Golden Time – 15

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Beach and pool episodes are as constant as the Northern Star. But even though stinkers come around now and then, we’re past the point of dismissing them out of hand. We’ve seen too many of them that have transcended what we imagine was their original purpose: to show more skin and kill time. Golden Time’s long-awaited beach episode is far more than that. Even though beach episodes where nothing goes right aren’t a new thing, here the mishaps aren’t simply an anomoly; they truly are being cursed by a bitter Ghost Banri.

Things start off innocently and hopefully enough, with Banri and Koko being all lovey-dovey on their way to meet up with 2D-kun. Then they fall victim to miscommunication, traffic, distance, and finally rain, all of which eats away are the precious day. Seeing how down everyone is, Banri cuts loose, stripping down to his non-jockstrapped Speedo and running out into the rain, then grabbing Koko and coaxing the others out. It’s a beautiful display of raw, frantic joy; five people not letting the clouds deny them their fun.

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And the clouds, as if out of deference to the audacity of Banri’s, do eventually relent, letting the group have their fun in the sun. At this point, it’s as if Ghost Banri’s bad mojo had been buried in the sand. A beach-side supper, beach-ballin’, swimming, fireworks; while it may have gotten off to a rough start, the rest of the day is a triumphant return to that innocent, hopeful beginning; what Banri and Koko were looking forward to on that train. But then…2D-kun intimates that he’s too sleepy to drive, so Koko takes the wheel.

And OMG Koko is such a terrible driver LOL! Wait, no, she’s not; she’s a very good, careful driver. Nice cliche-dodging there, Golden Time! But there’s still something very foreboding about them setting off; the car is a little too perfectly framed, as it was earlier in the day when they were waiting for Koko to find Chinami, or as the clouds gathered, or while stuck in traffic; events that happened while Ghost Banri’s curse was winning. It comes back with a vengeance.

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Banri and then Koko herself nod off, and the car starts to swerve around the road. It’s a visceral, harrowing scene that had us on pins and needles. Sure, the show wasn’t going to kill five characters, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to take one or two; we had no idea what would happen, which is the key to genuine suspense. Even more shocking, Ghost Banri doesn’t either, and panics and shouts when he sees how far things have gotten, and it would seem he’s responsible for waking Banri up.

So yeah, this wasn’t just an episode where we got to see more skin (both male and female, by the way). It showed the growing awkwardness between Mitsuo and the others, particularly Chinami, in the wake of the knowledge he’s dating Linda; it showed the extent Ghost Banri’s power; and we got more valuable Banri/Koko couple time. Ghost Banri may not be a damnable villain who’s fine with people dying, but he’s still trapped in a body being controlled by someone else, dating someone he deems to be the wrong girl. He’s probably not done.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)