Thursday, 12 April 2012

Kids on the Slope - Episode 1

With a world-weary, cynical eye for his new surroundings, Nishimi Kaoru is clearly not the world's most willing transfer student - despite a childhood of jumping from one place to the next, the upheaval of moving hasn't done him any favours, and being dumped in the relative backwaters of his newest location manages to mark itself out as a new low even by his standards.

In fact, things really couldn't be much worse, as our super-smart, glasses-wearing protagonist is introduced as a top of the class student from the city, instantly making him an object of loathing for his new classmates - when he finds out that he's sat directly in front of the class' resident delinquent, coupled with a less than successful tour of the it's the final straw that sends him into a kind of panic attack that sees him headed for his one potential place of tranquillity - the school roof.

Even this plan falls flat as Kaoru's roof space is the object of a fight between delinquents which he can never hope to win, although his desperation to claim the key to the roof sees him make a bit of an unlikely friend - aforementioned class miscreant Sentaro Kawabuchi.  Although neither of them would admit it, and despite their fates seemingly being tied by mutual friend and class representative Ritsuko, there's more in common between these two lads than first meets the eye - not least a love of music, but also a certain outspokenness when push comes to shove.  Of course, it's the music that's the real driver of this series, so it's up to the spirit of jazz to decide where this show goes next.

As opening episodes go, this first instalment of Kids on the Slope did absolutely everything it needed to - it introduced us to its two main characters, made sure that we liked them both warts and all, and then thrust them together over and over again until they started hesitantly to like one another.  This episode arguably tried a little too hard to dig into Kaoru's uncomfortable past as it pertains to his family, but otherwise it was a gloriously simple instalment that let the main characters and their personalities do the talking.  Kaoru in particular seems like a respectably strong main character - cynical and brow-beaten, but still with an argumentative streak and determination offset by an unmistakably teenage thought process at times.  It all adds up to a series with bags of potential (before we even mention the sparse but slick background music and one solitary but decidedly Cowboy Bebop-esque action scene), but it'll be how the story flows and progresses from here that will really make or break Kids on the Slope.

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