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.