Are you familiar with the expression natsu kaze wa baka ga hiku? It means only idiots get summer colds. Well I must be a particularly skilled baka because I have one heck of a kaze. I even stayed home to sleep all-day barely able to summon up the energy for anything else. Since I felt a little better, I figured I would give this week’s Given a try. You know, this show is like a soft summer breeze. I think it actually made me feel a little better. Then again, I might be high on cough syrup. Opening thoughts Karandi?
I’m hoping you are feeling a little better now because getting sick in Summer is the worst. Oh, you meant about the episode?
I’d absolutely believe in the healing power of watching Given to be perfectly honest. While there’s a bittersweet undercurrent in this anime, there’s so many just blissful moments scattered throughout that I honestly finished this episode feeling like a weight had lifted from my shoulders.
The episode opened on one of those school staircase scenes again. This is where the light is the brightest but softest and the colours are most desaturated. It feels relaxing and safe. I realized that although nothing much happens in those scenes, Mayufu and Ueno usually talked about guitars in clipped sentences, there is an overall calm atmosphere that’s just comfortable to watch. It was a balm for my fevered brain.
I get the feeling we’re going to see a lot of the staircase but honestly I’m okay with that. The amount of personality they’ve given that fairly generic space over two episodes and the way they play with the lighting there as well as the boy’s body language just makes the space feel alive.
While I’m kind of skipping right to the end, I absolutely loved what they did with colour and light at the end of this episode in the staircase and it was one of those moments where the episode just made my heart feel very light.
Considering how important music is to the series I paid special attention to both the soundtrack and the OP and ED. The soundtrack was actually very playful this week. With silly upbeat background music. It was more cheerful than I would have thought but didn’t get in the way. I’m glad I kept an ear out for it.
As for the OP and ED. I’m pretty sure Mayufu is signing in the ED but I’m not sure about the OP. I like both songs but the OP visuals are a bit distracting, giving us hints of things to come.
Yes, I really enjoyed the OP but there’s a lot going on in it compared to the very slow and measured start this anime has had. Not that I’m complaining. The story is setting itself up nicely, but the OP certainly does distract in the sense that it makes you think about things that are not yet of note.
Story wise there wasn’t much to the episode. Ueno continues to try to teach Mafuyu guitar and brings him to band practice again, thinking this will help in the learning process. It’s a rather simple story and I think that’s why it works. I might end up having to eat my words but so far the premise has been refreshingly plain and realistic avoiding melodrama and convoluted plot points. I really appreciate that.
Sure Mayufu is a bit of a space cadet but he’s pretty much just a shy and quiet kid. Ueno is impatient but nice. I found the scenes of him looking up how to be a better teacher particularly sweet! And the two other band members have great chemistry and nice banter. No one seems exceptional in any way and I really like that. Although we did find out that Mayufu is popular with the ladies, which I also liked because it was surprising. And notice how Ueno doesn’t immediately drop his old friends like certain sanrio loving boys we know!
Yes, this all feels very grounded so far and realistic. Ueno was withdrawing from his old friends before more out of a sense of apathy but his passion being reignited by Mayufu has also given him new connections with his old friends and it shows this week. All of the characters have a very grounded feel about them and their interactions kind of feel natural and comfortable.
Also I do enjoy a simple plot done well and these episodes have done just that establishing the starting point of their relationship, introducing the band members, and giving us enough questions about Mayufu’s backstory that we’re going to be curious for future revelations. It all just kind of works.
Speaking of the band members, as much as I like the school-based scenes (and I do) I think the show comes alive during band practice. Those scenes remain the most dynamic and engaging.
Kaji and Haruki have great banter and bring a bit of levity and humour the show really needs. As a cast, they balance each other out and their interactions made them seem like actual friends but the kind you don’t see all the time. I did like Haru’s part-time job!
I agree. The show really comes alive at the studio where they practice. Though part of that I think is because all four of the characters very are animated nicely. In so many of the scenes at school and on the train there are a lot of still characters just kind of placed in the scene to fill it, or so it seemed this week. I noticed when the boys were moving from the lockers at school just how few of the background characters were actually animated.
The boys walked home together from practice again. Have you noticed how few set pieces there are? Ueno’s classroom, the staircase, the studio and the street to the studio. Aside from a few transitional settings, that’s about it. It gives the show a sort of sitcom feeling where you are bound by physical sets.
I wonder if this is how the source was (I still can’t remember anything about it even though I read a chapter or two). Or, is it that they are trying to cut down on costs elsewhere so they can give us some really nice animation during the music sequences? I’m not really sure, and it isn’t really a problem as what we are seeing is quite nice.
We know from the OP that Mayufu sings but we finally got to hear it for ourselves in the closing scene. I’m not the best at judging acapella singing. In fact, I rarely like it and have to rely on the show telling me it’s good or not. But the last few bits of Mayufu’s melody were quite nice. He has a higher-pitched voice than I enjoy but it had some body to it. I sound like I know what I’m talking about…I do not. Did you like it Karandi?
At first I was a bit worried given the synopsis made a point of Mayufu’s voice but the first couple of notes weren’t that impressive. However, he definitely warmed up as he continued and there was definitely a very rich and beautiful sound from his performance by the end (aided by our friend the staircase’s echo filled nature). I think it will depend on what type of song he’s singing, but I’m really looking forward to hearing him sing with the band.
Overall I quite enjoyed this episode. Nothing happened in a pleasant way. So far, the show is setting out to be almost entirely character-driven so I figure if you don’t like the cast, you’re out of luck. Thankfully, the characters are likeable and developed without resorting to heavy exposition. When characters are complete enough, there’s no need to make them particularly loud or outrageous. I continue to enjoy the series and look forward to next week!
The lack of exposition has been brilliant. They’ve given us everything we need to start this story off and start to get to know these characters. I agree that if you don’t like the cast there hasn’t been a lot else to this story yet, but I’ve found the cast very pleasant so far and I definitely look forward to more.
Still, the staircase may just be the best supporting character for the season.
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.