It’s Friday morning and I’m heading to work. This is relevant because for me Given airs on Thursdays. I watched the last episode last night. I actually put it off for a few hours – I wasn’t quite ready for an ending. Now, I’m on the bus and I just caught myself humming the end theme of the show as I have been doing all morning. I’m going to miss Given. I’m going to miss our chats about it too. Karandi, for the first time, you even texted me a little spoiler of your thoughts. I was excited!
Well, Given I’m hopelessly behind on everything else and I knew I’d be busy this weekend, I made sure to watch the episode when I got home from work Friday rather than leaving it until Saturday morning (when I’d probably end up not having time). That said, I’m really happy I watched the episode Friday afternoon, because it left me in such a great mood.
For a last time (this season, fingers crossed) let’s get into this week’s Given.
For a bit of context, last week ended on an actual cliffhanger as Mafuyu confessed his feelings to Uenoyama.
Remember when I said Ueno was a lovable dork? I stand corrected, he is the most lovable biggest dork. That surreal Being John Malkovich scene with all the Ueno’s partying had me literally cheering at my tv. I was hooting and applauding. This is how you illustrate the moment of romantic realization. From now on, I will only accept dinosaurs!
It was so brilliant. It took a moment that could have just been melodramatic and pretty standard and turned it into something that was funny, sweet, felt very real, and was an awesome character moment as well because this fit just perfectly with Uenoyama. I absolutely loved how they approached this.
On top of that, the conflict about not dating band mates because of all the potential complications felt very logical and in line with the characters. One of my big annoyances with romantic series is that to me the obstacles often seem contrived or simply non issues exaggerated for plot. The fact that this was an actual problem I could easily imagine in that situation really sold it for me.
Because Haru is technically their band leader, I can see why Mayu and Ueno would think to go to him first.
Sidenote, I have been enjoying the many different hairstyles Haru sports throughout the season. This messy loose hair was particularly impressive to me. He looked both like himself and completely different.
I felt it also fit with Haruki being the unofficial band mum. It was like Ueno and Mafuyu were asking permission from their parents. And I agree, this didn’t felt like a conflict for the sake of drama, it felt like a genuine concern that these boys would have about starting a relationship, and so they dealt with it. Right then and there. It wasn’t a few episodes later after pining and angst. I really appreciated this upfront approach to the whole process.
Once again Ueno was the best in this scene. While Mayu was being his usual self and Haru was uncharacteristically stern, Ueno decided to go the unbearably adorable route. No wonder Haru cracked instantly. I think Ueno is going to make a good boyfriend. What do you think Karandi?
If there was ever any doubt that Uenoyama and Mafuyu were not good together, the scene with Haruki where they simultaneously hugged him definitely dispelled all doubts. The two have clicked beautifully and they definitely feel like a genuine couple in that honeymoon phase of silly happiness. My only worry is that Uenoyama is going to over-complicate the whole thing at some point causing some conflict further down the line, but for now the two are just adorable.
Kaji was true to form. Of course none of it was much of a surprise to him. Probably happy that both of them are going to stop moping now!
Now if Kaji could do something about Haruki. preach!
Ueno wanted to be the gallant gentleman again and it filled me with smiles. Mayu is much more comfortable and used to this type of situation than Ueno so I understand why each is acting this way. Still it was pretty funny to see their personalities more or less flipped from how they were in the first episode.
And you know what else was awesome. Finding out that the “real” Mayu, the one not wracked with guilt and pain, is a bit of a troll. He makes fun of Ueno offering to sing him a fight song while the other is struggling to carry his stuff. He playfully but very directly jabs Hiiragi when his old friends come to visit. It’s in his traditional airheaded way but kitten’s got some claws. Mayu’s sense of humour is sarcastic and I’m here for it!
Yes, I loved how it feels like after performing is song Mafuyu has opened up a little bit. He’s still Mafuyu but he’s definitely more playful and it is really fantastic getting to know him a bit more without him being more or less emotionally shut down because of grief. I want to see more of this Mafuyu and how he continues to change as his relationship with Ueno does.
We then jumped to the promo pictures scene which was another clear bit of fluffy fanservice but boy was it fun. This was probably one of the most cheerful and just plain amusing scenes we’ve had from Given. The boys all together and just having a grand old time. The promise of the band starting to materialize into something real.
It’s the moments like this that made Given shine through for me. Small scenes, unpretentious and unimpressive in isolation but so carefully balanced to let each character shine. It slowly builds each of them up not through exposition or backstory but through their interactions with each other. It’s a very naturalistic way of getting to know these people which makes them seem so much more real to me.
Absolutely. The boys giggling through the shoot, being embarrassed looking at the photos, but all working together to build up the band… It all feels very genuine and it is just fun. So much time has been put into making these characters feel real and every interaction between them reinforces what we know as well as gives us just a little bit more insight into them and it makes even these little moments feel so purposeful. I love it.
When it comes down to it, Ueno and Mayu are pretty similar, they like the same things and react in more or less like one another. It’s not that surprising that they would form a bond. On the other hand, Haru is more sensitive then the rest while Kaji is aimless. We got all that without even needing a line of direct dialogue to that effect. That’s what really impresses me.
There’s been a beautiful absence of exposition in this anime and honestly it is a welcome change. I know I enjoy isekai stories and the like but they end up fairly heavy on scenes that exist just to explain stuff. Given has been a very nice change of pace from that and one I really appreciated this season.
This last episode was more divided than most. It was like a series of small acts or like a day in the life type of narrative. The evening was dedicated to Haru’s birthday. I’m not sure how I would react if my friends thought that celebrating meant throwing a pie in my face. Has that ever happened to you Karandi?
I think most people who would join me for my birthday have enough sense to know that throwing a pie in my face would not end well for anyone involved. Not to mention, what a waste of a pie.
The divisive nature of this final episode covering so many small moments was kind of perfect as the story isn’t done but it gave us a resting point of sorts as we saw where each of the characters were in their current journey as well as where the band is sitting right now. I would absolutely love another season, but this episode gave me a sense that this was a nice moment for a pause or a break.
At the tail end of the sequence we got one of the more melancholy moments of this episode as Haru finally shows some cracks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty easy to infer that Haruki is under a lot of pressure and not doing that great, but it’s the first time we actually hear him admit it to himself. Nothing big, just one of those small introspective moment, the type we often have on random milestones like birthdays. I’ve been there and so have most of my friends. It was such an intimately familiar moment that all I wanted to do was invent a way to communicate with drawings through my TV so I could tell him it would get better. It always does…
Haruki has a lot of pressure in his self-appointed role of band-mum and I think he needs to make sure the other members don’t get complacent and take advantage of him in that space. Of all the band members, he’s the most likely to burn out from the work load as he takes care of a lot. Uenoyama is likely to lose motivation, Mafuyu is clearly strongly effected by his emotions, and Kaji doesn’t seem to take on a lot of responsibility for the small details and seems like he’d be least effected if he walked away, but Haruki may genuinely suffer from the workload he’s taking on. Hopefully the rest of the band members step in before that happens.
The final moments catch up with Mayu and Ueno having just stumbled unto a summer festival and sharing a quiet moment before going home. It ended on a series of cheerful and optimistic still shots and then left us in the middle of a sentence, just as Mayu is about to explain what his next song will be. That is the exact perfect spot to end it.
All in all, this last episode was very gleeful and lighthearted again. Once more it skewed more towards comedy which I know is not your thing but it’s very much mine! Despite the fact that there were no more physical displays of affection, I think this was one of the more romantic episodes if not the most romantic one. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything else. Now I am majorly conflicted since I definitely want more but at the same time, it seems pretty much perfect as is.
How did you like this last episode Karandi?
Agreed. It was a perfect ending point for the season. And the comedy skew isn’t a problem in this kind of story after everything we’ve been through. Particularly since the comedy feels like the boys celebrating everything up until now and shows Mafuyu coming out of his shell. It doesn’t feel like the intense tonal shifts Demon Slayer goes through when it changes between drama and comedy, and it isn’t comedy as the only point as everything here is still character or plot driven. I know I normally just say I don’t like comedy, but that’s because it is normally like bad fan-service and intrudes on the story and adds little to character or plot. When it is done well, and actually funny, even I can admit it works.
But come on… season 2? I’ve had so much fun with this story and these characters and I have loved the whole journey, not to mention just seeing how this show has been put together because there’s been some great choices with the direction and the music has been solid. Besides, I’d love to review more with you as it has been an absolute delight discussing this one each week.
Maybe as a subconscious defence against losing Given (at least for now) I almost immortalized the last episode by taking a ridiculous amount of screen shots (even by my standards). But also because of the way the episode was structured, with all those different acts, the visuals really changed quite a bit throughout. I didn’t end up with a ton of images that looked more or less identical like I usually do. Long story short: there’s a gadjillion screencaps HERE.
*I took a break while writing, it’s several hours later. I’m still humming that song….
Thanks for Reading From
Irina and Karandi
Want more rambling thoughts from Irina and Karandi on Given?
Images from: Given. Dir. H Yamaguchi. Lerche. 2019.