White Album 2 – 05

WA2 - 05 -4 WA2 - 05 -18 WA2 - 05 -21

White Album 2 must surely be leading the pack this season for unintentionally ironic dialogue – though I suspect it’s only intentional on the part of the characters, not the script…

WA2 continues to be a romance anime with a difference, though for me that difference was a little blurrier this week.  Admittedly part of that is the very high standard the series has already set for dignity and subtlety, with only occasional lapses into conventional tricks of the trade.  That hasn’t fundamentally changed for me, though I thought those lapses were a little more obvious this week.  What also hasn’t changed is the tendency for the second acts of episodes to be better than first, which does an admirable job of stoking anticipation for the episode to come.

The first half of the episode was pretty much all about Setsuna (which name we use is very important in context for this show, as is so often the case in Japan), a development which was pretty much set up by the way last week’s episode ended.  She’s been a bit of a third wheel over the last couple of episodes as the focus shifted to Touma, though given that Touma wasn’t a wheel at all for the first two that’s not unexpected.  Setsuna’s M.O. was pretty well-established – popular, pretty and insecure – though the extent to which she was unhinged by that travel toothbrush might have been a little more explosive than expected.

Setsuna’s behavior this week could be looked at a couple of different ways, I suppose. I can’t deny that it was refreshingly direct compared to what we see in many anime – to a point.  What she wants is obvious to me and I suspect everyone else (whether than includes Haruki I concede is still disputable) but her honesty didn’t carry so far as to openly admit it.  No, she couched her breakdown in terms of friendship and betrayal – and as far as that goes, I’m sure it was legitimate, as it sounds like she got rocked pretty hard by typical middle-school treachery on the part of her friends.

I’m torn, because I feel as if I should be applauding Setsuna for coming right out and telling first Touma and then (sort of) Haruki what was bothering her.  But I’d be lying if said I didn’t find her behavior a bit off-putting – basically demanding to be loved and even insisting that Haruki call her by her given name, but not having the grit to come right out and say that what bothered her just as much as being excluded was the idea that Haruki and Touma might have feelings for each other.  Asking for sympathy outright is never a good idea, it seems to be – like respect it must be given freely, not demanded.  In saying all this I freely acknowledge both that she has reason to be sensitive, given her background, and that Touma and Haruki should have told her up-front that he was staying over at her house.

The irony in question for me was when Touma told Setsuna, “Well, everything seems to have worked out so there’s no problem.”  Certainly that’s an invitation for big trouble, and we know that’s coming.  Haruki’s true romantic inclinations are still open to debate, but not the fact that both Touma and Setsuna have feelings for him, and my read on it at the moment is that Touma has convinced herself that she’s already lost – indeed, that Haruki could never have been interested in the first place when Setsuna is the other option – and that Haruki feels more of a spark with Touma than with Setsuna.

Hovering over all this is the mysterious notebook that Takeya gave Touma with the admonition to “make his real dream come true”.  It seems that she’s been working herself to exhaustion (it’s not as though she needs to rehearse two pop songs for the concert) trying to do just that – and it seems to involve composing something herself.  Clearly Touma places a great deal of importance on this, as witness her outburst at her teacher for confiscating the notebook – though just what this dream is remains a mystery.  I could have done without the cliffhanger ending – I can say honestly that all through high school and college I never had a friend pass out in school be it to to a cold, or overwork, or anything else.  It feels like stock anime drama, and there’s enough fuel in the interesting three-way relationship (and Takeya’s interesting role is not to be dismissed) that I’d just as soon not see it have to compete with the usual background noise.  Hopefully this is a momentary lapse of reason, and whatever’s going on with Touma’s collapse is forgotten by the eyecatch next week.

WA2 - 05 -8 WA2 - 05 -9 WA2 - 05 -10
WA2 - 05 -11 WA2 - 05 -12 WA2 - 05 -13
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WA2 - 05 -22 WA2 - 05 -23 WA2 - 05 -24


  1. p

    Going to have to somewhat disagree with Enzo's thoughts on White Album 2.

    I think this series is brilliant and after 5 episodes it continues to stomp pretty much almost every "modern" anime romance dramas out there bar a few. It's subdued, restrained and dignified series and it uses moments of emotions where it needs to and in a timely manner and does not dwell in excess. In fact, I haven't been invested in a romance anime since True Tears, ef and Hanub no Tsuki ga Noboru days, though it hasn't reached that status yet.

    One thing I've noticed with this series is that I can't make up my mind who I'm shipping, and to me this is clearly a strength of a series. When your personal reception of romance centric series is dependant on whether your "ship wins" then that series is not very good. All the characters in this series is likable. I slightly liked Setsuna more than Touma in episodes 1, 2 and I liked her slightly more also in this current episode, whilst in episodes 3 and 4 I liked slightly Touma more. It's at a point where I don't give a damn who wins or loses but how the story is told and how the relationships turn out.

    I also very much like how we are beginning to see cracks in both Setsuna and Touma's character as Mary sue, perfect human being are never fun to watch. However I particularly liked it in that resolutions so far aren't handled with banal theatrics and mugging. It's handled in a adult manner and not in a method like those typical wangsty teen romance melodramas where everything is overacted and conflicts dragged out. Both Setsuna acted both rationally and at the same time humanly, particularly in the way they bloody talked about their problems rather than keep it to themselves and wangst about it for aeons. I also applaud for Haruki being assertive, non-idiotic and sometimes somewhat of an asshole if the need arises to prevent conflicts from overstaying their welcome. I'm sure this isn't the end on the drama end of the things for our cast as there is obviously far more baggage that both characters are carrying, and I'm very interested to see what they are and how they deal with it.

    Another thing to note is that the music in this series continues to be fantastic and very noticeable. Very glad to see a series that takes one of its focal points seriously instead of you know… eating cakes and drinking tea. Reminds me of how Tari Tari used its musical aspect, but I think it's even slightly better than that here in its usage so fart. Definitely going to be checking out its OST once it comes out later on.

    It continues to be one of the two favourites of the fall season, the other being Kyousogiga. Also this series is part of the reason, amongst other reasons that it is impossible for me to enjoy Nagi no Asukara. Whilst one is subdued and controlled, the other constantly resorts to excess. To use Enzo's words, this series uses a scalpel, whilst the other uses a chainsaw.

  2. H

    There are definitely shows where I want my ship to win, although I'm never really upset if they don't. But this show is different in that all the characters are good and true, and my main hope for this whole series is that everyone comes out relatively unhurt. It's definitely one where I wish for a happy ending for everyone, even if it can't work out exactly like everyone hopes immediately.

  3. m

    I'd chip in on the side of "White Album 2 is brilliant", too. Even though I didn't get the feeling that GE was putting the show down in any way.

    Where's the parts where I'm disagreeing?

    First of all, calling Setsuna "honest" is quite a bit of a stretch. She is not. She's been cultivating an outer image, which isn't exactly forthcoming, and her passive-aggressive reaction to the toothbrush revelation was even worse. No, I'd definitely not give her the "honest" attribute, rather the opposite. She can be _open_ when the circumstances allow, but that's not the same. She is starved for friendship due to her past, and the interest that Haruki shows her is exactly what she desires. Her mood plummets badly when she realizes that she might have misread Haruki's interest in her, noticing his link to Kazusa. And she is reborn when even after her strong rejection in the first half of ep5, Haruki still persists and tries to mend things. Because if she merely was the third wheel, he wouldn't do this. And Haruki, you made a big big promise there. Not sure if you were aware what you just did.

    Touma is the polar opposite. She is prickly and abrasive – the opposite of "open". But I do think that those bits she lets on _are_ honest, so this attribute rather fits on her. Also, she does explicitly NOT desire an extension of her circle of friends, she's just fine being on her own – and with Haruki.

    In any case – for fans of character-driven anime, WA2 is a feast. For me without doubt the top show of the season, bar none.

  4. There does seem to be a phenomenon with certain shows that if you write a 90% positive post with a few selective criticisms, it's treated as a ringing indictment of the series and everything about it – a kind of "Yer either wit' us or agin' us!" thing. What can you do?

    I agree with you – I see Touma as actually the more honest and direct of the two female leads.

  5. p

    Hey now, you know that's not true with me :(.

  6. It's more as mentaromega said, I didn't really feel I was putting the show down at all. So when the "I disagree with the blogger" comments start raining down, it always comes as a bit of a surprise at first. I think there has to be a middle ground here – I don't think it should be a Roman emperor thumbs-up/thumbs-down kind of thing.

  7. But that said, my initial reply was itself probably a little too strongly worded, so apologies for that…

  8. i

    I prefer arguing with GE when I feel you overrate a show rather than criticize it. Usually your criticisms are true or due to an understandable personal bias that I don't.

  9. p

    No problem. I probably should have said something along the lines of "I'm not really seeing the criticisms" instead of saying I "disagree". Or maybe just cut out the first line completely.

    Regardless, it's been a very long time (5 years) since I've been invested a TV romance series this much. Movies and OVAs I got my share (e.g. Shinkai movies and in the Baby Blue OVA) but on the TV side of things Mashi-iro and Koichoco were the closest things, but those were no where of a calibre that is desired. At this stage, White Album definitely no True Tears or ef but that won't be known until the closing chapter (which is 50h length vn, compared to the introductory chapter's 10h length which is what this season is covering) gets animated, if it's gets animated. I'm hoping it does since the closing chapter is one of my most highly rated and popular VNs of all time.

  10. p

    *one of the most highly rated –

    Never played the VN so never typo there.

  11. M

    As someone who also loved those shows,I'm surprised to see you rate Koichoco as "close" to WA2,Ef or True Tears.It gave this fake impression that it's going to be something more than a typical RomCom and had a ton of issues as the end was drawing near.Imagine if like,Golden Time had Koko just hook up with Banri & live happily ever after just like that,ignoring all the issues she has.

  12. H

    KoiChoco was so close to greatness, and just dropped the ball at the end. I *still* don't think that Chisano's issues were insurmountable, or even enough to stop them from trying to be together. But overall, the ending was just getting to the end and finishing the storylines because we're out of episodes, not because things finished.

  13. I liked KoiChoco enough for it to sneak into my top 20 in a pretty good year, so I'm a defender. The ending was a disaster and I don't think the show was going to quite reach greatness in any event, but it was damn good – and if the ending makes people forget just how good it was, that's a real shame.

  14. Let's not spoil it for those who haven't seen Mashifony. Flower's comment:

    Agreed – I really liked KoiChoco and Mashiro too. Part of me felt the former could have done better with more eps, like 22-24, as it was a very involved narrative, and more details could have been unfolded. Mashiro worked for me overall, other than being kinda surprised at which heroine was settled on – was sure it would be ***. Still, a good adaptation that worked well in the 1/2 cour format it was given.

  15. F

    Whoops! Sorry about that. Thanks for cutting it off at the pass, there. ^^

  16. i

    Lapse you say? For me this episode hit far too close to home. It's funny how I derided you (politely) for a character like Koko when Setsuna is in all truth a girl who I knew very well and wish I had come to know better. That phone call that went on for hours reminded me of something so long ago in my past I had truly forgotten about it. With the exception of the demand for name calling, that whole conversation was played out more in my memories than in the anime.

    As a result I now have a pretty deep connection with it and a personal bias to call WA2 one of my all-time favorite romantic dramas. I honestly felt that if Setsuna wasn't fully in love with Haruki before she is now and I love that it happened over the phone. I'm also very scared of watching each episode of WA2 because I feel that with a love triangle one or all of this trio will be hit by heartbreak and I honestly don't want to see it happen just like how so many love polygons prefer status quo. I also really do feel that Touma will win out and because of how much I can relate to Haruki's relationship with Setsuna that would kill me to. Damn this is a train wreck (a good one) but I'm not watching it, I'm bloody hell in it.

  17. p

    I'm still reminded by Touma's quote in episode 2:

    "She's going to be either my best friend or my worst enemy".

  18. m

    Well… keep in mind that these 13 episodes only show the so-called "introductory chapter". Meaning that there will be no conclusive resolution. We'll have to pray that the Blurays (and games) sell well enough to warrant animating the "main parts" of the story.

    What matters to me is that I _like_ the characters. I feel for them. What happens to them matters to me (which I usually can't say for 90% of harem show characters).

    Oh, and for what it's worth: I'd easily rank WA2 no worse than True Tears or ef.

  19. s

    In regards to you mentioning this ep being a slight lapse in quality Enzo, i can see exactly where you're coming from with that and id just like to say that perhaps what your seeing as a lapse in quality is actually your despondence at Setsuna's behavior and "ugly side". As i mentioned above, i was laughing throughout the first half; and usually when im laughing throughout an ep that doesnt have any intentional comedy, its most likely because i finding the script to be bad.

    In this case, i didnt find the script to be bad at all (I even think you mentioned that there seemed to be an almost-intentional disposition about the script), and realized i was laughing because of how accurately it reflected how your average high-school adolescents would act in that kind of scenario down to a tee. It even followed the same beats starting from the setsuna being upset, Haruki being persistent on calling her to get the problem resolved, and the eventual apology that brought the characters closer all in the same night. Ive seen this so many times in real life that i was impressed on how well they captured the beats of that scenario without turning it into forced.

    I think the key word here though is "average high-schooler" term i mentioned before, because for the past four eps, this show has had these characters act so mature and fairly atypical highschool students that when you saw Setsuna acting that way, you were like "whhaaaaaaaaaaaattt, that's too typical for a show that has been presenting its characters and setting in a different league"; which honestly speaking, im not surprised you felt that way. Instead of looking at it as a lapse in quality, I saw it as a at times insecure girl girl who can have an ugly side from time to time, to which even Setsuna acknowledged and apologized for within the same night instead of dragging her angst along.

    And if i ever use the word "disagree" when responding to you (or anybody for that matter) just know that im trying to set up a constructive debate. I know this is the internet so that word as a strong negative connotation that usually leads to nasty, pointless debacles. My intent is to use it to engage in insightful and meaningful conversation if my views differ from someone else's as a way to better understand their view. It's always nice to see varying opinions.

  20. H

    Even if you think Touma is convinced that Setsuna is in the lead, then Setsuna has been convinced from the very beginning that she's fighting an uphill battle against Touma and Haruki's obvious but unspoken feelings for each other. And honestly I think she's right. Setsuna's been dropping hints, trying to get Touma to admit to it since their first conversation in the burger shop.

    I think where this show shines is in authentic character interactions, especially for the characters we have here. They're not typical, but they do ring very true, and although Setsuna has a little bit of a breakdown, it was still very believable, from her attempts to disengage from Haruki even when she doesn't want to (even speaking her thoughts to try to convince herself that he's not all that great) and ultimately giving in to the feelings for him that she just can't discard when he calls her, deciding to not give up after all.

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