Japanese people have a reputation when it comes to music. This is clearly not the case as Japanese students seek to hone their arts in world-class schools all over the globe, on an individual basis, but as a culture we do stereotype that group with certain inclinations. Well, from the eyes of Americans, maybe it extends to all East Asians.
I mean, here’s another way to say it. If you want to talk about the music in Sakamichi no Apollon, you better be, at the minimum, racially aware of the things that comes out of your mouth. Because saying things like this is…unfortunate. Please just don’t.
Let’s try again. Talking about jazz in Sakamichi no Apollon is fundamentally a discussion that will involve race. And what makes me laugh is when I heard that “coon” language in episode 4, I laughed. It’s an Inception meme of a Japanese attempt at portraying American White-Black racism IRT jazz. Which is to say, Sakamichi no Apollon plays like an Asian when it comes to racism. And in case my point isn’t clear, that phrase is no praise. But just like Japanese automotive engineering, it is almost invariably the case that we’ll get a quality product that will satisfy many, but doesn’t quite get to the heart of it. The soul. There’s nothing wrong with Sakamichi no Apollon, certainly no more wrong than being Japanese can be wrong. But it reminds me more of your average shoujo manga than anything that I’ve seen or read in media that deals with racism. Much like hot rods like the 2014 NSX or the IS-F are likely no match to their European or American counterparts.
But as far as the game of race-music association goes, I think much can be said of jazz music and who played it in 1912, as well as who played in 2012. That it has got some kind of race tag to it. Except it’s kind of like how more white people listen to rap than black people in America?
Personally I could not really get myself to care about Apollon’s race themes, as I mentioned before, it feels like fanservice. Repeat it with me: a Christian, half-American [boy] born out of wedlock. When I visited my alma mater a few years ago the undergrad jazz majors were putting on a show in the atrium of the building where I was. It is a school with a strong tradition in jazz, and the jazz majors there were predominately black (more because it is a cheap state school located in an urban area). But I saw a couple white dudes at the drums–which reminded me of my undergrad roomie who played the drum for the jazz club (at a different school), a white, upper-class New Englander. Does it matter? Do we even know what it means, as Akira pointed out?
Now when it comes to classism, I can expect anime and manga to get it right.