7-minute preview: White Album 2

The Beginning and The End

Guitar hero.

White Album 2 starts out with the beginning and the end; not the end as in that this is where the narrative will end up necessarily, but that the opening scene marks the end of a chapter of the characters’ lives. It is perhaps the end of high school and best friends must leave each other behind — this is a feeling so pertinent to many of us who have experienced it. From what I gather from other Japanese media and anime, the school year ends in some kind of a festival or talent contest. White Album 2 depicts this proficiently. Emotion is in the air as the crowd rocks  to the finale of their roles in the plot, the performer is nervous about making sure everything goes smoothly to the point that he wants everything to just shut up, but his worries evaporate from the gentle reinforcement of his band mates. For a moment he is self-conscious. He decides to revel in the moment. There are bright colors, lights, high contrast, and the use of focal blur gives a sense of scale and involvement at the same time. His friends cheer him on. Then a melancholic piano kicks in, and the protagonist, Haruki Kitahara in voice-over tells us that this is one of the happiest days of their lives, and that it will be the last time they could truly be together again. A montage of what appears to be a love triangle flash before our eyes on a snowy backdrop; is it a flashback, a flash forward? All we know is that something sad will happen, and the contrast between that and our band mates standing on the stage is a dramatic force we should reckon with, because if anything it shows the manner in which this story will play out, and the techniques of the director in piecing together this narrative.

Concert of the year.

But then the music abruptly cuts, and we are taken to what might be a flashback explaining how this came about. And it shows, both, that the director is not afraid to step back and play around a bit before going in for the dramatic push, but also that the flow of the narrative isn’t as fine-tuned as it could be. The following scene is a typical high school affair that doesn’t quite seem to live up in the shadow of the prior in terms of how “alive” the setting feels, but that could be an intentional push-pull complementary of the director.

I want to point out that just by seeing how skillful the director plans his opening, we get a precedent for the level of potential future drama. If it were a more mundane direction, I would never give the show credit to be able to pull off push-pull in drama. Just these first 2 minutes set the tone for the rest of the show. And it’s completely accurate, because a director who has the chops uses it.

Beginnings of a love triangle.

The beginnings of a love triangle.

However, there are a few caveats, or distractions if you prefer, despite the dramatic proficiency of the opening. First is the inappropriate female outfits for the high school setting on the co-performers, which is quite common in anime, but it also tells us that the show doesn’t respect realism as much. Between the outfits and the aforementioned montage, we can surmise in the possibility of this show having harem elements because it objectifies the female characters somewhat. There is also the character Tomo Yanagihara who has tsundere tendencies, and whenever characters fall squarely within these kinds of archetypes it is always a hindrance to the series as it is simply lazy writing; I can only hope she is developed away from this impression.

I also can’t write out the possibility that the abrupt cuts are not intentional, and that they mark inconsistent directorial decisions, whether due to budget, skill, or some other reason. It could, after all, be in the same vein of True Tears, which is dramatically proficient in its key scenes but lacking in the glue holding those scenes together. If White Album 2 is based off a visual novel, it might make sense that the key scenes have already been arranged by the original author, such that the anime director would only need to port them over and tween them to create animation. This would also explain inconsistent quality in the scenes that are not elaborated on in the visual novel, the scenes that merely connect the dots between A and B.

The music room.

The music room.

I suppose I should briefly explain what happens in the remaining four and half minutes. Haruki explains to his friend Takeha in exposition (since this is information they should both know, the purpose of this explanation is to inform us) that Tomo, who is originally in their band as lead vocalist who Takeha recruits only because of her ‘flashy appearance’, is known as a notorious group destroyer that does whatever it takes to defeat Setsuna Ogiso and become the festival queen. Well, after causing the drummer, keyboardist, and bassist all to leave the band, Tomo is quitting too. Then, in perfect timing, Haruki gets a text from a Chikashi Hayasaka that Setsuna is planning to quit the festival as well, so he hurries over to what is presumably the student council to convince her otherwise. This is all typical stuff, and the purpose of this scene seems to be to establish Haruki as the straight-A student and the clutch leader that’s the object of everyone’s affection. It shows his dominance in social situations and his unorthodox method of solving problems.

Judging from the well-directed opening scene and the abrupt transition to a cliched high school plot development, all of which happens within 7 minutes, I would have to rate White Album 2 on the idea that it is most likely a harem-romance in vein of True Tears, ToraDora!, or Suzuka. The band mates, which are probably the primary female leads have barely been developed, so we know very little about Setsuna Ogiso and nothing about the other girl — okay, that’s not true. We know that Setsuna Ogiso doesn’t actually want to be in the limelight, and has never wanted to be crowned queen of the festival even in the past 2 years, based on what she says right at the end of our 7 minutes. But we could surmise based on this the archetype that she likely falls into, that despite being popular, she is actually a private person that submits to her surroundings. That means that like a puzzle piece, the other girl must be the more proactive, outgoing one. White Album 2, I think, will be a harem-romance with good direction when it is required, but otherwise average in terms of how it fleshes out its characters. And accordingly, I expect it to be very close to what True Tears accomplishes, although the opening and the more assertive nature of Haruki, and the fact that the female lead isn’t as unlikeable as Hiromi in True Tears might push White Album 2 ever so slightly above it.

Festival queen for 2 years straight.

Setsuna Ogiso — Festival queen for two years straight. Tomo is disappointed in the background. Notice the fanciful hair compared to all other characters.

Once again, I will give the preview two scores. The Tentative Score is what I would give the first 7 minutes only, and the Predictive Score is what I expect the overall show to be. I will make a wager that when I do finish the show, my final score will not be more than +/-1 point from my Predictive Score.

TENTATIVE SCORE (3 minutes): 5.8

TENTATIVE SCORE (7 minutes): 5.1

PREDICTIVE SCORE: 5.6

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