Golden Time – 09

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Thursdays this season are one big challenge for me to put my money where my mouth is.

A couple podcasts back the Random Curiosity gang and I played a round-table game I’d suggested, about what the one element was that tied all our favorite series together.  It was an interesting exercise trying to find the common link, and the one that struck me in looking at my all-time favorites was how many of them employed misdirection – that is, they superficially appeared as if they were going to be a certain type of show, and in practice ended up being something very different.

Well, I certainly seem to have the opportunity to test that trend this season, with two Thursday series that seem on-course to be shining examples.  The first is obviously Samurai Flamenco (as I write this I haven’t watched Episode 8 yet).  And the second, it now seems very likely, is Golden Time.  As game-changers go Ghost Banri doesn’t quite reach the level of Guillotine Gorilla, but it’s still a pretty big curveball if he turns out to be real and not symbolic – and after this week’s ep that very much appears to be the case.

This is a tough road for me, because I was quite happy with both series as they were presented – Samumenco’s modern take on the need for heroes in a society in decline with little violent crime, where apathy is the greatest enemy.  And Golden Time’s straight-up college romance, a refreshing change-of-pace from the endless string of mediocre high-school relationship shows which litter the airwaves.  I didn’t especially feel the need to inject a supernatural element in what were already compelling stories (much as I felt about Tokyo Magnitude 8.0) but as of this moment (I may feel differently after Samumenco’s next ep, but I’m not counting on it) it appears very much as if that’s what we’re going to get.

Zanibas, one of the writers over at RC, compared GT to Natsuyuki Rendezvous today and that actually represents another interesting parallel.  I found Natsuyuki a similarly refreshing grown-up take on the romance drama but had no problems with the ghost element at all – so why is it different now?  Perhaps (and this wouldn’t make me especially proud) it’s no more than the fact that I knew it was coming in that series from before it aired.  I do think there’s more to it, though – Atsushi’s ghost status seemed a much more intrinsic part of the romantic premise, where here the ghost element feels superfluous – as of now my take is that Banri’s conflicts would be more interesting if they were addressed at face value.  Amnesia is already a pretty major game-changer – it’s not as though we needed anything more piled on top of that.

Of course Golden Time and Samumenco are both two-cour shows, so there’s lots of time to see how all these elements are executed before making any final judgments.  What I’m really waiting for with GT is for the series to make the case that Banri’s relationship with Kouko should be regarded on equal terms with his relationship with Linda.  It’s an odd narrative – we started out deconstructing Kouko’s destructive “relationship” with Yana with Linda barely on-screen, but since then her deep and profound emotional connection with Banri has been strengthened every week, while we’ve seen no such advancement for his connection with Kouko.

The story of Linda’s older brother was quite a strong plot in its own right – Linda’s dilemma was a very realistic one, and quite deftly portrayed.  The upshot of the incident was that it convinced Banri beyond a doubt that he wanted to be with Linda forever, to the point where he promised her he would – though he lacked the self-belief to answer when she seemingly extended him an invitation for a mutual commitment.  But what “Ani’s” story says about each of them is interesting in its own right.  Linda at first wants to utterly destroy the fiancee who’s cheating on her brother, but later realizes she doesn’t want to be the one to destroy their relationship.  Banri is the more idealistic (“romantic” if you like) of the two – he only holds himself back from revealing everything because Linda changes her mind.  But of course in doing so Linda now must resign herself to living a lie – and Banri is the only other person with whom she can commiserate.

There are other questions I might want to ask about this incident – whether the guy the fiancee was cheating with might have been the one on the scooter who caused Banri’s injuries, for example.  But that’s for later – for now it’s just another deep emotional tie between Linda and Banri.  It’s clear Linda has never forgotten the promise Banri made to her that night, even if he has.  The big question with Linda for me is this: is she holding herself back with Banri because of his situation, because she’s just generally bad with commitment, or because she never loved Banri romantically in the first place?  Take what happens at the end of the episode how you will – does it simply symbolically represent Banri regaining his memories, or is it a literal case of possession in the mold of Natsuyuki Rendezvous?  It really doesn’t matter in the sense that both of them are hopelessly entangled with the other to the point where extraction is going to be very difficult and time-consuming, assuming that’s what both of them decide they want.

Either way, Banri’s feelings for Linda are now surely going to be out in the open, and the one who stands to be hurt is Kouko.  Even if her relationship with Banri has been almost entirely superficial up to this point she still deserves honesty from him, though he undeniably has a good reason for not revealing his true feelings up till now.  As vulnerable a state as she’s in it’s hard not to think this will utterly devastate her – indeed, merely a suspicion of it has rendered her virtually a recluse for a week.  I stand by my assessment that even attempting to enter a serious relationship is a mistake for her until she makes some progress with hew own issues.  She’s in love with being in love and as people who are obsessive about romance often do, she threw herself into a new relationship immediately after her last one (even if it was only in her mind) ended – and throwing herself so bombastically into one that was built on quicksand always seemed likely to lead to disaster.  It’s the aftermath of that disaster, I suppose, that’s likely to tell us a lot about the direction of Golden Time in its second cour.

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  1. F

    "This is a tough road for me…."


    Did you read my initial impressions post of this ep in the forums before writing this review? Cuz if you didn't I am gonna feel seriously weirded out and pleased simultaneously.

    Here's what I wrote:

    " Now that he has "possessed" Banri's body I am thinking more and more of Natsuyuki Rendezvous, but this is totally different. If the ghost is not some bizarre king of independent phenomenon then Banri has a strange dual personality disorder – or something.

    It's fantasy'ish, yes, but fragments of the personality breaking off to an independent existence on thier own? It's kinda hard to wrap my head around… and I think there may be a part of me that does not like it as a plot device – not too sure about this, though, will hafta see what is done with it next week."

  2. No, as I said – it was Zanibas from RC who planted the seed in my mind. I actually saw his comment before I watched the ep so I can't know for sure, but I really think the comparison would have struck me anyway – this ep made it pretty obvious.

    As for me, my current feeling is that if this is a supernatural phenomenon, it's a development I'd rather have done without. I think there's plenty here without it, and whereas with Natsuyuki it was part of the raison d'etre of the whole story, here it feels like excess baggage.

  3. F

    Exactly – plenty and more than plenty imo. However, next ep I guess things will become clearer…. Err… hopefully.

  4. Y

    I've never even thought that it could be supernatural… It always seemed obvious to me that it was a "poetic" way to portray his condition. And I hope I'm right!! 😉

  5. D

    I see teh 'ghost' banri being more of a subconscious, and him regaining his memories. If this really is a dual personality swap off, I will be disappointed. I am looking forward to see how this turns out.

  6. S

    "- whether the guy the fiancee was cheating with might have been the one on the scooter who caused Banri's injuries, for example-" Why didn't I think of that? Sweet baby Ray!

    I can see next episode being about Banri's "ghost" in Banri's body and it ends with the other Banri regaining his body (and losing his memories), but I REALLY hope it won't be. It's predictable and will just make everything a mess for a couple of episodes to come. There's no need for that kind of supernatural plot twists. The other Banri doesn't love Linda (yet), and doesn't need that kind of problems, neither does Kouko.
    However, some predictability is fine if they execute it really really well. Let's hope for that.

  7. t

    once again we see the analogy of contrast between Kouko and Linda in terms of their relationship with Banri, through the weather.
    the flashback took place in summer, with Kouko it was raining (I don't think it was winter, but the fact it was raining demonstrate the contrast). and in current present of the series, ghost Banri is wearing coat and all, while new Banri doesn't…and so on.

    what happened to Kouko is mostly interesting here. she is aware to her feelings, and it affects her physical state. something that feels right when someone is depressed.
    I found it hard to describe what's going on with her. is she depressed? is she confused? is she having "separation anxiety disorder"?
    non of those really fits to describe Kouko's mental state. I am not even sure what happened to the sudden breakdown of her.
    not so long ago, I said Kouko is repressing her feeling. although it was in context to happen with Mitsuo, it seems to characterizes her. her behavior of "lovey dovey" before is also a feature of that behavior. it brings me to think that we don't know who the real Kouko is. she's..unstable emotionally.
    lucky for her, Banri is there to support her, basically he is doing his job as her boyfriend.
    but it seems for GT it's not enough. so they added to the equation the "return of ghost-Banri". clearly it wasn't that surprising after the previous ep. but it doesn't feel right. at least not now (because obviously it had to come to this at some point..right?)
    as you guys above have been saying, there is plenty of material to work with even without that being added up
    it would have been better if it was more 'lightly' – like if ghost-Banri was able to make new-Banri remember or influence him like via dreams or flashbacks.
    the fact the ghost-Banri is entering to fully-active state, kinda breaks the narrative of the whole thing.
    but as for samumenco, we should not jump ahead to conclusions, I am still waiting to see what will happen with it.

    yes, I didn't forget about Linda.
    I am happy with GT is stable with pace and all. we see more of Linda, especially in the past.
    the story with her brother is an excellent extra.
    I also believe that the lover-guy might be involved in what happened to Banri. although 6 months have been passed between the two scenarios..but let it be for now.

    after that story, it's not for nothing that Linda mentioned she saw her brother. possibly he found out or something…she said it was "tiring" and I don't think it's because of travelling…but the current Linda can bear the burden this time. or so it seems.
    Linda keeps things in the stomach. we saw it all around when Linda is on screen.
    somehow she is similar to Kouko – repressing her feelings, keeping things in the stomach, confused sometimes…

  8. R

    im must say that this is one episode GT that got me a little confused. i dont see the connection of banri comforting kouko with the whole flashback.

    the end also feels a bit odd. id go with Doug Napoleone's view of ghost banri being just a representation of his subconconscious.

    well, i think this is where the advancement in banri's and kouko's relationship actually starts. she seems to be slowly becoming aware of linda's connection to him and that creates that certain insecurity within her as she tries to come to terms with the question of whether she really does love him or she is just using him for playtime.

  9. J

    It's too early for a plot twist like this to solve the problems we have presented to us here. Something like that would be used for the endgame. I strongly believe this will cause more problems and get us into the deeper part of the story faster.

  10. R

    I used to see ghost Banri as giving voice and appearance for his lost memories, as if it was still alive inside him, but disconected from his actual self, at the same time using it as an exposition tool to explain his past and link with Linda. Guess the confirmation if this was or not some supernatural ocurrence will come next week, since it "have a body" again.

  11. M

    With this episode,I think it's pretty clear that Linda did have romantic feelings for Banri.I'm sure it wasn't a love at first sight thing but more of they've just become very close to each other throughout highschool,beyond the relationship of a close brother & sister or two good friends.

    Right now,it seems that Linda doesn't mind her & Banri being just friends but she'd probably prefer being in a relationship with him.I'm now almost certain she's bad with commitment.Seeing that Kouko's also entered the picture now,I don't think she'll try to make the first move.Banri will most likely be the one to do that and I must say,I'm SO looking forward to it.

    At this point I'm already wishing for J.C. Staff to be trolling us hard with that OP & ED.

  12. B

    I think you are right, the fiance's lover could be the guy that injured Banri, and if he was that's going to make Linda feel even more guilty. The more i watch this show the more i feel that this is about Banri and Linda.

  13. i

    A lot to say.

    First when this season started I ranked Thursday in order of awesomeness as SF, KlK, NnA and GT. KlK showed it's true colors (white and blue striped) so I dropped it and NnA gained momentum on GT. After this week's round it is unbelievably GT that's gotten ahead of the other two. It really is doing a great job with livening up the romance, though with only 9/24 episodes done I do worry about how exactly this is going to be resolved.

    Also you made the point that the cheating man might hit Banri. I have a similar idea but on an emotional level. This guy is a jerk that threatens Linda by saying he'll reveal that the fiancee was his lover unless Linda does something for him. Assuming things get messy, Banri unknowingly got in the way and was as you say hit. Maybe a bit too messy but I feel possible.

    Also Koko is starting to gather my sympathy. She seems confused, crazed and frightened all at once and for a variety of reasons. I think she before Banri has realized that there relationship isn't working but is scared of abandonment.

    GT's real strength I think is to give us five or so broken people who try to fix each other's cracks while letting their one own's grow. And that might only lead to every one breaking.

  14. a

    I wonder if Koko was acting this way because she might have heard Linda and Banri's conversation in the balcony from the previous episode. The way she left with Chinami, not looking back at Banri at all, made it seem like she was already feeling hurt and betrayed. She might have heard Banri's cry that he wanted to go back to how things were. Banri pretty much cried/shouted out that line, so I wouldn't put it past Koko to have heard him then.

  15. Yes, Kouko certainly suspects and it may be because she overheard them. Especially since Banri literally shouted his "I want to go back!"

    As for Kouko, she certainly has my sympathy. That's not the issue for me – the issue is, I still see absolutely nothing substantial in her connection to Banri. It's not too late to change, but so far it's all very superficial.

    If indeed the lover was the culprit in the Banri suspicious, I doubt he blackmailed Linda. She was this close to ratting him out anyway, and thinking she'd done the wrong thing by not doing so right up to the last moment. I don't see the leverage thing – if he's responsible for what happened to Banri I would think he did it himself.

  16. R

    Yes — I remember the game that you suggested, and you guys did it twice, right? I really really like Linda — she's the best written female protagonist this season in my opinion. However, I'm emotionally invested in Kouko already, and it kills me when I see her feeling hurt. The way she handled her fear of being abandoned by Banri was much more mature and restrained in this episode. I like the growth in her, but it's more painful to watch her subduing her pain. With Ghost Banri taking over Banri's body, I wonder if he will break up with Kouko, and if so, I don't think that I can hold my tears…

  17. N

    Well, truth be told it wasn't Kouki's fault she rushed into the relationship: she rejected his confession and stayed friends with him while it was obvious that she considered him more than just a friend and with time I am sure she would have made her own move. But when Banri gave her the "We will be together or It is over" ultimatum, she did not have much choice.
    All in all, I'd say this was definitely Banri's fault, not hers.

    Be it as it may, I am not sure why the author felt the need to put the BanrixLinda plot into Golden Time. I'd have preferred if she replaced that romance with some other and used the BanrixLinda to make a separate story (different characters and such, but the same thing in long run). This way, BanrixLinda feels wasted and is nothing but an obstacle for BanrixKouko all while the main ship gets overshadowed.

  18. U

    Oh man, Lindaaa why are you so awesome?! asdfasdfasdfasd! I kind of feel like Haruki from WA2 watching this haha. This series does a really good job of developing the relationship between Banri and Linda, though I'm still rooting for Banri and Koko. Koko is pretty annoying at times but some part of me feels for her. Still, I have to admit Linda is a really well written character. Her interactions with Banri have an emotional depth that Koko x Banri doesn't have yet. The current developments feel very slanted towards Linda. After some initial development it feels like Koko has been but on a bench and is only being viewed from aside. It's hard to get into the head of that girl. Though with 26 episodes there's plenty of room for anything. Right now I still think Koko x Banri will be the end route, mostly thanks to the OP/ED, but it's going to be one heck of a ride. I'm very conflicted about the ghost development at the end though. It feels like a setup for needless drama that's only going to hurt the characters. GT has plenty of material to work with without throwing in a ghost possession. Even a gradual memory return would have been better imo. Still I'm very excited to see where this will all lead. Hopefully everything will work out in the end!

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