It’s a shame none of the central cast of WA2 has heard that old adage about ripping off the band-aid, because the longer this whole confrontation is deferred the worse the pain is going to be. I’ll give Kazusa credit for at least trying to exercise a little common sense here, but there’s not much of that coming from the other two parties. The funny thing is that all three of them know better, but knowing better is at best half the battle in life, and usually less.
I think romance anime are a lot like horror in one important respect, and it’s in that sense that White Album 2 reminds me a lot of 2011’s Shiki. That seems like an odd comparison I admit, but I think romance series, as do horror, fall into two broad categories. First we have the suspense stories, where the tension comes from the mystery and in not knowing when something terrible is going to happen. But then there are the tragedies, like Shiki, where it’s pretty clear early on what’s happening – and the drama comes from knowing what’s going to happen and being unable to do anything about it. It’s not as though Elizabethan and Greek theater-goers didn’t know how Macbeth or Oedipus Rex were going to end, but that wasn’t the point – the playwright’s job was to get the audience caught up in the experience.
I found myself quite torn in watching this episode, part of me really wanting to hate these characters (Haruki, Setsuna and Kazusa in descending order) for what was happening. Then another part of me says well – they’re kids, and it’s the privilege of youth to have your heart broken because of inexperience in romance. But that’s too simple a canard, really, because the fact is that older people make the same sort of mistakes in romance that kids do – they just don’t have as convenient a blanket excuse.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say this – while I expressed my frustrations three weeks ago with WA2 for Haruki being another clueless male lead and wondered if it was just an inherent flaw of the high-school romance genre, this series may just be an example of the high-school setting for romance being used in a good way. I suppose one way to say it is that the characters here are “believably stupid” – they’re actually smart kids, but their lack of experience in relationships (and older role models to help them, seemingly) is leading them to disaster. This works narratively because the characters are indeed likeable and not generally idiots, and also because it’s hard not to feel a certain empathy for what they’re going through. It sucks, but these sorts of things do happen to teenagers, and rather a lot.
That said, my urge to strangle was stronger this week than ever. Haruki, especially, because it’s now clear beyond any doubt that he’s fully aware of his feelings for Kazusa and he continues to proceed with Setsuna. And not just proceed, but accelerate – getting a little more physical, and trying to get more alone time with her. It’s interesting how the two of them react differently to the hard truth they both pretend doesn’t exist. Haruki is trying to force himself to feel committed to her by putting them in “couple situations”, as if that will make him more accepting of the fact that she’s the only one for him. Setsuna – as she has from the start – is desperately avoiding couple situations because she doesn’t want anything to force Haruki to confront the truth head-on. They’re both living in a sort of fantasy, and each trying to perpetuate it in opposite ways. Haruki seems to think acting as if they’re a couple will fool them into thinking they really are, and Setsuna that refusing to act like a couple will keep them from realizing they’re not.
There’s more than enough blame to go around here, that’s for certain. In point of fact I still believe Setsuna pushed Haruki into a commitment he wasn’t ready to make, and it was a sort of Hail, Mary pass for her – she saw it as her only chance and she forced the issue. She may have been right, but in fact I think Haruki does have romantic feelings for her – yes, people do legitimately have them for both opposite corners of a love triangle sometimes – so if she’d waited, who knows? She was probably screwed either way – I do think his feelings for Kazusa are stronger – but it made their relationship a house of cards from the get-go. I can’t think Setsuna will have missed the subtext of Haruki’s “I need to prove you’re the only one for me” comment – a shockingly awkward thing to say, as he realized almost as soon as he’d blurted it out – but she’s so invested in her fantasy that she’d rather perpetuate it than bring things to a head.
It’s really only Kazusa – for all her irritatingly juvenile personal interaction – who’s trying to do the right thing. She’s trying to extract herself from this tangle but the other two just won’t damn well let her go – and of course because she’s in love with Haruki and suspects he is with her, there’s always the temptation to allow herself to be pulled back in. If Haruki and Setsuna are a couple they can’t be best friends with Kazusa – period, end-of-sentence. They all know it (so do Haruki’s friends, especially Hayasaki) but Kazusa is the only one who’s trying act accordingly. Her only recourse, then, is music – it can distract her, give her an excuse to avoid the others, and give her a goal to focus on. But it’s not enough to make her forget (she makes that indisputably clear in her own words) and as long as the others keep dragging her back into the pile, eventually she’s worn-down and allows herself to be dragged. She deserves better, but really, they all do – they’re good people. But since all the heartbreak they’re about to experience is of their own making, that fact just makes it harder to watch it all unfold.