Two weeks ago I said that the long winter’s break with Golden Time was indeed a golden time for me – I needed a chance to refresh myself with this show, which was really starting to get on my nerves in a big way. Unfortunately, though, my take based on this episode is that neither of us has changed, and the problems are no less apparent now than they were before (and now I don’t even have “Sweet and Sweet Cherry” at the end as a reward). That’s usually what happens when relationships go on a break, I suppose.
I just can’t get over the feeling that GT is trolling me in a big way, but that may, in fact, be giving it too much credit. Take the new OP and ED – literally not a shot of Linda anywhere in either one. Likewise the episode preview. For all intents and purposes this series seems to pretend Linda doesn’t exist – so why the hell does it keep making her the far more likeable character with much better chemistry with the main lead? Is GT just so inept at narrative that it thinks it’s doing a masterful job selling Banri and Kouko as a couple and Linda as a roadblock? Or is that a massive and masterful fake-out that will leave me stunned if I manage to stick it out till the end?
The fundamental problem for me remains unchanged, but this episode better than any reveals why it’s such a huge problem. This is like two different shows – the one with Linda is heartfelt, sincere and dignified. The one with Kouko is a mess of bad comedy and a worse relationship. It isn’t an issue of liking Linda better than Kouko, though I don’t deny that I do – it’s a matter of the show simply not being very good when it revolves around Kouko. I’ve said from the beginning – even in the heady early days of endless possibility – that when it came to comedy Golden Time was hit-and-miss at best. But when the series is structured around Banri and Kouko being the destined pair and they’re one of the most ill-suited and unpleasant couples in anime, that’s an even bigger problem.
As if all that weren’t a problem enough, you can add in the dubious narrative device of Ghost Banri, who now seems to be back as a factor in his own right. And not just that, but he’s apparently decided to curse Banri for not following his lead and may have the ability to control the weather. I’ve tried to give GT the benefit if the doubt and see GB as a metaphor for Banri’s pre and post-amnesia identities, but the growing sense is that he’s intended to be taken as real. Of course the heart of the matter is Ghost Banri is actually right, it’s obvious that Banri and Linda have a thousand times the chemistry and compatibility he and Kouko do – but again, it seems as if we’re supposed to take Ghost Banri as a roadblock to the obvious path of true happiness with Kouko.
Add it all up, and the only part of the episode that really worked was the three minutes with Linda in it, which was powerful and genuine (and removed all doubt as to what her answer that night was going to be, not that I ever had any). None of the rest of it worked for me at all – not the comic dance number, not the “air yakisoba” bit, not GB’s playing at a hungry ghost. I find it hard to believe that a clearly competent author like Takemiya-sensei could be so disconnected as to not realize how off-kilter the seeming narrative tilt of Golden Time is, but just as hard to believe that this could all be an elaborate hoax leading us towards the ending that actually seems to make sense – I’m not sure even Andy Kaufman could pull that off. Something has to give either way – but I’m not sure I’m going to be strong enough to stick around long enough to find out what it is.
ED2: “Haneikyuu-teki ni Aishite yo♡ (半永久的に愛してよ♡;Love Me Semipermanently♡)” by Yui Horie