What’s it about ?
Jazz in the 60s in Japan.
Kaoru, our point-of-view character. He’s a perpetual transfer student (his father kept moving around due to his job, and he’s now staying at his aunt’s), and not very good at dealing with other people. His main problem is that his anxiety often builds up and makes him nauseous… Oh, wait, he gets over it within the course of the first episode. Move along, then. Also, he’s got an actual personality : the stuck-up, bright kid that looks down a bit on everyone. He plays the piano and loves classical music, but this changes when he meets…
Sentarou, the class delinquent, the huge dude everyone’s afraid of. The kind of guy who can take on three senior students and not look ridiculous (he loses, because this is not the kind of series that lets him get away with it unscathed). He takes an interest on this puny protagonist that won’t back down, and it’s irritation at first sight between the two of them. He plays drums (often with improvised sticks on every available surface), and is a jazz fanatic.
Ritsuko, the class representative, and the actual reason Kaoru takes an interest in jazz. See, her father has this record store, and she invites him to the soundproof music room downstairs… and Sentarou’s already there, playing drums (they’re childhood friends). Cue macho posturing.
Pretty good. And hey, if you’re going to do an anime series about jazz, you can’t go wrong with a Yoko Kanno soundtrack.
There were always going to be a lot of expectations over Shinichiro (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) Watanabe’s big return. Well, this is nothing like those shows. This isn’t an action showcase at all, and you couldn’t make it more mundane and down-to-earth if you tried. The direction doesn’t do flashy at all… although there are some nice ideas such as introducing Sentarou through his music way before we actually get to see him.
What this is, though, is a love letter to jazz, played by characters who have some charisma indeed. I’m hooked, and I could see this grow on me as the season passes.