Fuuka – 02

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There’s something…annoying about ready-made, built-in love in a show like this. We’re introduced to Hinashi Koyuki, the famous idol (Hayami Saori!), who damn near has a crisis upon hearing back from Yuu, whom we know she hasn’t seen in years. So she’s been madly in love with him all this time, or was it just a spark that was lit when contact was made after so long? I don’t know, but it’s too neat and tidy.

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Fuuka attempts to be coy, but she’s not fooling anyone; she could’ve gone with anyone to the Hinashi concert, but chose Yuu, who had to turn down Koyuki’s offer to come, only to end up there anyway. More coincidences = more frustration there’s very little emotional legwork going on on either side. It’s like Yuu’s in a very formulaic dating sim.

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Caught between the blue-haired wild child who seems to be sizing him up for boyfriendship (and is apparently the spawn of Suzuka, though I never watched that show) and the famous celebrity idol childhood friend Fuuka adores, Yuu stays cool. After all, he hasn’t the slightest notion of just how infatuated with him Koyuki is, nor how much elation she expresses when he says things she wants to hear.

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But a reckoning is coming. Surely at some point some combination of Yuu, Koyuki and Fuuka will meet, and not only will Yuu have some explaining to do to Fuuka, re knowing Koyuki, but he’ll face an impossible choice. That being said, considering the title of the show, Fuuka seems positioned to win, though I can only speculate about how Yuu will react if and when he finds out about Koyuki’s feelings. I shouldn’t, as he’s wont to do, jump to the wrong conclusions here.

Oh yeah, and after hearing her sing (she’s pretty good), Yuu suggests maybe Fuuka get into music, and she starts a light music club (ugh) at school, like, a day later. Am I supposed to believe she never considered getting into music until Yuu made that glaringly obvious observation?

I dunno man…this show could be trouble.

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White Album 2 – 06

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Haruki dotes on a bedridden Touma, who insists on moving her futon to the studio so she can watch him practice his solo. Both of them miss their rehearsal at school, and Setsuna is simply unable to sing without them. Touma tells Haruki about how she almost quit the piano after her mother left for Paris without her, saying there was no reason to bring her. The next day Haruki very publicly steals Setsuna away and they take the train to Touma’s. Haruki and Touma show a third song that they wrote the music and lyrics to, which she’ll sing as their final piece at the fair. They only have 24 hours left to practice.

This Haruki guy is one smooth operator. Swooping in as the white knight on his horse whenever his damsels are in trouble; be it Touma’s fever or Setsuna’s anxiety. Rejecting Haruki’s calls to cancel the show if she isn’t better, Touma is committed to seeing it through to the very end, as promised. But as she lies on her side watching Haruki practice, the concert isn’t all that’s on her mind. It’s Haruki himself, and the fear he and Setsuna are going out. Meanwhile, throughout Haruki’s extended stay at Touma’s, Setsuna herself is just as fearful there’s something going on with the other two. Whenever either of them are alone with Haruki they’re on cloud nine, and to be truthful, so are we; it’s far less stressful when he’s warmly interacting with Setsuna or Touma one-on-one.

But this lovely “truce” (or “purgatory”) can only last so long. Specifically, it will only last until the light music club has their concert, plays their songs, and takes a bow. Once the lights go out on that stage, their shared goal will be fulfilled, leaving only their own individual goals. We know at this point that both Setsuna and Touma’s like Haruki, so their goals are obviously in conflict. Haruki’s goals beyond the concert remain murky, though the third song (which happens to be the OP), sheds a little light: he joined the music club so he could write that third song; it’s his “dream.” But as he doesn’t explain why it’s his dream (only that it is) and we’re left to ponder the significance—and the true subject—of his lyrics. (Setsuna’s momentary lip-bite suggests it’s not her). He’s wisely held back on breaking anyone’s heart for the sake of club cohesion, but surely he’s smart enough to know he can’t keep that up forever. A reckoning is coming. We can’t wait.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

White Album 2 – 05

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Things are tense between Setsuna and Haruki on the way home, but Haruki calls her later that night, and apologizes for not telling her he stayed at Touma’s to practice. She tells him how her friends stopped talking to her back in middle school due to misunderstandings, and is afraid of losing friends again. Haruki promises he’ll never leave her; before hanging up she makes him call her by her first name. The next day, during a test, the teacher confiscates Touma’s music book. She loses her temper, grabs it, and runs out of the classroom. Haruki and Setsuna join her in skipping class and practicing. Later, at home, after completing the last song for the fair, Touma collapses from exhaustion.

In a friendship, sometimes withholding information is as bad as lying. Setsuna’s been there before; it involved a boy, and her friends abandoned her one by one. So she has every reason to suspect history is repeating itself when she finds Haruki’s toothbrush in Touma’s bathroom. But as Haruki tries to efficiently get to the vital points of things, he doesn’t let the discomfort he felt with Setsuna on their walk home linger to the point where a rift between them would widen. He apologizes, she tells him why she acted the way she did, he understands, and he promises her he won’t leave her like her other friends did. It’s a long phone call, but we like how it unfolds and progresses, especially when she abruptly ends it after finally getting a “Setsuna” out of Haruki.

So everybody’s happy, right? Well, not quite. Touma is putting so much into the music, it’s unlikely she’ll graduate along with her club-mates without their help. She doesn’t even bother filling in the blanks on a test that will affect her grade, and worse, she shows up a teacher, not letting him take her music book with Kitahara’s name on it. But she’s also working so hard, she may not have any more gas for the actual performance; staying up for days on end is no healthy way to live. And at the end of the day, Haruki is developing feelings for two girls, and vice-versa. Just because Haruki and Setsuna are on amiable terms now doesn’t mean another misunderstanding or two isn’t lurking on the horizon.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

White Album 2 – 03

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Haruki’s efforts to convince Touma to join the light music club are ineffective, so Setsuna asks Touma to join her for coffee, then invites both her and Haruki to her house for a meal and to discuss the matter. After eating, Haruki and Touma start bickering, and the evening comes to an abrupt end when Setsuna’s dad forces her to send them home so they can have a family meeting. Before she goes, Touma says she’ll join the club if Setsuna convinces her parents to allow her to sing at the school fair; she does.

Touma Kazusa says no again and again, but we know from the first episode’s cold open (and the OP) that she was going to join the band. It was only a matter of how and when, and we thought this episode was reasonably successful in making those two aspects interesting, if not enthralling. First, the how: Haruki works his butt off to no avail; it isn’t until Setsuna enters the fray that progress is made. Setsuna looks a bit of an airhead next to the tall, prim, composed Touma, but she manages to outmaneuver her in conversation; the moments when Touma doesn’t have an instant response are pretty fun.

Setsuna andTouma aren’t really as different as they look, sound, and interact with family. Both have to deal with reputations thrust upon them with little or no control over them, and both show the world a person different from their true selves. Setsuna trusts Haruki’s insistance that Touma really is a sweet girl, and Touma proves it by making a deal with Setsuna at the perfect time. In the end, Touma has removed her cracked shell and is even smiling. If we wanted to be literal, back at the cafe, she was putting a shitload of sugar in her coffee, so one could conclude she was very sweet on the inside.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

White Album 2 – 02

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Haruki throws caution to the wind and asks Ogiso to join the light music club. The next day she respectfully declines, but when he visits her at her secret part-time job, he asks again, and she tells him to meet her in an hour. At karaoke, where she sings by herself every week, she agrees to join the club. The next day she meets the third member, Iizuka Takeya, but thinks he’s the pianist. Haruki and Takeya search for the pianist to no avail, until Haruki happens to bump into Touma Kazusa after school. When he hears the piano, he climbs out to the window of the locked music room, and is about to fall when the window opens and Touma herself grabs his hand.

This was an episode full of discoveries. Haruki learns of Setsuna’s secret rooftop singing, part-time job, and karaoke nights, and learns that the girl who sat next to him is the elite pianist who played along to his guitar. He may only be seeking their services to augment his decimated light music club, but the ramifications of seeking out and courting them both with reach beyond club affairs to matters of the heart. We know this because of the helpful, somewhat spoilery prologue. But as is usually the case with these kinds of romances, it’s not about whether or not Haruki enters this triangle; it’s about how that happens: the journey.

He’s inadvertently made a lot of progress with Ogiso already; the more he learns about her, the more she warms up to him. Touma, meanwhile, is a much tougher book to read (when the episode deigns to show us her face) and nut to crack. She seems put out saving Haruki from falling. Someone who values their privacy so much would be hard-pressed to join a music club with “inferior talents” and ultimately fall into a love triangle. Still, Haruki’s only ever been nice to his desk neighbor, and she did play along to his guitar for some reason. Recruiting her will be tricky, but not impossible.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

White Album 2 – 01

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When not helping his friends out with the Houjou School festvial, the smart, diligent but preachy Kitahara Haruki practices the guitar in one of the school’s three music rooms. In the room next door – reserved for elite musicians – a mystery pianist often accompanies his playing. He meets the beautiful, popular Ogiso Setsuna when he assures her on behalf of the festival committee that she need not enter the Miss Houjou contest for a third year if she doesn’t want to. On the last day he plays his guitar, he hears the piano as well as singing from the school roof. He runs up to find that it’s Ogiso.

This is a sequel to a series that aired back in Winter 2009, before RABUJOI came to be. It lasted two seasons and 26 episodes, and we stuck with it as the protagonist juggled his kindhearted, rising idol soul mate (voiced by Hirano Aya) with a fair number of other ladies, including her manager. We liked how it took place in a time before cell phones and the constant connection characters take for granted in most contemporary anime, though it often over-relied on those technological limitations to hike up the drama.

This new series takes place ten years later, and that idol’s signature song just happens to be the first CD the new protagonist Haruki bought and learned for guitar. There are cell phones in this series, but there are still boundaries between the characters. There are literal walls, in the case of Haruki and the as-yet un-introduced pianist in the adjacent music room; and there are the emotional walls Ogiso (not voiced by Aya) has put up to hide her true self. Haruki is an intelligent, perceptive, rational, honest guy, but once he’s inevitably embroiled in a love triangle, we suspect those qualities may not help him, and may even hurt him.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)