I realise I have been on an anime blogpost roll recently; sorry to all the shoujo manga which I have yet to blog about >< However, this is probably the first romance related non-shoujo anime which I am writing about. I embark on the discussion with trepidation because in discussing this anime, what my opinions are may be coloured by some of my personal values with regards to relationships as well. No worries, this is going to be a largely non-spoiler filled post. This will constitute Part I of a two-part series dedicated to this series, comprising of an objective review of White Album 2.
White Album 2 is a story focusing mostly on drama, music and romance, and occurs ten years after the events in White Album. However, this is an independent story from White Album, and there is no need to watch the first season as the characters are completely different. The only reference to its predecessor lies only in the some of the music used.
The plot is set in the fall of our characters’ last year in high school, with graduation only half a year away, a unique time different from most school life anime. Haruki Kitahara is the last member of the light music club which was recently dissolved due to a falling out with their lead singer. While he is practicing guitar by the window in the music room, he is joined by the tinkling sound of a piano, and then a voice. Together, they form a band to perform for the school festival, aiming to try something different and make fond memories of their last year in high school.
Of course, Kitahara does not know the identity of the students behind the piano and voice, at first. He however, slowly finds out who the girls are (Setsuna Ogiso with the voice and Touma Kazusa on the piano) and embarks on the process of convincing them to join his cause. The story can be split into two arcs; the first mainly all about getting to know the three characters, enabling them to bond with each other and work together to perform at the school festival and make lasting memories with each other; the second part details the events after the school festival, leading to changes in their relationship and eventually the buildup in tension and resolution of the love triangle.
Despite looking like a rather simplistic plot, this 13 episode series was paced well in a way that still presented interesting twists to the viewer. This comes in the form of dramatic revelations about the characters’ relationship as they develop. With two girls and a guy involved in an activity that creates memories, we all know that there is going to be a love triangle set up and indeed, that is the very core of this series. However, the story does a great job at creating inseparable bonds between all three characters as they perform for the school festival, such that it creates a pretty good illusion of a powerful bond of friendship and camaraderie between the three. The real drama and heartbreak however, happens after, as the characters come to terms with their romantic feelings. This triangle is made complicated by the fact that the two girls actually also treasure the friendship they have with each other. With much symbolism planted throughout especially with special camera zoom-ins to mementos (like photographs), the series evokes a sense of despair and sadness that is easier to ignore in the first half, but becomes more pronounced in the second half.
The love triangle is also a particularly well developed one in the sense that it is near impossible to predict how the story would go and how Kitahara’s feelings would grow. The burning question of who Kitahara would choose is never apparent, and is really only resolved well … when it is resolved.
Being a character-centric story, it is almost impossible to discuss the story without having regard to the characters which take centerpiece in this entire feels train.
Our protagonist, Kitahara, is actually a boy very brilliant in academics. In fact, he is set up to be somebody almost … perfect – not socially awkward, able to influence others to set out what he has to do, excellent grades, not bad looking. There isn’t much to criticise about him at this point except for the way he handled certain things when he was figuring out his feelings, which I will elaborate on in Part 2.
Setsuna Ogiso is a cheerful and popular girl who is an idol of their academy. However, she is none like she seems on the surface – she actually hides plenty of her anxieties in the area of friendship. She also secretly loves to sing, and her passion only found a source of release with the opportunity that Haruki presents to her. I find her attitude towards friendships and pursuit of her love pretty relatable. I also empathise with her, as with the events that spiral out of control, she endures and tries hard, putting in effort; though not blindly – I suspect what she does may not be very far from what anybody in her situation would have done.
Similarly, Touma Kazusa is a cold and beautiful girl who also has to deal with demons from her past, and also an ‘attitude’ problem that may present itself to be irritating at the start, but understandable once we learn of the events that have led up to the rebellious Touma she is today. She’s the kind of girl in trouble but who puts up such a tough front to hide her vulnerabilities seething beneath the surface of her cool demeanour, that one would be drawn to care about and can’t leave alone. And indeed, her mask slips away over the course of the series as we learn more about her.
Since music constitutes the core of the stories, it is no wonder that the soundtracks are particularly fitting to the tone of the series, even if sometimes they are merely instrumental rearrangements of the theme songs which the characters sometimes perform. The insert songs contain that hidden touch of melancholy and are always apt to the mood, especially the one in the last episode which is largely responsible for all the feels that encapsulate the series and the finale in particular. I can’t really describe how haunting and beautiful Setsuna Ogiso’s (credits to her seiyuu Madoka Yonezawa) voice is.
I admit I am wrong about how much I actually have to say about this series. I am at near a 1000 words at this point. Yet, I have barely skimmed the surface of the iceberg of the depth of human emotion and realism that this anime represents in depicting teenagers being in love and trying to struggle between the real conundrum of friendship and romantic love. There is plenty to analyse about the characters and I will be doing that in Part II of what I have to say about this series, which will comprise mainly of a personal rant and analysis about the irony of this series and why it deserves particular attention.
As for now, there seems to be news floating around that this isn’t nearly quite the end of the White Album 2 story and there may be plans to animate the rest of the arcs in the visual novels. However there is no concrete news as of now so I am not keeping my hopes up.
For those who have watched the series, stay tuned for Part II! For those who haven’t and yet are curious and don’t mind being spoiled, Part II may throw some light on whether you want to embark on this series or not. Having said that, White Album 2 is well worth anybody’s attention if you are looking for a deeper, more realistic take on romance. Do check it out if you haven’t!
*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*