Golden Time – 07

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It’s early in the game yet, but my instincts are with Kouko-Papa on this one.

There have been some bumps in the road for me as far as Golden Time is concerned.  In effect the execution hasn’t, on the whole, been on par with the story.  That hasn’t stopped me from being totally invested in it – as much as I have been in any romance-first anime for a long time.  The sometimes awkward exposition and scene transition/pacing may be an issue with Kon Chiaki’s direction, or with the realities of adapting too much too quickly. But the essential character dynamic is off-the-charts for me, and that trumps everything.

Happily, I think this was possibly the best episode in the series in terms of execution.  The narrative flow was smooth, the pacing didn’t feel overly rushed and even the animation and art seemed a half-step up from its own modest standard.  There was some of the sharpest comedy of the series – Banri’s one condom ending up in the box of “potatoes”, the “OMG” moment, the nauseating but endearingly silly adoration between Banri and Kouko.  The ep was also full of reminders of why anime set in colleges are such a welcome change from the relentless drumbeat of high-school romances and comedies – for all the awkward boy-girl moments, the relationship drama is simply operating on a higher level than it does in high school series.  And damn, that’s nice see.

I think every major character in Golden Time is extremely interesting, even if I happen to like some of them better than others.  Kouko is a difficult character, certainly, both on-screen and for the viewer.  She reminds me of Watamote’s Tomoko in many ways – she displays some of the same idiosyncrasies common to those with significant psychological issues, even if hers are of a quite different stripe.  She makes it hard to love her, sometimes, but as with Tomoko I always feel for Kouko.  What she does, she does because she’s lonely and insecure, and that’s something anyone can understand.

That said, though, my every instinct when watching the first ten minutes of this episode was “Run, Banri – run!”  Kouko and Banri may indeed genuinely love each other and have a future together (it’s still very much an open question) but my feeling grows stronger every week that she’s in absolutely no shape to be in a romantic relationship.  At best she’s taking things way too seriously, too fast – but at worst, she’s simply transferring her feelings for Yana to Banri – with the important caveat that Banri actually said “yes”.  The degree to which she’s clinging too him is simply neither normal or healthy – there’s no sugarcoating it.  if Banri were more experienced he’d no doubt be alarmed but it seems very likely that this is his first romantic relationship (we all know what happened the first time he tried to form one) and he’s still flush in the euphoria of having a girlfriend.

I don’t want to believe Kouko’s father that Banri is simply her next victim, but I do think he’s right at least that everyone would be better off if she got herself to a better place emotionally before they got serious with each other.  And it’s not as though Banri is exactly free and clear psychologically either.  Obviously he’s still dealing with his self-identity complex arising from his amnesia, but then there’s Linda.  The irony here is that Banri takes an equally unhealthy tack that’s the exact opposite of Kouko’s dysfunction – he runs away.  I don’t think there’s any denying that he was being a jerk to Linda, leaving her hanging and refusing even to respond to her texts.  It’s understandable given his circumstances, but still wrong – and symptomatic of the fact that Linda is very important to Banri, enough so to cause him to act in a way that’s very unlike his usual self.

I don’t know where all this is going, but both Kouko and Banri are, at the very least, far too tangled in their previous crush to enter into a healthy relationship with someone else.  As I mentioned last week, I freely admit my take on all this may be influenced by the fact that I absolutely adore Linda.  She’s had me from the moment she briefly appeared in the first episode, and it was clear that she was someone very special.  But when I see Linda and Banri together, it feels so much more natural and right than when he’s with Kouko – they seem to fit together in a way Banri and Kouko don’t.  I really don’t know if Linda’s role here is to be nothing more than a supportive friend – I mean, the OP and ED are pretty much all Kouko all the time, and if that’s not the fate of the series it’s a major misdirection to say the least.  But I feel something very deep and profound between Banri and Linda, and I don’t think that’s the partisan in me talking – I think that, at least, is real.

I haven’t totally discounted the possibility that Kouko could end up with Yana, crazy as that sounds – all the more so with last week’s vibe that he might actually he conflicted on the issue himself.  He’s going through a bit of an existential crisis himself at the moment, ostensibly from having been rejected by Chinami but I’m not so sure – he’s dyed his hair blonde (in the act of trying to have it shaved).  Meanwhile we have Nana #2 (the homage here is self-evident) actually impacting the story, being the one to finally force Banri to talk to Linda – it’s still not clear what her ultimate role in the story is going to be.  We even got another Hachiko reference – that story seems incredibly elemental to the Japanese cultural identity.  It’s pretty clear who Hachiko is in Kyousogiga – in Golden Time, I think the answer is a lot more complicated.

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  1. R

    bleaaaarrrgghhh!! they're so sickeningly sweet that i nearly had diabetes. and why did he have a condom there?! oh, wait! this isn't high school.

    kidding aside, i agree with you that this is undoubtedly not going to be good. koko is all clingy and that is not healthy. banri is going to tire at all her romantic shenanigans sooner or later. but as the old ones always say, love truly blossoms when romance ends. so i am looking forward to that.

  2. m

    At least the people around Kouko know that she's "a little bit dangerous". She's no like the usual MC who's annoying but everybody around her have to love her, she is kind of crazy, but no irritating to watch. But it's getting really painful to watch Linda, she's so nice… I really don't want her to be just a supportive friend..she deserves more. It's no fair!!!

  3. I have absolutely no idea what you mean…

  4. i

    Their fake dating is kinda gross and not the right gross but a creepy weird sugary gross. I can understand little inside jokes and messing around with play acting and sudden dramatics; that's normal but Koko has gone to a new and wholly inane level. She's not difficult to like, she's unlikable. I really would like a School Days wrench thrown in with another truck hitting her (no need for a double tap).

    I agree that right now they are wrong but I still think that unfortunately they will be the last couple standing, somehow. Also Yui Horie sounded so nascent and annoying this episode as lovey dovey Koko. I like her Genki but this was just moe annoying sounding, like something KanaHana would come up with.

  5. S

    lol, that's some pretty strong emotions you have going on there. In fact, I think it's a testament to how well they created the adorable not-fully-mentally-healthy Koko. She's pretty polarizing, but I find it impossible not to like her.

    I remember people at college having mentally unhealthy public relationships, and I think it's kinda mean to call it "fake dating". It's real for them, but you hope it isn't because it's not what you're hoping for, I get it. I think the dating scenes were perfectly balancing the edge between cute and gross. Hilarious.

  6. H

    I really think a lot of people are expecting something that's highly unlikely out of these characters. The portrayal of this couple was almost exactly perfect, from a standpoint of two people who are having their first love. And that's what it has to be described as: Kouko has never loved anyone who loved them back, and arguably wasn't really in love with Mitsuo. And Banri certainly hasn't ever been in love as his current persona. So they're doing the things that pretty much every new couple does.

    I also think you all are a bit too dismissive of Kouko with the 'mentally unhealthy' stuff (this is something that's similarly annoyed me in other shows). How do people learn to be in relationships? By being in relationships. I think it's completely unrealistic to think that everyone needs to be in some sort of approved state of mind before they're allowed to date someone else. *Everyone* is broken somehow. It seems vindictively judgmental to say "Well, they shouldn't date anyone until they're fixed." Why? It's up to the other person, especially in a situation like this where everything we've seen of Kouko, Banri has seen, plus presumably more. If it ends up not working out, then that's what happens. But it could also be that the relationship is what 'fixes' a person. Or at least moves them that way, which is more realistic than someone who is alone somehow bootstrapping themselves to a different mental state. The more realistic way for Kouko to learn is to have someone to give her feedback. And could that end up with both people hurt for some time? Yes, that's *always* a risk in relationships.

  7. Seriously, you see Kouko's issues as being normal "everyone has issues" kind of issues? She's a mess – the way she stalked Mitsuo (and is still obsessed with him) is highly dysfunctional and healthy. Her own parents are aware that she's too messed up to be in a relationship. This isn't universal stuff – this is a pretty significant level of dysfunction that she really needs to get some help with.

    I don't think it's wrong to suggest that someone with as many social issues as Kouko (and Banri for that matter) is wrestling with shouldn't be jumping into a new relationship a couple of days after being shot down by the guy she's been stalking for ten years.

  8. H

    One, I think the 'college' aspect might be going to your head a little here. At most, I think you could only characterize her actions as 'stalking' for a couple years (she's only 18, for goodness sake). For two, she's a teenager, who has admittedly been stuck on one guy for quite a while, but still a teenager who has very little experience with anything.

    So no, I don't think she's anything close to psychopathic or sociopathic. I think she's far more along the lines of 'socially inept', but I think it should mean a lot more than you give credit for that she is able to recognize and articulate her relationship with Mitsuo. It's not that she thinks what she had with Mitsuo was a good relationship and that she has no idea why he doesn't want to be with her. In fact, it seems that she has realized for quite a while that wasn't working, but also didn't know how to get out of it (and not that it's Mitsuo's fault, but it also seems like he didn't help the situation, unlike what happened during the show).

    So I do think she's far more close to 'everyone has issues' than "unredeemable sociopath", given her age and experiences.

  9. M

    The deleted comment below was meant to be for a reply for these posts 😛

    Anyway,I'll go with Enzo's opinion in that Kouko's behavior is hardly normal.It might've been so if this was all played as a one episode thing for laughs but I doubt that's the case,especially from what we've seen of her so far.

    However,I also have to agree with Highway in that a relationship is what could fix a person.I think this is more true in Kouko's case than Banri's.While Banri seems to be able to deal with his own issues by himself and maybe with a little bit of help from Linda(which he already did to a degree this episode),I can't say the same for Kouko.Sure,I think we can all agree that she'd need a friend more than a boyfriend right now but perhaps a boyfriend like Banri who can tolerate her(remember that Mitsuo also mentions this) is exactly what she needs.The fact that they're more than friends is most likely one of the reasons why he can tolerate her as she is right now.

    Don't get me wrong here,I'm not saying that simply tolerating your partner is a healthy relationship and Banri needs to give her provide her with some constructive criticism from time to time or there won't be any improvements.

  10. H

    I certainly don't think that Banri just accepting or tolerating whatever Kouko does is a good situation. But I think that Banri is, as MgMaster alludes to, in a position to significantly help Kouko understand what it means to be in both a committed relationship and in a friendship. I even think some of that has already happened, when Banri broke it off and Kouko realized what she was doing and what she (at least says) felt for Banri. It's possible that Mitsuo never did that, instead reacting to Kouko by running away, like we've seen him do time and again during the series. The one time we've seen something change is when Mitsuo actually confronted Kouko as a person.

    It's possible that Kouko doesn't act any better. But I think that being in a better relationship is at least a possible and acceptable way of her trying to learn.

  11. Saying a relationship can fix someone with serious relationship issues eerily issues the notion, for me, that having a child can fix a troubled marriage. More often that not it makes it worse – it's really a "playing with fire" approach.

  12. M

    Yes it is playing with fire but I can't help but think it's what the show's going for.It's certainly not the ideal way of handling things but sometimes it works.I guess we'll have to wait & see.

  13. h

    It's hard to analyze Kouko because her manias are overplayed for laughs. I find it hard to take them totally seriously. The moments of clarity seem more real to me. I think that may be intentional on the staff's part, and I expect the manias to settle down as she becomes more secure in at least one relationship.

    No question that she's flighty and confused, and that we are being told that her feelings are undependable, but I think she is headed in the right direction (whatever happens with Mitsuo in the future). All the lovey-dovey stuff that some people find silly seemed real enough to me. I've been there and it was/is great.

    I prefer the Banri-Kouko relationship to the Banri-Linda one because I prefer the stronger Banri who leads and helps Kouko to the weaker Banri who seems to be always whining when he's around Linda. This is one anime episode where I found the crying quite sudden and off-putting. As for seiyuu, however, Kayano Ai's work as Linda is outstanding here.

  14. H

    I was somewhat put off by the crying as well. It was like Banri had all of a sudden remembered that he was supposed to be the weak, following, whiny person that he seemed to be in the flashback from his "other self's" memories. That flashback sure didn't make Banri look good, and suddenly dropping to his knees and weeping here for what seemed like no reason just felt like it didn't make sense.

    I don't think guys shouldn't cry. I cry fairly frequently. But the change was the thing here.

  15. J

    Koko all of a sudden is willing to date Banri. Banri and Linda are all of a sudden at peace with each other. Yana is giving up already. I smell facades. If these aren't just acts of cowardice by the main cast to run away from their problems, then this is the most rushed two cour anime I've seen. This Romance bubble is gonna pop, and like all economic bubbles, it's gonna hurt.

    But dang, there was so much about that seen with Linda and Banri that unsettled me.

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