Tuesday, December 31, 2013

White Album 2

Let me first define a word that best describes this anime.

poignant: evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.

Of course, as a drama anime, there is no greater achievement than being able to draw out intense emotions from the audience. Indeed, most of the (drama) anime that have done that are carefully archived in my (not comprehensive) 10/10 anime list. CLANNAD: AFTER STORY, also known as "THE TEAR JERKER", conveyed intense emotions through illustrating the bonds of family; CODE GEASS managed so by using science fiction and fantasy plot device and character deaths; EF - A TALE OF MEMORIES (AND MELODIES) achieved so by employing a heavy use of "flashback to the sad childhood stories", a technique that anime as a medium is (in)famous for; last but not least, ANGEL BEATS! did so by exploring what it means to live.

Guess what? WHITE ALBUM 2, an independent anime series that consist of only 13 episodes, is poignant because it delves into the most complicated yet the most simple human emotion, (romantic) love, in the context of a love triangle between the male lead and the two female leads.

Without further delay, let's start the review on White Album 2.

The story can be summarized in two sentences. In his efforts of revitalizing the light music club and subsequently holding a performance during the cultural festival in his third year of high school, Haruki Kitahara becomes heavily involved with two girls who recently joined the club, Setsuna Ogisa the vocalist and Kazuna Touma the pianist. This is the story of what happens before and after their performance.

Character is without the doubt the forte of this WA2. The main characters are not dolls created to fulfill given roles, but realistic people who make reasonable choices and also mistakes. Instead of cheesy and predictable development that only serve to inevitably lead to a dramatic confession scene as seen in so many other anime, characters in WA2 engage in purposeful and believable dialogue. The romantic tension between them gradually builds up as the show progresses. The plot development, while not mind-blowing, will not proceed exactly as audience expects. And even if you did predict the development, the plot would still be interesting precisely because how the character relationships develops so naturally, even the one between the female leads. The main characters are incredibly complex, and make human mistakes just as normal humans do. Despite so, we can still resonate with various emotions that the characters "feel". With so many anime, it is very easy to pick a favourite girl from the cast. It is not the case here. Both female leads are likable at times (and detestable at others, though not as much), to such a degree that I would be equally happy if the male lead ends up with either of them.

Alright, let's move to the technical side of WA2. Music plays a important role in the characters' lives. As such, the sound tracks and OST used in this anime is quite good, but not as good as those of top-notch "music-oriented" anime such as Guilty Crown, K-ON, and Macross Frontier. To be fair, WA2 is a pure poignant romance anime that primarily focuses on characters relationship, and do not need an excessive focus on good OST to please its audience. Furthermore, it redeemed itself by using numerous sound tracks in appropriate moments.

Animation-wise, WA2 does quite well. The background and character designs are beautiful, and the animation of movements are fluid. The only complaint is that it reuses a lot of backgrounds. Personally, I didn't mind this.

Finally, I would like to factor in my own enjoyment of this anime (plus some additional comments). An interesting quirk that this anime adopts is sneaking in some dodgy shots of bath scenes. Fortunately, the anime doesn't overdo this. I suspect this is an attempt to please a certain part of the demographics that absolutely can't live without (no matter how little) fan-service. As for my own enjoyment, definitely I was immersed in this story and more or less marathoned through 13 episodes. As for the ending, it does deliver and feels consistent with the rest of the show.

Overall, this is a very good pure romance show that is not your typical anime. It does not reach the masterpiece level for me. However, it is well-executed, not predictable, and poignant. I give it a 9/10 rating.


Recommended to anyone who enjoys Romance and Drama.

Not recommended to anyone who can't live without some form of comedy in an anime.
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