Golden Time – 24 (Fin)

gold241

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.

gold242

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

gold243

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

 

Golden Time – 23

gold231

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.

gold232

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.

gold233

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.

gold234

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

gold221

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.

gold222

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.

gold223

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.

gold224

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

gold211

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.

gold212

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.

gold213

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

gold201

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.

gold202

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.

gold203

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.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 19

gold191

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.

gold192

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.

gold193

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.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Golden Time – 18

gold181

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.”

gold182

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

gold171

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.

gold172

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.

gold173

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.

gold174

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 – 13

gold131

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.

gold132

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)

15 Great Characters from 2013

We showed you whose voices we liked this past year, now let’s take a look at some of our favorite characters. Mind you, this isn’t a ranking, just an alphabetical list.

Bell Hydra (Blood Lad)

Bell was our favorite character from this relatively so-so show, because you never quite knew whose side she was on, or rather she was always on her own side, and always tried to stay on top. Her magical trickery was more than a match for Staz’s brute force, regularly frustrating him to no end. And then she fell for the guy. We also liked her sense of style, as she’d randomly change outfits throughout the run.

Chamber (Suisei no Gargantia)

Ledo’s trusty, badass Machine Caliber wasn’t just a tool, or the brunt of numerous sight gags as he performed manual labor, but a character in his own right, with his own arc that paralleled Ledo’s. The strict Galactic Alliance subroutines that drove his behavior gradually softened the more time he spent on Earth, to the point he rebelled against authority and sacrificed himself to save his pilot.

Ebisugawa Kaisei (Uchouten Kazoku)

By the time we actually see Kaisei in human form, it’s nine episodes into the show. But before that she’s seemingly always around in disguise (something she excels at), including at crucial point in one of the show’s many flashbacks. As Yasaburou’s would-be fiancee, she represents the peace that was meant to be struck between the families, and her playful banter with Yasaburou always tinged with a kind of quasi-spousal loyalty. She even plays the heroine by freeing Yashirou when things get hairy.

Gokou Ruri (Oreimo 2)

When she showed up at the Akiba real-world meetup in the second episode of the first Oreimo, we would have never guessed how far Kuroneko would come, leapfrogging over all others to become the best character on the show. As Kyousuke struggles with his relationship with Kirino, he also independently forms a bond with ‘Neko, who gets better the more sides of her we see: be it at home, at school, and in girlfriend and post-girlfriend modes.

Goto Hidenori (Samurai Flamenco)

While he may look good in uniform to some, Goto is neither a model, idol, or gaudy superhero. He’s just an ordinary guy with a quiet police gig with a loving long-distance girlfriend and a modest abode. As things go absolutely apeshit around him, he stays grounded, even when driving pink Hummers into rockets. All these superheroes and villains around him have made life a lot more interesting, but it hasn’t changed the decent, unassuming man that he is. He’s the show’s steady anchor.

Hayashida “Linda” Nana (Golden Time)

While she delayed her response to her longtime childhood friend’s confession by mere hours, Linda ends up losing everything once he gets amnesia, has his feelings for her resurface year later when they reunite in college, and he then decides to distance himself from her so he can focus on his girlfriend, after much will-they-won’t-they teasing. It’s a shame she has to go through so much, considering she’s such a kind, caring, beautiful person. But the cookie just didn’t crumble her way.

Kaga Koko (Golden Time)

Koko is one of the most interesting characters of the year because of how quickly she transitions from irritating crazed shrew to sympathetic love interest. After chasing the wrong guy for years, she finds Banri. She’s not as perfect as she looks, but she’s very tough on herself, constantly trying to be a better person and girlfriend. Considering what her status as Banri’s girl means to Linda, you’d think she’d be a character to be loathed, but the show excels at making everyone’s situation understandable and sympathetic.

Kaiki Deishu (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

We first met him in Nisemonogatari, where he was unveiled as the con-man who gave Senjougahara crabs (well, it’s not quite that simple…) but in any case, he was something of an easygoing villain: powerful, but not particularly motivated. In Koimonogatari, he’s given a mission by that same Senjougahara in her time of dire need, hits the town, and gets to work. It’s been extremely enjoyable watching him playing the role of hardboiled private eye, father figure, even unspoken love interest.

Katsuragi Keima (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen)

The second season of The World God Only Knows wasn’t as good as the first, but this third one was excellent, as all the chickens come home to roost and things get infinitely more complicated for our cynical, bespectacled gamer. Keima is most effective (and entertaining) when his back’s against the wall, but this season he also actually ended up feeling something for his conquests. There’s no easy reset button for him, which showed growth.

Kotoura Haruka (Kotoura-san)

Kotoura-san may be an almost disgustingly adorable character, but the show wastes no time establishing precisely the kind of person she is and why, based on a traumatic past in which her parents basically abandoned her. Watching her transition from looking at herself as a curse upon all who associate her to someone with worth who deserves a happy life with caring friends (and a boyfriend) was immensely fulfilling.

Mankanshokou Mako (Kill la Kill)

We touched on this in Suzaki Aya’s profile; Mako has made the full transition from goofy comic relief sidekick to full-fledged crucial participant in the overarching drama of Kill la Kill. She’s the one who first reached out to Ryuuko, opened up her home to her, gave her the family life she never had, and then snapping her out of a near-fatal frenzy. She’s also not afraid to speak her mind to everyone, be it Ryuuko, Elite Four, Satsuki, or Nui.

Nakamura Sawa (Aku no Hana)

An example of a character we liked precisely because she scared the hell out of us. A part of that fear comes from the intense realism of the series. Subtle human movements that more stylized animation wouldn’t pick up are on full display, and Sawa slinks and slithers across the screen, and sometimes breaks into sudden startling movements while messing with Takao. Yet for all of the mayhem she causes in his life, she’s far from evil incarnate: she’s an intensely frustrated young woman, a victim of the benign dullness of the town that doubles as her prison.

Nana (Golden Time)

Nana is one of the best supporting characters we’ve come across this year, someone with a fierce sense of individuality who forces people to either accept her or fuck off, and gives off the air of not caring about anyone, when the polar opposite is true: Nana turns out to be both a caring reliable friend to Linda (and unwitting would-be matchmaker) and a decent neighbor to Banri. Hopefully his disassociation from Linda won’t mean much less Nana.

Shimogamo Yajirou (Uchouten Kazoku)

Like Kaisei, part of what we love about Yaijioru is how much impact he makes despite how little we see of him. For the vast majority of the show he’s a frog in the bottom of a well, where he tries to forget his life as a human, which he deemed as an abject failure. As another victim of the Ebisugawas, he was forced to believe he was responsible for getting his father cooked. Even when the truth came out, it took getting him drunk to spring into action to save his family, but his contribution was vital.

Wakamiya Shinobu (Chihayafuru 2)

Another supporting character introduced as a “big bad” in the first season, the brilliant, quirky, melancholy Queen Shinobu plays a much larger role in the second, showing us her past and how heavy is the head that wears the crown, as she simply isn’t interested in team matches or fulfilling any of the royal responsibilities expected of her. She and Arata also spend a lot of time together, making her a rival to Chihaya in love as well as karuta.

Images Courtesy MyAnimeList

Golden Time – 12

gold12

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.

9_superior
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.

Golden Time – 11

gold11

After being subjected to a torrent of advice from his seniors, Banri decides he wants to get a part-time job so he can pay for his beach trip with Kouko, but she’s against it, as it would mean spending less time with him. While thanking Nana for her help, she tells him a party waiter’s job is his if he wants it, and tells him to have Mitsuo come too. At the masquerade party, Banri dresses up as a maid and Mitsuo wears a speedo. While serving drinks, they come across two devil twins: Nana and Linda. Kouko, who has the photo of Banri and Linda, calls Banri, but it goes to voicemail.

Wethinks young Tada Banri may be getting a little too accustomed to lies and secrets. While on the train to his all-night job, having lied to Kouko about writing a paper, he tells Mitsuo he can put up with Kouko’s quirks because “he loves her”, but inside, he’s decided to endure whatever she can dish out because he’s guilty about being in love with Linda. He’s as awful as he thinks he is if that’s actually the case, but he’s awful anyway for the lies. At the cafe (the first one) Kouko laid out very clearly the consequences of being away from him too long. She’s not a girl you want to lie to.

While Banri couldn’t have predicted bumping into Linda at a swanky party, it would look far less compromising later on if he had simply told Kouko the truth about wanting a job. Instead he avoided a fight and decided to shield her from the truth (which never works) and now Mitsuo, Nana, and Linda all know he was working at that party while Kouko’s in the dark. We’ll take our Banri-scolding hats off long enough to say we enjoyed the party milieu, in which Nana yet again brings Banri and Linda together. It makes one wonder if she’s doing it on purpose!

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • There was something used car salesman-like about the Tea Club girls this week. Don’t sign anything!
  • We love the sinister way Nana says “party waiter.” We actually just love Nana, period.
  • he running gag of Banri being unable to recognize Nana in her various get-ups is coming along nicely.
  • Already armed with Chekhov’s photo, if Kouko ever finds out he was with her at that party when he was supposed to be writing a paper…well, “Hell hath no” and all that.
  • That being said, it would be even more brutal if she doesn’t react violently at all, but merely collapses in despair.
  • We wonder: how long would Banri and Linda have stared longingly at each other had the host not told them to get back to work? Probably forever!

Golden Time – 10

gold101

Banri trips and falls on his chin and returns to normal, but still remembers loving Linda. In the morning he wakes up with a fever, and Nana takes him to the hospital. Back home she passes him off to Linda, who takes care of him until Kouko arrives with Mitsuo and 2D. They all plan a trip to the beach as Banri drifts off to sleep. When he awakes in the night, only Kouko remains. She tells him she really wants just the two of them to go to the beach together when he’s better, remarking that “it doesn’t have to be Paris.”

Status Report: Banri and Kouko are still together. We know we shouldn’t be so shocked, but chalk it up to the fragility of romantic relationships—if and when they even happen—in so much recent anime. To be honest, we were a little glum about the consequences of Banri memory’s returning vis–à–vis Kouko, but fortunately Golden Time continues to demonstrate it’s not that kind of show and prone to neither easy outs nor cheap twists. Far from a cop-out, restoring Banri’s memories of Linda—if only for a moment—will have a lasting effect on Banri. In his weakened state, under Linda’s care, he finds himself desperate to see his actual girlfriend’s face, lest his love for her fade away like a dream, leaving the “reality” of Linda.

gold10

Kouko indeed arrives in the knick of time, and how about that entrance, mimicking her very first scene in the series when she beats Mitsuo with roses and we thought to ourselves at the time “ehh, we’re not too sure about this one,” only this time it was a joke? Effing priceless. We also like how consistent she is with her behavior while in the presence of the others compared to when she’s just with Banri: the armor comes off and she tells him exactly what’s on her mind. She’s a bit harsh on herself this week, but part of that is because she found that photo of Linda, and then saw Linda the SuperNurse.

Banri does all he can to assure her she’s not a piece of junk and he loves her and wants only her, but this is something he may have to convince himself of first and foremost. Meanwhile Kouko is anxious to take their relationship to the next level, and we love how she puts it“I want to go to the beach with you”—elegant, cute, and unequivocal. Have we mentioned what a lucky cat Banri is, despite all his past trauma and lingering inner turmoil? Well, he is, and you bet your ass we’re going to be holding him to his promise. Kouko needs—and deserves—a fully-committed boyfriend. If Banri can’t be that, he’s not allowed to perpetuate a charade. Time to make his dream girl his real girl.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Honestly, we like Nana—at this point merely a surly yet dependable side-character—more than we like some main characters in the other shows we’re watching. She’s just awesome.
  • A woozy Banri’s hilariously-detailed “wrong idea” about Nana being an “over-the-top cosplayer from Kawaguchi (wrong hometown!) putting on a brave front so she wouldn’t be taken lightly in the big city until the harsh Tokyo life changed her and she forgot neighborly love for real” was one of the highlights of the episode, as was Nana’s nonchalant “pass” of Banri to Linda.
  • We liked—and bought the explanation for Mitsuo and 2D-kun for tagging along with Kouko (to “restrain her if it comes to it”).
  • 2D (AKA Satou Takaya) and Linda formally meet. Our takeaway: they could totally become a couple! Make it happen, Golden Time.