White Album 2 – 07

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Even for someone who saw big trouble coming down the line, this was bigger and more immediate than I expected.

Well, no question about it, we have a colossal mess on our hands now.  Having danced this dance with romance anime many times before, I’m far too wizened and skeptical to accept what happened in the last few minutes of this episode as conclusive.  If anything, getting kissed by the lead that early is a death flag of sorts, but there are always shows like Mashifony that come along and prove to us that expectations are made to be broken.  Nevertheless, it caught me a bit off guard – and if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, I’m not the only one.

First things first – the episode was, in general, stellar.  Apart from the usual discordant fixation on fanservice it was beautifully drawn and beautifully directed, and it had me a live wire from start to finish.  In some ways I’m reminded of a “big game” episode of a sports anime – when you’ve been building up to an event for this long, you better deliver.  And White Album did so here, in no small part because the off-stage drama was so beautifully woven in with the performance itself.  It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.

If your show is music themed you better be able to deliver good music (WA mostly does) and a climactic concert better bring it.  If I’m to nitpick the one song I really wanted to hear – Haruki’s co-composition with Touma – wasn’t shown at all.  There are obvious reasons for that, given how relevant to the love triangle it is, but it was still mildly irritating.  As for the ones they did play, they were fine – “White Album” is certainly a more interesting song than “Sound of Destiny” – but the real action was the three-way dynamic taking place on stage.  That and Touma’s surprise instrument shuffle, as she jumped from electric piano to tenor sax to bass.  I did think it was pretty funny that she couldn’t put down her tsundere act, even when she was on-stage.

I find my own reactions to this trio interesting, and my perception is that if you told me the story on paper, I would have expected myself to be rooting for Setsuna at this point.  I don’t normally have much patience for tsundere characters but there’s no question I find Touma the more compelling of the two girls even if I can’t say exactly why.  And I likewise can’t say for sure that didn’t impact my perception of how events were playing out, but I was pretty much convinced right up to the last moment that all signs were pointing to Touma.  Frankly I’m not totally convinced I was wrong, even now, but that may be why the ending was a mild surprise to me.

Again, I must ask – is Haruki really this clueless, or is he simply playing a game?  How is it possible for him to be sitting in the music room with Touma, in the state she was in, and not realize the loaded nature of “I’d like to stay together after we graduate”?  Over and over he keeps making romantic overtures, then segueing into “the three of us” and “Light Music Club”.  For me it’s a stretch that he could be carrying the act this far, but equally so that he could be that tone-deaf emotionally.  The “she’s a girl and I”m a person” exchange – especially Haruki’s reaction – would normally come across as pretty damning for Touma’s chances.  But given what we’ve seen of Haruki, how the hell are we supposed to know what he meant by that?  Maybe he really has no idea of the significance of it.

As for Setsuna, I’ll give her full credit for being the one to, as she says, make the first move – although in truth she’s been making plenty of moves already, without wanting to commit herself officially.  The revelation that she and Touma met behind Haruki’s back and laid it all out there was an interesting one, and it was equally interesting to see it revealed during the performance itself.  I wouldn’t call her actions towards Haruki subtle but apparently they were too subtle for him, so she upped the ante – and even then Haruki played the fool right up until the moment she kissed him.  Full points to her for the “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” approach – not even Haruki was going to miss this signal.

The big question hanging out there is Haruki’s feelings.  We know how Touma feels, and we sure as Hell know how Setsuna feels.  But that look in Haruki’s eyes bespoke genuine surprise to me, and up to this point (apart from not dodging) he’s made no overt statement of purpose beyond his usual irresponsible “three of us” routine.  Has it really been Setsuna all along – is it that simple?  If so I’ve seriously misread the signals he was giving out, but it’s well-worth remembering that we have six episodes worth of s-curves in front of us and seven isn’t necessarily a lucky number in the romance anime game.  I still don’t think we really know what’s in Haruki’s heart – and perhaps there’s a third possibility, that he doesn’t either.

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  1. B

    I DO find myself rooting for Setsuna now. She might be a bit selfish and pushy at times, but I appreciate that in a girl who's trying to get the guy she likes to notice her, especially if compared to Kazusa's more hesitant attitude, which while understandable, will inevitably lead to a "conclusion" such as this in most scenarios.

    If I were to say, right now it does seem like both of them are being pretty dense about this. The impression I get is that Haruki somehow can't figure her out, yet at the same time is somewhat convinced that she really doesn't want to have anything more with him other than this friendship they've been keeping. As for Kazusa, she obviously has a hard time being more honest about what she feels, but maybe there's some slight hesitation on her part as well, probably due to thinking that she might not be able to live up to Setsuna? I mean, she's great at music, obviously, but she lacks a lot of what Setsuna apparently has, and there might be a chance that she, herself, assumes Haruki is interested in Setsuna, thus keeping her from trying anything.

    If any of those scenarios end up being true, and I guess only one of them happening would be enough for things to turn out as they have, then Setsuna is in for a bumpy ride. Haruki might be with her, and might even like her and appreciate how she's been there for him and what not, but it's hard to say what he'd do in an event where he is forced to be honest about his (supposed) feelings for Kazusa.

    Anyway, really enjoying this show! I do like this kind of stories, and it's a shame that there aren't a lot of series like this one.

  2. Certainly agree on your last point, though it's been a while since there were two romances that had me invested as WA and GT do airing at the same time.

    I think you've essentially nailed Kazusa here – I've felt all along she never thought she was even in the game. But that's not the variable here – we know how she truly feels. It's Haruki who's the mystery, right down to the question of whether he truly is this clueless or just reluctant to confront reality.

  3. B

    Yeah, Haruki's definitely the center piece to the mystery right now. I do feel, however, that he's already shot himself in the foot all the way back to episode 5 (?), when he dropped that line about always being close to Setsuna after she opened up to him. It definitely carried more weight to one party involved than the other, and we've seen Setsuna basically spell it out again for him in the last scene of this episode, so chances are he's going to hurt her quite a bit if he decides to try anything other than sticking with her.

    But, yeah. I guess if I were to sum up my feelings right now, is that I want both Setsuna and Haruki to work out, if only to serve as a reward to the girl who went ahead and took iniative. I've seen no reason to dislike her so far, so I guess it's all up to how she deals with it in the future. Because even if she starts dating, I think she's aware thar Haruki has (or at least had) feelings for Kazusa at one point, considering how she reacted to the lyrics with the lip biting and what not. I imagine that even if they're together, she might not be fully sure of herself, which may indeed lead to her showing a not so bright side of her personality in the following episodes. Then again, if such a thing happens, I guess I'm once again not able to let Haruki off the hook all that easily, because he did say those things to her, and now, once again, didn't dodge her kiss.

    Not to say he can't end up with Kazusa, because breaking up and being honest is always an option, even if the other side is going to be hurt for a good while, but I don't see them becoming good friends again if something like that were to pass.

    As for Golden Time, I actually didn't check it. For a silly reason too, I was just totally biased because of Chiaki Kon being in front of the project, lol. Had my good share of awful experiences with her up to this point. Guess I'll give it a go one of these days!

    And typing all of this just made me realize how much a pity it was that the Kimimachi anime turned out as it did. The manga's far from perfect, but I think it has some really strong parts that definitely didn't work very well with Yamauchi's style. Of course, it was flawed from the get-go with them cutting almost 80 chapters of backstory before jumping into the Tokyo arc, but alas…

  4. i

    I say the death flag for Setsuna has just been raised high above the house. Inevitably there will come a point that Touma (and even Haruki's feelings) will come to a fore and she will be hit by it. If she (and Haruki assuming they do get together) can survive it she wins. Otherwise Touma does (though Haruki still wins).

    Personally I still see a Haruki and Touma ending but from now I root for Setsuna. She's in essence an idol character, a trait I truly despise but she does it in such a way that it is compelling, touching and real. She's a wreck of a person but that doesn't make her any less of one. Touma is a little too conformed to Tsundereness for me to find her spectacular and that forthrightness of Setsuna appeals to me. You said a while back that Setsuna was deceiving herself, I disagree. I think she just did what anyone in love (especially in a world of firsts that is highschool) would do, lay out some clues and hope to get the other party to act on them. That in truth is just how the game is played as very few people have the courage to spell it out from the start without fear of getting hurt. And she spelled it out in this episode, even if only because Haruki is too dense to notice (or maybe he's been ignoring them) her hints.

    Either way what a beautiful mess.

  5. H

    Thinking about it, I don't know that it's out of the realm of plausibility that Haruki doesn't understand the girls' feelings for him. It's certainly frustrating for us, knowing what we know and watching, but we haven't been privy at all to Haruki's thoughts throughout this show, except in the lyrics he wrote, and even that can be an incomplete proxy. It's eminently possible that he's very interested in either or both girls, but has just tried to not show that, because of being afraid to be rejected. Not that he was ignoring them, just unable to realize that they really were interested.

    The thing that stood out to me most in this episode was Haruki's referral to Setsuna as 'hana', and as someone he admired, which certainly brought Setsuna a lot farther up in the 'competition'. There was definitely a feeling before that he just didn't think of her, but that description changed that. I still don't know if he thinks of her as a possible girlfriend, but it's a lot closer than it was.

  6. s

    eh..im even more convinced after this ep that kazusa will be the winner of this romantic bout (even more so than i was after ep 1). This is obviously a classic case of two people who dont think they measure up to each others standard so they are not aware of each others feelings.

  7. R

    I haven't read the source so no real spoilers here, but it should be noted that this is adapting a part of the story called Introductory chapter. That's as far as this anime will get. Closing chapter is something that supposedly comes after this and it's at least twice as long in content, so I don't suspect we'll see the full story here unless they choose to give this anime a sequel in the future.

    Anyhow as for the episode, I really felt like what Haruki was saying in this episode to Touma was practically a love confession of sorts. She's the girl he always admired, and he expresses confusion about her own feelings since in his words she always has a "poker face." I get the feeling that not only does Touma think she's out of the game, but Haruki doesn't think he's in the game with her as well. I think it's perfectly understandable that he feels this way because Touma has a delicate personality. Now if he was so singularly focused on Touma, I can totally buy why Setsuna's love confession caught him totally off guard.

    I think in the end, Haruki's altruism and willingness to support the two girls around him will ultimately be undoing. In the end, he is being insensitive to both of them.

  8. M

    "I get the feeling that not only does Touma think she's out of the game, but Haruki doesn't think he's in the game with her as well. I think it's perfectly understandable that he feels this way because Touma has a delicate personality."

    And even so,they're the pairing that has the better dynamics.Given time,I believe it would be inevitable for them not to end up together.

    I'm sure Setsuna is also well aware of this and she decided to make a bold move before it was too late.I don't know if she considers this a small or big victory but what's clear is that she avoided simply getting friendzoned and established a foothold from where she can make further progress.If either Haruki & Touma made a move on each other before that Setsuna would've probably been out of the game unless she pulled off something crazy(which was,admittedly,something that I was expecting instead of her taking the lead).

  9. h

    I can just about accept Haruki's apparent denseness because I don't think he has ever imagined he could have a chance with either of them. He feels on a lower level, and can only aspire to friendship. That being said, I think his feelings for Setsuna are more clearly sexual/romantic: she's the "flower" (hana), Touma is the "guy" (yatsu). It may take some special situation for him to realize that he could see Touma in that way.

    And no surprise that I found the fanservice quite natural and appropriate, giving that little extra push to our seeing the girls in the more physical way that the episode is leading toward — and that Haruki finally experiences, to his surprise, confusion, and delight.

    In any case, this show is my clear favorite of the new season, even though I anticipate some emotionally horrific scenes to come. Haruki will eventually realize Touma loves him, too, and he will be in a quandary, as the standard MC who can't stand not pleasing everyone.

  10. a

    Urgh! I've had to retype this like twice because of my dumbness… But anyway…

    I think the sequencing of events is clearer in the VN (no spoilers in this post, so don't worry). The flashback confrontation between Touma and Ogiso that we see in this episode is actually the part that was "cut off" from their cafe talk back in episode 2 (3?). Remember when Ogiso had been skirting around the issue of Touma having the same taste in guys as her, and then she had said, "But Touma–" and then her words were cut off from the viewer by a passing train? And the next thing we saw was Touma and Ogiso staring each other down silently? What we saw this episode was that part that was covered by the train.

    In other words, even though this episode makes it look like Ogiso only knew of Touma's feelings for Haruki fairly recently, she has actually known about it since before Touma agreed to join the club. The reason why, after Setsuna skips away smiling at the end of the cafe chat, Touma says "I don't know how to deal with people like her…" is because Ogiso had blackmailed Touma into going with Haruki to Ogiso's house the next day (or whenver it was that they went there), saying that she would tell Haruki about Touma's feelings for him if she didn't come.

    I feel like the anime's tendency to skip around with flashbacks and whatnot has made this less clear. It's because of this mischievous(?) side of Setsuna that I can't support her wholeheartedly. Even if she has a backstory that makes me sympathetic to her, I still feel like she has this disturbing, controlling? streak within her. That's why, even though she is more complex of a character than Touma, I am still unable to support her.

    Seeing this episode animated made me more irritated at Haruki than in the VN. He should've dodged ;-;

  11. M

    I actually like that mischievous side of her.She knows what she wants,understands where she stands and isn't afraid to act accordingly.I praise her for the way she avoided becoming the 3rd wheel in their group,at least for now anyway.

    That being said,I'm not shipping anyone here for the time being as I like all the characters too much for that.And if I were to ship I'd probably switch sides every few episodes,lol.Even if(when might be the better word though) some their actions in the nearby future will be questionable,I'd rather try to understand them rather than hate them.

    I guess that's the effect of really getting attached to the characters,heh.

  12. s

    It wasnt that unclear (at least to me) as that was the impression i got back when i say that scene in ep 3. I do agree though that the audience in general would have gotten a better understanding of the intricacies of this romantic arc had it been presented more clearly but it doesnt hurt to force the viewers to read between the lines every now and then. I tend to do that a lot with anything i watch or read, which is why i think most of the time i am fairly forgiving with the things i invest my time into.

  13. M

    As you noted last time Enzo, everything was on hold until the festival. So everything exploding in our faces immediately afterward wasn't that big a surprise. As for the girls, we know now that they were well aware of their own and each others feelings. You were hard on all three last week for not getting their feelings sorted out and moving forward, but at least the girls knew that acting before the festival would have damaged their chances.

    For Haruki, I don't know is he's clueless. Setting the music performance above all was definitely part of the reason he didn't act. But given that he thinks of himself as relatively average, part is probably that he doesn't believe two out-of-his league girls are after him.

    I'm seriously captivated by the love triangle. Even though I'm smitten with Setsuna (for all the wrong reasons), I don't want to see Touma getting hurt. That a straight-up Betty/Veronica triangle can do that is a testament to good writing at least. And to me being a sucker…

  14. J

    It's a light at the end of the tunnel!

    Oh shoot, it's a speeding train…

  15. S

    I'm still having trouble getting over the weird fanservice shots, personally– it's not like they're super discordant, like EoE or something that's deliberately trying to make some sort of statement, it's just that they seem to throw it in, and it hurts the quality of the show overall because it really isn't relevant at all. I mean, throwing in a three second shot of Setsuna's ass while she's trying to get the message across to Haruki in that final scene was just so unnecesssary.

    Other than that, though, what a great episode that's going to set up a tumultuous final third. Good stuff.

  16. s

    It's implied that the final set is the OP song, "Todokanai Koi." Footage from the OP is used in as a flashback to the final set, and you can also see this at the end of episode 6, when they start practicing the final piece; Touma plays the tune on the piano.

    I'm pretty sure that we guys do throw words around carelessly. Whether that excuses all of Haruki's denseness thus far, I'm not sure. There's still some hope for Setsuna, but with a bunch of episodes left, I'm afraid that her poor soul will be crushed. At least there won't be a nice boat.

  17. D

    Every time I think a romance is over before the final episode, I remember True Tears.

  18. I never doubted it for a minute…

  19. Y

    Just a quick FYI: it's actually an alto sax :)

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