I only realized it when I got home after a grueling work day. I had been looking forward to this week’s Given. A lot! It’s a balm to my week. But I had also been a bit anxious. I am difficult and picky with drama. Given has already crossed the line once or twice as far as I’m concerned and they had set up last episode to start with a whole lot of angst this week. That’s the sort of thing that can quickly turn me off a show.
Wow, I just jumped right in there…. Hi Karandi? How are you? Any fun weekend plans? I’m going to an anime convention so my Friday show drafts may be a little late… Are you enjoying Given as much as I am. I wrote 2 different essays inspired by it this week.
I don’t know that I’m enjoying it quite that much, but I will say this quiet show has definitely gotten under my skin and I was also really looking forward to this next episode. Fortunately, despite the definite angst going on, it ended up being a wonderful episode to watch. That said, just listening to the OP can brighten my whole week so I guess this show is working for me well enough.
Ultra quick end card recap. Two weeks ago Ueno and Mafuyu went pedal shopping and the episode ended with their classmate finding out Mafuyu had a boyfriend who killed himself in middle school…or at least the rumor went. Last week, Haruki and Kaji were the adorableness while the band decided to get ready for their first live show all together, and the episode ended with that same classmate sharing the rumor with a visibly shocked Ueno.
From the look on his face I thought he would throw a fit. Maybe confront Mayu about it and the two would have one of those stupid fights. And then there’s Mafuyu’s old friend and it was all looking for to boil over. What did you think would happen Karandi?
I thought Ueno would confront Mafuyu and that maybe Mafuyu would leave the band, for like three seconds before they contrived a reason to fix it. That said, even if they’d taken that route, I like the characters enough to put up with some idiocy momentarily if it progresses things. Still, I should probably give Given’s writing more credit at this point.
Same! The credit part…For a few seconds my worst fears seemed likely to happen. Ueno frozen unable to properly react. But then the situation got smoothly diffused by Ueno’s friends acting like lovable doofuses and before I knew it even the girl was apologizing and downplaying it all. In the end Ueno was just confused. Not angry or sad, simply trying to sort out some unexpected and complicated news. That went well!
I really loved that Ueno ended up internalising all his conflict. It plays well over the course of the episode as he is back to being lethargic and momentarily comes out of his funk to ask Mafuyu to write the lyrics before getting thrown by Haruki’s totally innocent suggestion that Mafuyu write about a past relationship. It all came full circle at the end of the episode when Ueno gave the emotion he’d been feeling since the girl told him the story a name and it was kind of a perfect way to close this episode. Admittedly, we’re moving incredibly slowly toward these emotional revelations, but they feel earned when we get there.
After that first hurdle, we still had to face Mafuyu’s old friend. I confess, I had to look up his name. It’s Hiiragi Kashima.
And this scene…this is the one I was dreading the most. You know, how about you do the honours on this one K? (no reading ahead!)
Oh great, throw me under the bus.
Actually, I still had no idea what the guy’s name was and honestly I really kind of expected him to be one of those bitter characters blaming someone else for Yuki’s death and lashing out. There’s possibly still a bit of that going on but the character is a lot more nuanced than I expected him to be.
To me, this scene was a powerful reminder of why I shouldn’t be an author.
It was nothing like I expected. Mafuyu’s friend was neither a cruel detractor there to bring on unpleasant memories, nor a loving supporter that would make everything better. He was just a kid. A nice one at that and obviously Mafuyu’s friend. But also a little hurt and lost in his own way and letting that radiate out. His presence was simultaneously soothing and uncomfortable. Something I only think is possible when two people know each other extremely well.
The scene itself, was not what I thought it would be. It was quiet and calm, almost pleasant in a tense way. It was way less dramatic than I thought it would be. Hysterics were traded in for a subdued conversation that made it all so much more painful.
None of this was what I thought it would be. This deeply melodramatic moment was treated with a sincerity and honesty that took me by surprise. They didn’t resort to tears or swelling music, None of the traditional drama clichés to intensify the moment and it ripped me apart. I could have never written this scene. I don’t have this type of talent.
I don’t think I could write a scene like this either. One that doesn’t need to be dramatic in order to actually have dramatic tension. Where characters can simply interact and what they are not saying is more important than the words they actually say. By itself, the scene has little weight but with everything being built around Mafuyu since the first episode this coming together had all of those underlying tensions adding extra weight to every word and it worked beautifully. I really liked that nothing was decided or finalised in this conversation. They are both still just kind of adrift at this point and it felt very natural in a really uncomfortable way.
OK, so we are about 5 minutes into the episode…. My fault I know! Let’s move this along. Kaji and Ueno were adorable together as well. I’m beginning to think Kaji may just bring out the cuteness in people. Radiating with happiness Ueno was so much fun. These little cartoonish moments in Given really brighten up the show!
Ueno also said one of my favourite lines here “it’s not a particularly pleasant feeling…”
Yes, I absolutely loved that line and Kaji’s reaction to Ueno’s attempts to describe the feeling (as well as that brief flashback that hopefully we’ll get back to at some point). Also, Ueno surrounded by flowers was almost as cute as Mafuyu’s shining effort last week.
I was a bit miffed that the practice scene was a lot shorter than usual but I’m liking how they mix up the interactions. We rarely see Mayu and Haruki one on one (if at all). It’s a great mix. In a way the two of them are the opposite of what they should be. Haruki is much older and generally a big brother type that takes care of people and is pretty mature but in love, Mayu is the more experienced one by far. Their cryptic conversation about love really showed how the dynamic was reversed from normal.
I also noted how the show deals lightly but respectfully with tragedy that really cuts so much deeper.
Again, it seems that this story understands that less is more. This tragedy is a quiet one simmering behind Mafuyu’s thoughts and actions but while people can see that there is something wrong they don’t really know what or how deep the wound is. Mafuyu’s struggle to communicate doesn’t help them get a clearer picture.
You know, I am desperate now to know what lyrics Mafuyu is actually going to write. I get the distinct impression they are going to really be quite illuminating.
One thing I have noticed is that with the exception of his room, Mayu’s house is always dark, Even in the middle of the day. And he seems alone with his puppy. His lonely walk through this episode echoed the very first scenes on episode 1. However, this time Mayu seemed a bit alone and a little lost bit there wasn’t any of that desperate suffocating atmosphere. It showed his progression well! In fact, a similar thing can be said about that fantastic Hiiragi scene that mirrored the dramatic climax with Ueno a few episodes back. Only this time there was no running away or screaming. Just the start of acceptance as painful as that can be.
I wondered if there was significance to the places he was wandering. It kind of looked like some of the places he went were places he went with Ueno, but others seemed like they were places he attached other significance to. It was a really quiet sequence and one that stretched a little uncomfortably long but I really loved seeing the look of Mafuyu’s face as it seemed as though he was using that time to process something and come to a conclusion. I loved how much they conveyed without words.
And yeah, I started wondering where Mafuyu’s parents were. The house does always seem empty and devoid of life other than the puppy. Then I wondered if he was another parentless anime character but his friend from middle school said he had their parents acceptance so I thought Mafuyu’s parents had to have been in the picture.
Another thing I really appreciate about Given is that they are not dropping the side characters. Ueno and Mafuyu’s school friends are still very much present and they each get the chance to let their personalities shine though a little! It’s sweet!
I’m still not sure exactly why they are friends with Ueno though given he seems to sleep through most of their conversations.
No Given episode can be complete without a stairwell scene. It was all about Ueno this time. Good! I’m ready to see his side a bit more. I loved that last line. It wasn’t all dread and self hatred, more of an “aww man…this is going to be annoying” sort of feeling.
I gushed didn’t I? I really did. I even skipped over a few scenes I liked… Fact is, I really enjoyed this episode. Maybe it’s because I was so afraid that Given would nosedive into obnoxious melodrama, and this treatment of some of the more painful elements of the series was such a relief that I ended up hyping the episode way more than it deserved.
I’m not sure, what do you think?
I don’t think you are hyping it more than it deserves. This episode is a solid episode full of contemplation and quiet moments that really strike home. The emotional maturity in how this anime seems to deal with tragedy and other emotions is fantastic and to be honest the absence of shouting characters is greatly appreciated. I’m really loving this story and the characters and it is certainly giving us something a little bit different and building something that feels quite real.
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.