White Album 2
Haruki Kitahara's Light Music Club has nearly completely disbanded, but he sees a chance to re-form it with two girls whose musical talent he accidentally discovers- Setsuna Ogiso (vocals) and Kazusa Touma (piano). Apparently long before before they're ready to perform at the school festival, both girls have developed feelings toward Kitahara. How will this situation be resolved- if it IS resolved?
White Album 2 seemed to me a series whose plot contrivances were plain for all to see, which destroyed the naturalistic feeling a story needs to permit suspension of disbelief.
First of all, this show is so obsessed with the three characters comprising its triangle that, despite the fact that there are some named supporting cast members, those other members are given little time on stage at all. This is most glaringly, and literally, true for Kitahara's friend Takeya, the actual nominal head of the Light Music Club; he gets relegated to behind-the-scenes with no chance to actually appear onstage in the concert. It's true that it's Touma who exiles him (she blows off most things, but she's very take-charge about music), but her personal motive is also the show's- to be rid of extraneous characters. From the evidence presented Takeya seems to actually have considerably more musical talent than Kitahara, and it's interesting that Takeya has one line that shows he absolutely understands everyone's true motives from the start.
So let's consider the only characters that seem to matter here, the corners of the triangle. I'll start with Ogiso. She presents as a modest, unassuming girl who just wants to be friends with Kitahara and Touma forever, and this is definitely the way the show ITSELF wants us to feel about her too- but her actual actions keep undercutting this image.
To illustrate the point, consider the girls' stage costumes, which we're told Ogiso picked. Her own costume is a frilly white dress (white=innocence), but for Touma she selected a black (leather, vinyl?) biker/goth/dominatrix-style outfit that bares plenty of flesh, including a halter top that seems in perpetual danger of falling off. One who was not gracious might think that Ogiso was trying to say something about Touma here that might not be so flattering. But wait, there's more!
For Ogiso starts aggressively pursuing Kitahara (and Touma can't compete with that, because of her personality; see below), until Kitahara finally agrees to start dating her. Ogiso claims she's doing this so that all three of them can stay together, and again the show really WANTS us to believe this too, but again, a more objective observer might wonder if Ogiso is not really all that magnanimous and might be (perish the thought!) pursuing her own self-interest at the expense of her nominal "precious friend." Somehow (but quite predictably, in the world outside Ms. Ogiso's stated intentions), Kitahara and Ogiso becoming a couple does NOT enhance the camaraderie of the three, but curiously Touma seems to blame Kitahara for this much more than she does Ogiso. I am aware that people don't always think rationally where romance is involved, but I wasn't aware that it got THIS bad.
Touma, for her part, is an emotional mess. Her mom is a famous concert pianist, and aside from this making Touma a perfectionist musician it has a couple of other consequences as well- Touma seethes with resentment toward her mom for her frequent absences overseas; and Touma's high school puts up with her consequent delinquent behavior because of Mom's prestige. Touma refuses to sign class forms (which is how Kitahara, as class rep- he wears a lot of hats- first got to know her), refuses to take tests, loses her temper with teachers, and her default state is sleeping on her desk. Her manner toward everyone is sarcasm at best, so Kitahara really didn't receive much explicit information about her real feelings toward him. (She does make one comment, when febrile, that could be interpreted as interest in him, however.) But Kitahara might have known how she felt anyway. It's pretty obvious that Ogiso knew.
Then there's Kitahara himself. He's, well, indecisive. (Where have we seen THIS before?) If a girl comes on to him, he can find himself madly passionate toward her regardless of whoever his preferred romantic partner might be. (He kind of reminded me of the male lead in Suzuka in this regard.) While the girls wear the aforementioned elaborate costumes in the concert, Kitahara does his stage performance in his school uniform, which is just WRONG. ( While she was selecting outfits, couldn't Ogiso have at least found a leather jacket, or a torn T-shirt, for him?) He has large, innocent eyes, which, with his white-bread manner and obviously wishy-washy romantic style, might make him suitable for a harem lead, but maybe less so for a "serious" romantic drama. (He actually starts out the series with some edge to his personality- he's rather blunt- but the edges seem to smooth out awfully quickly after the girls enter the picture.) I'm never quite sure why this kind of character always has all the women falling for him; I hope this doesn't come across as sexist, but I kept thinking that if the show had been targeted at females instead of males, a more roguish character like Takeya might have been made the lead.
Speaking of things white (white bread, white costumes), the term "White Album" does NOT refer to the Beatles; it's a J-Pop song that's apparently been the series' theme song (both seasons), and in the context of this season of the show Kitahara says that it's the first song he learned to play on guitar, which makes you wonder why he still struggles so much with it in practice.
I am not sure whether Crunchyroll censorship had a part in this, but the show as viewed has one of the LEAST graphic sex scenes I've ever witnessed- quick cuts, in an almost totally dark room. If this is done this way in the original, it's awfully strange for a show that began as an eroge; a title card saying "and then they made love" would have been just about as interesting, and would have saved a few minutes of wasted time. Fanservice fans shouldn't be disappointed, though; there are shower scenes for both girls, and some bra-and-panties scenes as well.
Character designs are generally crisp but conventional. Some of the backgrounds are quite lovely, though.
I went to three stars because some of the J-Pop songs weren't bad, and at least it's trying to actually recognize the issues involved with its triangle (kinda) instead of just completely avoiding the subject. You can judge for yourself how well it resolves the matter. I do wish I could have given it more, but I just couldn't, especially given the disconnect between what it obviously WANTED to say and what it was actually SAYING. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Already pointed it out- female nudity (not graphic), underwear, implied sexuality.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of crunchyroll.com (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (13/13)
White Album 2 © 2013 PROJECT W.A.2
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