There are certain shows that exhibit a repeated tendency for me as a viewer: I end up being much more engaged in the second halves of episodes than the first. Generally speaking this is a good sign as these shows tend to be substance more than style, and it’s certainly better than the reverse being true – I’d much rather have an episode start slowly but leave me wanting more. Interestingly, as I look back this has tended to happen mostly with romance-centric shows – Mashifony and Ano Natsu de Matteru are first two that spring immediately to mind, and you’ve guessed by now that White Album 2 is another. Is there a reason romances tend to effect me this way? Nothing obviously strikes me but there are too many cases for me to chalk it up to coincidence.
Once again this week I found myself wavering a bit at the eyecatch, wondering if this was an episode better suited to a digest post. But it really seemed to come together after that, due to a variety of factors. It almost feels to me as if I’m watching events develop from far overheard, like the movements of troops on the battlefield, and can see things those involved are unable to perceive. Maybe that’s a function of experience when watching a show about the impending romantic drama among those younger than you are, who knows. But while WA2 manages to escape most of the tropes of teen romance anime I still feel as if the story is structured in such a way as to predict what’s to come, at least in a general way.
A few thoughts predominate for me. The first is that there are times in life where genuinely good people hurt each other, without there being any malicious intent. Sometimes events push us in a certain direction and we’re powerless to stop them – and truth be told, we don’t want to stop them, even if we realize early enough for it to matter that someone is going to get hurt. This feels like one of those times to me – no one can completely divorce themselves from selfish feelings. The heart wants what it wants, and that doesn’t make us bad people. There’s a growing sense in me that Ogiso is being set up to take a serious punch before this is said and done – if there’s serious pain coming, my sense is that she’s the one that’s going to be hurt.
Largely forgotten through the first three episodes, Takeya almost unnoticed slips into a very important role this time. As the club president he certainly plays a practical one, and I was wondering how it was going to be explained that he wasn’t on-stage with the others in the end – would it be a falling-out? Rather, it’s a simply problem of logistics – there’s no living rhythm section to be had, and Ogiso joined so she could sing along with Haruki’s guitar. That means Takeya has to do the canned rhythm tracks while Haruki desperately tries to bring his pedestrian guitar skills up to speed. More importantly, though, he tips his hand a few times in this episode that he senses the dynamic forming among the other three. He’s with them in a way, but mostly he’s an outsider – he’s the guy watching from overheard, seeing the troop movements below. And I think Takeya sees what I see, in broad terms.
Takeya will also impact the narrative in another way later, giving this notebook to Touma and asking her to “make Haruki’s real dream come true”. No clues on what that is yet, but there are plenty as to the developing relationship between he and Touma. Most of the ep is just the two of them, he practicing under her stern tutelage, and most of that is at her house. It’s a big house with its own recording studio and there’s nothing overt happening between them, but the electricity is thick enough to cut with a knife. Touma possesses a talent Haruki will never have, and he an openness and ease of manner she never will – but they somehow fit. It’s an interesting combination of easy familiarity and raw chemistry, a chemistry which Haruki simply doesn’t have with Ogiso at this point.
It’s not as though Ogiso isn’t trying – she’s taken her flirting to the overt stage, but Haruki’s lack of response strikes me as not so much typical male lead cluelessness but a lack of romantic spark. It feels like she’s walking into a punch – and the first sign she sees is Haruki’s travel toothbrush in the bathroom at Touma’s house. The aftermath of that promises to be a major plot drivers, as does the choice of a song by Ogata Rina for the concert’s second number, another callback to the original series. This song requires some serious shredding of the type that Haruki is wholly incapable – and while it may be the suspicious side of me, I can’t help but think Touma accepted the challenge on his behalf because it would give her an excuse to be with him non-stop for the next week as his teacher. It’s a pretty darn interesting scenario developing, featuring three likeable enough (though Touma is definitely the edgiest) characters. Indeed, the only downside (apart from the towel scene, which felt very cliched) is the fanservice, which still seems very out of place to me. In a series that’s trying to tell a romantic story from the perspective of both genders in a sensitive way, the repeated fixation on zettai ryouki and cleavage just doesn’t feel right.