Golden Time – 24 (Fin)

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Here’s what we knew going in—or at least what we assumed: the restoration of “Old Banri” would be permanent, but while he’d forget all about Koko and the others, Koko wouldn’t forget about him, and would re-introduce herself and start all over with him, hopeful the Banri who loved her was still in there, hiding, in a larval state. Just waiting for a time to hatch out.

But that theory did not allow for an all-but-PERFECT VICTORY, which is what we get, much to our surprise and frankly, our delight. We here at RABUJOI aren’t shy about the fact that we often cultivate a transactional relationship with the anime we watch: if we are to suffer through hardship, pain, we wouldn’t mind being rewarded for that commitment in some way. In the case of Golden Time, we wanted a happy ending, but didn’t see how it was going to happen.

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Golden Time found a way, and really, it was something it had been planning all along. In the last couple episodes, Banri had become, like, super-resigned to his cruel fate of losing everything he had become as the result of his peculiar neurological trauma. And we followed him down that pit of despair, forgetting along with him that a way back was possible. A wealth of resources were at his disposal this week, starting with the notes he wrote himself. They have no immediate effect, but provide the building blocks for his recovery, further aided by his friends.

Add to that Koko’s mirror (the unbroken one which is hers, not the broken one he left behind in Tokyo), and the strange string of obsessive emails someone who hacked his account is sending to Koko. We initially thought were being sent by Koko herself as a cryptic message to Banri, but they turned out to be from 2D-kun. That’s right, 2D-kun turns out to be the architect of Banri’s recovery, by sending those emails and also rattling Koko’s cage (when she finds out it was him) and moving her to action.d

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That’s how Koko ends up at Banri’s front door. At first things aren’t going so well—Banri thinks she’s Chinami because she’s returning a DVD—but his broken mirror is also in the bag, and the memories start flowing back. It’s fitting that everything comes together on the bridge where everything fell apart. It’s a little silly seeing all the different Banri’s milling around in a fog (including drag Banri, one of our faves), but in the end it works, as Linda (very belatedly) finally gives the original Past Banri the “Yes” he had been hoping for for so long.

That’s apparently all the closure he needs, as present Banri gets his memories back, including his love for Koko, and we get an extended scene of the two embracing passionately and reveling in pure joy…and relief! Frankly, we’re relieved too it wasn’t a downer of an ending. Like we said, we’d sat patiently through the awful fights and disasters and misunderstandings, and Golden Time rewarded us with a good old fashioned happy ending.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)
Average Rating: 8.417 (episodes 13-24), 8.458 (total)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.97

 

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Golden Time – 23

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After blowing up the central romance and putting the brakes on all the secondary ones, Golden Time has been determined to break our hearts in its home stretch, then stomp on the pieces. It isn’t even as if we weren’t warned on numerous occasions by Banri himself, but that doesn’t make it any easier a ride to the finish. It would seem, for the Banri we’ve come to know, and the only one everyone save Linda knows, has finally run out of golden time.

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Last week, a multitude of actions and words conspired to shake the circle of friends to their foundation and threaten to level it to dust. While he still knows who Koko is, Banri quickly comes to realize, and understands why Koko broke up with him: she simply doesn’t think she’ll be able to withstand what’s coming. But 2D-kun (the one most out of the loop trying to put the pieces back together) and Chinami agree she’s forcing herself away from him. Both also hate they way things are, but depite 2D-kun’s optimism, there’s no stopping Banri’s cruel biological fate.

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At least Banri and Koko make up, and Koko even promises not to leave his side, even if the Banri she knows disappears. Banri assures her that no matter what happens, he’ll always love her, and never hate her. We’re not doctors, but it would seem the truth of the matter is, at some point in the near future, he’ll feel nothing at all for her, because it will be as if he never met her. But if she wants to re-meet and re-connect with him after he’s “gone”, that’s Koko’s choice. In effect, she’d be undertaking what Linda didn’t after Banri fell, at least initially.

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With all the yelling and screaming and hitting and avoiding all over and done with, friendships are repaired, but they also seems like they’re going into mothballs. Banri is like an astronaut about to embark on a dangerous mission. He doesn’t know the exact launch time, but he feels it coming and is preparing for it. More than that, though, he is living every last moment he has as the Banri he is, savoring them, for even if they’ll disappear, it doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, nor that didn’t enjoy his time with 2D-kun, Chinami, Nana, Mitsuo, Linda, and Koko. We know we did.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Linda’s role this week was particularly interesting, as she’s cross with Koko (rightfully so) but also comes to the rescue when Banri has another freakout.
  • Nana slips in bed with Banri…because she just kinda feels like it. Banri is a lucky dude.
  • We appreciated Mitsuo tearing up when Banri apologizes to him, and we’d never seen him as passionate and emphatic as when he promised, like Koko, that he wouldn’t leave him.
  • A lot of the festival club president’s pep talk could be applied not just to the Awa dance, but to Banri’s last remaining days as himself.

Golden Time – 22

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And yea, there was a reckoning. Man, what an emotional centrifuge of an episode. After being unceremoniously dumped by Koko, Banri is more listless than usual, but Nana comes to save the day. When she realizes how hurt Banri is, she even tones down the dark sardonicism she typically employs to distance herself from other humans, and cheers him up as well as one could suspect. If only Banri could have gone for Nana from the start, right?

It could potentially have been a less eccentric love triangle with Linda, since it’s made clear this week that Koko does not fuck around when it comes to breaking up (despite having never done so before). Even before Nana got to him, Koko sent her dad to pick him up and talk to him. Their chat, and his chat with Nana, leave him in a position of bouyant optimism that he can turn things around with Koko the morrow. So did we.

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The next morning at college, and Koko is back to normal. Like the fools that we and Banri are, we fall for the act hook line and sinker as evidence Banri overestimated the severity of yesterday’s tiff. Everything’s back to normal and the happy music plays. Then Koko takes our optimism and CRUSHES us with it, unilaterally broadcasting to him and all their friends that they are indeed broken up and back to being Just Good Friends.

Forget Banri’s existential crisis; it’s as if Koko has gone back to a previous version of herself, bending the conventional rules of socialization to her own whims, and more distressingly, saying things that are patently untrue, a marked departure from the fierce honesty she’d exhibited right up to her apology to Banri (before she crushed us, that is). Mitsuo knows something’s up, and tells Banri not to accept the crazy things coming out of her mouth.

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But…is Koko really all that crazy? Well…yes, but hear us out. She had to find out from the garbage that Banri is on medication for anxiety. She had to find out from the Okamera (the owner of which must still evoke resentment in Koko despite all the progress they’ve made) about the extent of Banri’s condition. She has to hear him begging Chinami not to tell Koko at all costs. Accounting for all of that, anyone, not just a weirdo like Koko, might be inclined to take a long hard look at their feelings.

It puts into perspective all the confident, optimistic things Koko’s said to Banri whenever things were less than peachy. She dumps Banri with that same conviction, but it sounds like she’s trying to convince herself more than the others. When Mitsuo tries to put an end to the nonsense she lashes out at everyone, threatening to avoid them all, then leaving in a huff, insisting she doesn’t care about any of them anyway. It would be easier if she truly meant the things she said, but we don’t believe she does.

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But Banri is so crushed by the dumping, he doesn’t fight back. When he tells Linda, casually resigned, she doesn’t let it pass…and why the hell would she? She had to accept that Banri was with Koko, only for them to break up like it’s nothing? No, sir! Banri brings her past rejection of him into it (partly fueled by what Nana said to him last night), a misunderstanding Linda can’t let fly anymore, and the two let fly at each other in a vicious, raw argument; with shades of the charged fights of Kokoro Connect. Everything that had been under a rock is exposed to the terrible light for all to behold.

Banri learns Linda did love him, but was just too late (and possibly hears about it too late). Linda shouts that he’ll believe in Banri even if he won’t. Mitsuo happens to pop in and Banri tells him everything (what the heck; it’s as good a time as any). Then Koko walks in, not for any interaction with the others, but to give the Festival club Prez her resignation. All Banri can do is rip it out of her hands and glare at her, and she just glares right back. Everything is shit right now: nerves are frayed, tempers are short, nobody is happy, and there’s no solution in sight. It’s GLORIOUS.


Rating: 10

Stray Observations:

  • While things aren’t good with Koko and Linda, it’s interesting to see that Banri’s never been closer or more warm with either Nana or Chinami. So not everything is shit.
  • “There seems to be something going on.” Master of Understatement, President Koshino.

Golden Time – 21

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Well that’s great…that’s just fuckin’ great, man! Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We’re in some real pretty shit now man…Game over man, GAME OVER!  In the end, it’s not that Koko never sees the ring Banri has been trying to find the right time to give her: she outright rejects it and coldly says Sayonara. Holy shit. This is the same person who said she’d stick by him through thick and thin, who told him with her help he could conquer the world. What the hell happened?

Well, quite a lot, actually! After lying to her about nothing being wrong promising not to run away, and organizing a lavish kobe beef dinner in which to break the truth to Mitsuo, Chinami, and 2D-kun, stuff happens, and Banri indeed runs away. Koko leaves him an emotionless text—a devastating gesture in its own right—and after getting a boost of confidence from his male friends, the next time he sees her, it looks like she’s done with him.

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What can we say? While we don’t know the whole story yet, it looks pretty damn bad. It’s one thing to be pessimistic about a relationship, but another to watch it shatter before one’s eyes. It was heartbreaking, but sometimes you don’t know the last straw when you see it, and Banri running away again—and begging Chinami not to tell Koko—might’ve been just that. It’s an awful situation all around: Banri can’t control his sudden bursts of amnesia and panic, and just when he thinks he’s stronger, it beats him down at the worst possible times.

These new developments would be enough for a superior episode, but Golden Time piles on the goodness by finally having Chinami communicate what’s been eating her lately; once she found out Mitsuo loved someone she realized she loved him, but felt it was too late. She cut her hair, which she thought was a mistake, and lashed out at Banri. While her situation isn’t nearly as dire or existential as Banri’s, it’s still awful, and powerfully expressed. Kudos to Kido Ibuki toning down the Miss Ultrasonic and delivering a serious, vulnerable performance.

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Even though he didn’t get everyone together at once, or tell them exactly what he wanted, we feel that everyone kinda got the gist. It’s gratifying to see his mates enthusiastically rally behind him, but the poor lads haven’t a clue just how royally screwed Banri is; nor does he, since they cheer him up only for Koko can knock him back down when he sees her. Golden Time is decidedly not in the punch-pulling business.

In reference to the festival club getting ostracized for messing up, Koshino echo’s Linda’s assertion that “It’s too soon to give up. Let’s start by doing whatever we can!” Such words ring just as true for Mitsuo and Linda, or Chinami and Mitsuo. But Banri doing whatever he can might not be enough to save his relationship with Koko. His accident and the resulting difficulties may have torpedoed it, just as it put the Kibosh on him and Linda.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Oka is full of so much sad win in this episode, including wanting Banri to film her in her emotional state.
  • The camera did seem to get footage of Banri’s freakout. In-ter-es-ting.
  • We felt so bad when Nana slugged Banri. Her ideas about what should be done to people who’ve lost their senses. Well, she had to do something wrong eventually, and in her defense, she didn’t know what the hell was going on. Obviously, had she known about Banri’s past head trauma, she would have gone below the belt.
  • Curiously, in the preview Banri and Koko seem to be talking to and even smiling at each other, which begs the question: how the heck does it go from where we are now to that in one episode? This is why we hate previews.
  • It seems slight, but there’s a chance Koko is only pretending she doesn’t care about Banri, trying to preemptively make him disappear on her own terms. Dunno, we’ve gotta think about that…

Golden Time – 20

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A lot of shows can feel drawn out when they try to take things slowly, but Golden Time can be deft at at delaying gratification and generating interest in unresolved matters. By the end of this episode, Banri is really no closer to giving the ring to Koko, Mitsuo is no closer to reconnecting with Linda, and Oka is no closer to acknowledging Banri’s existence after catching him “having a frank conversation” with Linda.

And let’s not forget the overarching unresolved issue: the fact there’s still another Banri rattling around in his head, making it physiologically impossible to move on, as his heard has resolved to do (and had been, to a degree, succeeding.) We’ll confess to Banri’s ring-holding growing more and more excruciating; internally we were yelling “GIVE HER THE RING. GIVE HER THE DAMN RING NOW, PRECIOUS!!!” at the TV at one point. But it just doesn’t happen.

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There’s a reason we’re so apprehensive. We’re hoping that whatever’s going on in his head could be somehow resolved if he garners the will to present that ring to Koko—knowing Koko could very well interpret it as a proposal. It’s a powerful symbol burning a hole in his pocket. There are no guarantees the ring will do anything of the sort, but the way he and Koko talk, there would be worse things than them tying the knot and sharing the rest of their lives together.

But while his big memory problem is left unresolved (and his identity left in a very precarious position after his “relapse” in the middle of the parade), along with all the other things listed above, the episode is still an odd joy to watch. Banri’s journey to find someone to talk about it takes the weirdest turn when Sho and SHi of the Tea Club, of all people, are the first to learn of the ring, and fill his head with a dizzying cocktail of wisdom and conjecture. The duo is brimming with zany, aggressive energy; they’re an underutilized gem on Golden Time’s deep bench.

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It’s as fun as it is frustrating watching Mitsuo struggling so mightily with Linda, and the show isn’t messing around with the obstacles in his path, as he isn’t even able to utter a word to her for the entire episode. It’s also sad when Oka utterly ignores Banri. We love how she often subverts her usual chibi aura with striking displays of seriousness. Like Mitsuo, Nana, the Tea Chicks, or even 2D-kun, Oka feels like she carry her own show.

And that’s why we thoroughly enjoyed this episode even though it tortured us with the ring and didn’t resolve any of the characters’ many problems: the more time we spend with the supporting cast, the more we want to learn about them, and the more time we want to spend watching them interact and do ordinary, non-supernatural stuff. Golden Time could presumably keep this up for some time, but with only four episodes left (that we know of), we still the show resolves a few things before the end, preferably without leaving us trembling despondently in some dark corner, as poor Banri was.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 19

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Is Tada Banri really The Worst? Nah, but he’s certainly quite fallible. This week he keeps his friendship with Linda a secret from Mitsuo, doesn’t tell Linda that Mitsuo would be at festival club filming, doesn’t even know what Linda is mad about, and later disgusts Chinami, who happens to catch him being all too friendly with the girl Yana-san likes. He even jokes that he doesn’t know who Koko is when she rushes to his arms upon his return to town, and…all right, we’ll admit that was pretty funny. But it wasn’t very nice.

So yeah, Banri messed up here and there this week, but one can’t place the blame entirely on him. After all, when you’ve decided not to run form your past anymore, difficulties and missteps come with the territory. Doing what he’s decided to do was never going to be easy, especially he isn’t even sure he can coexist with his past self; it could come back and take over at any time. It’s all to easy to shrink in the midst of existential fears, and thus it’s understandable he’d overlook the affairs and feelings of others now and again.

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That being said, his actions have consequences. Mitsuo is really into Linda and wants to make a go of it, while Linda is unsure of how to react to his interest in her. She’s a lot of fun to watch this week, as we get many a hilariously angry-face and scary voice out of her. It’s a little goofy, but her tangled emotions are strongly felt.

As for Chinami, we’ve never seen her so pissed off, and while it’s true she was being a bit nosy and doesn’t have the whole picture, she’s not wrong that Koko would not have liked the scene of Banri and Linda she witnessed. Linda and Chinami form a tag-team of punishment on Banri, and it’s oddly satisfying to behold.

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Speaking of Koko—she’s decided it’s time for her and Banru to become one. Her gift of the Eiffel Tower sculpture (which beyond its obvious phallusy bears a resemblance to many an ancient fertility statue), and its subsequent role in the failure of her mission (along with her full stomach) are all brilliantly dorky, cute, and very Koko. It’s also notable that she presents him with the tower as he’s debating whether to give her his mother’s ring.

He tells himself and Koko they have plenty of time, but what’s so agonizing is that we simply don’t know if that’s really the case. When we saw that ring, we immediately considered the possibility that it may never see Koko’s finger. We hope we’re wrong. In any case, Banri can’t be careless with his secrets, his omissions, or his time. This is his golden time.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 18

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Koko may have sent Banri off to his hometown with her full trust and blessing, and it’s good to see her obsessional tendencies haven’t vanished with the flip of a switch, as he visits her apartment to smell his bed. But here’s the thing—and we say this having had nothing but love for Nana thus far—that whole scene kinda felt like padding, and both the Exorcist pose and Yakuza guy were really random. We did, however, enjoy how easily and quickly Koko got Nana to TAP OUT. Girl doesn’t know her own strength!

Once we got to Shizuoka, things got more encouraging. We really felt Banri’s increasing anxiety as they near the reunion: this was a big deal. But the dodgeball game, in which everyone wore a name tag for Banri’s benefit, was a classy gesture. We also totally believe that Linda would use Banri’s new-found interest in the past as an excuse to settle a long-standing dodgeball score. We also liked the subtle details like Linda telling Banri to drop the “-senpai”, since they’re at the reunion as classmates of the same year, or how a lot of the classmates’ reminiscing revolved around Past Banri’s devotion to Linda—though they only refer to her as “some girl.”

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With Banri and Linda walking around their hometown alone at night, it’s easy to get carried away by all the dramatic and romantic potential scrounged up by such a scenario. The episode decided to play it relatively safe and sedate, with Banri acknowledging that he wants to live and be himself: the past and present, the good and bad. Linda says she’s happy with the way things are too, but here, as throughout the episode, we got the feeling she’s still holding back; that a part of her still can’t accept the way things are. She even seems to hint at it, but then Banri runs to the bridge.

There, he has a flashback to the fall, envisioning his past self stopping him from saving him. In the process he drops and shatters the mirror Koko gave him, which is so overt an omen we’re tempted to believe it’s a red herring. But if returning to the place where he was split in two has a restorative effect on his memories, it’s not unrealistic (though not particularly scientific either) to imagine his present self becoming compromised or overpowered, even to the point he loses his feelings for Koko. Meanwhile, all this time Linda’s been concealing her feelings for Banri, but the time may come when he figures it out on his own.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Golden Time – 17

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When they got in the car accident, Banri and Kaga felt like kids. This week, after their heated argument and reconciliation, they prove they’re really adults. Tense as their row was, and as tenuous as their relationship seemed to be in the darkest moments of said row when they couldn’t get through to one another, it ultimately strengthened their relationship. The fact that Banri seemed content with burying his past mad Kaga constantly fearful he’d do the same to her.

At the same time, she felt jealous and vulnerable for not knowing that past Banri who others like Linda knew. Now Banri has resolved to stop running from his past, and Kaga is 100% supportive, because it means she gets to see the “whole” Banri. She’s resolved to not obsess over what parts of Banri she never knew or doesn’t like, since they’re all a part of him, even his struggle with his lost past. She’s vowed to let Banri explore his whole self, and she’s vowed to love him for it.

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They decide to put their resolutions into immediate practice the first time they cross paths with Linda, who is understandably taken aback not only when Banri asks about the past he had asked her not to bring up again, but when Kaga is totally fine with her getting into it. For a moment we were worried this was all too much for Linda, but she handles it admirably, while showing just how well she knew Banri by showing him the bottle rocket scar on his leg he didn’t even know he had.

That intimate knowledge might’ve upset Kaga before, but she’s no longer as threatend by Linda as she was. Part of that is because she trusts Banri (and has no reason not to in light of their new understanding), but we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also because Linda is with someone else now, namely Mitsuo. We finally get to see the gorgeous new couple alone together, but their meeting turns unexpectedly sour when Mitsuo learns she and Banri are both from Shizuoka.

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Mind you, it isn’t Mitsuo that starts the sourness: he’s there because he likes hanging out with Linda and probably would rather she leave for home. It’s Linda who gets upset, when she realizes how ignorant Mitsuo is to her past with Banri. It’s not so much she’s been caught in a lie, but caught in a omission—one that’s not so bad if you’re just friends but rather a big deal if you have designs on dating someone. In a way, Linda’s in the boat Banri and Kaga very overtly jumped out of before her eyes: suddenly she’s the one hiding her past.

And Linda does end up lying to Mitsuo about not seeing Banri in Shizuoka, something we’re sure she felt bad about doing and thus left in haste, feigning annoyance at Mitsuo snatching her ticket. But the ticket didn’t cause this mess: not bringing up Banri to Mitsuo did that, which she’d had no cause to do, since Banri told her to forget about the past. Now Banri’s gone back on that, and she’s on the spot.

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Understandably suspicious, Mitsuo gets far more info out of 2D-kun (who brings up the cult escape when he learned what he learned: excellent continuity!) which irks him even more: why would Banri and Linda keep him in the dark about this? We should note, it’s good to see Kaga hanging out first with Oka (helping her move in and spending the night) and treating 2D and Mitsuo to ice cream as an apology. She probably misses Banri, but is no longer obsessing over him and keen to maintain her other friendships.

But when Mitsuo confronts her about Banri’s head injury, she feigns ignorance; though if Mitsuo saw the momentary look in her eyes, he’d know instantly she’s hiding something. That makes two girls he made look like that in the episode. Like Linda, Kaga’s unready/unwilling to let him in on the truth. Now all of a sudden Mitsuo, who had endured/ignored Kaga’s advances and stalking for so long, is the one beseeching Kaga, but all she has to offer—for now, at least—is a spoon.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Golden Time – 16

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This episode was called “Wake-Up Call.” There really couldn’t have been a more appropriate title. There were many such calls, starting with Banri waking up in time to stop the car before it went off a cliff. The last thing he sees in his dream? Linda visiting him at the hospital, at a time when he didn’t remember who she was. That was a desperately tragic scene, one in which Linda was powerless to set right Banri’s misunderstanding about her feelings, such that even a second-long flash back to it in the episode’s opening moments was devastating, especially under the circumstances.

That was only a taste of the emotional devastation to follow, starting with the mortified look on Koko’s face after the accident, followed by a long period of her being incommunicado, even to Banri, who eventually decides to visit her house, leading to an amazing scene that was simultaneously Banri and Koko’s first real fight (and making-up), and another wake-up call to Banri about the kind of person his girlfriend is.

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First of all, a couple things about how the aftermath was handled. First of all, it infantilized everyone involved, who are, lest we forget, college students; young adults, not children (yes, even the button-cute Chinami). But that’s pretty much what happens when you get in an accident: you feel helpless and humiliated…you know, like kids. Not that we can excuse Koko’s father’s frankly over-the-top slap to Koko’s face. Forget child abuse, that was battery, and we’re not sure we’d have stood by if we were one of the friends present.

To do such a cold, horrible thing to your child when you knew full well her fragile emotional state smacks of sadism. After that slap we kinda washed our hands of her dad, even when he makes nice with Banri and is followed by that damn cat (What, cat’s can’t be bad judges of character?) But then Koko works herself up into a post-fight frenzy when her dad walks in on her and Banri (they were just hugging), and he calmly tells Banri to make him ramen. Banri returns to see the dad (and cat) sitting there seeing Koko off to sleep, looking very fatherly. It doesn’t forgive that awful slap, but it would appear he does love his daughter.

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We won’t deny the fact that Koko has exhibited a short fuse, and when she melts down she melts down. Still, the self-hating things she spouts under her sheets are heartbreaking, and we’re right there with Banri in not quite knowing how best to resolve the matter with words. Suddenly Banri and the others’ talk about it being everyone’s fault—which made perfect sense at the time, but Koko thinks it’s laughably ridiculous. We noted how  many times both of them asked what the other was talking about: sometimes it seems like different languages are being spoken.

Afraid that if he doesn’t handle this talk right, he may never see Koko again (a very real possibility, considering this show), he tries everything he can to stay in the room and try to talk Koko down, even bringing up reset buttons, which leaves him wide open for Koko’s Pillows of Truth: He’s allowed to reset his life and abandon everyone from the old one, but no one else is? It’s a fair question, and Banri doesn’t help matters by bringing up the fact Koko insisted he give up on his past, no sir!

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She thought she had to do that, so that she wouldn’t lose him. She’s feared all along and her new dreams confirm it: that he’ll leave her someday; cut her out like he cut out Linda-senpai. Perhaps we read Koko’s look at Banri in the car all wrong. Maybe she wasn’t mortified by her stupidity, but dejected that even though Banri said he’d stay by her side and keep her awake, in the end he fell asleep, retreating to his past in his dreams. He left her to drive alone.

We’re probably reading too much into that particular scene, but it makes sense that Koko would read too much into everything Banri says and does, knowing his past. An accident changed him forever, and while the car was a close call, she fears the next accident will take him away from her. But she can’t think that way. Even if her fears are as clear and official-looking as the road signs telling her to get out of the car, she should listen to the voice of the one she loves telling her to stay in the car and hang in there, because that’s what he’s going to do no matter what.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Linda and Past Banri sit out this episode. We knew we’d be getting less Linda once Banri cut her off, but we hope to see her again soon. As for Past Banri, well, we were kinda glad he didn’t show his face after all the trouble he caused. That’s right: this was really all his fault. Damn ghost!
  • Our hears sank when Chinami revealed she was bleeding; we assumed the worst and thought she bit her tongue off. Luckily it was just a busted lip.
  • Nana whacks Banri in the head with a baguette and tells him to get the fuck over whatever it is he’s pissed about, because she’s sick of dealing with his drama. Nana is the best.
  • Another lesson Banri (and we) learn: no matter how crazy he (or we) think Koko is, she’s crazier, but so is Banri. Both are wounded souls, but we think they can find comfort and happiness in each other.
  • Banri calling to Koko to resolve her bad dream was a beautiful little closing moment, and sleeping Koko’s little “mm-hmm” was damned adorable.

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)

Golden Time – 14

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Last week was foreboding, portentous, and left us more than a little concerned that the second half would be a long drag careening toward disaster, but as it turns out, we were getting ahead of ourselves. Ghost Banri’s curse may yet have teeth, but it has yet to assert itself. Meantime, we get a very pleasant slice-of-life episode that garners two unexpected surprises.

The first is that Chinami and Koko become friends, in spite of Koko’s insistence that such a thing not be allowed to happen under any circumstances. It all starts with Koko eavesdropping on Banri’s phone call with 2D-kun (Hey, 2D-kun!) in which she learns Mitsuo hasn’t been able to hang with Banri all Summer, suggesting he may have a girlfriend. Because they’re like us, we assumed that would be Chinami, but the show played us and played us well: Chinami hasn’t seen Mitsuo all Summer either. And since they’re there, Banri, Koko and 2D hang with Chinami, ultimately deciding to go on a beach trip.

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Early in the second half of the series, episodes like this where collected friends simply hang out is a good thing; in Chinami’s case it allows us to learn more about her. One reason for the beach trip is to get her mind off her immediate troubles: her parents are moving back to her hometown, so she needs to find a new apartment. Chinami was already nicely fleshed out in the amusement park episode, but it’s satisfying to see her grow from simply an adorable foil to Koko and potential love interest to Mitsuo into a genuine friend, someone Koko can talk to candidly about Banri. Without even knowing it, Koko has gained something she’s never had before: a confidant—although it could be argued she that with Banri, back when Mitsuo was her object of affection/obsession.

One reason Chinami and Koko end up hitting it off so well is the knowledge that Chinami isn’t going out with Mitsuo, which eliminates her as a threat. But another reason is the second surprise of the night: Mitsuo is going out with Linda. That’s a really brilliant move, if you ask us, and damn do they look good together. The moment we saw them, we felt the same dull pain in the chest we’re sure Koko must have felt when she saw Banri’s subtle but unmistakable reaction. Banri may be totally cool with Mitsuo and Linda as an item. But even with Chinami’s assurances, it will take more than that to convince Koko that she doesn’t have anything to fear, which is why she initially plans to wear as little as possible on the beach trip. Banri—the present Banri, that is—has set his course. Now we’ll see if he can keep to it as the seas get rougher.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 13

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Having control over your body taken away by a new personality, and being held prisoner within that body, having to watch helplessly as that personality moves further and further away from the person you were: it’s a special kind of hell we wouldn’t wish upon our greatest enemy (that dog who barks at us when we pass by its house). But Past Banri is starting to show that he’s not utterly helpless after all. Literal and figurative stormy clouds are gathering about New Banri and his lovely girlfriend, and Past Banri would have us believed they’re of his making.

We still can’t blame New Banri for going cold turkey on Linda; he did what he felt he had to do to protect Koko. New Banri is done with his past self, an yearns for a simple, happy new life with his girlfriend. Linda didn’t help matters by so easily going along with his wishes, but a part of her still blames herself for what happened to Banri in the first place. That guilt has crippled her from acting for her own sake. In a way, New Banri made things easier for her by being decisive for both of them in cutting her loose.

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There’s no sign that she’s sore over it this week, but then Linda’s always excelled at hiding her feelings. The Awa dance pre-gaming, the parade, the festival date, and Koko’s faux culinary exploits are so much pretty window dressing, while the wood of the window’s frame just behind it is starting to show signs of rot. If New Banri truly loves Koko as deeply as his past self loved Linda, he may never find peace, as Past Banri will always be that splinter in his mind, giving him bad dreams, raining on his dates, and even making him recoil from Koko’s kisses.

Golden Time didn’t waste any time re-asserting its supernatural elements, leaving us weary on many levels. We worry for Banri’s future sanity, and how it will affect his relationship with Koko; we worry about Koko getting hurt; we worry about Linda drifting even further away; but we’re also concerned about Past Banri wielding too much “magic” influence in his quest to punish his successor, making him a bad guy easy to root against. We’d prefer if everyone played a role in their downfalls, if they have them, rather than be able to blame all their ills on one scorned ghoul.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Golden Time – 12

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Banri and Linda get into the spirit of the party and they’re posing for a photo in a compromising position just as Koko has tracked him down. She throws a drink at him and slaps him. Back at his place he explains the situation and apologizes profusely. When Koko presents him with the photo of him with Linda, he tells her the full truth about his past with Linda. Koko begs him not to remember any more. To that end, the next day, Banri meets with Linda, confirms that she didn’t like him romantically in the past, and asks her to pretend they don’t know each other from now on. He gives her the photo, which she tears up.

This episode goes from being brutal for Koko—63 unanswered texts, roaming the streets in the middle of the night worried sick, finally finding her lying boyfriend in drag tangled up with Linda—to brutal for Linda: having someone she’s always loved literally in her arms, having him snatched away by the interloper, and the next day losing him as a friend altogether. Having just finished Kyoukai no Kanata, Mirai’s refrain of “it would have been better had I never met you” would seem to apply to poor Linda—the opposite of the adage “better to have loved and lost.” It sucks to see them split like this, but as we’re only halfway through the series, something tells us she’s still not out of the running. That’s not to discount Banri’s relationship with Koko, which almost bursts into flames before his eyes.

He works feverishly to repair the mess he’s made by telling Koko the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even the things that may shock and hurt Koko, and he’s to be commended for doing so. His feelings for Linda may come to the surface now and again, but with no memories to accompany them, and the knowledge that he never dated Linda, he’s decided to ignore and bury them as much as he can, committing himself fully to Koko. After falling down last week, the truth sets Banri free. One day, the past Banri may still resurface, eliminating the Banri who loves Koko. But he won’t let the threat of that theoretical day ruin what he has with Koko. Of course, he may think slightly differently if he knew Linda loved him, and loves him still. If he’s a storm as Koko says, he wants to be like the Great Red Spot: the kind of storm that won’t be dissipating anytime soon.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yowzah, Banri and Linda went from eye-screwing to steamy full contact in no time at all, thanks to their bacchanalian surroundings; a realistic portrayal of the power of great parties.
  • We’re not saying he’s that shallow, but Mitsuo seemed awfully smitten with Linda’s assets. Forget 2D-kun; there’s a better chance of Linda ending up with Banri’s best mate. Uh-oh!
  • We’re willing to forgive the coincidence of Koko ending up at the club. She was doing a very thorough sweep of the town, and a late night party kinda stands out.
  • That being said, the woman who took the picture of Banri and Linda with the glowstick looked an awful lot like Koko. Was that intentional?
  • They’ve been dating for six episodes and Banri and Koko have no pictures of themselves as a couple? WTF? There are cameras on their frikkin’ phones. It may seem like a trifling detail, but as we see when Koko expresses her unease, a photo can make a big difference.
  • We’ve noticed that a lot of important discussions between characters have happened in the dark; the notable exception being the meeting where Banri cuts Linda lose.