Golden Time – 12

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Don’t take this the wrong way, but this break couldn’t have come at a better time for Golden Time.

GT is taking a two-week break for the holidays, and while that normally annoys me, in this case I think it’s a good thing.  I confess, while I’m still very much invested in the character drama here I’m not actually enjoying watching Golden Time very much at the moment.  That’s not the be-all and end-all of everything, but for a romantic comedy I do think it’s kind of important.  Part of it is seeing the mistakes the characters are making, but a bigger part is the feeling that I know where the show is going and I’m not especially keen on it.

It’s no secret that writers, as a rule, tend to revert to form at least in the broader sense.  Takemiya Yuyuuko, of course, is the author of Toradora as well as GT, and as different as the two series are I see one very important connection – I don’t think the author can close the sale for the eventual romantic pairing.  It’s no secret that Banri is going to end up with Kouko, just as it was no secret that Ryuuji was going to end up with Taiga.  I didn’t buy it then, and so far I don’t buy it now.  Toradora was the better series on the whole – Nagai Tatsuyuki being the main reason, I suspect – but it never transcended that core problem, at least for me.

I do wonder if it’s just a systemic issue of Takemiya-sensei habitually making the main female character the least likeable in the cast.  Kouko is less the obvious pander to the flavor-of-the-week that Taiga was (tsundere was queen in the late 2000’s) and I have no small amount of sympathy for her.  But feeling for a character is not the same as liking them, and I still don’t like Kouko.  But that’s personal taste – of far greater importance, I absolutely don’t buy Kouko and Banri as a couple.  There’s nothing between them except circumstance, and a few tearful apologies and declarations of love won’t change that.  They’ll end up together at the end just as Taiga and Ryuuji did and Takemiya will once again treat that as the most natural thing in the world.  But I’ll have to be surprised by the second cour of Golden Time if I’m going to buy into it any more than I did with Toradora.

What I think we’re seeing with Banri and Kouko is that when two people who shouldn’t be a couple are a couple, bad things happen.  Kouko is a mess. Banri is a mess, and they cling to each other in some desperate attempt at normalcy.  More than anything, they remind me of a married couple having issues who decide that having a kid will fix them – and almost invariably, it makes things worse.  There’s something of the same sense here as with White Album 2 where you can see where each character is responsible for their shared problems, yet it really isn’t their fault – but somehow, it’s less endearing here than there.

I absolutely don’t blame Kouko for being annoyed by Banri disappearing on her, then finding him engaged in a kinky pose (in kinky dress) with Linda.  But why did this happen?  Because the ultra-insecure and controlling Kouko refused to allow Banri to work, as if that were her decision to make.  And her violent reaction was that of a girl who’s still seriously messed up (as were her 62 emails).  This is the same formula as the sympathy/affection one – it’s nice if Kouko realizes she’s dysfunctional, but realizing it doesn’t make her functional.  What happens if the next time it’s a knife instead of a slap – will an apology cover it?  I don’t see Kouko as at all stable and rational enough to be in a committed relationship.  I think even in the end, her actions were telling – she orders Banri not to remember anything more about his past.  Incredibly selfish – and then she once again uses the lure of sex to try and reel him in.  I don’t hate her for it – it’s sad and pathetic, not evil – but it’s still not the behavior of someone capable of being in a healthy relationship.

As for Banri, he seems to be bleeding profusely and under the impression that a band-aid will fix the problem.  He tries to work-around Kouko’s obsessive stalking by lying and going behind her back.  He tries to deal with his feelings for Linda by cutting her off and pretending they don’t exist.  Everything with Kouko is about control – with Banri it’s about avoidance.  He needs to confront his past once and for all and be honest with his feelings – but the Banri of the moment is no more capable of healthy behavior than Kouko is.  My current take is that the whole Ghost Banri thing is a construction of his subconscious as a way of dealing with this inner conflict, but the conscious Banri just keeps running away.  As with Kouko I feel sympathy for Banri, but it’s hard to like the Banri we’ve been watching for the last few weeks.

Linda isn’t blameless here, but she’s largely caught in the middle.  It’s now obvious that she’s lying to Banri about her lack of romantic interest in him (both past and present) because she thinks that’s best for him.  But telling him what she thinks he needs to hear and denying her own feelings is no healthier than what the other two are doing.  I now think the storyline with her brother was inserted quite deliberately to show us that when Linda lies to protect someone it makes things worse – it seems obvious she should have told her brother the truth at the time, and the same will prove true here.  I’m almost certain that Takemiya is going to end by trying to paint Linda and Banri as a relic of the past that both of them need to forget, but we’re halfway through the series and right now, theirs is the only relationship in the series that has any depth and substance to it.  That gives me great anxiety about how the series is going to hold together as it follows its inevitable path to the its inevitable ending.

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  1. G

    I myself think he is going to end up with Linda (unless Kouko makes some serious personality changes). The way Kouko acts should send up red flags for any male with half a brain to bail from her.

  2. K

    Ohh boy, what a storm haha. I'm surprised that Koko realizes that currently she doesn't "have much" with Banri. In a sense it's like what Enzo has been saying all this time. Koko x Banri doesn't have as deep of an emotional connection the way Linda x Banri does. It seems like Koko has caught on and thus is super distressed about it. I think from now on is what will determine if Koko x Banri will work or not. 12 eps is a lot of material, so I'm reasonable confident they can pull it off. I do admit both Koko and Banri don't look like their in any state for a healthy relationship, but I hope for the best.

  3. A

    I agree with you, Enzo, on the way I feel watching this show because I know where it's going vs the train ride itself. I honestly find myself yelling at the screen that Banri and Kouko's relationship is SEVERELY unhealthy every week. Also, like in WA2, things would work a lot better if people were more honest about their feelings. I know it's supposed to be about the whole journey, and that people make these mistakes in real life, but the execution here doesn't make me into a believer.

    Oh well. Hopefully the 2nd cour can make up for everything I fear this show will turn into, or it can even dare to surprise me by not going down the path I think it's going down. Then again, Toradora didn't go where I wanted it to go, and I still enjoyed that show all the way through. This show is not so lucky so far.

  4. I too more or less enjoyed Toradora despite the crappy and utterly predictable ending, but I think under Nagai that was technically a better show. The friendship (non-romantic) dynamics were more interesting, the narrative flow better, the comedy funnier. I don't think GT has enough to hold out if it follows the same predictable route on the main relationship question.

  5. F

    You hit the nail on the head again, Enzo. I have been squirming inside the past few eps. Just… painful. But that does not mean the series itself is bad as a whole, it is just that right now the charas are displaying av arge amount of the ugliness of their internal state in technicolor, yes, but in a way that breathes the stifled and constricted air of there being no "way out".

  6. m

    Every time I watch Golden Time I feel like I'm being stabbed. I don't like where this is going. I know Linda has been lying about her feelings, but please!! I can't believe how much they (writers and now Banri) have despised her. I mean, I "understand" that Banri wants to restart his relationship with Kouko, but asking Linda to forget the past and act like they don't know each's too much…and if Kouko is the reason to ask something like that, it's even worst, Kouko's tears are not enough reason!!….she's so manipulative and in anime logic, those kind of characters are the ones most of the time get what they want and everybody love them without a reason. This is starting to look less like a romantic comedy and more like a torture (to me)! I hope I'm wrong…..

  7. i

    Subversive and absolute devotion is a high point for a lot of anime fanboys, so Koko is popular with their lot. A good person that requires sympathy to be liked is too complex for them.

  8. N

    Manipulative? Kouko manipulated nothing: she said what was on her mind and Banri made his decisions. To be a manipulator, you require to have a plan, but Kouko is unable to have that. That Banri listens to her like that is convenient, but at the root it is his personality that is the problem.

    As always, Banri makes his decisions and responsibility is solely on him. And as always, the zealous BanrixLinda fans ignore that and act like it is all Kouko's fault, as if Banri is any more stable than Kouko is (and this ep made it clear that his issues are equal if not worse than hers). The guy has issues but while Kouko gets over hers little by little (deny it as much as you want, but she does get less crazy with each ep), he goes in the opposite direction and his every decision screws up something… and eventually that will lead to a major catastrophe.

  9. Less crazy? Really? She regressed pretty badly this week, if you ask me.

  10. E

    I agree with Nayrael completely. You people seem to be dead set on hating Kouko already. But from what I have watched, from what my eyes told me, Banri is the wrong one here. So what if Kouko is manipulative? Who's the one who confessed to her? Who's the one who said that he loves her? Tada Banri. The women can cry and be angtsy, but he's the one who makes decision here. He's the dick here. If you want to pay for the trip, because of your pride as a man, tell your girlfriend that! In a more firm and manly display. Lying to her behind her back. That's not something a real man would do. Good slap there, Kouko!

  11. q

    I'm also agreeing with Nayrael.

    In fact, to me, Koko is starting to look more stable than before. (Yeah, the 60+ texts thing is crazy, no doubt about that, but she isn't wrong to worry about her boyfriend not answering her at all.) Is she wrong about the whole 'you can't get a job!' situation? Yes. Is she becoming an abuser for slapping her boyfriend when she catches him in a naughty position and gets mad enough to react that way? …no, not really. Overreacting maybe, but 'next it'll be a knife' territory? Hell no.

    Also, manipulative? Did she completely say "Banri, you are going to tell Linda to go screw off and that you can't ever act like she was a part of your life?"? Nope, that was all on Banri. She clearly means 'don't remember more if it's just going to make you leave me', which is just her telling Banri how she feels. (Another thing, where did the 'using the lure sex' come in?)

    I'm not trying to say that Koko is perfect or without fault. Far from it. But she is improving.

    Plus, Banri really needs to go see a psychiatrist. He can't ignore that something in his head just yelled 'I've been searching for Linda!'. Like seriously, he can't. And Linda needs to stop this lying to herself stuff too, since it's just going to blow up at her at some point.

  12. Flower, I certainly wouldn't say GT is bad as a whole because if it was, I wouldn't care enough to be agonized over it (sort of paradoxical, but you get the point). The thing is, though, I think if a show is good enough it can get through these brutal and painful moments and still be a pleasure to watch (like WA2, for example). GT just isn't quite good enough to do that right now.

    misspapillion, it is generally that sort of girl that anime tends to worship and reward. There are series that are exceptions, but they're rare – and the author's own history suggests this isn't going to be one of them.

  13. F

    Exactly. There is something about it that feels… well, hopeless, or lacking in meaning, or painful for the sake of being painful. In other series where you alsogo through some sort of agonizing interactions you can still feel as if you are in train tracks, somehow, even if you are taken somewhere unexpected. There is a level right now where GT feels derailed on some level. Something is missing.

  14. t

    "I absolutely don't buy Kouko and Banri as a couple. There's nothing between them except circumstance"
    I can understand why you don't like them as a couple. especially your lack of sympathy to Kouko and for them as couple. me too..I mean, seeing them apologizing to each other in the dark didn't appeal me much as I wished it to be (THO other things did!)
    but sometimes..circumstance is just what you need to start a relationship. couples are together not necessary because of fate or they found their "one in million soul-mate". because of circumstances..and many many other factors that were shaped throughout their previous experiences and their current relationship. in the same way…one person might have established with some random person in a street, bus or a bar. but it didn't happen. why?circumstances.

    that aside, great episode. and timing is crucial for GT. taking a break after half series, right when things have stabled and become clear. after an ep like that..that is timing!

    it was really great episode. the best of all 12 so far IMHO.
    GT isn't perfect. it's not romcom at best (not much of "com"..) but it sure is very intriguing to watch the complex in terms of romance (not much in terms of drama..but it contains this aspect in a reasonable dose). even though the complex is very a like Toradora, it's intriguing. since it's intense and evolving to new horizons all time. in some way..I didn't have that dynamic feeling from Toradora.
    I mean..this episode was great. rolling between poor Kouko while Banri keeps parting (one night stand ha?kinky pose?luckily he wasn't like Yana), and then everything was "oh god she found him". I wasn't sure it will happen..until it really happened. and that was one hell of storm there in terms of romance and drama. and it continued as Banri not only apologized to Kouko but also revealed his feeling issue about Linda.

    Banri went to talk to Linda in order to relieve himself of the guilt. and it worked. but ghost-banri, his inner-voice/subconscious of old-feeling has aroused too. I was like "oh god, he is gonna lose it again and yell like that night". but in fact it worked. Banri was relieved. or forced himself to relieve. but I think seeing Linda tearing that picture made a pang in his heart.

    you've mentioned Banri and Kouko as Ryuuji and Taiga. and the same works with Linda as Kushida Minori.
    Linda is in pain after Banri's declaration about them and the past. in fact, she repressed her feeling all this time. but now we see it very strongly. and it has become very unhealthy to poor Linda. tearing the picture also tore her apart from the inside. but she won't talk about it.
    I feel sorry for her. she loves Banri with all her might, but it's so painful. especially when he is like that stating that he doesn't want connection to his past.

    is it just me or Yana is thinking about Linda in a romantic way??this guy…maybe that job suits his bizarre nature 😛

  15. Yes, I did get the vibe that Yana was starting to warm to Linda's form. Oy, vey – that's all we need.

  16. i

    I feel quite the opposite about both GT and NnA. I feel NnA, while having some really great moments these last few episodes, is a bit too… quiet. It's still an interesting characters study when the kids or Akari are on screen but the moeblobs and this whole going to sleep affair isn't really working for me.

    GT on the other hand has ramped up the style these last few episodes. I feel more invested in Banri than I did and my faith that Koko and him will end up together is wavering. The classic anime rule that early couples die young is one I'll site. It's a similar situation to WA2. I can see Banri and Koko overcoming their disfunctionalities together as a happy couple situation but I also see Koko knowing what's best for Banri and pushing him towards Linda, something I hadn't before. Funny how my firm belief crumbles as your's turns to mine. Maybe I'm not picking up on something.

  17. M

    " I can see Banri and Koko overcoming their disfunctionalities together as a happy couple situation"

    That's what I was originally expecting from this show and but with passing each episode,I'm expecting it less & less.I mean,we're already half-way through and there haven't been any signs of that.

  18. i

    That's the thing with me. I only saw that as the ending at first but now I'm less certain.

  19. M

    "There's something of the same sense here as with White Album 2 where you can see where each character is responsible for their shared problems, yet it really isn't their fault – but somehow, it's less endearing here than there. "

    Well,one of the reasons(I'm sure we could find a few others) is probably that Setsuna's insecure but still quite a likeable character while Koko's kind of unstable & annoying – even if still symphathetic.And even if Haruki's more interested in Kazusa,there's still a bigger romantic spark between him & Setsuna than between Banri & Koko.

    Personally,I'm getting more & more invested in GT with each episode but at the same time more worried for pretty much the same reasons you stated.I am however,somewhat more hopeful that it just might not go the same route Toradora did.That's mainly because we're already half-way through the show and Koko & Banri are still a couple – I would've honestly expected a break-up in this episode or even one episode before.Also,we've been shown so many reasons why Koko & Banri shouldn't be a couple by now that I'm kind of wanting to trust Takemiya to not shoot himself in the foot.It seems that GT's one of those shows that's becoming more & more dependent on it's ending to decide whether the journey was really worthwhile or not.

    I'm too hopeful aren't I? >.>

  20. J

    I'm not going to worry about the ending. We're only half way there. I'm also in the camp where I'm screaming at the screen for Koko to go away and stop messing things up. As execution goes, ending the year at this mark was about as perfect as you can guess. The drama is at a heightened peak. I can't believe that unless a miracle takes place and Koko finally changes, that Banri doesn't end up with Linda.

    You simply can't keep raising these flags with Banri's past and not expect most of your audience to align with Linda and Banri. Just a bold prediction, but I feel Koko is being built up as the final boss.

  21. M

    That's why the worry about the ending you see.The further we go in this show and see no sign of Koko changing for the better,or at least see a decent romantic spark between her & Banri,the more the fact that him & her would make a good couple becomes a miracle and miracles aren't exactly a good thing in shows that are trying to be realistic.

    As I mentioned above though,I'm still hopeful that this won't go that way but it's still a bit worrysome.

  22. T

    I think the ultimate success of this show will come down to the how self-aware is Takemiya as an author.
    When she and her editor were mapping this story did she realize and understand the parallels with Toradora and is using them purposefully to tell a similar but ultimately different story. Or did she fall into the trappings of not realizing what she was doing and making the same story because it worked the first time.
    Her self-awareness is important in her being able to realize that having new characters and a different setting don't make a different story, it is necessary to have new characterization and mainly a different point of a story.
    Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult to know without reading ahead what the answer to the question is but it is going to be the crux of how successful the second cour is going to be.

  23. A Reasonable supposition. I assume you're a big Toradora fan based on your nick – are you happy with the way that series ended?

  24. T

    I thought the ending could have been better but as for the pairing I liked it. I thought it was a realistic example of how even though as an outsider you think that dang those people could find better matches but if they are in a good relationship and are happy does it really matter that they don't look good on paper? I also thought it was a good story in that you knew the ending and it was fun to watch people so far apart learn more about each other and come together.
    Also I do like the show a lot but I committed to screen name right after I watched it and just never really bothered to change it.

  25. S

    Give them a break guys, they are teenagers in high school. They don't know what they are feeling or how to express their feelings properly.

    I am sure many of us had a similar experience with opposite sex at that age. *ahem* "First Crush" anyone? Its all part of growing up.

    The author did a great job creating believable characters. Hell, I would be more annoyed if these characters were perfect and responsible. Very few people were perfect angels during their teenage years.

  26. Well actually, they're in college.

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