just want to be right. In any case, we’ll find out (hopefully) in a week.

11 thoughts on “Sakamichi no Apollon Ep. 2: Don’t sweat the details

  1. Knowitall

    Have you noticed that Sentaro has thrice now played the role of baptist to Kaoru? First there was the rain, then there was the fight where Kaoru trips into the well, and lastly Sentaro kicks Kaoru off the cliff into the water. According to Wikipedia “Other common forms of baptism now in use include pouring water three times on the forehead.” I’m wondering now how far these religious undertones can be interpreted. Is Kaoru’s induction into the world of jazz also simultaneously representative of his induction into Catholicism?
    I’m also fascinated by Sentaro’s rosary. A rosary is meant to represent veneration of Mary but is also somewhat of a symbol of penance. Has Sentaro committed some kind of sin? I’m also somewhat tempted to draw a connection between Ritsuko and mother Mary (notice how she’s wearing a veil in church and how Kaoru becomes fascinated by her after receiving his final ‘baptism’). But that would definitely be pushing it.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Oh, that’s good. I hadn’t made the baptism connection. It already has me brainstorming a post for next week, one that’s hopefully better than this one (I’ll admit I rushed it after a busy week and a lengthy hiatus). I’ve got comparisons to a old (relatively speaking) favorite anime of mine.

      Of course, with all the teen love going around, it’s hard to discern how this relates to the bigger picture. I’ll need to see, according to Ritsuko, what makes Sentaro “special,” which made Sentaro immediately cut her off (i.e. the tense scene at the start of their study “session”). But yeah, it’ll be cool to see how this pans out.

  2. appropriant

    I thought the added piano to the jazz track during the fight scene was a nice touch to accommodate Kaoru’s little spurt of recklessness, for he is, as you say, learning to let himself go.

    I’m also interested in Sentaro’s history, seeing that he has a rather violent reputation with students even from other schools. Right now, his passion above all else is jazz, but certainly it may have been different in the past. Perhaps his outlet for expression, before his transformation in the church, was brute force. Not the silly brawls he gets into with other classmates, but real dirty stuff like gangs, vandalism, and disregarding the law. If Kaoru may represent too much repression of expression, then Sentaro may portray the other side of the spectrum: too much freedom of expression.

    Additionally, a note about the first episode seeing that there are more religious references in play: When Kaoru first unveils Sentaro on the rooftop, Sentaro’s blurred vision of his discoverer originally had wings and a halo in the manga. In the anime, this is excluded but a music box track plays instead. I’m not gleaning too much other than the obvious, but I thought it was an interesting change to the source material.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Right now, his passion above all else is jazz, but certainly it may have been different in the past.

      Hah, I started writing a long post about sin, rebirth and even comparing the anime to a favorite series of mine, but then I thought to myself, “This would be good material for next week’s write-up of Sakamichi!” So I erased it. :I

      In any case, sorry for short-changing you a proper reply. If you still care in six days time, you’ll get one in a post!

      1. appropriant

        What’s this about six days? D:<

        That wasn't intended to sound accusing or demeaning. We do look forward to your blog posts, though, and hope that you come back to writing here soon.

  3. Anonymous

    Kinda reminds me of Haibane Renmei, I wonder if this is the “favourite series” to which you are referring. In particular the themes of Christianity with all the halos, sin and rebirth

  4. Foxy Lady Ayame

    I think that if we follow your theory the moment Sentaro falls in love is accompanied with non-jazz because it’s a no-fun moment for him; it’s a nervous moment, when Sentaro starts to sweat the details. Because simply he doesn’t know what to do, what is it what he’s feeling

    1. E Minor Post author

      Yeah, we can see definitely see a lot of Sentaro’s confusion in the last two episodes. There are also more music to signify romance, but if there’s anything more to them, I can’t personally say at the moment.


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