White Album 2 – 06

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In case there was any doubt, that light at the end of the tunnel is definitely a speeding train.

There a tragic sort of tone to White Album these days for me, despite the generally warm tone to much of the material.  Rarely have I seen an impending train wreck depicted with such quiet dignity, but it seems pretty clear that’s where we’re headed.  Sometimes nice people hurt each other without meaning to – certainly in high school they do – and knowing what’s likely to be coming paints the wistful events we’re watching unfold in a quite somber color.

Make no mistake, this series is very, very good.  Not just because of its restraint but because it’s created four genuinely relatable and believable characters (yes, I include Takeya in that too) and put them in a highly realistic situation that’s generating the potential for drama.  The way the feelings have developed has been patient and natural, and the many elements of the production – music, art, cinematography – perfectly balanced.  It’s not as though Masaomi Ando has a stellar or even lengthy track record as a director, but this is very good work that show a fine eye for shot composition and staging.  Ando is a name to watch, I think.

I will confess, though, that a couple of the characters are starting to annoy me.  It’s the good sort of annoying – mostly – but annoying nonetheless.  We can certainly start with Haruki, who’s both a genuinely good guy and a genuinely good M.C..  But seriously, his stupidity (and I can only assume it’s that rather than wilfully ignoring reality) regarding the romantic feelings of the girls is getting pretty ridiculous.  Last week is was Setsuna, this time with Touma where be gets dangerously close to leading on.  Nursing Touma back to health (the camera obsession with illness kawaii was a bit much), saying all these romantic things to her, about how he’ll always be there for her and to ask if she ever needs him, and then “Because we’re both members of the Light Music Club!” as if that explains everything happily.  If a baseball player missed this many signs he’d be sent down to the minors.

When Presidents get involved in serious scandal, it often comes down to two unpalatable options – were they ignorant about what was happening on their watch or were they knowingly doing wrong?  Maybe this is just an inherent flaw with high-school romances – maybe high-school guys really are just that dumb when it comes to women – but I sure don’t remember guys in my high school being that blind to the signs.  Hell, we were looking for them, usually desperately.  Haruki certainly isn’t a dumb guy by any means – quite the contrary – but he’s either just another clueless male lead or teenaged males (at least in Japan) really are that clueless and he’s just an accurate portrayal.  Either way, it’s getting on my nerves.

And then there’s Setsuna.  Again, a really nice person, a kind soul.  But to be blunt, if I were in a social relationship with her the way Haruki is I’d be seeing more warning signs than at the C.D.C. laboratories.  I think she’s headed down a very bad path here – extreme neediness, emotional manipulation, panic attacks, extreme use of guilt as a weapon.  She’s got problems, and I think she’s trouble for anybody who gets into a romantic relationship with her.  I give Setsuna credit for at least being more aggressive with Haruki than most in her position would be, but even here she’s not coming right out and making her intentions known – and clearly, he’s either (somehow) not getting the message or choosing not to commit until forced to.  The net result is that her actions seem sort of presumptive – she’s acting as if Haruki is her property but she hasn’t even formally confessed to him yet.

I’d say Touma, for all that she verges on the textbook tsundere at times, is more generally honest than either of the other two – certainly more than Setsuna.  She’s not being honest about her feelings for Haruki, I admit – even if she did ask if he was going to go out with Ogiso in a voice too soft for him to hear.  But most of the time she says what she thinks, and acts on how she feels.  It’s interesting in that Setsuna has had a childhood where she’s seemingly been idolized both at home and school and it’s left her insecure and needy, while Touma has had a childhood of genuine rejection (even by her mother) and isolation, and it’s mostly left her resigned to her fate.  Both these girls see Haruki as an escape from their personal prison, but he obviously can’t be that for both of them.  And Touma, as I mentioned last week, has pretty well decided she’s not even in the game so there’s not much point in fighting it.

Yes, this is a fine mess – and there’s the not inconsiderable matter of the festival performance to complicate things.  There’s a third song added to the playlist now – the secret of the notebook Takeya gave to Touma, which contained the lyrics to a song Haruki wrote.  The problem is that that performance is really the only thing holding this house of cards up – once that’s over, reality must be faced down.  If one were to try reading the tea leaves I think it’d be hard to conclude things look good for Setsuna – she’s the jealous one, the needy one, the “obvious” one – while Touma stays third fiddle (well, piano) and coincidentally is the one who makes Haruki’s dream come true.  I could also see Haruki deciding he couldn’t bear what choosing one girl would do to the other, and choosing neither.  But the only thing that seems really certain is that everyone is going to get hurt – and at least one person is going to get hurt an awful lot.

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  1. N

    Hey Enzo, where you able to tell why Setsuna bit her lip there at the end there? I think it was because she though the song Haruki wrote was for Touma? but I am not sure.

  2. i

    The notebook song was probably written long before Haruki really knew Touma, or at least before the start point of the anime. Whether Haruki has had feelings for Touma from before would explain that but also I think more importantly that he wants to play it because he likes Touma. And the lip bite was indeed Setsuna figuring that turn of events.

    A girl in love having to sing a song of about another girl, written by the guy she loves. This is beyond dramatic. Both these girls are from complicated upbringings and are emotional grenades. Haruki can only choose to defuse one. The other will blow up but as things go I think that Setsuna might become an idol while Haruki and Touma get together, considering how WA 1 took a similar route. The opposite is very unlikely though that Touma chases coldly down her mother's path while Setsuna and Haruki get together.

    This is what thrilling romance is. Twilight is shit and many things besides that lurk in the sewers.

  3. Nice whopper of a spoiler there.

  4. M

    I don't think that a scenario where Touma decides to chase after her mother and let Haruki & Setsuna be together is very unlikely.The part where she pushed him away after in that short scene at the beginning of ep1 is what makes me believe that.

    There can be a number of reasons for her to do that too such as putting priority on walking in her mother's footsteps over being with Haruki,especially after saying "I'm never gonna give up."Also,maybe Setsuna will become very unstable and after witnessing that,Touma will sacrifice her own feelings for her friend.I think a combination of the two would be very likely.

    Of course,Touma might surprise me and decide that she doesn't want let go of Haruki no matter what – I might prefer it like this to be honest.

    The wild card here will probably be Haruki himself though as so far he hasn't really shown any signs that he's romantically interested in Setsuna and if they're to get in a relationship,I'm quite curious to see whether her advances on him will start to have any effect or she'll go bonkers and he'll date her out of pity.

  5. H

    I actually think this goes way farther down the rabbit hole than just "Setsuna realizes Haruki wrote the song about Kazusa". Here's how I think it sets up:

    – Haruki has been admiring Kazusa for a long time. In October, he finally wrote down song lyrics about a love that is 'unrealized' or doesn't get through. I think it's pretty obvious that Haruki has had a crush on Kazusa (and everyone would acknowledge that). We're now in late November.

    – Takeya doesn't know who the song is about when he swipes the notebook and gives it to Kazusa to write the song. Perhaps he thinks it's about Setsuna.

    – Kazusa assumes that the song is about Haruki's feelings for Setsuna. She thinks she's done Setsuna a big favor. That's why her sheepish smile at the end of this episode (I initially thought this was more of a 'I win' smile, but she's not like that, plus her question about dating Setsuna)

    – Setsuna knows that the song is about Haruki's feelings for Kazusa. She knows that she's been playing catch-up the whole time.

    – The song also perfectly describes Setsuna's feelings for Haruki.

    So now Setsuna is going to try to sing a song to Haruki that Haruki wrote for Kazusa who thinks he wrote it for Setsuna. The only thing that is kinda weird is that Haruki didn't die from embarrassment when he realized what song Kazusa was writing.

  6. s

    What a coincidence that you mention kazusa's tsundere-like quality because i was thinking as i watched this ep how kazusa was a tsundere-character done right. The last time that truly happened was makise kurisu from steins;gate. I depise the generic tsundere troupe with a passion so its nice to see when its done right

  7. R

    Hmmm…what can I say… Well, I'm actually happy to see that so many people like this show — I mean, it's good for an anime fan to see a good show being made and aired, enjoy watching it, and know that it's liked by many. However, I cannot find interest in WA2. I don't know why. I have been trying — and trying hard to engage myself in it — but it hasn't been working for me. As you said, the characters here are better written than in many shows, and this is a huge thing for me when a show comes with characters that are written with respect. It's just that I can't find myself to care for them. Sometimes I would come across shows that I developed a love/hate relationship with, and I could stick around, but with WA2, it's nothing. I honestly don't know why, and I have been scratching my head for weeks. I think I'm gonna drop WA2. Well, at least I made it halfway through.

  8. H

    I think the characterization of people in this show as 'not honest' is a wrong use of the word. Why is it dishonest to *not blurt out* ones feelings? I don't see where anyone has actually been dishonest with anyone else, or even with themselves. Is there an elephant in the room? Sure. But who does it benefit to push the issue? Certainly not Setsuna, because she sees which way the wind is obviously blowing. If she pushes now, she loses. Kazusa is probably in the best position to do something, but as this episode (and the whole series) shows, she's got some pretty severe issues of her own. And maybe Haruki could confess to Kazusa, but perhaps he also sees the worries she has and where her focus is, or maybe he's afraid that confessing to her will push her away.

    So really, I don't see anyone's behavior as dishonest. Not to themselves and not to other people. Nobody is in denial of how they feel, they're just not communicating it. I don't even think you can ding Haruki for not hearing Kazusa's question about dating Setsuna, given that he was concentrating on practicing the part.

  9. Setsuna is dishonest because she's trying to have her cake and eat it, too. She's trying to act like she's already Haruki's girlfriend and she's emotionally manipulating him but she's not willing to put herself on the line and ask him to commit to her.

  10. H

    Why is that 'dishonest'? She's not telling anyone that she's his girlfriend. Why is it dishonest to want the things you want? I think it's plainly obvious she knows he's not his girlfriend, but she wants to be. I also don't see where it's 'emotional manipulation' other than acting caring towards someone. She's done very little (none) of what I'd say is 'emotional manipulation', unless you think that her attitude a couple episodes ago after she found out about Haruki staying at Kazusa's was insincere and only trying to get a rise out of Haruki. I read it as something different, that she was at that point trying to convince herself that Haruki wasn't really worth her time, and that she should try not to love him. The other way is a lot more cynical, and I don't think it's supported by anything else that she's done to consider that she's that cynical and calculating.

    I disagree that the only acceptable form of signalling is some formal confession to force a yes/no answer.

  11. You have your opinion, I have mine. I think emotional manipulation is inherently dishonest, though Lord knows we're all capable of it. She's trying to bully Haruki into becoming her boyfriend without coming right out and making her feelings clear. It's not unrealistic and it doesn't make her a bad person – but that's what I see happening.

  12. s

    Id have to agree with enzo on this one; the word dishonest has such a strong negative ring to it but it doesnt always imply that the person is doing something inherently bad. Tsundere characters are most of the time dishonest about their true feelings (which kinda annoys me at times) but doesnt make them bad people or that its absolutely a negative trait; it's just that in cases such as romance, its good to be upfront about your feelings: the early bird gets the worm. The more you dilly dally, the less your chances become to express how you truly feel.

  13. s

    The scene at the end with haruki's song seems to go a lot deeper i feel, than Setsuna just realizing that the song is about kasuza or that the song in some way, represents her feelings for Haruki. Kasuza didnt change a thing about the song, meaning that she unconsciously resonated with the song. I feel that what Haruki doesnt know is that Kasuza also has "unrequited" feelings for Haruki, and perhaps the reason that she feels that her feelings are unrequited is because she thinks she doesnt measure up to a standard that haruki has: the guy is a model student and has dreams to continue his education past high school; meanwhile, kasuza misses school and focuses on her music so her grades arent up to snuff. With that in mind, she probably feels inferior to haruki which is why she probably loses her shit when he starts lecturing her because it almost as if he keeps reminding her that she's not good enough for him, which if you think about it parallels haruki's admiration of her talent because he probably feels like she has a standard that he can never reach.

    Im under the impression that kasuza has liked haruki for a while, but just put her goal of reaching her mother's level first (she even makes a comment last ep saying that she doesnt have time to worry about haruki at the moment which i think nips it on the bud). To me, setsuna feels more like the catalyst to make Haruki and kasuza realize their feelings for each other, but i guess we'll have to say…either way at the light at the end of the shit storm is a indeed a big pile of shit.

  14. f

    I think as far your criticism of haruki's annoying obliviousness goes, it's really borne out of a desire to avoid the original white album disaster (in which the MC WAS privy to the girls' feelings, but still went around triple timing everyone anyways) of having haruki look like a complete two-timing asshat. In the end, you could argue that haruki may have an inkling of the effect he has on setsuna and kasuza just purely based on the very coincidental and not-so subtle leading on he's been doing.

    However I know that based on experiences, guys can willfully ignore obvious signs to keep together a friendship, or in a less flattering light, they can enjoy the benefits of basically dating two girls at the same time without actually committing to either one (which basically haruki's version of having his cake and eating it too). So based on that possibility, I can't readily declare haruki's version of events as simply just a matter of typical oblivious MC trope until I see the final outcome.

  15. h

    The next episode should be the concert and probably the beginning of heavy drama. I just hope they don't skip over the songs too much.

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