*stands up and claps*
Kaoru’s life has grown dull with the absence of Sentarou; while his grades have shot back up to the top of his class, he no longer hangs out after school at the Mukae shop basement. When Ricchan asks him over to her house one day, he forces himself onto her and claims that he now has Ricchan all to himself, leaving Ritsuko shocked that he’d say such a thing. Kaoru eventually leaves for a college in Tokyo, and catches a last glimpse of Ricchan, running after the train he’s on.
Eight years on, Kaoru is now a doctor, and works late night shifts tirelessly. When he meets a now pregnant Yurika by chance, she shows him a photo of a rather familiar priest at an island where her friend got married, and Kaoru races back, reuniting with Sentarou for an overdue jam session. Running from the angry priest, they race down the slope together, meeting Ricchan at the bottom.
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It’s easy to see how much of an effect Sentarou’s departure had on Kaoru. He didn’t try to socialize much any more, focusing on only his studies and becoming top of the class once again. The rooftop symbolizes how the time Kaoru and Sentarou had in the past together is no longer possible – you can really see that something’s been lost when you look at all the people up there having fun, which was certainly very different to the roof when the series first started. The fact that there are lots of timeskips straight to graduation shows just how dull Kaoru’s life gets without Sentarou and jazz, something like a bad end when you don’t get together with a girl in a galge I suppose. Those “my life is now dull and forever devoid of colour…if I had a chance to redo my life, I’d go back to my high school days…<reset game?>” kinds of endings.
While I was disappointed in Kaoru for coming onto Ricchan so forcefully, I can tell that it’s a lot of frustration he’s feeling. Rather than his love opportunities being the reason why he’s glad Sentarou’s gone, his behaviour otherwise hinted that it was the only positive thing he had left, with everything else taking a turn for the worse. That said, he really didn’t have to say it like he meant every word – some things are better off left unsaid, really. In the end, before he left for college he at least made up with Ricchan, though more progression in their romance would have been nice (they got their kiss at least!)
So eight years on, pretty much everyone has left the island and gone down their own paths – Kaoru is a doctor, and Yurika is pregnant with Junichi’s baby. I’d suspected that they wouldn’t let the show end like that without having Sentarou appear at least once more, so when Yurika turned up with that picture, I’m so glad Kaoru rushed off immediately, not letting that chance to see Sentarou after so long slip away ;_; I’m sure we all felt the suspense rising as much as he did, especially when all the villagers said stuff like how he plays with children and is a rowdy guy.
There’s nothing to end a series like highlighting some of the finer moments of the show, and a jamming session of Moanin’ that was eight years overdue fits that description perfectly (though it did sound a bit weird with the organ). It’s good that both of them haven’t lost their touch, even after such a long time abstaining from playing. Notably the dove flying above the church served as a good representation of freedom, and it gave me feels to see the pair of them running down the slope like in the OP – the very slope that Kaoru despised way back at the start of the show.
I’ve loved both the Spring noitaminA series (this and Tsuritama) immensely, and while it’s true that all good things have to come to an end, I’ll sorely miss Sakamichi no Apollon. It was a show of many things – jazz, romance, coming-of-age. But most of all, it was a masterpiece.