Thursday, 3 May 2012

Kids on the Slope - Episode 4

After last week's episode full of typical romance anime misunderstandings (that almost threatened to become more Kids on the Trope than Kids on the Slope for a brief period), Kaoru's feelings were well and truly cleared up by the end of the episode if nothing else.

But what of Ritsuko's answer to his confession?  Well, that we don't get to see, but Kaoru's stifled, stuttering piano playing at the next jazz session in the basement tells us that he isn't exactly the happiest man alive.  Still, it isn't all bad, as Jun's arrival to let his fellow players know that they've been invited to play a Christmas performance at a bar for American soldiers well and truly lightens the mood.

Away from playing jazz however, Kaoru's life is rather less happy, as the increasing pressure and expectations of his cold mother play on his mind, while Ritsuko's indecision and his pondering about how Sentarou's relationship is going don't help matters much either.  Ultimately, it seems that our glasses-sporting protagonist's interest in Kaoru is a little overbearing, as he makes what seems to be an ill-timed move before losing his rag with Sentarou in the aftermath of that moment, coupled with jealousy at what seems to be his friends idyllic family life.  In reality however, Sentarou's family history is anything but rosy, and we're treated to a heart-rending tour of that particular pit of misery and despair that if nothing else helps Kaoru to realise he's not alone.  Suitably motivated, both friends are well and truly fired up by the time of their Christmas performance, although fate takes another cruel twist on a night which looks to further shift the two's relationships with both the apple of their respective eyes and one another.

There's really only one thing I can say about this week's Kids on the Slope, and that is that it pitched its emotions perfectly - this was an instalment to be felt rather than thought about, and provided you were sufficiently emotionally invested in its characters by this point it paid back on that emotional focus by the bucketload.  Hard-luck stories from a character's childhood often fall flat in anime (hell, in any medium), but between its setting and era, together with how we've seen the character grow over the show's early episodes, this particular tale caught in my throat before lodging in my heart with its full impact.  Similarly, Kaoru's growing pains surrounding both his family and Ritsuko echoed and resonated loudly with me throughout, to make for an episode that was pretty emotionally draining (and thankfully lightened by some great comedy and, of course, the show's music) but all the more powerful and ultimately enjoyable for it.  Right now, I think Kids on the Slope could be about to top my list as my favourite show of the spring season.

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