Just 12 episodes long, Kids On The Slope is a coming of age manga by Yuki Kodama that was recently adapted into an anime series by Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop/Samurai Champloo fame. Watanabe links up again with Yoko Kanno, who scored Cowboy Bebop and does so here again, with jazz the star of the show.

Like Watanabe’s previous work, music is the key driver of the plot and pretty much feels just as important as the characters and the story itself. Kaoru Nishimi is a smart, classically trained pianist who keeps moving schools. He ends up in Kyushu to stay with his uncle and has to traipse up and down the titular slope to get to school. There he meets Ritsuko Mukae, a cheery and attractive girl with whom he falls in love. He also stumbles onto Sentaro Kawabuchi, an infamous troublemaker whom everyone is scared of except Ritsuko, who happens to be his childhood buddy.

So there we have the start of a love triangle that gets progressively more complicated when more characters are thrown into the mix. Along the way, the boys’ friendship develops over jazz jam sessions. They fall out over Ritsuko sorta, but get back together again. At times, the bromance is a little strong. I mean, there’s hand holding and embracing and shit. It’s almost a little too strong if you get what I mean.

But it’s really just a really well crafted and heartfelt story about growing up, young love and friendship. The music is really really strong and has it’s own distinct character, nevermind that it covers a few classics from Art Blakey to Coltrane to Miles to Bill Evans. The music jams are the best parts of the film and it’s awesome how everything falls together.

At times, I struggled to accept the characters’ lack of motivation and desire to do what they really wanted. Almost everyone seems to want to hide behind a veil and pretend that it’s ok. Then when the opportunities present themselves, they aren’t really taken. I guess when you’re young and inexperienced, you’re the same and you fumble everything in your path. I know I did, which is why I like this story because it’s relatable.

My fave track from the OST has to be obviously Lullaby Of Birdland, sung by Teshima Aoi.