White Album 2 – 11

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There’s just no let-up in the emotional barrage.

This has been a really intense anime week emotionally, and it was pretty much a given that White Album was going to deliver some big-time feels considering where it left off last week.  It’s a different sort of intensity with this series, though – more of a gentle and deep ache than an acute stabbing through the heart.  WA2 is a lot of things, but one of them is certainly reflective – it’s a show that takes a very sympathetic approach with its characters, despite all the mistakes they make.  If anything, this is a story about why hearts get broken even when no one intends to break them, and why young hearts are so vulnerable to being broken.

It was an interesting move, stepping outside the present in order to deliver the better part of two episodes as Kazusa’s flashbacks this late in the game.  But given how great these two eps have been I can only call it a good one.  It’s not as though she was especially good at hiding her feelings – certainly nowhere near as good as she thought she was, and Haruki was apparently the only one fooled.  But despite the many traits she possesses that I normally find annoying in anime characters, it’s Kazusa’s perspective that I find the most interesting and the most emotionally involving among the cast.  The reason, I think, is that these kids don’t come off as anime characters – they come off as people, and because of that, what in a lesser series would be dismissed as a tsundere comes off as a warm but emotionally stilted person who’s locked in a perpetual battle with herself that she can never win.

I won’t say there are any major surprises in seeing the events of the last six months play out from Touma’s perspective, but what they make clear is the extent to which she was in-touch with her feelings for Haruki, and for how long.  Stealing kisses from sleeping crushes is a fairly pathetic move, honestly, much less when the crush’s girlfriend is in the back seat (she held herself back there, at least).  What is it in Touma that makes her so keen to – in her own words – “treat herself like she doesn’t matter”?  Clearly the rejection she feels – not entirely without justification – that she’s gotten from her mother (who has exquisite taste in wine, by-the-way – a bottle of ’89 Haut Brion will fetch more than $1000 at auction, which is the only way you’re going to get it) is a big part of it.  As in many cases hostility expressed towards others is at heart hostility directed at ourselves, but it isn’t always easy for the other person to figure that out.  When someone lashes out at you, it hurts – especially if that someone is a person you genuinely care about.

I think it would be valid to ask “what did Haruki know and when did he know it?” at this stage.  After seeing this episode my sense is that he did try, in a very cautious way, to let Kazusa know he had romantic feelings for her.  There was a lot of blushing on both sides, a gift that clearly meant something to him, and especially that conversation about the “other person” giving him guitar lessons.  It’s interesting that Touma was teaching him even as he was obeying the unheard “follow me” order of the mystery pianist in Music Room 2.  I could be wrong, but I got the sense that Haruki was trying to tell Touma that he knew or at least suspected it was her playing that piano (though he did seem legitimately surprised when he found out later) but it really doesn’t matter – there was clearly a connection between these two that each of them cared a great deal about.

The tragedy of all this is that all it would have taken is for either of them to be honest with each other and this story would have gone in a very different direction.  Haruki played it cautiously and was put off by Touma’s consistent belittling, and Touma simply couldn’t bring herself to matter.  In truth I don’t think either of them believed it was truly possible for the other to be in love with them, and that’s where Setsuna came in – she saw what was happening more clearly than either Touma or Haruki did, and she acted.  The wisdom and ethics of what she did can certainly be debated – I don’t think there’s any question she knew Kazusa and Haruki were in love with each other and wanted to act before either of them figured it out.  But it can’t be denied that she was decisive and open about her own feelings in a way neither of the others were.  Her mistake, perhaps (though like all the mistakes in this story it’s eminently forgivable and more sad than anything) was in wanting to keep the three of them together as friends while keeping Haruki to herself in the romance department.  Setsuna, Setsuna – you flew close to the sun, and you got burned…

It’s a sorry state all of this has built up to.  It’s brutally clear through her perspective scenes just how agonizing it was for Kazusa to keep up the charade as long as she did.  And it’s clear through her confrontation with Haruki in the snow outside Tokyo Station (I wish it snowed in Tokyo nearly as often as it does in anime – it’s beautiful and highly romantic) just what’s always existed between the two of them that never did between he and Setsuna – passion.  Haruki and Setsuna act the role of koibito – albeit awkwardly – but there’s an electricity between he and Setsuna that could light up an undersea astronaut training base.  And there always was, right from the beginning – it was always clear where his feelings ran, but not alas to Kazusa herself.

But that and ¥250, as they say, will get you a tall drip at the Marunouchi Starbucks.  Their kiss (or kisses) was yet another case of a mistake that neither party can really be blamed for.  It had been building for so long but where does it leave them?  I don’t think Haruki was wrong for finally kissing her – how could he resist, knowing that the girl he loved really did love him back?  And I don’t blame her for pushing him away and telling him “Don’t play around with me!”  From her perspective he’s doing just that, though that couldn’t be farther from his mind.  It’s the recurring theme of WA2 – somehow this kids just aren’t quite connecting, each of them too lacking in experience and caught in their own worldview to see things through the eyes of the other.

It’s worth nothing that this is merely the “introductory chapter” of the White Album 2 VN, so there’s no way we’re going to see this through to a definitive conclusion without a second season.  And while I’d love to see that second season, I think that’s as it should be – there’s too much subtlety and depth in this story to see it artificially concluded now.  Even if Kazusa weren’t about to go to Vienna to live with her mother, how could either she or Haruki extract themselves from the hopeless entanglement their feelings for Setsuna represent?  There are no good options here, and no quick fixes either – all three of these kids are going to be hurt, though we don’t know who will be hurt the most.  It’s tempting to see this as a question of ripping off the band-aid – is it a sharp pain now or a long, drawn-out agony for Setsuna and Haruki?  That’s what it will be if they try to pretend the truth of Haruki and Kazusa’s feelings don’t exist, and he lives every day of his relationship with Setsuna thinking about what he’s lost with Kazusa.  None of them deserve the painful time they’re going to endure, and none of them intended for it to happen – but it’s an inescapable truth that can’t be avoided.  Perhaps, too, it’s a necessary part of taking the final steps from childhood to adulthood.

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ED3 Sequence:

White Album - 11 -36 White Album - 11 -37 White Album - 11 -38
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32 comments

  1. B

    So what are the chances of a Second Season? Or more to the point, how does it look to perform commercially right now?

  2. Around 3K if the numbers are right. Not awful for this sort of adaptation, and if there's a boost in the VN sales it might be enough.

  3. S

    Anything else than a second season with a proper conclusion would be terrible as things stand now, there is now way the whole issue can be resolved in an "unrushed" way with only two episodes left.

    After watching this episode, I would love to see a little insight into Setsuna's mind. I don't doubt that she geniunely wanted the three of them to stay together but I wonder if she was fully aware that by asking that is a immensely selfish behavior towards Kazusa or whether it was just her naive nature (though she does seem comfortable with spreading small lies here and there when she sees it fit, e.g. not telling Haruki that her family is on vacation on her birthday).
    As for Haruki, how he deals with Setsuna in the aftermath of this episode will reveal also more about his character.

  4. I think you ask a good question about Setsuna, but I don't think it's an either/or question. For me, it always comes back to her tendency to want to have it both ways. I think she knows exactly what this scenario does to Kazusa but she wants her man and her best friend, so she manipulates the situation to try and get what she wants.

    If you like, you can say each of these kids has an achilles heel that continually bites them. Setsuna wants to have her cake and eat it too. Kazusa devalues herself to the point of dysfunction. And Haruki is too cautious and careful. But he and Touma are more alike than either is like Setsuna – she habitually over-reaches, and they don't reach high enough.

  5. f

    first of all, absolutely blown away by how well they've directed this. and that whoever wrote the source material, has a very strong understanding of what it means to be in a love conundrum.

    A constant with WA2 is that even with all the timeskipping and perspective jumping, a frightening clarity still resonates with the viewer, and i think GE hit on it with the part about how the characters come off as real people. We can all relate to this awkward understanding of first love, and the regret we might have had in handling those situations (which makes it really hard for me to hate on any of characters, because Lord knows I've been there).

    "Setsuna, Setsuna – you flew close to the sun, and you got burned…"

    On a side note, I couldn't help remembering that episode of Seinfeld when they tried to work out a sex buddy relationship without ruining the friendship.

    JERRY: Spending the night. Optional.

    GEORGE: No, you see? You got greedy.

  6. Heh, indeed. I was thinking (I have been for a while) about the "Kramerica" episode where he and his intern drop a giant ball of oil out of George's office and it's about to hit Jerry's girlfriend – at which time Jerry simply says, "This is going to be a shame."

  7. m

    I genuinely believe that this "temporarily reorganized" storytelling is paramount in properly developing the characters.

    Why?

    Because it allows the viewer to more easily identify with the characters, and their point of view. And, most importantly, with their limited knowledge. By purposely omitting the internal thoughts of Touma, it's much easier to understand why Haruki might have felt attracted to her, but was always unwilling to decisively act on it. By shielding us from what happened on Touma's side, it was much easier to develop sympathy for Setsuna's plight. It allowed us to properly develop a feel for how these characters tick.

    Now imagine that Touma's internal dialogue had been shown earlier. I'm sure that we would have hissed and booed and cursed Haruki for being so dense and not "getting" it. Or anger at Setsuna for trying to force herself between the other two.

    All too often, I find that viewers tend to forget to take into account that while they might be near-omniscient in this kind of storytelling style, the characters they are watching are NOT. And by telling the story this way – via "threads" following points of views of characters instead of going through things purely chronologically, the characters feel much more "real" than they would otherwise.

    That said: Another grand episode. This is how it's done, anime studios. Watch and learn.

    I utterly love it!

  8. M

    That's a good point indeed! I was actually surprised that Haruki & Setsuna weren't getting too much heat on other forums(sure they are a bit but I expected much more to be honest) but this is definitely a good reason for that,among others.

    It has to be well integrated though(and it certainly was here),otherwise it'll just take away some of the impact of the present scene without offering much in return.

  9. s

    Im sorry but Haruki is wrong for kissing Kazusa like that; especially since he was still with Setsuna when he did it. What did he think would happen when he went in for a kiss like that, especially with Kaszusa still being inexperienced with love (her remark about when she asks him tearfully how many times he has passionately kissed Setsuna like that really says a lot).

    Like a wise man once told me: if you think you have feelings for another person, respectfully break it off with the person you are with before pursuing your new love interest (not new in Haruki's case but the advice still stands). What did he expect? for her to think he was manly and cool by reciprocating her feelings with a kiss when Kazusa is obviously still confused and even more so, jealous that at the end of the day, Haruki has done things with Setsuna instead of picking her first. Haruki is not completely at fault (he is a guy), but in that moment, that was an inconsiderate thing to do to a person who still hasnt quite figured the whole "love" thing out and an even more inconsiderate thing to do when you still have a girlfriend.

  10. h

    "What did he expect?"

    He wasn't. He's a teenager with little experience in romance, who just found out that the girl he liked all along actually reciprocates his feelings and is crying her heart out in front of him. The actions he took here are more natural than telling her "um, so I have to go settle this with Setsuna first. Please wait here while I do the morally right thing".

    You're right. That doesn't make it right, but it's extremely realistic and I find it hard to point fingers at Haruki here.

  11. y

    Whether you buy it or not, the suggestion is that Haruki was so swept up in the moment that Setsuna never crossed his mind. Instinct took over, so at that moment, only he and Kazusa (the true object of affection for him) existed in the world. It's a classic soap opera development.

    Haruki snaps out of it and is shocked once Setsuna's name is mentioned.

  12. s

    A realistic reaction doesnt make an action any less wrong; it's really not about whether i buy it or not because I do, i just think it wasn't the right thing to do and the person who initiated the sequence of events in the first place is Haruki, therfore you can point fingers. Pointing fingers doesnt necessarily mean that what Haruki did was not understandable because it was. The way Haruki reacted was to be expected and i truly think it was realistic but it doesnt change the fact that it was still the wrong thing to do.

    This is a situation where Haruki now has to apologize to two people he cares about. To make a little more extreme example, having sex with another female you care about when you are already in a relationship in the moment, as realistic as it may be, is the wrong thing to do from both parties, there are no if ands or buts about it. But regardless of what i think about Haruki's jerk-like action, I still feel for the guy, because hindsight is 20/20 and that truth is biting him in the ass. He is kicking himself like "dammit, if i knew she liked me i would have never hooked up with Setsuna" and honestly, a lot of us have been down that road before and done stupid things because of it

  13. M

    Well,he'll most certainly have to redeem himself but that's something that's gonna take a while and I doubt it'll even start in this season.At the moment,everything's just coming down.

    This needs a 2nd season so much ><

  14. J

    Love ain't selfish… What we have here is a whole lot of selfishness. This ain't love, it's something ugly in disguise. Ogiso just got ran right over for being honest to the person she loved and desired to be committed to. What I detest is how it's being portrayed that you can't love friends. That's totally false. Love is not a measure of how connected you feel towards someone, it's a measure of how fast you're able to step in front of a bullet for someone. Kitahara threw Ogiso under the bus, and it was downright shameful.

  15. s

    I wouldnt say that it's being portrayed that you cant love friends,it's just that these guys have a completely different situation going on. The fact is nothing between these three started of as friends. Haruki and Kazusa have always had a thing for each other and had they been left to their own devices, they would have most likely ended up together in the future (though it definetely can be argued that since both of them had no idea of each others feelings and were unwilling to make a move because of it, the status quo would have remained unchanged, which is why Setsuna is so important to this story).

    Their circumstances are different and while yes, people who have liked someone can end up just becoming friends, but usually there is some sort of distraction or element, no matter what it is, that helps them overcome that fact and move on from their love, and usually that distraction or element only works once the feelings have been put out in the open, something that did not happen with our trio to well, technically now. You can love friends, but the point of this series is not to show that you cant love friends, but that these guys have been lying to themselves about what's truly going on by trying to remain friends and this is the price they have to pay for lying (valvare taught us that wonderful lesson in its 21st ep) and while they do care for each other as friends, there has been an ugly truth looming around them that they do not want to face, and that is the point of the drama and the point of the series as a whole.

    But yes, without a doubt, Haruki threw Setsuna under the bus. Yes, he kissed Kasuza, but then after that he proceeded to through Setsuna under bus, adding insult to injury; you dont do that.

  16. m

    If that's what you honestly think, then Setsuna doesn't love Haruki at all, because her love has has a very selfish element.

    1) She was the only one who immediately perceived that there was something real between Touma and Haruki, from BOTH sides

    2) She knew that the "Todokonai Koi" lyrics were written from Haruki to Touma

    3) She was watching Touma kissing Haruki after the concert (the formerly closed door was open when Touma ran, and you get a glimpse of Setsuna's red coat hiding in music room 1

    4) Right after this, she consciously preempted Touma by confessing to Haruki on the spot – something she admitted she didn't plan to do.

    That's not "honest" in my book, and it's most definitely not selfless. It is acceptable under the "all is fair in love and war" doctrine, but a far cry from the idolized "selfless love" ideal you claim to be adhering to. This shining white doesn't fit Setsuna, she's just as grey as the rest.

  17. J

    1. Wrong. She saw that Touma had 'something' (whatever that is) for Haruki but wouldn't act. In fact, multiple times she gave Touma every opportunity to commit before she did and Touma shook her off and gave her the green light. There was nothing selfish there.

    2. We don't know this. This is just speculation.

    3. What is this supposed to mean? We're basing this off a sliver of red in a room next to Music Room 2 where there is no way to spy on anyone? Even if that did happen, what was she supposed to do? Not commit after she was given the green light multiple times?

    4. Again, Touma gave her the green light multiple times. If she didn't want to commit, Setsuna was ready to commit.

    If Touma wanted to commit, she had ample time before Ogiso even entered the picture to do so. For reasons because they are high schoolers or whatever, she didn't think herself highly enough to say the magic words. And then she let her best friend take Haruki. If you're going to feel sorry for yourself concerning that, I won't feel sorry for you. They're still your friends and you can still love them. If you're just going to run away though, then that's selfish and inconsiderate.

  18. m

    1) She knew exactly what was up between the two. She actually even told Touma, point-blank, in the family restaurant.

    2) We do know this. Rewatch the scene how shocked she reacted, watching Touma right after reading the lyrics.

    3) That was Setsuna's coat. And the door was locked before and open after the kiss. But feel free to put your head in the sand one more week, when it's going to be explicitly spelled out.

    4) The point is that even Setsuna herself admitted that she wasn't planning on confessing to Haruki first. She felt she had to do it RIGHT AWAY before Touma possibly summoned the courage to act. She didn't KNOW that Touma felt she had been rejected _before_ (the hana/yatsu talk).

    Now don't get me wrong: I don't blame her for acting on it. It's her prerogative. But I genuinely consider any attempt to deny the selfish nature of Setsuna's attachment to Haruki as pretty silly. Of course it was. She wants his love for herself. Nothing wrong about it, strong romantic love always has a possessive element. But in this aspect, Touma has been much more selfless in her attempts to resolve the situation than Setsuna ever was. You're pinning this sticker on the wrong girl here, IMHO.

  19. J

    1. She knew Touma liked Haruki. As far as we know, Haruki was completely oblivious. But this is neither here-nor-there. Setsuna backed off and Touma said she wasn't going to chase.

    2. At the best of our knowledge, it was a misunderstanding. There was no words to confirm this was actually the case.

    3. And at worst, Setsuna maybe should have confronted Touma once more. But after getting the green light, it's not Setsuna's fault anymore.

    4. Go back to episode seven. Setsuna stated that if Touma wasn't going to commit, she was. This wasn't the other way around.

  20. m

    So you don't think that it had any significance that Setsuna changed her plans and confessed to Haruki right after watching this spectacle? Really? What was that, a mere coincidence? Or wasn't it rather preemption out of fear that Kazusa might crack and admit her feelings soon, after all, thus likely ending Setsuna's chances? Was that the "selfless" thing to do?

    Like I said, don't get me wrong: Setsuna has been _fair_ about her love. I don't blame her. But it's not selfless. Romantic love rarely is.

  21. J

    When did Setsuna change her plans? Multiple times, even in episode 7, she stated if Touma wasn't going after Haruki she would. Touma stated she wasn't interested, so Setsuna made good on that promise.

    This isn't aligned with what actually happened in the story.

    And look, if I was shipping someone, I'd ship Touma since more than anyone she needed a companion. But I'm not shipping anyone. I don't want anyone to get that Idea.

  22. m

    Setsuna changed plans, she even said so herself during her confession: She never intended to confess on her own, she was planning to wait for Haruki to confess to her. And at least to me, it is evidently clear that this was caused by the kiss she just witnessed.

  23. J

    I'm not going to argue this anymore. Touma opened the door and Setsuna walked right through it. I don't find it selfish that she wanted to be in a committed relationship the same guy that her friend also wants.I don't find it selfish to desire friendship. If Touma wants to have all this self pity and insert opportunity cost into the whole equation for Haruki, then I think that's quite thoughtless in regards to her friends. That's my view on the situation.

  24. I know it's basic etiquette to universally condemn the male lead in any romance anime these days, but it still annoys me to see a series that mostly transcends anime cliche be reduced to anime cliche.

    Does Haruki share some responsibility here? Damn right – but so do the girls. As I've said before I think they're all at fault but I don't really blame any of them – they're making mistakes based on frailty and inexperience. All Kazusa had to do was be honest with Haruki one time, and this entire scenario is different – but no, he's expected to be able to read her mind. And there's no denying that Ogiso knew very well that Kazusa was in love with Haruki, and decided to take advantage of her hesitation and force the issue.

    But I long ago realized two things about romance anime – you can't fight pretty girl armor, and you should never get into the middle of a shipping war…

  25. s

    Shipping war? I dont know what's going on with this series outside of this blog or in forums but i dont think anyone here is being blinded by the glare of pretty girl armor or indulging in a shipping war. Yes, you are absolutely right that most male leads in romance anime's are most likely to be condemned by viewers when something goes wrong in a romantic situation but at least in this conversation (for me anyway) that's not what's going on.

    Yes all three them are inexperienced and at fault, but in no way should they be demonized. At the same time, I feel like you can still say things like "Nuh uh uh bruh, that probably wasnt the right thing to do, no if ands or buts about it" as i am doing for Haruki in this case (only because in that scene with Kasuza, the ball was primarily in his court to make a decision and he kinda derped up) without crashing down at the kid becuz at the end of the day, I understood why he did it and his course of action makes sense given the situation. If a toddler makes a mistake, you dont demonize them because they made a mistake because after all, they dont know any better, but you still tell them that what they did was not right, why it wasnt right, and that this is what they should do in the future.

    Either way, if shipping wars are breaking out over this series, while its not the worst thing that could happen and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, it's still a shame for this series to go through it. Honestly, how could you think of shipping in a series portraying young adult relationships so realistically? (i mean i can see why, but then ya kinda missing the point if you do that). That's almost like trying to create a shipping war out of Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind; how could you even do that? (Hmmmm,……. something tells me i need to work on my comparisons : D)

  26. M

    I think a reason for the "condemn the male lead" custom is because everyone has become so used to mediocre "romance" anime(if you can even call some of them that) that they forget they need to look at great ones like this one with different eyes.At the same time,I personally don't think having many mediocre shows is all that bad because it can also let you appreciate the good ones that much more.At least,that's how it works for me.

    Words of wisdom,those last bits.I try to remind myself whenever I'm about to get involved into a shipping war:

    " -STOP!!!You DO NOT want to do this,tempting as it may be,you know it'll NEVER end."

    I still end up doing it about 4/10 of the time though…although that's an improvement for me compared to last year,heh.

  27. The shipping war issue isn't so much of a thing here, but it's a raging wildfire at some other forums. These things get pretty ugly.

    I do think there's a large dose of the "blame the male lead" myopia running through the comments here on the last two episodes, however. My personal opinion – and this is 100% just my opinion – is that of the three Setsuna has knowingly done the most to be responsible for the current situation. But as I've said repeatedly, I think all three of theme basically share equal responsibility and the idea of dumping all of it on Haruki and turning him into just another "useless male lead" totally misses the point of the series and sells it way, way short. This is too good a show to see it through the lens of formula anime romance.

  28. Z

    The only shipping I like is the kind that gets my goods from A to B.

  29. s

    Ive seen Haganai forums in regards to shipping and i gotta say, it was quite the interesting sight if that's even an appropriate word for it. Anywho, I agree with that statement regarding Setsuna having knowingly done the most as i have felt that strongly since watching this series from the beginning. While Kasuza and Haruki are naive and unaware of the developments around them, Setsuna is aware and "knowingly naive" if that makes any sense (Haruki and Kasuza have made their missteps on an unconscious level but Setsuna's was on a more conscious layer). She can read between the lines, she pushes to have her way (nothing wrong with that but be prepared for the consequences), but she is still naive enough to think that she can keep the status quo without letting the group first confront those lingering issues.

    It can be argued that she did give Kasuza a chance to speak up on the roof top (Kasuza yet again not being honest with herself) but things were too far along at that point which is why i stress importance of Setsuna's role in this trio; she is without a doubt the game-changer for better or worse (hell, who knows how long it would have taken for Kasuza and Haruki to confess to each other had it not been for her)

  30. Hop up about 6 comments and you'll see a shipping war in progress.

  31. J

    I'm not sure if anyone has blamed just the male lead. I find fault with Haruki for completely disregarding Setsuna with his actions and being completely unfaithful to her after he made those promises to her early in the show. I find fault in Touma for not being able to get passed the emotions and finding an ability to love her friends and be with them as they desired in spite of her missed opportunity, and instead deciding to just run away from them after she gave them her word.

    And if you want to blame Setsuna, sure. She probably could have thought through some things better. But I find least fault in her for being honest with herself and Touma and taking advantage of Touma's blessing (no matter how ill-advised it was to Touma herself to do such a thing) to pursue Haruki. Maybe she should have backed off and waited a little more after supposedly seeing Touma kiss a sleeping Haruki… But she had already backed off and gave her multiple opportunities beforehand. Perhaps giving her one more chance was the right thing to do. But it wasn't wrong of her to commit that night.

  32. J

    I have no dog in this fight, Enzo. I couldn't care less who Haruki had ended up with. I'm just upset with the behavior of all the characters.

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