White Album 2 – 03

WA2 - 03 -3 WA2 - 03 -7 WA2 - 03 -16

In this case, the three-episode rule was just right.

OK, I’m in.  I was somewhat unsure after last week’s episode, which veered off course a couple of times, but this was another very good one.  On balance White Album 2 is one of the better series of the Fall when taking all elements of the production into consideration, and that’s the strongest argument that it’s a show I could not just watch, but cover on the site.  It may not offer anything especially revolutionary, but it’s that very fact that accounts for part of its appeal.

It may sound like a strange endorsement, but one of the reasons WA2 works for me is that it has the volume turned way down compared to most of the competition.  Frankly most school romances in anime just try too hard.  The characters talk too loudly and too much, they do stupid things in order to get other things to happen more quickly for plot convenience, and generally most of the cast behaves in an extreme way in order to be recognizable and marketable examples of their trope.  In WA2 that’s all dialed back – no one is an idiot, and things proceed at a remarkably relaxed pace.  And that’s a really refreshing change from what I’m used to.

Of course the drama is going to be kicked up when the stakes become clear, and both female leads openly become pursuers of the male lead (“She’s either going to become my best friend in the world or my worst enemy”).  The ultimate fate of the series will rest in how it handles that transition, but the early signs are good.  I’ll admit Touma is a bit more of an amped-up character than Kitihara and Ogiso, as the daughter of a famous pianist and possessor of the most extreme personality of the main trio.  She may be less believable but I don’t find Touma unlikeable – apart from one violent outburst and a tendency to mercilessly dissect Kitihara, she’s basically just somebody who doesn’t like BS and wants to be left alone.  But she’s not an anti-social monster, just a bit of a prickly cactus, and the fact that she’s as observant as she is about those around her proves that she does care about other people, in her way.

Setsuna’s approach to the problem was an interesting one – to invite Haruki and Touma over and cook them a meal.  The scenes at her house were agreeably unorthodox – sort of an open invitation for conventional anime hijinks that never happened.  Instead we got a surprising intervention from her family, starting with younger brother Takahiro (you know who) and mother as they eavesdropped.  Presumably their doing so was as a result of Setsuna not having any guests for three years, which she never did get around to explaining.  Then Dad showed up and declared that Setsuna couldn’t sing at the culture festival after all, which seems like a broad overreaction – another indication that there are important parts of Setsuna’s backstory that we simply don’t yet know about.

This appears to more or less complete the preamble, with the main story about to begin.  We have the cautious and careful boy who’s about to put himself on the line emotionally, the arrogant and dismissive genius about to allow herself to get closer to people, and the school idol who carries a full backpack of neuroses and both literally and figuratively seems likely to be caught in the middle.  It’s not completely original but a scenario quite a bit subtler than we usually see in romance anime, and considering how superb the production values are here (I continue to be impressed by the BGM and how naturally it’s integrated into the story) holds a good deal of promise for the rest of the series.  If I were in the business of guessing, my inkling is that it’s Touma that Haruki is going to fall for in the end, and Setsuna who’s going to be the third wheel, but it should be interesting to find out.

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30 comments

  1. D

    I think the thing I like the most amount this romance story is that it isn't ridiculously telegraphed. I could not for the life of you tell me who is going to "win" here, if anyone will at all.

  2. p

    "It may sound like a strange endorsement, but one of the reasons WA2 works for me is that it has the volume turned way down compared to most of the competition. Frankly most school romances in anime just try too hard. The characters talk too loudly and too much, they do stupid things in order to get other things to happen more quickly for plot convenience, and generally most of the cast behaves in an extreme way in order to be recognizable and marketable examples of their trope."

    *cough* Nagi no Asu Kara *cough* :p

  3. Yeah, not buying that at all, but to each his own.

  4. p

    Just pulling you leg. Don't take me seriously :p

  5. i

    He's got a point though.

  6. i

    pocarisweat88 but then that is why Okada is popular with both fans and producers.

  7. I just don't see these two shows as remotely similar in terms of aspirations, execution or content. It's like saying an orange tastes better than an apple because it has more orange flavor – the only thing that says is that you like oranges better than apples.

  8. p

    Err… I really don't want this to get serious since I was merely giving a playful smack to enzo, because I know how annoyed he is at others dismissing the show as a failure because it even started, and how much I am butthurt for PA Works wasting half a year on Nagi Kara. Nothing more, nothing less ^_^'.

  9. i

    GE he never said they were similar – quite the opposite. You say you like WA2 because its the opposite of what Nagi Kara (in essence) is and i guess pocari just pointed that out, which I think he's right about.

    For me they both have their good points (and bad) and its too early or even reasonable to compare them.

  10. I don't want to make this a big issue because Pocari was joking (though he's not joking about disliking NnA), but the point is that if you're going to draw any comparison between two shows – Show A is better than Show B because it lacks/has what show B doesn't – there's no point in doing so unless you're saying they're effecting the same general genre or style. My view is that since Nagi is in no way,shape or form trying to be the same type of show that WA2 is, taking a shot at one by comparing it to the other is pointless.

    Example: I rave about how much I love the Kyoto scenery in Uchouten Kazoku. You comment "Yeah, unlike that crappy Watamote, which is a perfect example of a show that offers nothing on that score". What's the point in drawing that comparison? You can say two shows aren't similar and one is better than the other because of it, but in making any kind of qualitative judgment of one show as it relates to another, you're effectively saying they are similar enough for it to matter – otherwise the comparison is invalid to begin with.

  11. R

    >how much I am butthurt for PA Works wasting half a year on Nagi Kara.

    But these are the kind of shows that PA has been producing for years now. Uchouten was a pleasant exception.

    Personally, I'm liking NagiKara better than Iroha, Another, Tari Tari and RDG so far.

  12. i

    Romances only work when one is invested in the characters and these characters come off as a lot more mature than their peers. They think before acting and talking and thus avoid looking stupid, doing stupid cliches and generally pissing me off. But then that's how they should be as 18 year olds. They can goof at times but when the stakes are up adults get serious.

    The other thing is that this feels more like a love polygon (I'm sure more girls will be added for marketability later) and less like a harem right now. Both Setsuna and Touma seem to like Haruki and I like how so quickly its war or friendship between them. My instinct is also Setsuna as she has more baggage (as of right now), was relevant from the start, has a more difficult attitude and seems the more confrontational of the two. However I wouldn't bet on it. If Mashiro-iro was anything to go by producers can throw start throwing curveballs any time they want.

  13. Z

    I'm sure there're only two heroine in WA2 though, unless you count the (possibly animated) future "closing chapter" that takes 3 years prior to this timeline.

  14. p

    This continues to be my favourite series of the season. It's been a very very long time since I was invested in a romance/drama series of this calibre as series like Ano Natsu, Mashi-iro and Koichoco all had significant right buttons that would be pushed for me. Seriously, it's the best thing that is of a calibre similar to True Tears, ef tale of memories, Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora, at least so far. We will see if it goes the distance.

  15. H

    I've been thinking of it as a lot like True Tears as well, which I only saw a few months ago. It has the same sort of self-contained sincere love, and gives me the same idea that at least one person is going to be hurt through no fault of their own, or any reason to blame the others.

  16. p

    significant buttons that were not pushed*

  17. M

    "If I were in the business of guessing, my inkling is that it's Touma that Haruki is going to fall for in the end, and Setsuna who's going to be the third wheel, but it should be interesting to find out."

    I'm with you on that.Maybe I'm reading too much into these but there was that scene in the 1st episode with Haruki & Kazusa bumping fists with Ogiso staring at them from the background(but we couldn't see her expression),then there were the scenes right after that where Haruki was embracing Kazusa and Ogiso was,again,staring at them from the background.There's the OP that also has Haruki embracing Kazusa and last but certainly not least it was the way the two were interacting with each other this episode,which Setsuna clearly didn't fail to notice.

    I'd say the hints are definitely there but the subtle way WA2 does it makes me see it as a good thing.I believe it uses the "show, don't tell" technique.Gotta love it when almost every scene & conversation has meaning,making you pay attention to every word & action as well as use your senses to pick up on things you'd otherwise miss out on.

  18. H

    I think it's more complicated than that, thanks to those scenes in the first episode, which I wish they hadn't put in. Yes, Haruki embraced Kazusa, but then she pushed him away. And then Setsuna gives Haruki an "I'm still here and I love you, please don't forget about me" style embrace from behind. It sent me into this story with pre-conceived notions, which is coloring my reactions to happenings, but we do have a long way to go.

  19. M

    Oh,I have no doubt it is.But I think Haruki is or will be more interested in Kazusa initially which is where most romance anime that we're used to these days would end 😛 I'm fully expecting this to go way beyond that,even if not by much in this season.I heard the story spans over a few years as well so keeping my fingers crossed for a 2nd season.

    If nothing else,with the production values & popularity that I hear the VN has,that doesn't seem too unlikely.

  20. Z

    I have been expecting that WA2 will be the series that suits your taste, Enzo. I'll be looking forward to your posts and thank you for the coverage ^^

  21. H

    I think that Kazusa is more than matched by Haruki in ability to deconstruct other people, and certainly in lecturing ability.

    I actually only have one annoyance with this show, and think it's great otherwise. And you include a screenshot of it: with that guitar with a locking nut, you don't turn the tuning peg! They've done that more than once, and it just tweaks me! I know that's what people think 'tuning a guitar' is, but if that's what they wanted to do, don't make it a guitar with a locking nut.

  22. s

    Love this show. Everything works, and I love those last lines of Touma: "She can either be my best friend or my worst enemy." That's a good summary of the dynamics between polar opposites, and why there are so many of those kinds of ships out there.

  23. F

    A good, solid series so far. I'm glad! Season 1 did little for me interest and… well, ambience-wise, I guess?

    I watched all three eps in a row recently and was pleasantly surprised. :-)

  24. R

    What brought me to watch White Album 2 was solely because of the surprisingly good experience that I had with the first White Album. I’m amongst the minority who liked it, and I can’t help but compare WA2 with WA.

    Yes, the original WA was so darn slow-paced, centred around a very dislikable character, and had melodramatic moments in the first cour, but when the second cour started, everything got better — I was surprised by how much I got hooked, considering that this is a harem. Well, I liked that WA was about adults, so when WA2 was announced, I was a little disappointed that it was — for lack of a better word or being judgmental — “reduced” to a high-school show. Having said that, I still hope that it will surpass WA — or specifically speaking, the second cour of WA.

    First, let’s talk about the BGM. This is subjective, but I really like that of WA better — it’s stylish and effective. WA was very subtle and used many silent moments — the BGM took up the role of conveying the emotions and worked with the character actions to tell the story. The choice of each piece was beautiful as a standalone and a part of the overall BGM of the show. I think the BGM of WA2 pales in comparison, but I’m too early to make a call here.

    Second, it’s the singing. Both seiyuu for the two female protagonists of WA are real singers — they really made a difference and contributed to overall enjoyment. Let’s talk about the song White Album — the song that Setsuna tried in the first episode of WA2 and wished to perform with Haruki and Kazusa. I honestly would recommend her to try another song because — judging from her singing — there is no way that she can perform better than Hirano Aya — who voiced and sang the song as Yuki, one of the female protagonists of WA. Aya-san delivered the song with ease and lightness and gave it the feeling of sweetness, gentleness, delicacy, and grace. The best part was that her singing brought out the personalities of Yuki. I don’t think WA2 will give us the same quality of singing, but this doesn’t make or break the show.

    Third, it’s the fanservice that Enzo talked about last week. Both WA shows are based on adult VNs. For a show that’s based on a hentai game, WA surprised me — there were zero boobs or panty shots, and physical intimacy was treated with subtlety and in context. WA2 instead threw in some last week and this week. It’s random and unnecessary, but it’s still sparse and acceptable comparing to many other shows.

    …to be continued

  25. R

    …to continue from above

    Forth, it’s those forced moments. We had the wall-walking last week, but even without it, the way that Kazusa was introduced felt contrived — the scenarios didn’t make sense and was melodramatic. This week we had the father suddenly intervened with Setsuna’s choice of participation in her school’s festival and, as a result, kicked her friends out of the house when this was her first time having friends over for the past 3 years. This really brought me back to the forced drama in the first half of WA. Script is another thing. WA was very well-scripted. Things that the characters said were logical to the events, their emotional state, and their personalities — it drew out the emotions subtly and made the whole story progress naturally. The script here with WA2 doesn’t flow as smoothly and logically. We had Haruki and Kazusa suddenly saying things like they knew each other for the longest time. It tries to build up the love triangle but lacks context. WA is more advantaged with its two cours though, so let’s see if the script and build-up of WA2 will improve.

    Finally, it’s the characters. The greatest thing about WA — in my view — was really the characters. Likable or not, they were genuinely written — even with Touya, the unlikable male protagonist, he’s well developed. In fact, all the characters were complex and acted believably like most adults who have weak moments, make stupid moves, and have hard times expressing their real thoughts. The best part was that each character was given the time to be fleshed out and developed, and each of their stories was wrapped up and tied together nicely — and yes, these all happened in the second cour of WA. In comparison, Haruki is a lot more likable than Touya, so this is where WA2 does it better. Amongst the trio, Setsuna appeals to me, and I don’t like Kazusa at this point. Again, likable or not, these three are better characters than we can find in most high-school shows. To me, how the trios will behave, how the scripts will be written, and how the dynamics and events will evolve are really what I want to see from WA2 and — in my view — will make or break the show.

    I’m sorry for posting such a long comment here, and I should add that I’m glad that you pick up WA2 to blog. WA was able to change my view and made me emotionally involved — I have the same expectation for WA2. Right now, I’m indifferent about the show — I can’t find myself attached to any of characters. I know that I’m not fair to WA2 by comparing it to a complete product, but at the same time I’m really hoping that it will give me the experience that I had with its predecessor.

  26. M

    " In fact, all the characters were complex and acted believably like most adults who have weak moments, make stupid moves, and have hard times expressing their real thoughts"

    I have to disagree with you there.I thought the characters behaved too stupid at times to be believable.Furthermore,it was hardly believable that someone like Touya had so many girls chasing him.That was especially true with Rina,who was the only character I really liked in WA(also special mentions to Yaoi-san for her um,professional behaviour :P),one would expect a strong female character like her to know better.But to each his own,I guess.

  27. S

    I just finished watching the first season of the first WA series.. and that was kind of refreshing (surprisingly). The drama did felt forced at times, but it sure slapped the usual rom'com around harems and love triangles you usually see in anime/manga on the wrist.

    So after watching that I'm definitely expecting lots of drama in this one too but with more down to earth characters. At least here they can't use the plot device of "missed calls" from the first WA, thanks to the invention of the mobile phone.

  28. R

    @MgMaster: I actually agree with you that Touya is dislikable. He kept screwing up and — when he felt vulnerable — often resorted to choosing sex as means to escapism. To see your favourite character falling for him definitely makes you want to hit the screen. One thing though, just because I don’t like him doesn’t mean that he’s poorly-written — he’s definitely not one of those annoying tropes, and I personally prefer a dislikable but well-written and -developed character than a cardboard character.

    The characters did make stupid decisions — and there was forced drama in the first season of WA — but I don’t find their actions unbelievable. They had thoughts and feelings behind their actions, and they made mistakes at times. In season two, the drama was more balanced and toned down, and it used the build-up in the first season and added context to why the female characters chose Touya. Rina explained her feelings toward Touya, and Yayoi-san did what she did for “business” reason — she almost did the same with Eiji — but subtly changed.

    WA2, on the other hand, has a much likable MC, and this helps gain affinity early on — especially when people, like me, compare it to WA. I think that’s a smart choice that the creators made. Despite my nit-picking, it had a good start, and I do want to be surprised like how I was by WA.

  29. R

    @SixFlags: I was a little annoyed by the missed calls, but when I thought about it, it probably made sense and was normal to my parents when they were dating…lol. As for the drama in WA2, let's just hope that it will be well built up and written.

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