White Album 2 – 04

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This series has legs – and not just the ones the director is obsessed with.

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.

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  1. D

    I didn't mind the fanservice on Ogiso's part (before she found the toothbrush), because it told us something about her character in a very stark way. To put it simply, pay attention to where her hand went.

  2. H

    Touma certainly didn't seem immune to those same kinds of feelings in her scene.

  3. M

    So I noticed. While that does forgive the shower scenes, the constant leg shots are a different matter entirely.

  4. M

    The only problem I have with the fanservice this episode is how they're forcing themselves into situations to use the notorious white light censorship covering nearly half the screen.

    It's a small price to pay if it's gonna help enough with BD sales to warrant a 2nd season though.

  5. S

    Considering the fact that Kitahara practiced at Touma's place for a week, I'd have wished that this anime spend more time on their dialogues during that time. Imo the best part of a romance genre is to see, how an initial interest or curiosity develops into strong romantic feelings. I just hope they don't skip that part of development between the main characters like they skipped the first of two weeks of training.

  6. R

    I think the anime showed enough of that.
    It wasn't exactly skipped.

  7. i

    I like the fanservice at this level. It's done leaving something to the imagination and the close ups on bust and legs don't feel as perversely ecchi as some other shows. It's more like admiration than pseudo porn. Plus I quite like antics of this level and I'd much rather watch it than moeblobbery.

    Likable leads only ever clash in anime on two stages – romance and sports (as far as I recall at least). And it seems that both girls have clearly established feelings for Haruki and he is leaning (though not for certain) towards Touma. Certainly he must have felt quite something seeing her in the bath towel and while playing that he hasn't yet with Ogiso.

    Must agree now that she looks to have taken the first blow and will likely suffer the last. The statement in the opening scene of the anime also says that this triangle will have a fallout and it's only a matter of when. I think the term trainwreck applies better to WA2 in that we are literally watching something bad about to happen rather than just watching something that is junk.

  8. g

    I liked how you pointed out Haruki's indifference toward Setsuna's casual come-ons. While her taking his hands later on in Kazusa's studio sends him blushing, it's only on a minor level compared to him going positively luminous twice now towards Kazusa. It says a lot when a cool sounding quote and cocky grin on her behalf results in him blushing like a school girl (like in the end of the third episode), but direct contact from Setsuna leaves him all business as usual.

    Going a step further than that, it's amusing to see how the protagonist is the one showing all these girlish mannerisms towards Kazusa. Even with being the heroine, she's taking the lead in a real casual fashion. The shot with him falling onto her chest was like something straight out of a shoujo series – all it needed were flowers and sparkles filling up the screen.

  9. Heh, I didn't think of it in quite those terms but Haruki is sort of in that role with Touma. But whoever plays which role, there's clearly something there for both of them.

  10. S

    I don't know how well this anime is received in Japan, but I'm guessing it's modest and the series is just trying to survive by putting some fanservice and close-ups in there.

    Either way, it's a good start and I'll probably follow it to the end. I'm a sucker for well-executed romance.

  11. D

    Actually, it's looking to be one of the better selling series this season.

  12. M

    Yeah, sales of the Visual Novel have increased and the VN sequel WA 2: Closing Chapter is number one in Japan, though this cour is only adapting the first part, Introductory Chapter. So by these two accounts, White Albumn 2 is suceeding. That bodes well for Closing Chapter being greenlit also.

  13. Stalker looks pretty decent as well. It should be 4-5 K at worst, as a guess.

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