I’m not going to use the pretext of yet another stellar episode of White Album 2 to dump on Golden Time. That series is still reaching me on a visceral level and I respect that, but for me, watching the two shows back to back (with 48 hours in-between) really does call up just how much more grace and sophistication WA2 is bringing to the table. While both shows are depicting painful things happening to people you don’t want to see in pain, this one manages to do so without being torture to watch – which is what GT has become for me a good chunk of the time over the last two episodes.
I suspect there’s going to be a lot of the blame game being played (again) after this episode, but for me, it bears repeating that what makes White Album 2 so effective is the depiction of the three leads as real, complicated, flawed but ultimately relatable people. Yes, they all bear some responsibility for what’s happened but I just don’t think it’s anything but their inexperience catching up with them. They’re all smart and mature for their age (though the latter is debatable with Kazusa) but the point is that 17 and 18 year-old kids can be mature about taking care of their personal responsibilities and planning for their future and still be complete babes-in-the-woods when it comes to affairs of the heart. It doesn’t make them bad people – it makes them kids.
This episode had plenty of friends trying to be good friends, but actually being bad friends. But guess what – they’re 17 and 18 year-olds too, and they have no more idea about the right and wrong way to deal with all this than the leads do. Haruki’s friends have mostly stayed silent about his romantic life despite seeing more of the truth with the benefit of distance, which is actually more of less the right thing to have done. But when the moment of crisis comes, the urge to meddle is strong – and inevitably that means taking sides. And inevitably here that means taking Setsuna’s side, because she’s the good girl – the good student, the good girlfriend, and she’s good for Haruki. She must be, right? Hell, she’s too good for him according to Takeya, his best friend. Only Hayasaka seems to see close enough to the mark to know to stay out of it, but he’s had a better notion of the real Touma than Ito and Takeya all along.
Here’s the thing about free advice – well, you know it. All that sop about having a future together, “just forget about her”, all of it is nonsense. In truth, it’s never been said better than Emily Dickinson said it – the heart wants what it wants. Simple, to the point, and an eternal truth that we all live with whether we like it or not. What we’re finally seeing here, so close to the end, is that these smart and innocent adolescents are doing what smart kids do – learning. It’s late in the game and it’s coming at the cost of a great deal of pain, but they’re coming to understand the situation at last.
This is most obvious, of course, with Setsuna – she says it outright during her conversation with Ito but she’s been saying it silently for weeks, and she’s always known it. I’ve stated in the past that my personal opinion was that Setsuna was more responsible for knowingly bringing us to this point that the other two, and I think her own words bear that out. There was some question about how much she knew and how much she might only have known subconsciously, but I think it’s clear she knew everything. She knew Kazusa loved Haruki, she knew he loved Kazusa back, and she knew what she was doing when she “got between them”. “Harmony” in Setsuna’s words might as well be a stand-in for “chemistry” because that’s what Haruki and Kazusa have – their hearts know what they want.
When Setsuna was unburdening herself to Ito I was basically just agreeing with her – she really should feel regret about doing what she did. I was with her right up to the point she started calling herself a terrible person – then she lost me. She, too, was just following her heart. Maybe an adult might know how wrong it would be to intentionally try to slide between two shy people in love before they have a chance to tell each other how they feel – but maybe not. In any event it’s to Setsuna’s credit that at least she’s willing to accept that she acted for selfish reasons, and knew when she did so that she was hurting two people she cared about. It’s still selfish, though – and especially selfish, I think, is that she refused to let Kazusa go as a friend even knowing the agony she was inflicting by forcing her to be the third wheel. This is a recurring pattern with Setsuna – she tries to manipulate other people so that she can have it both ways, but this causes her to over-reach and she loses everything as a result.
But you know, Haruki could just have said “No, I love someone else” – and he didn’t. As I said two weeks ago Setsuna built this house of lies, but she built it with the lies of the other two. It’s less clear to me than Kazusa and Haruki knew the other loved them as it is that Setsuna knew, but at the very least neither of them was honest with each other. I’m sure some idiots are going to mock Haruki for crying but he damn well should have cried here – he was losing the girl he loved, hurting the girl he least wanted to hurt, and there was nothing he could do to prevent either from happening. It’s absurd to think that a kid experiencing this kind of heartbreak for the first time shouldn’t react the way Haruki did just because he has a Y-chromosome. If there’s anything that redeems this whole sad situation, it’s Setsuna finally giving in – finally admitting that it there was no way out of the hole the three of them had dug for themselves but to allow Haruki and Kazusa to finally be honest with each other and see where that took them.
Just where that does take them, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s wrong for Kazusa to go to Vienna to be with her mother, even if she and Haruki are in love. It’s best for her career, and she and her mother have a great deal of unspoken business with each other that Kazusa needs to confront before she can move on. But that doesn’t have to be forever, and the moments (that damn snow!) between she and Haruki are so absurdly romantic that it’s hard not to hope they might have a future together. Kazausa’s smile when Haruki said he loved her told the entire story – that and the fact that she was outside his apartment when he said it. The heart wants what it wants. Neither of them wants to hurt Setsuna, but the want is stronger when it comes to wanting to be together. In real life that very often isn’t enough, but whether it is or not it can be the foundation of a beautiful love story – and White Album is spinning one of the better love stories we’ve seen in anime this year.